Yolanda

Yolanda blows smoke into the face of the boy beside her. He tells her to buzz off and moves to sit beside someone else. Content, she leans back into the couch to listen to Sylvia and Marsha. The two best friends tell them about the city wanting to come and take their home. Yolanda snorts in amusement, How predictable. From what she knows about these women, they had this happen before. They tried housing a bunch of broken, purple and blue kids in a trailer that got taken away, kids and everything still inside. She’d seen it on the news; the headline said that the government was getting rid of corruption.

“We’re going to figure this out,” Marsha says, she is holding Sylvia’s hand.  

Yolanda lays down flat on her back and stares up at the ceiling, her hand hanging limply off the couch. Sylvia comes up and snatches the cigarette from her hand. Even though she’s shutting out Sylvia’s frustrated rumbling, Yolanda can predict what the monologue consists of. Sylvia loves to preach about taking a stance, about making a mark or changing the world.  Yolanda doesn’t care about saving the world.

The STAR house is a refugee for Sylvia and Marsha’s charity cases. Not that they think of the kids here as charity cases. Yolanda thinks of herself that way. What else could she be if not a charity case? Her parents threw her out as soon as they found her with her best friend, in a situation they would have let slide, if her legs had been wrapped around a man.

She continues to blow smoke rings, smaller ones into a larger one, she’s become quite skilled. Her sister hates that she smokes, but it’s not like she’s trying to live long anyway. And if it’s legal to kill yourself with cigarettes, why not go for it?  

“What are we going to do?” One of the kids asks.

Sylvia tells them she’s contacted someone in a newspaper to get the story out—kids without homes getting evicted from the only place that gives them safe heaven. Yolanda smothers her cigarette on the wooden table next to the couch. Leave it to Sylvia to believe anyone will give a damn about them, not even pictures will change what people think of them. They’re the twisted and perverted of city because they love in ways society says they shouldn’t. At this point, why shouldn’t she smoke or drink herself away? It’s what they want. An image of her parents blows into her mind like a harsh breeze, she finishes away from the memory and focuses on Sylvia instead. Sylvia looks at the burnt mark Yolanda’s cigarette left and says nothing. The look of nothingness on the woman’s face is enough to convince Yolanda to go along with the photoshoot. If Sylvia loses hope, then they will really be fucked.

213 Second Avenue is the only place where her aunt had been photographed at. There’s very little information about Yolanda’s life before becoming a resident of the STAR house, and even less about after. The STAR home was the first LGBTQ+ shelter in American and was run by women of color, so it checked a lot of boxes at the time and it got its fair share of coverage—even if it’s not taught in schools.

Alba is looking for the street where the STAR house stood. Her friend Piper is talking to random girls marching in front of them. The only reason this is acceptable is because of the setting. One of the main reasons that Alba fell in love with Pride is because of the atmosphere of belonging that it creates. Love feels more alive surrounding by people dressed in tutus with their face covered in glitter, than it does anywhere else in her life. People who are told to hide their love learned to love despite the fear that follows them like their shadows.

“Did you want a sticker?” one of the girls that Piper has befriended turns around to ask her.

Alba walks beside Piper. “Yeah sure,” she says taking the sticker without asking what it’s for. Piper’s already stuck it on her arm, she’s been placing all of the sticker’s they’ve received on her arms. Alba puts the heart shaped sticker with the word “Stop Violence Against Women” on her cross-body.

They march with the girls for a while, before they break away to keep passing stickers. Piper skips around, her Pansexual Flag flapping behind her, she tied it around her neck using a ribbon. Alba looks at the street name of the corner they are approaching

 “I think it’s the next street,” Alba tells her friend.

When they reach the place, Alba shows the picture of her aunt to Piper. “My mom says my grandparents threw her out, and they went a long time without talking. She became the Voldemort of our family, according to my mom.”

Piper looks at the picture of the girl sitting on the fire escape and then up at the building. The original building was demolished in 1980 and a new one now stands in its place; almost like the STAR home never existed.

“When did they start talking again?” Piper asks.

Yolanda hasn’t spoken to her sister in over a year, but she has nothing left. The STAR house has finally been taken away from them. The government rolled in with suits lined with superiority and walked on shoe soles made of righteousness. Sylvia and Marsha told them that they would get a new home, rebuild from the ground up. She can’t understand how they aren’t tired. All this fighting against a world that made its mind up about them a long time ago.

Gloria awkwardly talks over life at home and their parents. Instead, she tries to get Yolanda to talk, about where she’s been, what she’s been doing. Yolanda doesn’t talk instead she listens to Gloria try and pretend nothing has changed.

“My home was taken,” Yolanda tells her when Gloria can’t seem the find words to keep avoiding reality.

“Home?” Gloria asks, she looks away ashamed by the surprise in her voice.

Yolanda taps her nails on her sister’s nice marble table, “Surprised someone took me in?”

“I didn’t say that,” Gloria says.

Yolanda tells her about the STAR house. About the two women who didn’t belong in the body that was given to them, and how they wanted to help a world that hated them. She tells her sister about the way the city feels like a predator coming for her, for all of them, for daring to be different.

“I’m sorry,” Gloria says, avoiding her sister’s glace.

Alba takes the picture back from Piper. “My mom says that after that, Yolanda left, and she mom never heard from her again. The only reason I found out about her was because of my dad actually.” Alba stares at Yolanda, they share the same nose, “I asked him why they gave me an old lady name, he let it slip it was Yolanda’s middle name. Mom gave me the picture but then told me I could just google her if I wanted to know so much.”

Piper makes a sizzling sound. “Yikes. Either your mom is carrying enormous guilt she can’t talk about or she really be that heartless.”

Alba shrugs. “I think that’s why when I came out, she didn’t speak to me for a week. At first, I thought it was because she hated me. Now, I think, it’s because she was remembering Yolanda. Probably thinking she should have given her the support she’s giving me.”

 “It was a different time,” Piper says, throws her hands up as if to let it all go.

Alba turns away from the building and faces the crowd again, they march on their faces bright with sweat and euphoria. Piper leans into her and rests her head on Alba’s shoulder. Alba watches the crowd of rainbow and glittered people. Like in every Pride she’s ever been to, they blast Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” through the streets.

“We should tell someone that you’re related to a STAR kid,” Piper says.

“Why?”

“Maybe we’ll get VIP tickets to Pride.”

Alba rolls her eyes. “We don’t even drink. What would be the point?”

“It’s not about the alcohol Alba!”

Alba stares at her doubtfully. “Then what is it about?”

Pride,” Piper says, throwing her hands up and dancing along to the song.

Alba laughs, tucks the picture into her back pocket, and follows Piper back into the crowd of survivors.

They turn a corner.

Alba and Piper hold hands as they walk past the protestors. This isn’t her first Pride parade: this isn’t her first encounter with them. They seem the same everywhere: California, Colorado, Georgia—always angry, always yelling, wanting to watch them collapse like an old building.