Antigua: The Snug

To say that I wouldn’t have fucked her under the right circumstances would have been a complete lie, though it’s certainly not beside the point. The first five minutes of our conversation shown a sense of humor so dark and lovely that it actually made me uncomfortable; I almost sobered up when she said “yeah, I can think of several easier ways to kill them. Here, let me write them down for you.” She was from Spain originally, and went to school for biology at Johns Hopkins, but she wasn’t annoying about it at all. Even though I couldn’t get a direct lead on her family background, I was comfortable talking to her in a way that typically unfolds between two kids who grew up in ghettos and ran away to a succession of private colleges and juxtaposing disenchantments. Now she worked in ecology. She was doing research in Costa Rica but traveling around Latin America whenever she had time off. That’s how I met Paola and her friend at The Snug in Antigua. It was cozy. The name of the bar was fitting, since you were essentially touching whoever you spoke to, which, especially in this context, I didn’t mind. I had already done the mental calculations of me and Paola’s life together: the one story house in Manuel Antonio with three baby goats, like one pig, three dogs and a little plot out front for the lazy ass kids to work the land. And while I couldn’t figure out if she was interested, her friend clearly was. Fucking dilemmas. The friend, whose name I now can’t remember was taller, and thinner, and direct. As soon as Paola went to the bathroom, her friend slid up right next to me like she didn’t see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind. Then as other people squeezed past us into the bathroom, she got beside me and put her arm around my waist. To be clear, she wasn’t making me uncomfortable, and she was definitely cute as hell, and I was drunk, and lonely. Conditions were tilted towards certain probabilities. But. She was just boring. Like super regular. Not a bad person or anything, just super regular. That didn’t matter for long though, because when she noticed how I looked at her friend returning from the bathroom, she hit me with a chuckle and a long “oh,” before moving her arm from around me and leaning on a stool.

Her friend Paola never made it back over to us though because she was stopped by two guys in the opposite corner of The Snug. Two became three, and then four. She had her foot up against the wall near the bar and some of the men were about half an arm’s length away from her. They were smiling and laughing; she was smiling and laughing, but from where I was, and having just met her, I couldn’t tell if hers was the fake safety smile and laugh or something genuine. So I asked her friend.

“I feel like we should–”

“No, no, don’t worry about her, she’s fine,” her friend said. “That girl can really fucking handle herself.”

So I said okay and just got another beer for me and the friend. Paola’s friend was being genuine and didn’t think it would be appropriate to say anything or break it up, so she and I kept chatting, mostly making the kind of beautiful political jokes about American hypocrisy and elitism you can only get from people who’ve never lived there. I was anxious though and I kept looking over at Paola, but each time I was told to just stop worrying about her. And maybe I should have. And maybe–and this is the part that made me feel kind of sticky–maybe I was worried about intervening so much because there might have been something physical in it for me. Clearly, my interrupting the situation would have appeared to be out of some degrading sense of jealousy, especially after Paola’s friend who knew her far better than I, assured me she was okay. I might have just been another dickhead getting violent over a woman I barely even knew because of how I might want to use her body, her potential to be my property rather than someone else’s. Admitting that to myself, I suppose, accepting that my motivation for doing something uncomfortable–though very often necessary, might be shit–wasn’t as hard as I thought. Since my motivation was probably trash I decided I would just trust her friend, and so we laughed and joked over a few more drinks.

Still, the guys huddled around Paola seemed to me, to be getting a little more excited. Her friend caught me watching them again and side-eyed me for it, but I couldn’t help considering that for the past few nights the women who worked at The Snug had asked me to stay around after closing for safety reasons, citing instances of men waiting to harass them after things shut down. But, again, homegirl kept saying, “she’s fine, and grown and will get out if she wants to.”

But she looked uncomfortable. And the situation only seemed to be growing more tense. I was frustrated. There were a few reaches from the men and a hand or two slapped away, a hug averted, a kiss dodged. It started to make me angry. I tried to suppress it. One of the men clenched Paola’s bicep and she shrugged him off and leaned back against the wall calmly. At some point though, my anger began to overshadow any attraction I previously had to her. It was more akin to the kind of anger I felt whenever my mother was grabbed by her arm and thrown to the ground, in that kind of casual manner orchestrated by men who clearly do it all the time. I looked at Paola’s friend and she just shrugged. So I turned to the table behind us and put down my drink. When I turned around though, Paola was already walking towards us, being trailed by three of the men.

