-A Writer's Reflection

Drag Queen James Bond

“Ready, on your mark, GO!” a man shouts at the starting point. James, along with over one hundred other drag queens wearing high heels, runs as fast as they can. More than 1000 people are gathered to witness the race. Some drag queens fall down, but many of them run through the finish line. Some just walk the course with the sole purpose of entertaining the crowd. James and his friends run, but they are not the fastest. The crowd runs/walks after the last drag queen finishes and it’s a big celebration at the finish line. James is surrounded by his fans in a narrow street surrounded by row houses and brick sidewalks. People in the crowd continue to walk up to him to take pictures. He is a celebrity today. He is happy. He does not remember the events of the past two days and his hospital visit. 

Out of the corner of his right eye he sees a guy standing on a sidewalk with a subtle smile. The smile is familiar. James recognizes the smile as his own: upper lip curled up on the right side, similar to a Sylvester Stallone smile. He fights through the crowd and instinctively walks up to the guy.

“Hi! I’m James. Did you know you have the exact same smile as me?” says James.

“Hi James! I realize that now. I’m Bond. Nice costume!” says the guy. He is taken aback by the sudden conversation with one of the drag queens, but he responds calmly, but his smile vanishes.

“Forgive me for intruding, but are you suffering from Bell’s Palsy by any chance?” James asks. Four excited girls walk up to him for a picture. James unwillingly obliges. His attention is captured by Bond and his smile.

Bond waits for James and then replies “Yes, I am. Are you also?”

“Yes,” says James. His Queen Elizabeth outfit continues to draw attention and many people still want to take pictures with him, so he says, “Bond! Let’s walk to a quiet place.”

Bond is not sure, but the connection of illness draws him to obey James. He nods and they start walking out of the crowd, onto the sidewalks of Q Street, and away from DuPont Circle. James is still drawing attention but no one is walking up to him. Passersby are sneaking a look at him. Some are even talking behind the back. James is not bothered by it. He has seen this for many years. However, Bond is feeling uncomfortable. James is yet not talking to him after the initial conversation. They walk a little and sit down at a small café.

“You are very quiet. You did not ask a single question,” says James.

“I do not know how to react,” says Bond. “I have never met anyone with Bell’s Palsy and certainly never started a conversation with it.” Bond wants to say something about the outrageous outfit, but he holds himself back. He looks around the small rectangular room and counts 5 tables and 13 chairs.

“I had to go to the emergency room yesterday and almost missed the race. It’s fresh in my mind, and probably what drew me to you,” says James drawing Bond’s attention to himself.

“Probably. Anyways, why do you run in this bizarre race? What is the purpose?” asks Bond finally losing self control.

“Why do you come to watch it?” asks James.

“I heard about it from a colleague and found it intriguing, so I decided to check out. I had no idea of its….,” Bond pauses to find the right word.

Both men stare at each other for a second and then James says, “Outrageous. That’s fair. This race gives me a sense of belonging to a community. Weirdness is appreciated here,” says James. A Girl in her early twenties walks up to them and asks what they want.

“A latte for me,” says James and looks at Bond.

“No coffee for me. I won’t be able sleep. Just water, please,” orders Bond. “What community?” Bond asks drawing James’ attention back. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was just a bunch of lunatics getting together to make fun of themselves.”

“Based on that statement, you definitely don’t know any better,” says James spontaneously.

“What do you mean?” asks Bond leaning over the table.

“I assure you, no one there is a lunatic. And by community, I mean LGBT,” says James.

“Like homosexual? Are you…..” Bond hesitates to ask.

“Yes, I am Gay,” says James. Bond shifts his posture away from the table, obviously uncomfortable. Looking at Bond’s reaction James says, “Are you surprised or offended?”

“Ah, I don’t know. I never met anyone like you,” says Bond.

“In that case, you’re the best person I’ve met,” says James smiling

“How’s that?” Bond asks.

