Illustrations by Lucia Vinson (top) and Élisabeth Sharp (bottom)
The classroom is cold The bar is warm
and packed full of and packed full of
half-asleep bodies half-drunk bodies
slouched over their desks. slouched over their drinks.
Above us, Above us,
the projector hums anciently the speakers blare deafeningly;
as the screen changes. as the music changes.
My professor finishes her sentence My friend finishes his drink
and clears her throat before and clears his throat before
asking: “Have you heard of asking: “Have you heard of
the Stonewall Riots?” the police raids?”
The silence is loud. The music is loud.
I almost nod. I have to nod.
My shoulders feel heavy My shoulders feel heavy
at the words that follow, at the words that follow,
every one of them adding on every one of them adding on
another layer of fatigue: another layer of fatigue:
“Before the seventies, “Last week,
police raids were carried out I had to carry Richie
regularly to arrest people out the back door
in gay bars.” of Julius’.”
The PowerPoint slides change The front door slams open
and the room grows warm; and the room grows cold;
Two men, Two men,
in grainy black-and-white, in blood-curdling blue,
stand before us: stand before us:
Their fists are raised high, “Police! Police!
their eyes defiant, staring down Stay where you are!
a police line. We’re taking the place!”
I write it all down My drink falls down
in neat, tidy handwriting, in a burst of shattering shards,
hands slightly shaking. my whole body quaking.
My professor’s voice is The officer’s voice is
matter-of-fact, clinical, matter-of-fact, clinical,
when she says: “Solicitation when he says: “You’re now
of homosexual relations under arrest,
was deemed illegal.” you fuckin’ dyke.”
My chest hurts sharply My wrists hurt sharply
as I bend over my desk as I’m bent over the counter
and hurry to write it all down and refuse to let them see me wince
and wonder whether or not and wonder whether or not
solicitation is spelled with two Ls. I will be whole come sunrise.