“Hey, you guys want to go somewhere else?” She suggested. She was telling us more than asking.

The men were still standing behind her, and up close I could see how small they were, which, unfortunately, emboldened me a little more. Paola never turned to look at them and when I asked if they needed something they pointed to her. Her friend shoved one of the men’s pointer fingers away and told them we were leaving before ushering me and Paola out the door. I felt guilt though before going and tried to ask one of the bartenders if she still wanted me to stay, but she said she was fine. I don’t know how many times I tried to verify this, since I was officially no longer sober. The men followed us all the way to the door and one of them blew a kiss as we walked down the street away from them. I was still angry, but also mollified by the liquor and I considered that a physical confrontation, no matter how much I wanted one and whether I’d won the fight or not, would probably not have been in anyone’s best interest. And my doing so might have had little to do with Paola anyway.

Me, Paola and her friend spent the rest of the night at this rooftop bar that was kind of cute but empty, just talking shit about the dudes and the United States until every drop of my meager Spanish, and the pool of both their academic English ran dry. I walked them back to where they were staying and I must have looked dumb sauced because they offered to let me sleep there, but I wanted to be alone. I never got to ask the kinds of questions I wanted to ask back then, and I never saw either one of them again. Back in my hostel that night, I considered calling my mother, but I thought better of it, and read some of “Bluets” instead, before passing out completely.

Unconditional Love is Trash

Due to a series of events–or rather a series of jokes I’ve made–it’s become abundantly clear that my son’s potential sexuality would draw a definitive line in the concrete, foreclosing some of the familial, suggestively unconditional love for which he would have otherwise been privy to. That is, he’s a Black boy and if he didn’t turn out to proudly fuck women frequently that might not be approved of. Nothing new, per se, but I’d been thinking a lot about the conditions of unconditional love lately, those both oblique and, with instances few and far between, clearly stated. More so than my own family hating me because they thought I was gay, long before I evolved into a hyper-sensitive nuisance with intellectual curiosity, I grow more certain by the day that I don’t believe in unconditional love. Not the fact of its existence, just that the idea that it’s something we should aspire to, or be proud of, feels more than mildly ridiculous. That might initially sound cruel, but fuck it, it’s a blog.    

For years, I took my feelings towards unconditional love as an immature jealousy of something I’ve never felt personally privy to, and that’s probably where the skepticism began. But lately I’ve begun to feel that it’s more socially problematic than just personal. Questions like “What Happens When the Rapist is Your Family Member?” aren’t really questions as much as they are excuses. This particular article was talking about Nicki Minaj’s brother, and her supporting him through rape accusations. But I care much less about her own politics than I do the polite consideration we seem to give those who don’t hold triflin’ ass family members and loved ones accountable. I dry heaved a little when Brock Turner’s daddy, in the rapist’s defense, read an entire letter in open court about how his son would “never be his happy go lucky self again,” amongst so much of the usual fuckery that I couldn’t ascribe enough fuck outta here’s to.

Sinking into the vampire infested lemon grove that is the comments section for such instances would, at first glance, trick you into thinking there is lively debate about the complications of dealing with unsavory loved ones. Not really. Most people, in lieu of evidence, defend blood and family and love and the need to protect each other, condemning the rapists as lone wolves…

Few sought to condemn both, and when I flippantly suggested to a friend that they’re all trash, said friend of mine asked what I would do if my son grew up to be a rapist.

Easy. Disown him, support his punishment, maybe accept short phone calls from a prison industrial complex that I don’t even believe should exist? All of the above? For some reason this seems like it shouldn’t be an easy thing to say, but it is. I’ve been told that this makes me a diabolical human being, and parent. I’ll admit it’s easier to jump to conclusions when considering worst-case scenarios; not every friend or family member or loved one is as horrible as a rapist, though there are subtle ways they can come close. But then I also have to admit that I was never conflicted over an R. Kelly, a Bill Cosby, a Chris Brown or a Louis C.K. This belies the fact that even though I’ve come to terms with my own grandfather, it doesn’t always feel like I have. I’m for complications and contradictions in personal politics, but I guess I feel like the excuse of unconditional love, like most empty words (patriotism, heroism, honor, justice, etc.) gets in the way of useful dialogue by conflating what we don’t know shit about into absolute, yet completely unregulated truths consisting of absolutely nothing. Group-thinking social pressure degrades these “truths” even further as they continue to be deployed as argument stoppers, slamming the gavel down just before we can honestly reckon with ourselves, each other, or anything useful.

