They say that love always wins,
but sometimes I can't be sure.
I want to believe the world can be a safe place for me,
but when I'm downtown for open mic, it's always:
Check your skirt length.
Pull your top up.
Put both headphones in.
Keep your head down.
Pray they won't bother you.
Walk on the brightest side of the street.
Keep your keys in one hand and phone in the other.
Don't let them see the change in pace when passing between street lights.
This isn't love.
Love is safety.
This isn't safety.
This is fear.
This is keeping secrets.
This is creating new names and fake life stories as a shield from harm.
This is not speaking unless spoken to and not asking any questions.
This is a polite giggle, and don't make eye contact, but don't look away either.
This is making fake plans with your fake boyfriend,
because that's a more acceptable answer than revealing your sexuality.
This is your mother worrying about you every time a woman is killed for saying "no."
This is your father reminding you to never go out alone, and never to accept drinks from strangers.
This is your best friend sending you a pink pocket knife and pepper spray kit, wrapped in a bow for Christmas.
This is referring to your girlfriend as your best friend at Thanksgiving dinner, lest your family lable you a 'dyke.'
This is the teenage boy telling you that you just "haven't met the right guy," and being convinced he's the right guy.
They say love always wins.
But love only wins when fear does not exist,
and this is not love.
This is fear.