We were living in Austin. I was a grad student at the University of Texas, and you were all a familiar face
or Oilcan Harry’s
or Red Fez
or Dive Bar
or Crown and Anchor
or Dog and Duck
or Opal Divine’s
or Raggedy Anne’s.
I’d gone through a phase of hooking up with whiteboys even though I said I would never hookup with whiteboys.
Pinkies, my best friend, Torrance, used to call them.
Of course, I said I’d never about many things: drinking liquor harder than white Zinfandel, or a cocktail that wasn’t meant to be served in a hurricane glass with an umbrella.
I’d never smoke cigarettes
or snort cocaine
or trip on Ecstasy
And you were the very first whiteboy. We met at a party at the home of mutual friends. You found me alone in their back yard at a picnic table drinking vodka with a splash of cranberry (to give it color), smoking a cigarette as I cut lines of cocaine on a plate I’d taken from the kitchen cabinet.
I didn’t hear you approaching from behind, nor did I know if you noticed how often I ducked beneath the table looking for a rolled-up five-dollar bill that kept falling to the ground.
Maybe you noticed me place it in the grooves of the ashtray to hold it still while I finished cutting the lines.
Maybe you found it odd when I took a drag off the cigarette and placed it in the ashtray, but instead of the rolled-up bill, I picked up the cigarette again. I turned it around as if admiring the smoldering ember. I bent over the plate with it. I tried to snort a line through the lit end of it.
But if you’d seen what happened, you said nothing about how fucked up I must have already been.
I flinched in pain, and I think you confused it for something else.
You said you were sorry if you startled me.
I relaxed because you said startled. I asked you to sit with me. I explained how I’d burned my nose on the cigarette and you said you’d be right back. And you were, with ice cubes wrapped in a bright blue rag. You held it to my nose.
I asked if you were trying to get my draws.
You were a whiteboy who said startled so you didn’t get my reference.
I offered you a line and you took the plate. I passed you my flask and you took a quick swig. You usually drank Southern Comfort, you said.
You said you weren’t completely straight.
This was how we got to know one another: sharing a plate of cocaine and a flask of vodka.
Later, when the party migrated to the 4th Street gay bars, I got to see what you meant by not completely straight. I took you into an oversized porta-potty in the back courtyard of one of those bars.
You peered through the door just as it closed as if to make sure no one saw you go in with me.
When you were safely inside, a motion sensor light dimly lit your face. You may have been considering that you’d made a mistake. Were you ready?
Not that it mattered to me.
I stuck my hand down your pants and breathed into your neck. I pulled the elastic waist of your boxers. These are your draws, I said. I felt you grow hard in my grip.
Let’s get out of here, you said.
We took a cab back to the party house, where you said you were staying the night.
We finished the rest of the cocaine.
We drank the beer left in the refrigerator.
You told me you were a Scorpio.
I asked you if Scorpios really were the best.
We sucked each other off.
You said it was your first time.
I laughed and said, not mine.
I stayed the night as well, and in the morning, you weren’t in bed with me when I woke up. As I dressed to leave, I found a note that you’d passed beneath the bedroom door asking me to keep our hookup to myself. I later texted you that I would.
I didn’t keep that promise.
I told my housemates that you had a square dick, and you came in my mouth without warning me first.
The disrespect, my housemates said.
At another party, high on cocaine, I told a crowd of my friends the same thing.
Whoever heard of a square dick? they said.
I still hoped I could see you more after that night, that maybe we could become better acquaintances, friends, fuck buddies.
I saw you only once in a while, though. We never spoke. I’d wave but you wouldn’t wave back.
I wondered if it had gotten back to you that I’d talked about your square dick. That I’d broken my promise to keep our hookup a secret.
I could tell you it was a moment of weakness, that I was only trying to get a laugh, that something insecure had reared itself in front of a crowd I entertained at your expense.
I could say that I was sorry, that I was petty, that I’d always been.
I could offer a small consolation. I still have a small black dot on the tip of my nose from that cigarette burn. The best it will ever heal.
You were a marriedwhiteboy.
Your wife brought you to Charley’s on your birthday. We drank vodka cranberries, which is what prompted your wife to chat. She found our common tastes in cocktails to be alluring I supposed.
She had a purpose though. She was looking to find a boy willing to suck your cock. Because I’m not good at it, she whispered. She had a slight lisp that I imagined had grown more subdued from her sorority days at the University.
It’s also the way she said cock. As if she’d heard the word spoken only in porn the two of you watched once in a while when you were feeling adventurous. Like that night.
It’s the way you let her do most of the talking, which made me wonder how much you agreed to this.
And how coincidental was this chance meeting? She was looking for a boy, and there I was, conveniently, a mandingo she was considering as a gift for you.
But I was probably already high on cocaine before you even bothered to shit, shower, and shave, arriving here just in time for me to accept your proposition.
It didn’t hurt that you were gorgeous, whiteboy.
I told your wife the best place to go was to the women’s bathroom. The stalls were small, but we could make it work.
