“They been hurtin’ for some months now, doc.” He said, talking outside of himself the way that folks can sometimes do when pain and time force them to be away from their bodies. Red didn’t like this—none of it—not the pain, not the possible problem, not the god awful lights that seemed to burn away any conviction held, not the doctor and her cold tongue. That’s why he smoked before coming.
“Is that what’s back here? I never knew where they was or what they did for real. I just knew that they was somewhere in myself—doing something.” He smiled out of nervousness. In the past, it had been a ticket to bliss—someone’s bedroom, a cheat out of penalties, a free pass to lie—something, but now it was a plea for mercy. A spell he wished to cast over reality and make what he desired happen. He wanted to be free of the constant problems.
“Your kidneys help to clean out the waste in your system, like a filter,” the doctor continued, almost unmoved by whatever Red was attempting. “If we are experiencing pain or problems there, it could mean several things, including stones or failure, which is important to monitor because of the vital work that they do. A lot of times, disease or poison can sit for years and finally appear, very suddenly, attacking both kidneys and their capacity to help your body.”
He heard about all of half of the warning and tried repeating it to himself while he pissed in a cup the doctor gave him. The bathroom was a small holding shed for many miseries. Red hoped this didn’t end in more pills. Something particular did flash back brightly in his head—something ‘bout how men in the United States had higher rates of kidney failure than almost anyone else and how African American men who were on medication were likely to suffer this problem more that most because of the fact that pills taken over time actually weakened kidney strength.
“People under constant medication have to be very conscious of their kidneys. Meds taken over long periods of time may cause kidney stones or failure. Black men taking HIV medication are especially vulnerable, which is why I ask you to pee in this cup every time we have a check-up. I want to make sure you’re doing alright in there.”
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“Hit,” he sighed while holding his softening sex. He held onto the wall and exhaled the stress once more. In these moments, bad memories from all over, found theyselves flooding all over and his body felt pulled down by its own heaviness. Parts of his fleshy self began to fall off shelves he put them for safe keepin’—he was loosin’ it. And he cried.
When Anthony was here, he, at least, had another pot to put his miser, another to blame for the infinite wrongs happening. And part of him knew that wasn’t right, but it felt nice to just, for a small bit of time, lose any personal accountability in the matter. Blame and notions of bein’ a victim washed over him and found all the feelins that was hurt and stepped on or left for dead on the stand next to unused condoms.
His throat closed up, as it did before and he shook all over. Red saw mortality and the thousands of lives he hadn’t a chance to live—the men he’d hoped became. There was salt on his tongue. He rolled through sheets and stood at the mouth of Golgotha. “You must come in at the door.” There were witches living on sad times and doctors casting death with their instruments. He’d been infected and used. It all fell away, all the innocence held in high places, and he felt used. Pulling himself back into his pants, he collected what could be.
Only when there was a knock at the door did he realize how much time had passed.
“Give me a sec,” he called, not even listening for a response over the sound of flushing water and moving paper.
The quiet came in, more new and menacing than it ever had. He saw his mother standing over an empty bed and she was crying and carrying a Bible. He has made a home for me over there. Jesus has prepared for me a home over there. She sang something blue for them and Red knew what she meant. So he went to her—his hands like the very cup of trembling.
“I tried mama. So hard,” he spoke low into her breast.
“Dance with me please, Emmanuel.”
Their hands held one another, one over another, for the first time in a long while. Music played and it was as if the river welling inside of him was held at the gates of his eyes. There was another knock.
“She ain’t really here, Emmanuel. It’s just us, let’s finish this dance. You and me like when you was small.”
“Shhh. Step up on the stool.”
He was small again, in a suit, standing on the stool mama used to let him climb when she taught him how to move. And there was warmth.
Like when you was small.
And there was a low hum that brought him round to himself in that cramped room of beginnings.
“You are a child of God. Just like me and all other moving things. He make the sun move on us and blesses us with its kisses. At night, when the moon makes out to see the world, he holds us close and sings something sweet to us. Sometimes I can feel you doubt that. But please know this now, more than anything else that was ever true. I love you.”
The final knock ejected imagination and Red stood in front of his wet face in the washroom mirror, again, this time smiling.
And we get up bit slower and lot more deadly.
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Crunch is a word sayer. an addict. a lover of succulents, glitter, and laughter. I believe that writing is a key to liberation. I tell Black Queer Men’s stories because they are often ignored, marginalized, demonized and misunderstood. in this telling I wish to affirm our humanity.