It Could Happen to Anyone, or a Letter to the BoyL. Lamar Wilson
The man in the shack on the corner wants to kiss you. He remembers when you jump-roped better than most of the girls & prayed without manly pretense, remembers how you mimicked the church mothers—knees & body bowed, Lawd —your genuine contrition for being broken & breakable still. You always was too pretty to be a boy. Come gimme some sugar, he says & reaches out to kiss you on your cheek, but his lips are thistles, his face a cavern of bones. It’s World AIDS Day, & you are here to chronicle his free-fall from engineer to blind man leading the myope, to fevers that flash on & off like a switch spooked by the God he calls great & merciful with a smile. Your mother says his songs tore up church services all over town like hurricanes had done Old U.S. Road: dogwoods splayed, naked limbs convulsing, rapt in holy water, like the saints slain by the spirits he conjured. You don’t remember him, so busy kneeling at the altar of this you the mothers & sanctified brothers could praise, who loved Shirts Against Skins more than Bible study, loved tackling the most buff Skin on the field, who always held you on top of him long enough for you to feel him hardening against you hardening. Gimme some skin, nigga, he’d say & grin, as you pulled away, then reached to pull him to his feet. This man doesn’t know the you who dreamed of kissing the lead tuba player but was too much of a punk or a saint or both to follow his leer from the dais to the bathroom stall. It could happen to anyone, he says, especially when you love somebody. Make sure you write that down. You don’t. Too sentimental, you think, for a hard news story, so you dig for the grit, for the who who branded him untouchable. He smiles, places one hand on his chest, gropes the table for yours. You using protection with these boys? His scaly palm grazes your keloid knuckles. I haven’t, you know, yet, you mumble, happy for once to be numb, glad you can’t feel the heat.
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