“this boy on your block
he the double dutch champ
he teach the boys to slow dance
the girls, how to please their men
he keep house better than your wife or your mama” – Marvin K. White, "kevin the faggot"
My flesh must know something that I do not, or I’d never allow him to touch me, I thought. Fingers wrap around my neck and squeeze. Domination on top of sheets is sexy. I lose my breath. I remember that I am alive. His fingers crawl inside of my mouth and press down on my tongue. I moan. Defying silence in the bedroom is erotic. His pain, and joy, grows inside of me. I know this place well. I know how to meditate, relax, and stay cool when hot rage is attempting to split me in half. We beat each other with our sweaty skin in hopes to free spirits. We settle for translucent white puddles of incomplete life on my belly, on his chin, and on our sheets.
The French call the orgasm, la petite mort. It translates into the little death. I’ve always been enchanted by this phrase because when I imagine death, it is an orgasm. It’s a complete melting back into what always has been and always will be, which explains my momentary abandonment of my fear of death during the orgasm. I think of a portion of Ernest Hemingway’s quote where he talks about loving a truly great woman and says, “… Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away. You two are the only ones in the entire universe.” This fading, I imagine, is the loss of all human senses that we realize are physical trappings only necessary to navigate the material world, not the heavenly. Alas, it is just us and the universe, we think, as we take our last breaths. Hemingway concludes, “Death no longer lingers in the mind. Fear no longer clouds your heart. Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality. This is no easy task for it takes insurmountable courage. But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness you will feel immortal.” This immortal brand of bravery arrives in my body often during orgasm, and for a moment in my imagination, there are no differences between the graveyard and the garden. I am as dead as I am alive during orgasm.
We finish and clean ourselves. I look at the man lying next to me. He is tougher than I am by societal standards. His voice is deeper and his pain is quieter; he comes closer and finds a home between my shoulder and head. He is my infant in this moment. I am his parent. This is a common dynamic in my relationships. The men who have always oppressed me, the masculine men, the men invested in patriarchal domination, always find homes and nurturing inside of me, literally and other wise. It has been one of the biggest intellectual tasks of my adult life to understand how I arrive in these beds and arms. Is it because these men need me? Is something wrong with me for attracting them? Does medicine not fully feel actualized if it is not in the presence of sickness?
Men like these find both nurturing and pleasure in my presence.
I’ve mastered being mother and mistress to these men. I must use feminine nouns because what is expected of me feels distinctly stereotypically woman. And like most things in this world that are distinctly feminine, it is thankless and relentless. This role intensified as I aged, even on social media. When it goes down in the DMs, I noticed the men don’t solely want my body or warm mouth, but the horrors and dreams I’ve turned into my own personal politics and theory. What I created as a way for me to cope and navigate the world became what these men worshipped about me. I’ve turned my name into haus muva (house mother) on most social media platforms, because the more of me I revealed to the world, the more queer Black men (usually significantly more masculine than I can perform) found solace, shelter, and sometimes, erotic pleasure in me. I wasn’t quite a mother, but a muva.
This distinction of muva and mother showed that I didn’t birth these men, but they still looked to me for a very specific type of nurturing and assistance in their ascension. It is haus or house, instead of home, informed by E. Patrick Johnson’s ideas of why Black queer folks use the term house, instead of home. He theorizes that “home” is traditional, white, and colonized. Yet, “house” is queer (re: house music, ballroom/vogue houses), Black, and malleable to fit whatever definition of family that works best for you, not decided by blood or marriage. Through these definitions of house and mother, I was able to attempt to reconcile, and reclaim in a way, this distinctly queer dynamic I saw being created between myself and other men.
Still, the solace and shelter portion didn’t confuse me, like the erotic portion did. The men could treat me like a mother and a whore. This baffled me. It wasn’t until I discovered Audre Lorde’s definition of the erotic that I understood these things weren’t as mutually exclusive as I had once imagined. I discovered what the men truly wanted from me was something they could feel. They didn’t just desire the vanity of a boyfriend or friend, or the pornographic physical pleasure of a body. They didn’t just want academic language and accolades, or just a man they could put on their curriculum vitae. They wanted something they could fuck in the kitchen and open up, and discover there was a library of emotion and thought living inside. For these men, I was something deep that intrigued the whole of who they are, not just their dicks or ego.
In my bedroom, he moves his head off of my shoulder and on my pillow. I look at him with his brown skin and thick nose. His eyelids are closed and the only evidence that he is alive is his chest slowly rising and falling. I turn on a soft lamp to read, but not disturb him. I open Anais Nin’s novel House of Incest and read, “If only we could all escape from this house of incest, where we only love ourselves in the other, if only I could save you all from yourselves, said the modern Christ.” Nin answers the great mystery of my life and boudoir. I look at my man of the year as he sleeps and, for the first time, I realize I am looking inside of a vanity mirror. These men are me, without the promises I’ve made to myself. The promise I’ve made to not dominate and the promise to belong to myself, deeply. These men are alternate versions of myself, so when I fall in love with them, I’m falling in love with myself in a way. I’m falling in love with gratitude, and the realities I’ve dodged.
I pray as I read in their ear or touch their lips, that I might entice them to make promises. I know they may not make promises, but we can still make love. And for a while, through my body and tongue, they can know what self-love feels like. And perhaps, because these men are dying slowly on the inside from lack of actualization and freedom, during orgasm with them, I can know death. I don’t fear death. I can know it as it kisses my neck. I know death, in all of her oneness and liberty, even if it is just the little one. What Hemingway found in loving great women, I found in loving dying men. These decaying men that I chose to love reminded me to never allow fear to cloud my heart and to always maintain my passion for living, and let that be my sole reality.
Myles E. Johnson is a writer located in Atlanta, Georgia. His work spans between critical and personal essays, children’s literature and speculative fiction. Johnson focuses on black and queer identities, and specifically, the intersection of the two. Johnson’s work has been featured in Bitch Media, NBCBLK, Huffington Post, Out Magazine and The Guardian. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed children's book Large Fears.
Follow him @hausmuva