Nobody Talks About Baldwin for Fun

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“I miss seeing you” Brian said over coffee at his apartment in Harlem.

Yes, a large percentage of my life takes place with, around, or in proximity to coffee. Only a fraction of a percent my life happens at his apartment, being that I’m only in New York twice a year. We text or talk only occasionally about things that don’t entirely mater. I lose contact with him, sometimes out of disinterest and sometimes because my life gets busy. That doesn’t seem to bother him.

He’ll hit me up six months after my last text, and I’ll respond to it, because deep down, I’m not a remarkable person, at all.

He’s a teacher, High school English, advance placement students – If I’m not mistaken. He tells me about James Baldwin, his favorite. Baldwin is a genius to his time and ours, but dear god was his writing packed with word-theatrics. In my experience, nobody discusses Baldwin to actually discuss Baldwin.

We use it to test one another’s intelligence, explore the other person’s depths, and intrigue whoever we’re speaking to. Baldwin’s words become less about ideas and more about allure.

Brian one-ups my opinions about the essayist/novelist every opportunity he gets. I think he thinks it’s sexy and I don’t think it’s unsexy, I just think it’s unnecessary.

You’re an English teacher. I’m a writer. We’re both capable of talking about Baldwin. You don’t hit me up out of nowhere to talk about Baldwin, and I don’t visit your part of the city to talk about Baldwin.

Let’s be honest – You call me once, every so often in case we get tired of Baldwin.

And it happens. We get tired of the lofty ideas and theories of why gay black men are the way they are in a country that is the way it is, and at least a couple of times a year, we’d like to just be what we’ve been deep down: men that crave touch, and feeling, and don’t want to be alone anymore.

Fuck Baldwin.

We make poor use of an afternoon by laying around, partially dressed, and cuddled up. He’s telling me stories of the weeks he spent in Thailand, and then in Nicaragua. He’s well-traveled and I’m assuming by the length of his story, he’s quite proud of it.

I’m impressed, but not impressed enough to start answering his text messages regularly, not impressed enough to desire him in a dose higher than an afternoon at a time, not even for sex, really. But just enough to agree to the end our mutual and existential loneliness using nothing more than our bodies.
“You’re considering moving here soon right?” He asked, playing softly in my curly head of thick hair.
I didn’t answer. I pretended as if I’d fallen asleep in his arms as to not ruin a perfectly good moment. No part of me has any intention of writing in New York City; especially since I can write anywhere else, cheaper and while Baldwin likes to use beautiful words to make excellent points, I prefer to use no words at all to make equally valid cases.

My Drunken Self is Enough

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Yuuuuppppp, I even love Blake Guildaphish’s unfinished sketches.

I liked the feelings.

Not enough to turn them into anything, but enough to recognize that they’re present.

Y’all love to turn shit into shit that never needed to actually be.

He’s a nice guy. We’re at a lame party. We’re having a conversation about too many topics, with ease. Yes. Hey Arnold was light years ahead of its time. Yes, every cartoon afterwards was frighteningly deep and not really age appropriate.

Yes, every variation of ‘The Real Housewives Of….’ Is annoying and other than creating trouble for the amusement of viewers who have never created a thing in their damn lies, I’m unsure these woman have any talent that one could put on a business card.

His laugh sounds like a hiss. I laugh too, but mostly because his laugh sounds like a hiss.

No one thing in particular is funny, everything is.

This wine is pretty good for the price.

He’s good at cards. But I talk smack every time he isn’t. I just learned how to play this game. The shuffle is definitely in my favor this round, and maybe the following and perhaps the one after.

Maybe

Myself is pretty enough right now. But I just like the feelings.

The (in)Formality of Touch

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It’s not that I’m not affectionate, but I like touch differently.

My parents weren’t huggers and we didn’t use embrace as a way of reminding each other that we were present. We didn’t use touch to satiate sadness. My most vivid implementation of hugs were those that happened in church, and I feel like that isn’t a very good place to practice hugging. Nobody there hugs because they want to, they do it because you have to, or because someone in a pulpit wanted to get creative with that obnoxious, ‘tell your neighbor’ thing, when in actuality, my neighbor never had to tell me anything, I heard you when you said it the first time. Thank you.

I think, maybe unintentionally, I learned to link touch with formality, never with pleasure or affection.

I hug when I greet people, because that’s what we do. I hug when my friends leave my apartment and return to their cars slightly drunk, which is dangerous, and I always ask if they’d prefer to stay, but again, that’s just a formality, I’d prefer if they didn’t.

I shake hands when I meet an employer, or really anyone more important than me in a suit, not because I’m dying to shake their hand, but because it’s a formality.

Then it got odd.

Sex within relationships, which – and it’s going to sound weird – in most cases, I rarely enjoy, personally. Again, it feels like a formality. We’re having sex because that’s what couples do. They have sex. I wasn’t trained to enjoy touch, but mostly tolerate it.

I love accidental touch.

I realized this sitting on a packed bus one day, too close to the Indian gentleman beside me. The hairs on his arm tickled mine, and I felt like we were getting away with something. I collapsed drunkenly on a friend who supports my lanky frame so I don’t have to keep standing upright and faking sobriety at a party we’ve been at too long.

My brother sat directly beside me on a couch at a family gathering, and it felt strangely warm to not sit alone.

I love unplanned contact.

My tactile memory can still recall what the stubble of my last boyfriend’s facial hair felt like brushing on my nose, and that was a little more exciting than the first kiss itself, but evenings when he wanted to hold me while we flipped through Netflix felt clunky, the positions were awkward, and perhaps forced, and it was purely out of formality that I stayed quiet.

I love accidental touch.

While I scan videos on youtube of strangers sharing stories of things they’d do differently in their lives, I hardly even notice I’m running my hand up and down my hairy forearms, and when I consciously catch myself doing it, I don’t stop – it’s such a nice secret pleasure I get to share with myself on a Wednesday night.

The thick veins in my feet look like the exposed roots of a tree and I’ve taken time while writing this line to press them just to feel them pop back up again. I love accidental touch. And unplanned contact. I loved waking up with a person next to me who would let me feel the muscles in their arm while they caught an extra hour of sleep, and I hated when we arranged ourselves in sleeping formations overheating from frustration and this inconvenient position,

My goodness,

just stand still,

be present,

and let me touch you improperly,

or in ways that aren’t even sexy at all,

to remind me that I’m grateful to not be alone, today.

There is no need for words. Let’s not waste time arranging ourselves correctly. We can skip the formality.

The Sweet Taste of Settling

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“so…..when can I taste you?” he asked while I sat in the passenger seat of the muggy, parked car. The humidity hanging in the air smelled of his breath and my nervousness. His eyes, dark and squinty, just like they were in his profile picture where he claimed to be looking for ‘friends only, none of that gay shit’

And yet…..here we are. In his mother’s car, I presume based on the decorative pumpkin spice air freshener and Shekinah glory CD in the glove compartment. I caught a glimpse of it while he was scrounging for loose change; First quarters, than optimistically accepting dimes before tolerating nickels.

I recognized the disappointment on his face when he had to start choosing nickels.

It’s the same look I had when I realized dating apps don’t have doctors, and barely has sane individuals, so I settled on a dinner date with him.

He is the proverbial nickel of my dating experience, with his face tattoo, unclear backstory, and vague interests consisting of ‘chillin’ and 420’

I realized I hadn’t responded to his desire to “taste me”. His glassy, beady eyes and pouty, cracked lips looked as if they desired to taste the good end of a tube of Chap Stick.

I laughed to stall for time. Like a flirtatious laugh, sort of thing, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of nervous laughter. “I’m serious,” he said, choking on his own laughter, coughing and not covering his mouth. I decided at this exact moment we couldn’t be any less compatible. Don’t try to raise children with me.

“I don’t know what you tryna get into” I replied, at this point playing along. My ability to speak ‘trade’ is limited, and I can’t conjugate the verbs well, but I know enough for the standard strangers attempting to have sex with one another conversation.

“Man, you, hopefully,” he replied.

I’m not one to believe homosexuality is a sin, but this kind is. This is that blasphemous shit God is talking about. But for this, there is repentance, and I’m just going to repent in advance but it’s been a few months and the pickings in this city are slim.

“Well if you wanna go back to my spot, my roommate’s out.” I said. I don’t even have a roommate. I make enough to live perfectly alone. Again, I’m purely speaking trade.

“That’s wussup” he said. I don’t know what that means, but that’s what he said, so that’s what it was.

 

 

AH. Don’t let me forget. The illustration here is provided by Blake Guildaphish, who is one of my favorite living illustrators. He lets me use his work when I want to. And I want to. Find more of his stuff on his tumblr.

Put Yourself Out There…

 

It’s one date. You’ve got this. Even if you don’t have this, pretend like you have this. Do this for me. Do this for us – you and your conscience. You’ve got this. I believe in you. We believe in you. You’re off to a great start. You put yourself out there. All those damn self-help books say that this is the first step. I have no idea what the other steps are. I didn’t read beyond the first couple steps and I remember only this one.

I‘m sure ‘pay attention to your coffee date’ is probably one of the steps, but I just can’t commit to it right now. I’m a one-step-at-a- time sort of gentleman, and frankly, I’m okay with this underwhelming pace. I think it’s appropriate for this particularly underwhelming human being.

I don’t remember what he does for a living. I think it has to be stressful because he got these extra shots of espresso. I think he does something with numbers. Accounting or investing; those things are virtually the same to me, and I regret saying that because now he’s explaining the difference as if they’re not. as If I’ve asked him to explain and I haven’t.

I’m only hardly more interesting. I’m a writer. Some mornings.

Never consistently, it seems, but often enough to get things published online and have that shit go viral enough to make me seem important on dinner dates. I know that, comparatively, I’m no more important than anyone else, but please don’t tell that to the men I’ve ended up on dates with.

“So I’ve read your work..” they mention as if I hand out pop quizzes upon that announcement. I don’t. I struggle writing that shit for weeks, sometimes. In actuality, my writing is almost the last thing I’d like to talk about on a date, even ‘weather’ ranks slightly higher.

.“So what’s your inspiration?” men I hardly know like to ask,

It’s a bit unfair that they can research the work I do so far in advance. I didn’t look up the files of expense reports you drafted up in the last fiscal quarter. I wanted to be surprised. Did you not want some element of surprise this late morning?

No. You wanted to ask questions about “inspiration” like you’re fucking NPR. I write about gay shit. Because I’m a gay guy. Columns for magazines, blogs, occasionally Huffington Post likes to make excuses for why they won’t pay me. I write about life. My inspiration is life.

I go on dates with accountants or investors or whatever and find shit to write about. Then I go on more, where you ask me these questions. It’s cyclical. You stay perpetually impressed, my soon-to-be agent will be happy, all at the expense of being able to enjoy myself on dates ever again.

I’m not sure who exactly wins on these dates. I just get through them one at a time, and it’s been some time since my last date or write up.

But here I am, putting myself out there because a book I didn’t even buy recommend it.

And I admit, I’m not even here for the coffee. I’m here for the bestseller. Do I actually plan on growing with Chad the accountant? No. I don’t.

Just sit quietly, Chad, and let this bestseller write itself.