“You didn’t get up and runaway. Generally, when someone like you meets someone like me for the first time, the reaction is wilder.” says James. Bond didn’t say anything; he was not relaxed or comfortable. He decided to continue and not be rude.

“You know, I almost miss the race today,” says James trying to ease the tension.

“Why is that?” Bond asks.

“Bell’s Palsy. I started feeling numb a couple of days back, here on my face,” James touched a point on his face just above left eyebrow. “Yesterday, it was worse. Numbness spread all over the left side of my face. I had to go to the emergency room. I spent the whole night there. In my sleep deprived state, I almost slept through today.” James hoped to cash in on similarity by describing his experience.

Bond eyes light up. He says, “That’s my story as well. I also had to go to the emergency room for the exact same reason yesterday. I slept through the afternoon and was feeling a little low. I was looking for ‘Things to do in DC’ talking to a friend and found this event. What a coincidence!”

“Right. See we are not that different.” James says. It’s amazing what a common connection can do. Bond is more relaxed now, but he does not respond to that comment. He has no idea how to behave around homosexual people. “Don’t worry James. I like guys that do not mean I will make sexual advances on you. I can be a normal friend,” says James reading Bond’s mind.

“No, I wasn’t thinking that,” Bond lies looking at his feet. Now Bond changes the conversation back to their illness. “James, I had to wait for hours in that emergency room yesterday before I could actually get treated. They did not consider mental anguish a serious enough issue.”

“I know. I also had to wait three hours. I went to a nurse and told her that I was uncomfortable. She asked me politely to explain. I could not. All I could say was that I felt numb and uncomfortable. She did not consider it serious enough,” says James.

James’ coffee arrives at the table, but Bond is oblivious to the fact. “Exactly. I hear you. They do not know what’s going through our heads. They just think that blood and audible screaming is the only way that pain can be recognized. It’s like we are discriminated against,” says Bond.

“I know that word and I have felt it for many years,” says James stirring his coffee.

“What word?” asks Bond.

“Discrimination,” says James. “It is the same mental anguish I feel when people ask me to describe or explain why I am gay.”

“Dude, you can choose. How can you not like girls?” asks Bond.

James stares at Bond. “I can’t explain. I believe you out of all should understand. It’s the same as Palsy. Only you know what you’re feeling. I like guys and I am homosexual. I don’t know why. I can’t describe what I feel. “ James lets go of spoon and leans back in his chair.

“So you’re saying it’s a disease,” says Bond.

James laughs. “Do you think so?” he asks in sarcastic manner.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been Gay,” says James.

“Exactly, my friend. Can other people understand what you are going through when you have one of these numbness attacks? Being homosexual is not a disease. It’s as if you like vanilla ice cream and I like chocolate ice cream,” says James.

“Aren’t you downplaying? Sexual orientation is more serious than choosing an ice cream flavor,” says Bond.

“I’m not downplaying, Bond. I’m just saying it is hard to explain. If you forget that I’m gay. We are not much different. We both suffer from the same illness and we both had to go through the same challenges in past 24 hours. Let’s say I am just answering your question of why I run in this race,” says James.

“Why is that?” asks Bond.

“Didn’t you feel good to find someone who went through the same experiences in the past 24 hours?” asks James.

“Yes,” Bond nodes.

“This race is a medium for me to find someone who’s been going through the same discrimination for years,” says James. James quietly drinks his coffee and Bond sips through water. None of them talk till they are finished. James pays for his coffee and they leave.

“It was nice talking to you,” says Bond extending his hands.

James does not shake hands. “Bond, come back next year. Let’s meet here at this café. I want hear your thought after a year. I will save this handshake till then.” James smiles, turns around and walks back. Bond stands there for few minutes making a mental note of coming back next year and walks towards the metro station.

Copy editor: Marisa Strothenke
Drag Queen James Bond Drag Queen James Bond Reviewed by Mihir on 6:08:00 PM Rating: 5

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