that time you took your shirt off

It was a Thursday and the sky was a shade darker than your silverware. You took your shoes off and slung your fingers inside each one as you let your toes feast on the sand, full of cracked shells, twigs and occasional cigarette butts and remainders of glass.

You were with the one you love. The one who searched for the perfect spot to rest blue bed sheet and stack of sandwiches to house your testosterone-fueled appetites.

You placed your sneakers on the corners to hold the sheet down, took a deep breath and inhaled the Atlantic. You kept it in your lungs until you had to let go. All that salt. Waft of seagull wings swirling down your throat.

You look around and see bare breasts and strings of fabric covering up the other parts. You love seeing bodies being celebrated, uncovered and unapologetic.

You look at your lover, who is blinking in the ocean.

And then. You remove your Batman black t-shirt. You remove your binder. You are bare chest and excited nipples.

Your lover removes his t-shirt. Then, binder. He is bare chest and hairy nipples.

You leave your green bandana on, which hugs your neck.

You leave your gender behind for an afternoon at this beach, which is far more gay friendly than the one you usually go to. Several hours later, when you both decide to ride bikes for awhile and explore the nooks, you shake off the sand on your skin, flatten breasts back beneath binder, with Batman t-shirt back on.

You think about Nebraska. Skinny dipping beneath that dark sky. Allowing yourself to be self-conscious for only fifteen seconds. Then, recognizing that these humans– these poets, these artists, these magic makers– see past what your parts look like and recognize you simply as human.

Nudity can be like a shout-out: Hey, look at me! Look what I got. This is what I am!

Nudity can also remind us and others that we are not what we think/feel we are: Hey, forget all this. It’s just the scaffolding protecting the best parts, the parts you cannot see.

On a Friday evening, one day later, you walk on stage and tell a story that is yours, but in someone else’s voice. The audience does not know that it is another human speaking on behalf of your memories. Sometimes it is easier to relay the messages of your mind through a different medium: oil painting, collage, choreography, sculpture, song, poem.

Even all those times you were in various stages of nude, the audience never really saw you.

Then on Saturday, several hours later, you wonder when you might finally take that scaffolding down.

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