Parade of Love and Hate

As the vibrant floats and colorful banners paraded down the streets, Nathan felt a burst of joy erupt in his heart. This was his first pride parade and he couldn't be more excited to be a part of it. Dressed in his rainbow T-shirt and waving his rainbow flag, Nathan danced his way down the street, his grin stretching from ear to ear. As the parade culminated, Nathan found himself in a busy square filled with other parade-goers. He made his way to a nearby vendor, ordering an ice-cold lemonade to beat the heat. That's when he saw him. Standing at the edge of the crowd, Nathan saw the most striking man he had ever seen. His chiseled jawline and sparkling blue eyes took Nathan's breath away. Emboldened by the atmosphere of love and acceptance, Nathan approached him. "Hey, I love your shirt," Nathan said, gesturing to the man's rainbow-striped shirt. "Thanks," the man replied with a grin. "Yours too." Introductions were made and Nathan learned that the man's name was Alex. They chatted for a while, enjoying the post-parade excitement. Nathan's heart was racing as he realized they had a lot in common; they both loved indie movies and Thai food. As Alex leaned in to give Nathan his number, a loud crash erupted from a nearby alleyway. Startled, Nathan turned to see a group of men shouting and throwing things at two men holding hands. Nathan's stomach lurched. The parade had been a safe space, but now Nathan was beginning to feel the reality of the world he lived in. Without thinking, Nathan joined the two men in the alley, holding up his flag like a shield. The shouting turned to mocking as one man grabbed the flag and pushed Nathan to the ground. He felt a boot land on his stomach as he grappled for the flag. But before the situation could escalate, Alex and several other parade-goers ran over, shouting down the attackers. Even though Nathan was disgusted by the hate, he was filled with love and appreciation for the strangers who came to his rescue. As the attackers slunk back into the shadows, Nathan realized that his time at the parade had transformed him. He'd come for the glitter but left with a newfound sense of responsibility. To himself, to his community, and to others. And he knew now that he wasn't alone. As Nathan looked up at Alex, their eyes locked and Nathan felt a warmth spread through him. Maybe he'd made a connection that would last through everything life threw at him. But as he reached for Alex's hand, a loud explosion erupted from a nearby building, sending the parade-goers into chaos. As Nathan scrambled to his feet, he wondered what sort of trouble they had landed in. The love and acceptance of the parade had given him a false sense of security, but now he realized the hate in the world was far from over. Nathan steeled himself to face whatever the universe threw at him next.     Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!