Liminal Shelters

“So, when did you first notice you had fallen for me, stardust?” she asks you, a slightly cheeky and knowing smile on her lips. It grows as you feign confusion, a small chuckle unfurling like a blooming flower in her throat. But the confusion is also genuine though, isn’t it? She laughs a little more, not in a cruel way, but out of adoration for your current state. A sisterly love, and something more. 

“You don’t have to answer,” she adds, giving you a moment’s reprieve while you collect yourself. It’s dark, and the air is cold, yet you are warm. The two of you are sitting on the hard concrete of the back porch, a timeless blanket passed down through generations of girlthings draped across you both. A comfort shared between you, in this moment. Behind you is the noise of a house party in the twilight of its life, the music loud enough to be heard over the buzz of the half-dozen or so people still remaining, but not so loud that it passes far beyond this space. 

You look back at the girl beside you as she wriggles the blanket a little further up her body, the vapour of her breath uncoiling into the cold morning air. She’s beautiful, in a way that you hadn’t expected. You hadn’t expected any of this, but she is the most immediate and real thing here. Beautiful, despite her many imperfections – or perhaps because of them? Her long hair falls over her shoulders in messy waves, once dyed blue, then faded to green, the tips faded further still to be tinged with blonde. Her roots have long since regrown, of course, to the point where you could mistake it for a deliberate look. But you know, somehow without her saying, that she just can’t be bothered maintaining it. It suits her, like the awkward gap between her teeth that dictates she will never be a movie star. Yet you could watch her for hours and hours.

As though she knows what you’re thinking, she gives you a little wink. Perhaps she does? There’s a closeness here that you can’t deny, wherever here is. You don’t have any memory of how exactly you got here.

“Don’t worry, I don’t remember how we got here either,” she says, suggesting that perhaps she can read your mind. That, or it’s pure luck, and you do this obvious thing with your face when you’re confused. Can she know you that well?

“It’s funny, isn’t it? How difficult it is to trace the exact path we took to get here, I mean,” she continues, happy to fill the silence for both of you. “But I’m pretty sure we can agree that we are here though, right? However and whatever and wherever, we’re not in Kansas anymore, are we?”

There’s something both scary and soothing about her, about the way she seems to know you, and about the way you feel like she’s no stranger at all. Nevermind that you don’t remember her name. Did she ever give it to you?

“I have to hand it to my predecessors,” she muses, looking away from you for the first time to consider the bland exterior of the shitty flat whose party you apparently attended. There’s a dreamy smile on her face as she considers it all, the paint peeling from the fibre-cement cladding, the tall wooden fence that marks the perimeter of the property (missing half a board here than there due to rot and entropy). “They knew how to capture the magic of it all. You see it, right? The magical thing about this place.”

You offer to her that it’s a liminal space, and she nods her head in agreement with another chuckle, disarming you with how endearing you find it. “It is,” she smiles, wry and knowing. “But there’s something special about it. There’s something special about us – two girlthings able to find a deep, powerful, and inherently feminine connection as we sit on the porch at 3 am. These are the witching hours for a reason, as some kind thing once told me.”

It’s hard to tell if she believes in magic literally, or if she believes in magic as a mental model. It seems likely she doesn’t care about the difference. It’s easy to agree with her about how special this place is. Or this time. Is there a difference? Does it matter if there is? Here, you can ignore your flatmate (or is it her flatmate?) making a bit of a dick of himself inside. He’s not a danger to anyone, he’s just going through his own little revelation, a bit more vocally. 

All things mundane in the world grow quiet, while the two of you sit together. The girlthing next to you fills the silence, even when she’s not saying anything. Not that she doesn’t take the opportunity to be vocal.
“That’s the magic of this place, isn’t it?” she asks you, but it’s rhetorical. “I don’t care about my flatmate being an idiot to impress a boy he’ll never love, or that I’m not actually setting up my goals in an achievable way. Or that I’m fatter than I want to be – don’t object, darling, it’s okay. It doesn’t bother me right now.”

Her eyes twinkle with all the stars above, each one muted by the specular glare of a dying and yellowed electric light that halos her. The burn of sodium doesn’t hurt, because her smile is so soothing, and because she’s reaching her hand out under the ocean of blanket that you share. Her fingers seeking out your own. A tingle of electricity sparks within you as you touch, really touch for the first time. A question, and invitation, an offering. You accept, and the two of you interlace your fingers together.

