THE HOMES WE INHABIT: NEW YORK
WORDS: DJIBRIL SALL
IMAGE: BEKAH FLY
I woke up in the afternoon and sat up on the couch to find death sitting at the kitchen counter, sipping on a glass of rosé from the boxed wine besides the sink. The air tinged of a melancholy that comes with a sunny, Brooklyn Wednesday when you’re crashing on a friend’s couch, waiting for employment and only eat once a day.
I reached for my own glass of wine that I didn’t finish from last night and sip. It tasted a bit stale and made my lips pucker but it did the work. I looked at the space where death’s eyes should have been and saw myself turning into dust—their lips stretched over their grainy teeth remind me of sand rubbing blood out my skin. “Why are you here?” I ask.
“I heard you were thinking of me so I came to visit.”
I could be at five different clubs and I am dancing. Drunk, coked out, on adderall, and sniffing poppers. I will eye beautiful men and take them into the restrooms so we can be naked, suck dick and maybe fuck. Later I will sit on a rooftop with a crew of models and we will watch the sunrise while smoking cigarettes and snorting lines. I just hope I don’t overdose.
This is real.
My father taught me that being black, African and a man means being severe; here, we cut our teeth across heartstrings and sever our connections to emotions to stare survival into submission.
But look twenty-two years into the future and I am crying on the subway en route to meeting friends. The Orlando shooting reminds me of the taste of bad news on my newsfeed. Shook me lucid and breathed nightmares into my eyes. There they go, dripping down my cheek—salt mingling with the smell of tequila and kissing men in Lower East Side restrooms.
A wonderful drink for late morning misery. A wonderful drink for waking up and pounding forgettings from the recesses of skulls.
The people who were holding on to the same pole as me let go and dispersed to opposite ends of the train when they sensed emotion building behind my eyelids. I get it, the wind should have blown away the dusty remains of my tear ducts a long time ago. I get it, masculinity should have desiccated feeling out of my blood and turned my body to salt and stone. I get it, my heartstrings are healing and some cluck doctor told you that being a man is a chronic illness so you can’t believe the miracle happening in front of you. I get it, seeing a man cry in public is shocking business.
But I don't think I was that messy that I deserved to be abandoned without ceremony.
I look back at the men I’ve slept with. They’re taken aback when I say I prefer being bottom so I always add on the vers tag to my dating profiles to assure them I am capable of domination. Most of the times I'm met with stares on the street because people don't know where to place me on the spectrum—on the periphery of gay and straight, local and international. Living in the liminality of passing and non-passing. Too ambiguous for comfort, but I guess some people think that’s glamorous too.
On the train, this older man continually glanced at my black nails and bleached hair but tried his hardest to avoid my eyes. Even though he's a stranger, he reminds me of hiding to fake innocence and a father who didn't come to my graduation because disappointment can sometimes smother love.
My stop arrives, I gather myself from the pole. As I leave the train, I know there is nothing worse than the numbing because the shock of waking up could kill you. How mortal it feels to remember that I am a target for pain because I accept truth into my bones.
Partake in the distance. You are dripping low, slipping and slooping down to asphalt. Wheels grinding motion into steel wanderlust. Be the window shield, feel the specks of rain split you as you speed on a cloudy bridge in Baltimore. Split, splat—feel how the water bounces into smithereens and end up halfway between infinity and being born. Beauty, boredom, basic, nothing. Just blank, black canvas covering up the white of everything, the white of New York, the white noise, the imprisoned space. Maybe on to Austin and free space and buildings that aren’t more than three stories tall except in downtown. Except how could you forget the white, the white—dripping low, slipping and slooping all down on you? Remember the taste of the world, the genesis of experience, the need to go, wheels grinding motion into steel wanderlust.
A sliver of moon winking closed at dusk. Silver eyelashes curling down a cityscape of glimmering lights, waving in-between existence out distant windows; a mirage of heavenly bodies earthbound within steel and concrete. A wail, celestial, ephemeral and unearthly, hums along with the radiators on top of the roof. Open event horizon and let her through. Let the lights blink and scatter throughout the universe.