The roar of the fan mesmerizes me deeper into post-coital bliss. Cools my bare skin as I lie on his firm bed. The sweat dries. Mister Mister is in the shower with the door half open. I can smell his cologne on me.
He comes out in a towel. Grabs his boxer briefs from the closet and goes into the other room to change.
“Haven’t I already seen you naked?” I say.
“Yeah but I’m trying to be polite,” Mister Mister says.
I pull up my jeans, snap my bra, and yank my shirt back over my head and punch my arms through the sleeves.
We sit on his bed with his dog and get ready to venture out into the Indian Summer.
I kiss his neck and he quivers.
“I really like spending time with you, yo.” I say.
His body recoils as he looks at me askance with eyes wide in clear, obvious repulsion.
“What?” I ask.
He shakes his head as he loads a bowl of Gorilla Glue weed in a glass chillum.
“Sometimes I don’t know if we’re going to kiss or chest bump, YO,” he says.
My cheeks burn. My throat constricts. I’m taken aback by his words that slice me deep in the psyche. I thought we were both the rare combo of street-smart and smart-smart. The hood chick in me stuck out her neck and here it is getting lopped off by a b-boy with brains.
He penetrates a part of me I wasn’t even fully aware of yet.
I take a deep breath to squash the ghetto bitch in me and try to see where he’s coming from. I pet the soft, curly fur of his cute dog to ground me. I glance over and follow the webbed lines of one of the three dream catchers near his bed. I probably don’t even make eye contact.
“Man, that’s just how I talk,” I say. “I’m comfortable around you because you’re street, too, yo.”
He laughs and we debate. I still don’t fully understand what he means, but I want to.
“That’s how hoosiers talk, you know, the skaters who wear jeans that are frayed on the hems and say they used to breakdance back in the day,” he says.
Flabbergasted, I tell him that’s how I grew up talking in South Florida. He says something about surfers, and I’m like, “Nah, dawg. Wasn’t a surfer. Fully ghetto goth.”
We laugh. And respectfully hash it out. But I only half understand, despite my efforts. Even though I mean all the “bro, yo, dawg, man, dude,” talk as endearing and established comfort, he hears it as an electric fence around my heart and soul that shouts “Keep Out!”
When it comes time to say goodbye for the night, it all clicks for me.
We stand at his door. He hugs me but keeps a foot or two between us and brotaps me on the back with a lite triple pat. “Have a good night, yo,” he says.
The distance between our physical bodies represented the cavern I inadvertently dug between our emotional bodies.
The half-hearted wannabe hug said it all. In that moment, he treated me like a friend and not a lover, to drive his point home. I admired his clever style. Because it fucking worked.
“So this is what it feels like,” I say. “Oh man. I’m sorry.”
I lunge forward and grab his waist and pull him close to my body and previously closed-off aura when I realize the very thing I thought was a sign of affection—all the brospeak—was actually a deflection of intimacy.
He clowns on me and hesitates at first, but then laughs and hugs me back before I leave his apartment.
Him calling me out helped me be more open and honest about how I feel, and it’s made me more willing to be vulnerable around him.
The last time we had sex, he got dressed in front of me, and I told him how much I cared about him, without calling him “dawg.”
This essay originally appeared in Exotic Magazine, January 2017.