“What I care about,” she continues to talk, the softest flush of scarlet on her cheeks. “Is that I get to be here with you.” Now it’s your turn to smile at her mysteriously. You tell her how tenderness isn’t what they show you in movies. She laughs and moves an inch closer. 

“You’re right,” she agrees, the caustics shifting along the edge of her hair as she speaks. “Tenderness is sharing a cold, hard porch step with someone under a blanket at 3:00 am. It’s… still nursing the remains of a god-awful blend of raspberry and vodka that is apparently good enough to in vino veritas your ass.”

She reaches over and picks up the vodka cruiser can that she had been drinking beside you, bringing it to her lips and knocking back the last few millilitres with a sigh. “Tenderness is the sharing of breath,” she continues, as the coils of her vapour pass into your nostrils as you inhale, and yours into hers as you exhale. 

“It’s us realising, stardust, that there wasn’t really a difference between us talking about deep and meaningful things for the many hours that exist between 2:30 am and 3:00 am and the way that I’m going to tell you that I hope you like the taste of raspberry.” 

That sends tingles through you both. It’s like she says – the feeling is more than a needy lust, and more than good conversation. Here, they’re something far more intimate than either could hope to be alone. Just like the two of you. She seems to know what you’re thinking once again, judging by the way she gives you a lopsided grin. “Yeah… one moment you’re having a conversation,” she sighs, echoes of a dream on the tip of her tongue. “Next thing you know you’re listening to some girlthing on the other side of the world ramble to you about fucking porches and thinking to yourself ‘god, how I want to just kiss her right now’, huh?”

You can both see it so clearly. More than that, you can feel the porch in your heart. “I really feel like I could just reach out and touch you, stardust…” she says, transmitting binary signals to convey her words from her keyboard to you. You swear you can almost hear her voice through that bitstream. You can feel the smile on her face. 

“It’s nice, just sitting on the porch with you,” she says, and you feel the sincerity like you feel the warm comfort of your bed as you lay in it. “But… you know what I need to say to you right now, don’t you, stardust?”

You can’t say that you do… or, perhaps you simply don’t want to acknowledge it in the first place? She chuckles just as she did at the ‘start’, that soft, melodic, charming and deep giggle that gives you butterflies. You realise it doesn’t matter when you fell in love with her. All that matters is that you are in love.

“I love sitting on the porch with you,” she says with another dreamy sigh. “But it’s time to stand up and go inside… I know, I don’t want to either…”

She squeezes your hand softly. You had forgotten that your fingers were still interlaced, even while you’re a world apart. She gives you a little wink and slowly, very slowly, gets to her feet. She moves with the ache of one far older than she is, and the pure comfort and tenderness of sitting with you is a gravity she can only just overcome. Not because she wants to, but because she needs to, at least for tonight.

“But don’t worry. I’ll hold your hand, I’ll walk inside with you, and I’ll kiss you goodnight before I go and find a couch to curl up on. There are always more nights we can sit on the porch. You can have all the sapphic vulnerability your little heart can handle.”

You remark how very dangerous and bold that promise is.

“Good,” she grins once again, the grin you know means she wants to make you smile. “I aspire to be bold and dangerous.”

You remark how catastrophically you could fall for that, as though you haven’t already. 

“Who could have expected such behaviour from a traumaqueer girlthing?” she remarks in kind, the smirk only growing, the smile she has when she wants you to not take yourself so seriously. 

And so you get up with her. You bring the blanket inside, and she walks you to your bedroom door. You look into each other’s eyes for a long moment in the dim light of your shitty flat. It’s her flat too, even if she isn’t living here right now. You draw closer, wearing a grin of your own as you see just how much she wants to kiss you too. Just how good she knows it’ll be. 

Slowly, you draw closer together.

Slowly, her eyes flutter shut for you.

Slowly, your lips finally press together.

It’s all the softness and tenderness of the cold air and the hard porch, of the 3:00 am conversations about love and vulnerability, of the ability to connect that transcends the physical, that makes a fool of space and time itself. It also tastes of raspberry, much to your delight.

“Now hurry up and dream of me,” she gives you one last smirk emoji, one last chuckle, and then her Discord status goes from online to offline. 

It’s the best sleep you’ve had in weeks. 

Written by A1-0Y