Colorado Moon

Jul 9, 2021 | 2013 Winter - Mixed Marriages

By Eboni G. Rafus

The full Colorado moon hung low and red like a blood orange. In the flat city below, we lay on our backs.

“It’s only for eight weeks,” Victoria said.

I knew that, but it didn’t make it better. I rolled over on my side.

“Upper left,” I said. Victoria obliged me by scratching my left shoulder blade.

“And then we’ll be back in Amherst and we can really begin our lives together,” she continued. “Next summer we can go anywhere you want.

“We’ll go to Seattle!”

I returned to my back and looked out at the moon. It was alone in the wide sky, as dark clouds shrouded the stars, and it seemed to hover over me like a haunting. I felt watched.

At the grocery store, I was gawked at while I gently squeezed tomatoes.

In Estes Park, small children pointed at me as I walked along the tourist-clogged streets. I was followed in the gift shops by suspicious proprietors who, because they could see my skin tone, thought they could guess my intentions.

Yet, it was Victoria who seemed spooked in the night. She had nightmares and woke up around three in the morning stretching her arms out to me. I was often out of her reach, in the darkened living room, keeping my nightly vigil over the city that looked like the sprinkled embers of a fire long abandoned. Perhaps, I was the ghost.

“I know Greeley isn’t what we expected, but this internship is great experience for me. With this Sophomore Year Program on my résumé, I’ll be able to get a job anywhere when I finish my master’s degree,” she’d said.

We’d both been naïve. This was not the Rocky Mountain adventure we had imagined.

While Victoria worked to improve the sophomore year experience for undergraduates at the University of Northern Colorado, I cooked, folded laundry and otherwise played housewife to a woman who the state of Colorado wouldn’t recognize as my legal partner. I was lonely up in my 17th-floor apartment with only a hawk to keep me company from its windowsill perch during the day, and only the moon to keep me company late at night. However, my prison did help me escape the near-constant smell of stockyard manure and slaughtered meat that wafted across the brittle fields of Greeley. Also, it seemed safer for me as a queer black woman to stay sequestered in my tower than to venture out into a town where a transgender woman was killed just one year ago.

Victoria sighed at my silence, sensing that all the stare-downs from denim-clad cowboys with rifles in the bed of their Chevy trucks were starting to get to me. Yes, the anti-Obama bumper stickers, the Focus on the Family conservative propaganda, the constant reminder of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Laramie, just over an hour away, was hard. Not feeling comfortable enough to hold Victoria’s hand when we were out in public together was harder. Worse yet—knowing that even though I could easily pass for straight — there were parts of my identity, my otherness, that I couldn’t hide.

I pulled her up into my arms so that our breasts pressed against each other.

“I don’t regret coming,” I whispered. “I wanted to be with you.”

Victoria and I kissed and talked, making plans for the weekend and our upcoming wedding until she fell asleep cradled into my neck just after 11:00 pm. I resented how easily, how early she dozed off. I resented that she would never understand, no matter how much she wanted to, what it meant to be black in Greeley. I watched Victoria snore softly for a while, her body sinking heavily into the mattress as she fell deeper and deeper into sleep. Then I slipped out of bed to watch another night dissolve into day.

Every weekend, Victoria and I took a day trip. We went shopping in Boulder, to a gay pride parade in Denver and visited ski lodges in Vail. On that upcoming Saturday, Victoria and I would climb into her compact Suzuki Aerio and drive almost three hours into the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs where all of our daily problems —racism, homophobia, lack of money, loads of bills—might shrink against the impact of giant red rock formations. I lived for those Saturday trips.

Until then, it was just the moon and me.

A graduate of UMass, Amherst’s MFA program for Poets and Writers, Eboni now lives in Southern California with her wife, Victoria, and their puppy, Stella. She is currently writing her first novel.

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