The older I get though, the more often I’m confronted with aggressive protestations by people who are also grossly enabling the antithesis of their cause in every other context. Looking at you white liberals with the racist family members making all these violent ass decisions, all you married niggas cheating with everything that moves, hugging your wife and daughter on Instagram talking about “I got love for my queens.” There are frustrations. And I’m not convinced that direct confrontation is always the best answer, so while it does help thin out my friends list, I’m not always sure to what end.

 

Certified Philly Nigga

A few weeks ago, there was this meme going around in the form of a three question survey that asked: “A bus full of children ride by you on a Philly street, what are they saying? Wheels on the bus? Prayer? Or, Calling you a Dickhead?” To which Philadelphia residents overwhelmingly proved their Philadelphia-ness by choosing, “Calling you a dickhead” by a whopping 93%. You know who else reminded me of their unrelenting Philadelphia-ness beyond a reasonable doubt recently? Will Smith, in Bright. Here are at least ten times where it happened.

  1. In the scene where one of the stock jock cops steps up to Ward in the initial fight over the wand, he bumps chests with the man, looks him up and down slowly and says “Fuck is you squarin’ off on Bitch?” Crescendoing up to that first “B” so strongly that it requires a contortion of facial muscles unique to scoring a touchdown while playing tackle football with a huggie juice bottle in the middle of a concrete street in the summertime.
  2. When Ward is driving to work with Jakoby, who’s trying to make jovial chatter, he slides  into the conversation with a tone one might use to suggest a good mood to their dog and says “What face does an orc make who just shuts the fuck up and drives to work?” After which he immediately straightens his composure into more of a that’s what the fuck I thought mode. The “Toasty!” dude from Mortal Kombat may as well have jumped on screen in that moment, in all his 2-D spectacularness and been like “got eeeeem.”
  3. When threatened by internal affairs, under serious risk of losing his job or being ostracized by the rest of the police force, the most important consideration Ward has is to tell the Yosemite Sam looking boul: “Shave your mustache bitch!” in a manner so harsh that he is no longer even an agent, just some “boul,” so it’s the only term I can use to describe him after the verbal assault.
  4. When arguing with Jakoby about letting a suspect get away, Ward simultaneously escalates and deescelates the argument, going from: “Fucked my life over some stupid Orc knucklehead” to, only one sentence later, “I will fuck you up in a gun fight,” relegating gun fights to the same linguistic realm in which niggas argue over both Street Fighter and NBA2K.
  5. When a gang shows up to claim the wand that Ward obviously has in his possession, he deflects with the gem “Ghetto rumors homie, you don’t wanna get shot in your face over a rumor, do you?”
  6. After said gangsters give up trying to negotiate with Ward, he skirts off in the cop car, and when someone fails at shooting through the window at him he yells, most aggressively, “Bullterpfoof dickead!” and here, the “D” is so strong he might as well have been a nigga half your height dribbling through your whole team and laying you up on a basketball court with no net after he made you jump like ten seconds before the ball even left his hand.
  7. In Ward’s attempt to negotiate with the magic feds over the fellow cops he’s killed, his entire suggestive demand is laid out with the sentence: “A man like you could dead that noise right?”
  8. When surrounded by Orcs, outnumbered and outgunned, Ward’s only plan is to become more aggressive, and demand that Jakoby “Tell these dickheads in orcish to get the fuck back in their vehicles and drive home, or they’re all going to jail.” In true Philly nigga fashion, the masculinity is so damn much that it erases all reasonable options, replacing everything except the word dickhead, with delusions of grandeur.
  9. Not only does Ward omit the ending “g” from every “ng” word in the script, written as such, but when he and Jakoby are captured by an Orc gang and soon to be executed, he denies their alliance by simply saying “I’m stuck with this mufucker,” and when Jakoby probes him he elaborates only by saying “Well, it ain’t like we stompin’ through the club together.”
  10. When all is lost, after Jakoby gets shot and dropped into the always excused indoor bad guy hole that somehow extends into the pits of hell, the only thing that Ward can think to do is yell “You motherfucking dickhead!” at the Orc wielding the rifle, as if the only reason the word “dickhead” hasn’t dramatically enhanced his own position so far, is because he hasn’t said it enough.