Adam Dalva


Shades of Night Are Falling

Home at last. Fifteen dollars, four apples. When I wash my face, I sing it like always: “Cinderelly, Cinderelly, gotta help our Cinderelly.” That’s the best part of the movie. Not the dancing at the ball, not kissing the prince. The part with everyone—the little creatures of the night and the bluebirds—helping her get dressed. She’s so beautiful afterward. I watched it every day when I was little. Until the tape broke. Then, I’d act it out instead. That was before everything happened. I wasn’t allowed to sing it, wasn’t allowed to watch it. But now, here? They understand. I finish getting ready for bed. There are six people in the blankets on the floor. Brothers and sisters, new ones. At midnight, Kris whispers happy birthday old man. Seventeen now.
______I love Kris, but he doesn’t know it, or he says he doesn’t know it, but I think he does, because he told Sheila once that he wished I was hotter, which I do too, but Shelia told me that she told Kris that I was perfectly beautiful, that the rule is that we all are perfectly beautiful, and Shelia told me this and I looked at her beard and shaky arms and I had to remind myself that she was perfectly beautiful too, but anyway, Kris said he thought I was beautiful but I know he likes Alan because they always sleep on the same part of the floor and I lie there awake at night and wish it were me.
______This is our third home, and our best one. The bathroom works sometimes and everything.
______There’s a surprise when I wake up but it’s not wrapped presents like in the time before the City. It’s better. Shelia holds them up in the window and they’re clean and stiff and they still even have a tag on them. Diesel jeans. 27/32. Perfect. My eyes must be bigger than anything and I say how did you get those and everyone says don’t you worry about it. You’ve got a big day today, Kris says. You’ve got a big day, Cinderella.
______I say Cinderella? Kris says yeah Cinderella. Always singing that song. Sheila says no work for you today. Just do you. And so I spend all day eating the fruit from the fruit-stands that don’t watch their fruit, reading magazines, and doing pushups and sit-ups and pushups. At six everyone comes home with sodas and hats. They gather around and sing “Cinderelly Cinderelly, gotta help our Cinderelly,” and they all want to go high at the end, all of them with their glittery faces and quick moves, all of my brave queers. That bus ride, those nights in the park, cold, alone, shy, those men, what happened and happened—everything seems worth it tonight, here at home.
______And then, they make me beautiful. Really beautiful for once, not just the rules. They give me Alan’s shirt with all the buttons that smells like him. Lina does my makeup right. Stevey lends me his striped briefs. Then, Sheila goes to her room and comes back with the shoes. I’ve only seen them twice. They are sneakers, still perfect. Blue with gold stripes. Not like my ratty-ass Sambas or Kris’s boots with the heel coming off. She holds them out and says here and I ask are you sure and she says just for tonight. They’re loose on me but we put some scrunched up newspaper in the front and they snug up perfectly.
______When I get outside, there is another surprise, even better. Kris has the bike and he says stand here on those pegs, and I stand and put my hands on his hard shoulders, right on the little round bones that move back and forth. Off we go. My chariot. We swerve and dance through the mumble and the wind is in my face, and I am beautiful, and I want this, only this.
______But then we stop and he points and says get that ass in there. We’re outside the gay bar that’s in all the magazines. And I understand the pants, the way his shirt is tight against me, these magic shoes. He says find yourself your Prince. He goes off to Alan without a look back. And I do what he says. I walk right up to the big bouncer and he looks me up and down and he doesn’t know me, know what I am. He just lets me in. It’s like magic. Inside, there is music so loud that I can feel it in the air, and beauties everywhere, arms and tight shorts. There are free drinks in half filled glasses, and I make sure no one’s looking while I have one, and another, and another, until my dancing sparks, and I give it everything I can, there in the middle of it,
______And then there’s a body behind me, strong, and a hand with little tiny knuckle hairs, and I can feel the drinks on his breath in my ear, and I turn around and look him right in the face and see his eyes wobble and the way his shirt clings and he takes me to a taxi with a little TV that talks and takes his credit card without him even thinking about the thirty dollars, and his home is just his home, and it smells like fresh laundry. There is a bed with a big soft quilt that is warm even though no one was in it, and now we are in it, and I am glad that he takes out a box of condoms. Because I don’t want to tell him that he needs to be really careful, that he needs to be safe. Because I don’t want it to be midnight yet.