You sat on the toilet lid, your wife behind you, perched on the toilet tank with a fistful of your hair. This is how she pulled your ear to her lips, by your hair, to coo is it good, baby?
I kneeled on the floor in front of you wishing your wife would just go away. Gazed up at your face, at your open mouth that never closed, looking for clues that you might be coming. You were a moaner and I liked that. But I could never tell how close you were.
Your wife kept asking is it good, baby and your face would contort in frustration.
Maybe, like me, you thought she sounded like a woman who only talked dirty when she practiced alone how to make the proper inflections with her voice, and she hadn’t quite yet perfected it.
After a while—though I could’ve gone all night—you said you didn’t think you could come. You’d had too much to drink.
We tucked in our clothes, fixed our hair, wiped our mouths and filed out of the stall. We needed some fresh air and went out to the patio. We crowded around a small cocktail table, passing a cigarette between the three of us, and after the last drag, when the cigarette had been snuffed out we said our goodbyes.
And then there was you, lankyslavicwhiteboy.
We sat at the bar in Oilcan Harry’s. Too close to the stage. The DJ’s first set started with Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud.” The once empty dance floor welcomed beneath the strobe lights an epileptic throng of glittering, oiled up, and otherwise wet whiteboys who hadn’t yet rid themselves of a song now seven years old. You kept looking left, where I sat two stools over, between staring down at your drink, or tenting your hands, or drumming the bartop with your fingertips as if you were nervous, bored, or both.
I drank vodka cranberries and tallied how often you turned your attention to me.
I asked the bartender what you were drinking. Vodka with sweet and sour mix. I ordered a kamikaze—which was about the same, with one added ingredient: triple sec—and asked the bartender to send you one.
This usually wasn’t my style, spending money on strangers, but you seemed like you’d been cast out by someone you loved and were looking for a place to lay your head. Like in the movies.
You accepted the drink and moved to the empty stool beside me.
You said thanks, and we took our shots.
For an hour we made small talk, though we had to yell over the bass and the whooping from the dance floor. We repeated ourselves often, drawing our faces closer and closer until our lips grazed the rims of our ears, the conversation soon becoming more than about trying to hear what the other said.
We drank more shots: purple hooter shooters, lemon drops, chocolate cakes, pineapple upside down cakes, hairy nipples, sex on the beaches. We kept yelling over the bass.
You said your name was Anna.
I said, that’s a girl’s name.
It’s the name of a king, you said.
I’m a king’s name, I said. I’m a Persian king’s name.
You’re Persian? you said.
No. I’m black, I said.
You said you emigrated from Slovakia.
I said I was from Tennessee.
You said you wanted to dance with me.
I said we should have more shots. Wait until the floor was less crowded.
I lied and told you you looked like a whiteboy named Aubrey. He went to middle school with me, I said. You favor him. At the time, I didn’t think I liked whiteboys, I said. I liked Aubrey, though.
What’s wrong with whiteboys? you said.
I shrugged. In middle school we used to say whiteboys smelled like wet popcorn, I said. But Aubrey smelled like Cool Water cologne.
Do I smell like wet popcorn? you said.
But before I could answer, you swallowed my mouth in yours.
You pulled away, put your lips to my ear, rested your forehead against my temple. I closed my eyes expecting to feel your tongue, but instead, you whispered, I’m HIV positive. And then you were silent.
I took you home that night. And several nights after that.
We didn’t share any of the dangerous fluids, as we say.
No blood, no semen.
You were still strung out on some other dude.
You said I couldn’t fuck you.
But oral sex was ok. Spooning. Kissing. That was fine.
Penetration meant cheating, you said.
I just want to know where you went. Where you are now.
The more time you spent with me, the more desperate it seemed you wanted to be with someone else.
Then, one night you couldn’t get him on the phone, so you said you needed to go. You thought something terrible had happened to him.
You were screaming in a hushed voice so you wouldn’t wake my housemates, rouse the dog. You said you had to find him.
I tried to get you to stay. I snatched your black jean jacket away from you.
You begged me to give you back your fucking jacket.
It was two or three in the morning, and so chilly outside. But I wouldn’t give it to you.
You started to go anyway, and I couldn’t let you walk out into that cold air, so I gave you back your jacket.
You walked toward S. 1st Street pulling on your black jean jacket, cinching it tighter to your body.
You were a man in love, heartbroken and afraid. Probably regretful. You told me once that you’d wished you had waited to fall for the one, that person who lit up your face when he spoke your name. We’d just finished stroking each other off.
I didn’t get it, thinking you’d have to be stricken with HIV to hold so tightly to those romantic ideas.
I didn’t know if I were being cynical or behaving like the wrong person for you to be with.
I wanted to say I’m sorry as I stood in the doorway and watched you disappear around the corner. I couldn’t say why I did that except to remember the last place I saw you before I never saw you again.
Darius Stewart holds an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa and an MFA in poetry from the Michener Center for Writers. He is the 2020-2021 Provost Visiting Writer in Nonfiction at the University of Iowa and lives in Iowa City with his dog, Fry.