I dated a white man for two years and never told my family. Of course, this was during the early Nineties, before the arrival of the Internet—before a stray picture on Facebook or wherever could destroy your privacy. Also, I spoke very rarely with my family back then, maybe a few phone calls a year, for reasons I still don’t understand.
Anyway, I met him in a coffeehouse in 1991, right after the Gulf War had begun. As I sipped my double cappuccino, I overheard someone at the table behind me call the war “corporate welfare for the bad guys in G.I. Joe.” I turned around to say “Amen, brother!” (I’d heard of G.I. Joe but had never seen it. I still haven’t.) He sat by himself, scribbling something into a spiral-bound notebook, the type with holes and blue-lined pages. He had short, dark blond hair, almost like a mullet; and he wore the most neatly-pressed flannel shirt I’d ever seen. He smiled at me a little nervously.
“Sorry—sometimes I what I’ve written aloud to hear if it works,” he explained.
“Did that line work?” I asked.
“Do you think it works?”
“Uh-huh. It’s funny, but it makes an important political point.”
“Yup, it sure does, but I still don’t think it works. Dropping the ‘corporate welfare’ part and saying that ‘the bad guys in G.I. Joe’ are running the war would, like, make the comment more accessible.”
“Accessible to whom?”
“Why—people who don’t converse with me, that’s whom.”
In retrospect, that inaugural conversation featured a few things I would increasingly find problematic about him: the faux-scruffiness (that mullet), the fussy appearance (that crisp flannel shirt), the barely-jovial superciliousness (that comment about not associating with presumed idiots). But at the moment, I found him captivating, much more captivating that the pretentious creeps in my poetry classes. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I never shared my poetry with my family, either.
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(Fiction written mostly on the spot)
Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews