Becky (after Morgan Parker)
Let’s just call them all Becky. Becky taught me how to fix a bike tube and was pissed when I ruined her night eating shit on the J way. Becky had too much tequila on Halloween and tackled me into mud. Becky slow grind. Becky’s boyfriend won’t let her with anyone else, except me. She tells me this as I spread her thighs on the bathroom countertop. She writes me love letters. I kissed her three times because she was weird about even numbers. Once, outside a club she begged me to let her feel me up and the DJ cracked up after she told me I had great tits and I said I know. Becky says I remind her of her dad, kind of, or like, the first boy she let finger her. Becky wants to know if I’ll come over to her older boyfriend’s apartment so I can show him how flexible I am. She loves Captain Beefheart. She can’t think of anyone else she’d rather talk about Lemonade with. The last time she called she wanted my advice because her boyfriend just proposed to her. Becky doesn’t identify as queer. She likes it when I’m mean to her. She wants a husband with a beard and love handles. Becky audibly moans when I whisper Lemme show you baby I’m a talented boy into her ear on the dance floor. She can dance, a little. She cuddles me in her sleep. We aren’t dating. Becky looks me in the eyes while her tongue circles the butt of my cigarette. She’s never been with a girl before. I’m her second ever black friend. We’re not dating, mom. When I get home in the morning, she is in the kitchen agreeing with my roommate about what a good kisser I am. She’s riding her bike from Boston to Denver. She’s spending the winter in Berlin. She’s tired of New York. She’s not sleepy anymore but I am. I carry her bike over one shoulder and her on my other arm. She’s in a band now. Her last girlfriend really fucked her up. She asks about my moon sign. Becky wants to take me up to her parents’ beach house. She wants me to meet her friends. Oh. My. God. Becky. Becky’s bestie tells me Becky spent the night with James when she said she was sick, that she yelled at him when he couldn’t get it up. I don’t have those kinds of problems, but Becky’s a closet case and wouldn’t know. She wants to know where I keep the ginger. She gets sloppy drunk and tells me I’m the only person she trusts. I carry her out of the woods. Becky lifts up her skirt in her cousin’s basement. She loves bell hooks. She doesn’t get what I don’t like about The L Word. She knows how to sharpshoot. Knew how to backup a pickup truck by age ten. Her girlfriend is in France. I fed her the cherry from my whiskey sour and watched her crush it against the roof of her mouth. Her favorite color is mint. She always puts me on the guest list. I’m not Becky’s first choice. She called her ex again. Becky likes it when I wear a fitted, that I carry a pocketknife. She re-tells the story as her getting stopped by the cops when I was the one they thought was dealing drugs in my front yard. I guess she kind of reminds me of my mom but more so Courtney Love. She always wants me to be her best friend but she’s never been mine. I don’t even return her calls. She blushes when I pull her panties to the side and say reparations. Her boyfriend can’t ever find out. She still sends me nudes on my birthday where she purses her mouth like she wants me to carry her out of a burning house on my back. Becky Carolyn Bryant. I know how to whistle but I won’t. I feel like Freud would go to town on this. I think maybe it’s an inherited trait from one of my fathers. I feel like Bessie Smith would be disappointed or thrilled. There’s a breadline’s worth of grandmothers who thought about choking Ms. Ann the way I do Becky. I just do it in the dark, where she can’t see me. It’s not the same but the joke is. The one about how she can’t see I won’t stick around long enough to be my daddy.
The first time we met we were wearing near identical brown leather jackets. The second time, I was in the house where he lived with four other degenerate white boys who did too much ketamine. I was on ecstasy and all but fucking my boyfriend in his living room. Something sinister to it, the first time we ever made out he made three promises to me, that he had the ears of two different people, he was moving to Boston, and that he would break my heart. It was five months after my dad died. I was 17 and taking a class on existentialism at the community college, he was 20 and living in his parent’s’ house and driving a cab for the summer. By the time we moved off Cape together and all his friends bailed on moving with him because he was just moving for a girl it was evident that this was a love of replacement. The day I moved into the dorms, he wore jeans with a tear in the crotch and no underwear and had to drive back with my mom and brother for two hours. He said he was nervous to spend the day with my family. The first time my mom met him she slapped him, because we were clearly fucking in her house while she was at work. We slept on a twin mattress together for about two years. Our friends refused to come grocery shopping with us because we always got into arguments in the supermarket. He refused to get his own friends. To this day he will tell you that I taught him how to write poems. He proposed to me in my dorm room. On my 19th birthday he rushed across a busy street to save a duckling from traffic because I was so scared it might die. I gave him warning and told him when the anniversary of my dad’s death would be and asked him to be mindful of that and he didn’t speak to me the entire day. When I asked him why, he said that he thought the only way not to upset me was not to speak. I said we needed to take a break, and he kept repeating broken up, so I got drunk and fucked somebody else. A month later I was pregnant, and it was anybody’s guess. A month after that I wasn’t. Sleep eluded me. I gained weight and he started refusing to have sex with me but swore that wasn’t why. When he slept with my best friend from college, no one was shocked that she would do something like that. But P? He loved me too much, they said. I wrote poems about breaking her nose. He wrote poems about what dogs think and got books published. I couldn’t talk about losing my sight in bloodlust, how I could have kicked his jagged teeth in. I thought about pawning the ring. It had belonged to his grandmother. Years after we broke up he gave me a copy of The Giving Tree and said you know, because you’re the tree and I’m the boy. We broke up in stages. My ex girlfriend asked me once if it was true that he had cheated on his girlfriend with me, and I didn’t know. It was amusing to watch him try to replace me with white women who he can’t cry in front of, who operate with carefree whimsy, who make him write down his wishes on tiny slips of paper and then one by one feed them to the wind on some romantic hillside. The last time we fucked, he dug his nails into my neck as he choked me and came in under two minutes. He was getting desperate. Everyone else he’s dated is white. I moved into the collective house he lived in two months later. Something sinister to it. One night he was drunk and knocked on my bedroom door at 2 am so that he could collapse into my arms and weep about how his girlfriend’s husband was mad at her and how I had gotten assaulted by a stranger and why did men treat women so badly? Once, he insisted that I told him to go fuck himself at least once a day. When I got out of the mental hospital, he told me he started sleeping with his door locked because he was afraid of me. I had been sleeping with a machete at the foot of my bed because I was afraid of everything. We both had to leave Boston. He waited until he could move because of a girl. I put all his letters to me in a plastic bag and ran water into it and threw the pulp in the garbage. I fled during my lost year. I played at being a masochist. He stepped into being an emotional power bottom. I stayed with him for a weekend in Portland. His girlfriend was out of town. Nine months later I found out she had casually said nigga in my friend’s house, that instead of apologizing she said she used to eat rap lyrics for breakfast and old habits die hard. Two days after my friend told me, I had to pretend I didn’t want to choke her at our best friends’ wedding. We were in the White Mountains in autumn. That day, he and I caught eyes and I said remember when we were going to do this? He said he was thinking the exact same thing. I’m really glad we didn’t. I waited until a week after he wedding to call him and ask if he knew what his girlfriend said. He did, but he didn’t think it was any of his business. He introduced her business to his parents after the wedding. He had just moved in with her business. Last I heard he and her business were engaged. Far be it from me to meddle. She cornered me at the wedding, there’s a photograph of it. I never get drunk, really, but that day I was wasted. I told him how I couldn’t speak to her without hearing her calling me a nigger and he didn’t make a sound. It was as if I had called the white liberal canned response hotline and not someone I had known for most of my life. After the phone call, I stopped speaking to him. For years, he had introduced me to people as his first wife. What sanctuary, marriage, torn and yellowed lace. All the times I let him see the world through my eyes were a hoax. I sputtered out somewhere amongst the endless doubting me, the gaslighting, the screaming in my face that he wasn’t here for dramatics. When I tell other people which of his poems are about me, they shake their heads and say they would never have known, that they hope no one ever writes poems like that about them. He’s the dustriver that feeds tributaries of competition, envy, betrayal and ash. The last time we spoke he said he didn’t think he had the capacity to be my friend and I cackled so hard I had to put the phone down. Why would I want that? I wanted to know if he wished I were dead, and he never answered the question, just wished me the best. I burned every book he’s ever written, including the ones signed I love you, always. A decade of bloodletting unfettered by plumes of grey smoke. The only word to survive was void. What joy, betrothal, like knots that only tighten. We broke up eleven years ago, or seven, or three, and he told me it would happen, just never explained how long extinction takes. Every white man I have had the displeasure of dating since has been another keyhole attempting to unstick itself, another piece of shrapnel in my soft palette. I joke all the time now about getting married. The men, the poets, who call me instead of their girlfriends or mothers, who call just to talk, are a list of secret husbands. I’ve woken up alone for over a year. B once wrote a line about how my heart would never work right after what he’d done. He loved putting words in my chest. His love made me unwifeable. Doesn’t that make me free?