They Both Had Beards

Rick and Arthur felt their closeness like tender sandpaper, with their stubbles scrubbing gently in a fondling so dear to them. They both had beards, no doubt. They had snuck into that same aisle of their supermarket many times before, but never like this time. Their being there felt anew—it was a celebration of their freedom. It had been a historic week, and both Rick and Arthur shared a patriotic urge to honor it openly. They agreed to that with loud glances and muted statements that claimed their pride and festive spirit for the occasion of no longer being bound by absurd laws or misinterpreted judgments.

They had never been outlaws, even at the worst of times. They knew a few peers who had, and had felt sorry for them at the time. Yet, now, times were different. They were different, too, and it no longer mattered. They felt and knew that others knew as well.

They grinned to each other, then looked away at the stacks of canned fruit stocking the shelf.

They had choices to make.

Both had to worry only about cherries, tomatoes, and their upcoming rainbow-colored cocktail, along with their fresh cheese, sausages, protein shakes, and anniversary gifts. They didn’t have to worry about disguising their closeness as manhandling of steaks in the meat department or suspecting the piercing looks of peers when pitching and swinging and patting each other during the office’s softball games.

They were together in their aisle eight, and nothing else mattered.

If they kept sneaking around, it would be out of habit, since bad habits, such as keeping a secret, die hard, no matter their nature or nurture. Perhaps they might even keep sneaking because of the added excitement of doing something that kept an edge of forbidden. For that, for that rush of blood and rising emotions, they would always have their aisle.

Rick and Arthur stood, even lingered, together a little longer before making their choice in silence, grabbing their fruits, and each returning to their respective wives who were waiting to be checked out.

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