It’s a black man’s birthday. No, I did not give him head. It’s not like that. Sure, we rode the subway. Yeah, we talked. I ate a bag of Fritos, the kind you steal from a kid’s lunch bag. He had a piece of chicken, rotisserie. Don’t get all racist. He had got it from this other friend of ours we’d left back on the 27th St. platform who had been practically gnawing on the carcass groaning about how he couldn’t finish the thing and ‘just please take it’ and handed my friend the legthigh he’d cavemanned off with a grunt. When my friend took the meat the guy said, “Happy birthday, Kemosabe!” I asked, “What the fuck is a ‘Kemosabe’?” and that’s when the train came and I didn’t get an answer, just a shaking head full of chewing chicken corpse grease smile.
The black man with the birthday. Well, we rode that train with our food. Lamenting lack of drink. He wiped his hands on the bell bottoms of my jeans. Then wiped his face. We liked making people look at us. His birthday sounding behind everything: a jangly song. Lots of bell sizes, lots of tripping and falling clowns. I did not think about anything underneath his clothes but felt it coming close, the place in me that wants that.
The train sped. Filled.
He makes me laugh, the black birthday man.
I took some pictures of him with my cell phone. I have this app where I can add shit to the pictures: mustaches, animated sparkles, hearts, animal snouts, etc. I took one of his pictures so handsome and ruined it with a pointed birthday hat. When I showed it to him he guffawed so loudly and abruptly it scared the lady across from us. That’s when I broke. We were so high from our together, the birthday, the subway food, phone apps, our salt mouths, the clackety-clack of the train. From the way he was working his hands I could tell he was wanting to drown me. Not like that. Don’t take it that way. You need to know him first. I understood and head-butted him to bleeding. Matching unicorn bruises gashed Y-shaped cracks. Only one person stepped away then. The car was crowded. Nobody wanted to upset the solid of the space. Everyone was afraid to lose. But not us. We had nothing to.
When our stop came, the black man, his birthday a vein between us, and I, lifted our riot from the seats. Always one to upstage, I chanted a yell, “Kemo-sabe! Kemo-sabe! Kemo-sabe!” and he looked at me as if he were seeing stars for the first time. I kept it up even when “Shut up stupid bitch!’ even when, “Fuckin’ crazy ass shit!” even when he “Stop! I’m gonna piss myself!” because his laughing was so warm and long and I kept wanting it to come. I knew love right then. And, maybe I did give him head later. Maybe that was inside a package with a big bow and bright wrapping. Maybe that ride broke something that had been waiting. The pieces of it scattering on the filthy metal floor, me there on hands and knees picking them up, too important to lose.
xTx recommends "Once, We Were (Not) Troy Davis And Then We Were Something Else" by Roxane Gay over at The Rumpus.
(For December at Everyday Genius, contributors were asked to recommend something elsewhere on the Internet.)