“Learning to stay gold”

rivet 3

word by Sean M. Hogan

colour by Stephanie Rivet 

I had just turned twenty-three when some friends introduced us at the drive in theater in the summer of 68. The book The Outsiders had just come out and you looked every part the greaser with your leather jacket and blue jeans. I was afraid. Not of you, but what you represented. What loving you meant about myself. When I told you this at the end of our fourth date, I had every intention of breaking things off. You just kissed me, gently, for the first time. You said that we were Ponyboys and we had to stay golden.

You called it, “a place for us,” when in 1976 we moved from our small town in Lancaster to the row house in the Washington Square West district of the city. Before, we had been out of place in those rural backwoods and farmlands. Philadelphia dubbed our neighborhood the red light district, a center for debauchery; but with your Midas touch, you made our run down house a home. The bed I ordered from the Sears catalogue hadn’t arrived in time, so we spent the first night painting the living room blue before making love on the tarp and falling asleep in each others arms.

In 2007, the city painted the street signs with rainbows. You were so happy; happy to be recognized and acknowledged. And we were recognized. When those young men saw us holding hands and their fear and ignorance turned their hands to fists the nurses wouldn’t let you visit me in the hospital because you weren’t family. I couldn’t see through swollen eyes, but I could cry. For nights I was alone until I felt your arms and heard your voice. “Stay golden,” you whispered through a kiss, words strained but forced through your own swollen lips. Through it all, you never lost hope. Even when the judge let our assailants off easy with time served. Even when someone threw a burning trashcan through our bay window, you merely knelt and swept up the broken glass and joked that they at least had given us a bin to place the trash. Then you knelt again and prayed. For them.

            In 2014, we were married in LOVE Park. The iconic statue above our heads could never truly represent how much I loved you. It was a clear day, and the green trees stood still in attendance with our closest friends and family. Beneath their shade, we took a photograph that shows your teary eyes looking into mine, capturing a moment I never want to fade from my aging memory. Today, fresh tears blur my sight as I stare up at the colored signs of the neighborhood you helped to build. The colors swirl, like my dancing memories, like leaves falling from the branches of our seasoned life. The cancer took you from me in June, and I do not want to say goodbye. Of all these colorful memories, I remember to stay gold.


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