“I wish my father would send me to the military.”
You stared at the young boy as he stared down at his skates, his head resting in his palms. Normally he’d be halfway across the ice, turning back only to demand that you be ready faster and join him. But today, something was different. A cloud of depression hung over the young boy’s face and a chill enthralled you the longer you looked at his forlorn expression.
“Why, Guang-Hong…?” You shifted in your seat beside him as he continued to stare down at his black skates, as if trying to find some flaw in them. Finally he looked up to you, his jaw clenched tight, tendons jumping under his skin.
“I know they hate me. I’m too feminine. I’m not the son they wanted. They hate me and I need to make it better, but what am I doing… skating…!”
You were not prepared to take the onslaught of self-deprecation and hate. His tears readily froze on his face, slowing their descent before they could hit the ground. Quickly, you took your red scarf and moved to wipe them away for him, but he pushed you aside.
“Leave me. I’m done.”
“I said I’m done.” He stood and began to walk away, his bag slung across a shoulder. You got up on your skates hastily, having difficulty catching up to him. When you did, you had to throw your entire body weight against him to stop the young man from moving away.
“Why would they hate you?” you breathed angrily. “You’re beautiful.”
“That’s why they hate me!” He shook you off, glowering hotly, an expression that was too unfamiliar on his gentle features. “I’m not a man! I’m… I’m disgusting!” He spat the last statement out with a muffled sob and then he was crying hard, shaking in your arms. His face was a mosaic of reds. You were taller than him in your skates and braced him as he leant into your shoulder.
“You’re not!” you snapped, speaking over top his head. “Have you seen the way you skate? The way you move? You’re beautiful! It doesn’t matter that you don’t fit the role of the man. It doesn’t matter if you think they hate you, because they love you. And if you can’t believe that, I love you.”
“You… do?” He raised his head and stared at you through large watery eyes. His eyes had always been beautiful, the colour like malted honey. His hair was light, unlike those of the dark haired boys milling around beside you. He was different. Everybody knew that. He was unique, but… most of all, he was beautiful.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled that out… but it’s true. You’re beautiful.” You let go of him and watched him stand on his own.
“I’m sorry for being so weak… god, I really am like a woman.” He sniffled and you shook your head, unravelling your scarf and pressing it into his hands instead of wiping his tears for him.
“You’re just a man with sensitivity to beauty. That’s all. Now, are we going to skate or not, Ji Guang-Hong?” You chided him, flicking him upside the head, earning a small mewl of complaint. You stepped onto the outdoor rink and slid backwards, beckoning to him. “Come on! I’m not getting any younger!”
Your scarf smelled softly of roses, blocking the chemical smog of Beijing air. He hesitated, the silk cloth in his numb fingers. But you were chanting his name loudly, embarrassing him in front of all the others—so he decided that it didn’t matter that he, a boy, wore a scarf and loved a boy. In what way? He didn’t know, nor did he care all too much, your declaration of love still in his ear. He slung your scarf around his neck, hastening to get his skates on his feet so that he could rejoin you on the ice.