CHAYNING ELLE JENKINS

Sixty Seconds in Time

A resounding wham danced along the walls of the juvenile behavioral facility as the large, steel security door slammed shut, followed by a seasonably crisp gust of nighttime Montgomery wind that raced down the short hallway and around the corner where it nestled against my exposed, fleshy ankles. All inundating exaltation be to God, for my blazing chariot had come accompanied by reverberating trumpets that announced its arrival to deliver me from the seething hell that was–my job. Just before their scheduled bedtime, the young renegades had covertly schemed to overthrow my staff and me in a valiant effort to arouse the other children and protract the evening. Their plan had proven successful, as they roamed about the once-still hallway, enlisting the interests of other eager agitators for nearly one hour. As prescribed on page 2 of the Crisis Protocol and Procedure Handbook, I had contacted the on-call nurse for intervention just twenty minutes prior, so I was anxiously anticipating her arrival when she came barreling around the corner and down the hallway–with all of the harnessed force of a Mack semi-truck with a bad attitude. I could not deny the boiling masculinity that seemed to course through her locks of hair as they bounced and frolicked in perfect synchronization with her stout, angry stride. Never had I seen her behave with such reckless abandon–throwing books, slamming doors, and barking orders. In the moment, as it was, I could not determine if she had augmented her performance to further intimidate the six rambunctiously-defiant female insurrectionists into compliance, but those same miniature adults who had staged an after-hours coup d’état now stood at attention, and surprisingly, so did I. One by one, the nurse administered a mild sedative to each resident and remanded her to bed for the night. Like a long-awaited knight in blindingly shiny armor, the nurse had saved my day and restored peace to the facility. Like most dismayed damsels in distress, I was simply smitten. And like most people who experience forbidden sexual attraction to the same sex for the first time, I was equally completely confused–smitten and confused.

It is quite polarizing to experience someone every day and not see him–not see her. The evening of the crisis served as my official introduction to Jaaye, the third shift resident nurse who had bewitched my comprehension and inspired deep introspection–questions that whispered in the ear of my heterosexuality as I had always known it to be. For days, I indulged these incessant thoughts of Jaaye until those thoughts had begun to erode the floors of my brain on which they paced, until I had begun to hear their subconscious echoes during the night as I slept, until their burgeoning presence had corrupted my mind to see her face in places that my eyes had not, until I had dissolved my will, evaded all moral sensibility, and vowed to tell her–tell her that I was uncertain how, but I liked her. And a lot.

By the next morning, I had convinced myself it was imperative that I express my unusually romantic interest in Jaaye. I had to have rehearsed my oration sixty times before committing it to memory, after which I recited each carefully-selected line without error.

Beaming with hope and new-found infatuation, I arrived at work that afternoon in exceptionally gleeful spirits–fragrant, confident, and appealing to any man’s eye–woman’s, too. I was positive that she would respond favorably, but when I saw her car enter the facility parking lot three hours prior to the start of her work shift, I froze in position. What was she doing here? It was as if time had stopped–I had lost the inherent faculty to breathe, and my mind had ceased to function–She was here! I quickly sprang into action, whisking myself into the building and up the hall to the employee restroom that was located in the supervisor’s office. There, I struggled to recollect those carefully-selected lines, as my brain seemed to synaptic-ally misfire with each ill-fated attempt. Gone. They had escaped the confines of my memory. Left to improv, I exited the restroom to cross the Rubicon River that was my convolution of a love life.

Oops! I had collided with nurse Jaaye–the unordinary, forbidden object of my desire.  As we exchanged the customary “excuse me,” I immediately compelled my lips to verbalize the words that my brain had long since forgotten. Verbatim, and devoid of conversational pauses or concern for my environment and the people in it, I declared my truth to her and disrobed my soul in that office. She gazed upon my nakedness with engorging admiration, as though my daring candor had activated some love switch. I had been impassioned, ignited by my own veracity. As I continued my expression, she interrupted me with an admission of her own–I’ve liked you from the time that I saw you in training. As she showered me with her sentiments, she enclosed my body, gingerly taking my hand in hers, and in one subtle movement, placed a kiss on my lips. This kiss only preceded another, which followed another, and as I eagerly engaged her fervor in that rare moment, I plucked one thought from the multitude that had begun to form a tornado in my head–this feels normal.

That evening, Jaaye escorted me to my car at the end of my shift, and although we had enjoyed every second of each other throughout our eight hours laboring together, above our heads hovered a cloud of unvoiced dubiety, for the manner in which she and I would proceed following that evening was vague. I drove home in silence, in a paradox that I hadn’t yet come to understand. What does God think of me? Am I Hell-bound? My mother will be ashamed. I stood at the pearly gates of so many questions, and still I was more aware than I had ever been in every moment of my life prior to that kiss. I had been enlightened–awakened.

You see, her kiss–had no gender.

Despite my initial fascination with her masculinity, I had become equally attracted to her femininity. While locked in her touch, I did not experience feelings of discomfort, or peculiarity, or even self-flagellation. My conscious mind knew her sex, my body and soul knew only passion. In that space in time, I was where I wanted to be, and that was enough for me. Sixty ticking seconds showed me how to appreciate others for who they are, as opposed to who they are not, or who society expects them to be–and more importantly, how they make you feel in the fleeting moments that you two share.

That is freedom.

The kiss–was wrong.