By Timothy DuWhite
“Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that much of the edible?” I ponder intently as I wait for my group’s turn outside the photo tent. My friend Brianna had given me one of her special brownies about an hour before rolling up here and a nigga is starting to feel it. Like, feel it feel it.
You know when you’re at a party or function or whatever, and you’re dancing towards the brink of sweat, yet a bead hasn’t quite fallen yet, but you know if the DJ insists on carrying on like this the rains are going to eventually flood? So you try your best to temper your own storm, bop your head slower, alternate from choreo to two-step, wave your hand about your face to conjure a bit of wind.
But then the DJ in all his malevolence puts on yo shit! And now Meek Mill is the supreme final authority over the freedom you grant your own body to purge. Hold up wait a minute, y’all thought I was finished?/When I bought that Aston Martin y’all thought it was rented? And now you’re in the bathroom trying to turn your clothes arid again—beneath the piercing high pitched croak of a silver Xlerator hand-dryer. You nervously giggle as people walk in, saying shit like, “Spilt my damn drink! You know how it is! ‘08 don’t hate! Hahahahhahahahaahhahahahahahahaah.”
You know? You know that feeling? Well, nigga, that’s how I feel.
Not like I’m bout to sweat, but like with one wrong move I’m somehow going to float the fuck out of my own 10 year high school reunion. So I try my best to counteract the drug’s progression. I stand still as fuck. I smile as people walk by me.
I say, “Nice to see you,” or, “It’s been so long,” so niggas think I’m regular, and hopefully, somehow, I can trick my body into thinking it, too.
I am waiting for my girls to get back from the bathroom so we can take this picture and I can finally sit my irresponsible high ass the hell down. I’m standing to the side of the open bar where niggas are congregated like thirst is the only function in their body. I am shuffling a bit, trying to make myself small enough to not impede on anyone’s merriment, when I feel a nudge to my back. I turn around and see a small woman looking down at her feet.
She is holding her glass of liquor like most niggas do when they’re trying to prevent a spill from climbing any further up their arm. Her elbow positioned in a right angle, a small arch forming in her upper back, and her drink positioned far enough from her body to assess the amount of damage done to her fit and the floor. I am sorry, I think, before even opening my mouth, but she jumps, “You spilled my fucking drink!” It almost sounded like laughter, and she says it again, “You spilled my fucking drink!” She finally looks at me, and I’m not sure if it’s the drugs or just this small woman, but I can’t get a read on her tone. I think she is smiling, but her eyes are carnivorous so I may be misreading her teeth. She says, still in this strange space between laughter and not, “Who the fuck are you! Like, who are you anyway?”
And suddenly I am hyper aware that I decided to don a black dress/shirt hybrid tonight. Followed up with the skin tight black jeans that I intentionally only pull out when I want to feel cunty. And on my feet I have on the black boots I bought three days prior from none other than Gay Niggas ‘R’ Us (aka Zara). So when she asks who am I, who the fuck am I, I don’t know how to tell her that if I walked into our school 10 years ago as I am now, the younger, closeted me would probably ask the exact same thing. So I ignore her inquisition and instead say, “I’ll get you a napkin.”
But truthfully I don’t want to. Not because I am rude but because, from the bottom of my heart, fuck this soggy bucket-head ass troll and all the niggas she run wit! What a glass shattering way to ask such a fragile question in a space steeped with the fear of being forgotten. Everyone, even the most popular, who are entering this hall are contemplating their contribution to the collective memory in this room. And this small woman thinks it an equally small feat to call me out amongst the onlooking of her snickering friends to answer this question? This question that was by no means prompted by our interaction, but rather her desire to impose some flickering-cafeteria-room-hierarchy-dominance she lost a long time ago but tonight regained temporary access to? My nigga!
Fuck. Out. Of. Here.
But I pass her a hand full of tissues anyway and walk away silently towards my table. Turns out I too have regained my own sort of temporality. But instead of a placebo dominance, I am returning to my high school legacy of remaining small. If I’m being honest, I don’t recognize who she is either, a fact that has less to do with her popularity during that time, and more to do with my desire to remain niche. My fear of being discovered as gay forced me to only frequent a small array of circles during high school. To everyone else I was just the “track kid.” Since I was so good at running, folks rarely questioned my sexuality. To them, being athletic automatically equated straight, which was an ignorance I was thankful for.
The hall they rented out reminds me of prom. Same high ceilings. Same golden glittery light display illuminating the space into a whimsical fairytale. The soft blue flames from the chafing dish burners whisk me into a nostalgic trance that takes me off my original course back to my seat (some real high shit). So instead of returning to the table, I stand in the belly of the dance floor just staring. At the flames? Maybe? But mostly just at nothing.
Who the fuck are you! I think to myself, as I see from the corner of my eye more people entering the hall, laughing and enamored in all of the room’s light. Tim, what are you doing here?I also think, followed again with no answer. I was so excited for this moment. I was intrigued by the history of high school reunions. The long legacy of folks who decide to return. The sitcom reenactments. Martin Payne finally settling the score with Ricky Fontaine (“pretty Ricky is what they call em”). I wanted to somehow add to this tapestry—but here I am failing. I wore this outfit because I wanted to prove how comfortable I am in my skin now. How I have changed—grown.
The only score I needed to settle was with myself, but now look at me. A closeted, queer sixteen-year-old again, struck motionless by the presence of someone demanding that I reveal myself.
Finally, my fiance comes to retrieve me. He says, “Babe, there you are, they’re playing Bachata! Show me some of those moves you’ve been telling me you know.” And he is referring to the stories I told him of the older Black men who would often chill outside the neighborhood barbershop when I was growing up in my predominantly Latinx neighborhood. They would always stop me and say shit like, “What’s up young brotha. I’ve seen you been keeping up with your runs. That’s good! You gonna get all these girls on ya dick. But you know there ain’t nothin but Spanish puss in Passaic. You know how you get them, right? You know, right?” And usually I’d just smile, shrug my shoulders, and try my best not to look uncomfortable. “You got to do their dances. These Spanish bitches love a Black dude that can do that Bachata and shit. It makes their pussies wet. Learn their dances, son.”
And so I did, hoping that in some odd way it would make me straighter. Can’t say it makes much sense now, or if it even did then. But I got decent at it anyway.
“What, you backing out now?” my fiance teases, looking more beautiful than anything my sixteen year old self could ever have imagined. And suddenly, I feel ashamed I brought him all the way from our home in Brooklyn to a large room in Jersey, just to see me like this. “Naw, I’m a little fucked up, let’s sit for a minute.”
But truth is, from what I can tell, I am the only person who brought a “partner” to this reunion. Sure, there might be other fiances, but partner is the only term straight folks prescribe to gay niggas. And I know that we would be the only partners on the dance floor, and I would not be able to focus. Or be comfortable. Or conjure the warm electricity needed to perform such movement.
We live in the age where social media makes it easier to keep up with people you would have otherwise forgotten. Two years ago, in preparation for this day, our class officers created a Facebook group to organize and get the word out about our reunion. Just about everyone in this room was added to the page. We spent the first months of its creation catching up on life, stalking each others profiles, and learning of each other’s journeys. The shit that folks used to wait to do until the actual reunion. So, before even coming here, folks already knew that I was an artist, HIV positive, and gay (I say queer, but whatever).
So when my partner and I first walked through the hall doors we were greeted with nothing but love and affirmations. “So good to see you two!” “Congratulations on the engagement.” “Wow, so you’re Tim’s partner? I see you on Facebook so much it feels like I already know you.” Just smiles, and laughter. I know how to spot when a compliment is forced, so I know many of theirs were, but why should it matter? Isn’t this the prom I always wanted? To be in a room filled with tolerant people? To have the beautiful boy as my date, and do the dance I was secretly learning for him all along?
But I did not get this high by accident. I knew what I was doing. I knew that this moment was coming, and I hoped being high would make it easier. But here I am, seated back at my table. Sitting beside my fiance, with his fingers laced between mine, yet somehow I am still wearing that familiar fear of being “outed.”
I hate that soggy bucket-head ass troll, and all the trolls that have come before her. From elementary, to middle, to high school, all asking that same question, “Who the fuck are you?” And never accepting my silence as a legitimate answer. What a fucked up world we live in, where I learn the full extent of my trauma only after my lover asks me to dance.
“All prisoners are political prisoners: The #vaughnuprising and how ignoring hostage strategy forgoes our freedom“— Jess Krug, RaceBaitR (Feb 13, 2017)
“The girl who pushed Tyra Banks (and the internet) over the edge” — Michael Blackmon, Buzzfeed (January 26, 2017)
Timothy DuWhite is a black, queer, poz-writer/artist based out of Brooklyn, NY. A majority of his work circles around the intersections of state & body, state & love, and state & mind. All Timothy desires is a different/newer world for his sha-daughters, and believes the written word is one tool that could be used towards achieving that goal.
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