7.12 / Queer Three


It began as pushing.  Pushing each other.  In that small room, his room.  So many black faces staring at me, faces from magazines, pages torn and taped to the walls.  Prince.  Michael Jackson.  Mary J. Blige.


I admit that I pushed him first.


It was snowing outside.  I could hear the students playing in the snow.  So close it was as if they were in the room with us.  They were laughing outside.  The students were white as the snow, but it was like a hundred black faces laughing at me and then whispering faggot behind my back.


I pushed him first.


He was every boy I could not touch in junior high school.  Especially the boys in the locker room before basketball games, the ones who slapped each other on the back of the head and sometimes even the ass.  So of course I pushed him first.  But he wanted to me to.  He wanted me too.


The first time I saw him was at the campus post office.  Stopped in my tracks.  I had to go to track practice.  As I watched him sift through his pile of mail, and then look up at me, and then back down again, I wondered what we would do to each other.  And how.


I didn’t know how to suck it right.  He had to show me.  Like my first girlfriend had to show me how to kiss.  I liked this better, his head down there.


“I’m never cleaning up your blood ever again,” my friend told me.

“I know, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I was crying.

She walked with me to Health Services.

I lied and told them I got in a fight with a frat boy.

No stitches were necessary.


His mother was a large woman.  Light-skinned and freckled, with dreadlocks.  There was no real silverware in the kitchen.  Just plastic knives and forks.


He was a singer.  I sat in the back of the Chapel and watched.  And listened.  All by myself.  He sang a solo.  “Love for Sale.”


They had a new house but no new silverware.  They had been living there for six months now.  We ate take-out food.  Chicken and macaroni and cheese.  They put the plastic knives and forks in the dishwasher.  I’d never seen anyone do that before.


“It’s my turn.”

“No,” he said, “I went last time.”

“It’s my turn.”

His mother was asleep downstairs.


He turned around.


I played him a tape of me singing at the Kennedy Center when I was a boy.  I was a boy soprano.

He held me.

“That was my last performance before my father made me stop.”

“It’s my turn,” he said.

I lay down on my stomach.


We all sat in the living room.  There were no rugs on the floor.  He called her Mommy.


I admit that I pushed him first.


The night I met him, it was my birthday.  Nineteen years old.  He sang happy birthday to me.  The next morning he asked me if I was freaking out.  I said no and walked out the door.  Thirty minutes later I was standing in his doorway.  I’m freaking out, I told him.  He held me.  I held him back.


His older sister didn’t like me.  Even though he told her that my father was a civil rights lawyer.

“That doesn’t mean a thing,” he told me she’d said.


He called his friends “nigger” and his friends called him “nigger.”  “Stupid nigger,” they’d say and laugh.


He told me about how his father died in the fire.  Six months ago.  He told me he couldn’t cry.

“It’s my turn,” I told him.


A father burning in a wheelchair on the front lawn.


I pushed him.  He pushed me back.

“Get out,” he said.

“Please,” I said, crying again. “It’s your turn.”

“I don’t want you.”

I told him that my dick was bigger than his.  That my ass was firmer too.  That I was blacker than he was.

“Get out.”


I wondered what the guy in the dorm room next door thought.  And what his girlfriend thought.  They could hear the fighting.  The crying.  But they fought too.


At first there was just one single bed in the small room.  We moved another one up from the basement.  We put them side-by-side.


His mother looked right through me, couldn’t, didn’t want to know what I meant to her son.  We slept upstairs.  It was a big house.  His sister slept downstairs on the first floor.  With her woman.  Rhea.  His sister didn’t like me but Rhea smiled at me sometimes.  We were both a secret.  Her face was dark brown and she had braces.  She must have been twenty-five.


He told me not to tell anyone.   Don’t listen to the gossip, he’d say.  Don’t become the gossip, he’d say.  I didn’t want to tell anyone.  This was our secret.  I didn’t tell my friends.  I didn’t tell my parents.  I told my twin sister.  She cried all the way back from New Haven to her college in Northampton.  In the Porsche she’d borrowed from a friend.


“I can’t be your brother and your father and your lover,” he said.

“I don’t want you to be.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes you do.”


“Fuck you and your whore for a mother.”

He said it to my face.

I scratched his face.  Hard.

He touched his face.

We were in the small room back at school.  The beds were side-by-side.



He told me that his friend told him that sooner or later every white boyfriend calls his black boyfriend a nigger.  I told him that I would never call him that.


The last time I sang I was wearing a black tuxedo.  I was thirteen years old.   My mother was in the front row.  There was a conductor in front of me.   An orchestra too.   And a chorus behind me.  The whole world was open to me, but the audience was so far away.  I reached out to them with my voice.  To my mother.


“Fuck you and your whore for a mother.”


He was too far away.  I reached out to him.  To hit his face.


He had such long and beautiful eyelashes.


She sat in the front row with a tape recorder.  I reached out to her with my voice.  She was mouthing the words.


“Fuck you and your whore for a mother.”


I sat with her at a restaurant.  It was the summer.  I was leaving for my first year of college in a month.

“I’m not happy with your father, I’m just not happy with your father.”

“Why don’t you divorce him then?”

I said it without thinking.  I said it casually.  I said it with food in my mouth.


Standing with my father on the New Haven green.  A month into freshman year.

“Your mother says I was a bad father to you.  She’s leaving me because I was a bad father to you.  Was I a bad father to you?”


“Tell her I wasn’t a bad father to you.”


“You think you’re black, don’t you?”


“Just because you’re from D.C.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Sometimes you talk just like a black girl.  Or what you think a black girl talks like.  It’s pathetic.”


Back in the beginning he played Billie Holiday when it was snowing outside.  I would help him fold his laundry.   The beds were side-by-side.


In the summer we met in New York.  He was house sitting a friend’s apartment with high ceilings and no air conditioning.


My father called from the beach house he had rented for the week with my sisters.  “Come and see us,” he said.


There was a mattress on the floor.


“I’ll try.”


He asked me if I thought he thought I was his last chance.  He picked up a brick.

“You hit me and you cut me and you scratch me and now I’m out in the world and you’re still back there in school and you probably think I think you were my last chance.”

He came at me with the brick.  I ran.  I opened the door.  I ran down the five flights of stairs.  Outside.  I called my father from a pay phone.  I tried to sound calm.

“Come and get me come and get me please come and get me.”

I waited out on the sidewalk.  It was hot out there.  The sky darkened.  The Volvo finally pulled up to the curb.  My father opened the door and I got in.  We drove out of the Bronx.  I was silent.  The air conditioner made a noise.  He was talking about my mother.  Again.

“How could she leave me?” he asked.  “How could she do this to me?”

I started whimpering.  Quietly.

“What’s wrong?”

“How could you do this?  How could you do this?  You drove me to this person.”

He turned his head to look at me for a moment.  He stopped talking about my mother.  He reached out and touched my leg.

I tightened my seatbelt, my stomach in knots.

“Who are you talking about?” he asked softly.  “Your friend you were staying with back there?”

“He’s not my friend, Dad, he’s my…he was my–”

“Hush,” said my father, lifting his hand from my leg, and then pressing his foot down on the accelerator.




Nicholas Boggs has published fiction in Chelsea Station and Mary and his literary criticism appears in the anthology James Baldwin Now and Callaloo. The recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell and a 2012 grant from the Jerome Foundation, he currently teaches in the Department of English at NYU.
7.12 / Queer Three