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Living without restraints

The sheer thought of not meeting you again terrifies me, the emotional crust is still so very thin and just a tiny scratch will rip it wide open. How can such a short, yet intense meeting, have such impact on ones life? I’m still so overthrown by this encounter. Just over a week ago, I had an amazing experience at the Flow Festival in Helsinki. I was there with a fantastic group of friends and had a great time, but something magical happened that last Sunday night at the festival. I was swiping on tinder and matched with an Australian guy, we decided to catch up just moments after we matched since he was also in the festival area.

Once we managed to find each other, which funny enough, was very tricky even though we just stood a few meters from each other and him wearing a bright yellow shirt. We started talking about day-to-day things and keeping it light. Together, we decided to head towards another stage, there were always multiple artists performing at the same time, one had to rush from stage to stage in order to see the performing artists one wanted to see. We made it to the side of one of the stage areas, people had already gathered around and it was getting really packed. He wanted to get further in and I tagged along, as we started making our way through the crowd of people, our hands met in the air – we both took a strong grip onto each other’s hands and continued pushing through the crowd until we managed to find a good spot. It felt so liberating, that small gesture, publicly holding hands.

When he took off his sunglasses, I got the opportunity of looking deep into his eyes, I was lost at this point, time stopped and I realised that this was something amazing. In that moment, I was his and he was mine. As we were listening to the performing artist, we kept squeezing each others hands from time to time, then came a moment where we looked at each other and leaned in for a kiss. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would dare to kiss another guy in public. It just felt so right, and I couldn’t care less on who saw it. It was just me and him sharing this moment, noting else mattered. I’m usually so worried about other peoples reaction of seeing ”such an event” – leaving me ashamed of who I am, and also, the risk of getting punched in the face, being verbally abused, always being aware of my surroundings and/or afraid of living my life as a queer/gay person.

Being this intimate with another guy in public has never happened to me before.
This was a first, as a 34-year old, I got a glimpse of what life could be. Living without fear, being able to share affection in public – holding hands, kissing, hugging.

As the festival ended, we headed our way to the metro in order to get back into the city area but had to turn around, the metro had already closed for the night. As we walked back up the stairs, I spotted two woman’s chatting, we approached them and asked if there were any trams going back into the city, and lucky us, they were also heading back into the city so we joined them in the quest of finding a tram. We quickly realized that we had to look for other options since the tram was not going so often, due to the late night of hour. Bolt it is. While being in the car, we discussed about life and what it’s like living in the Åland Islands. As we got closer into the city core, one of them asked, where are you heading? – In a matter of seconds, I made a split decision about telling them that we were heading towards a gay bar. The woman in the front turned around and looked at me with a smile and said – ”we’re also gay”. We all had a bit of a giggle and she finished her sentence with – ”you’re safe with us”.

After they dropped us off, we continued roaming the streets of Helsinki, kissing and hugging, holding hands while walking, never making our way to the gay bar. As it was getting very late, he had to get back to his hotel and catch some sleep before continuing his journey the following day. We managed to find a tram that would bring us back to his hotel, as we sat in the tram, I leaned my head on his shoulder, taking some deep breaths, enjoying the moment in full, not knowing when this might be possible for me again, feeling so free and not being afraid.

As our paths divided and I started walking home, I looked up into the clear sky – the stars were out. I felt an enormous gratitude and thanked ”some higher power” for letting me have this moment. I wish that life always could be like this, not worrying or being afraid.. that ”we” could always be safe, not hiding in the shadows, wanting to live life in full.

The following day, me and my group of friends boarded the train towards Turku, followed by getting on to the ferry, taking us back to the Åland Islands. Whilst being on the train, I started getting this massive pressure in my chest and felt tears falling down my cheeks. It was so painful leaving this lovely person behind, not knowing if and when I’ll meet him again, maybe this was it? I did my best to hide my tears from my friends, it felt so silly that I would be crying over a person that I only met for a few hours. I was thrown back into my reality of being afraid of showing emotions about who I am. To their offense, they are very open-minded and accept me for who I am, very loving people, but going back to Åland, made my mind already switch to living this ”heteronormative life”.

That Sunday night was incredible in many ways and shook me to my core.
I want that life, not worrying, not being ashamed – living life to it’s full extent and loving whomever I want.

Thank you Rhys, for making my night one incredible adventure.
This will be a core memory that I will carry with me, throughout my life.