I’ve finally discovered the source of our confusion. Force of nature, somehow too implicit to identify.
I enter the situation—that is, any situation—in retreat. Synonyms, in this case, include: defense, absence.
For you, however, the point of entry is confrontation. Affirmative action, offensive measure.
I’ve had it all wrong, you see.
* * *
Yesterday, a boy approached me.
“Why did you write about my friend? He’s a homie. He’s nice.”
I told the boy, “I’m glad he’s your friend. I’m glad you think he’s nice.”
He responded, “Why did you write about him, then?”
To which I retorted, “Because he’s not my friend. And he wasn’t nice to me.”
“But he’s a good guy.”
“Don’t hate him.”
“Don’t know him.”
“You should get to know him.”
“I’d rather not.”
* * *
Listen, Christian. I don’t write for you, and I don’t write for your friend. And while I’m sure White Phallus is perfectly nice to you and your homies, he offended me. I owe him nothing, and that isolated experience I had with him is mine to write.
If my friend were to interrogate you, Christian—if she were to scan your brown skin and launch an unsolicited game of 21 questions about which war-torn region of Africa you’re from—that ignorant, dull meeting would be yours. Yours to paint, yours to write, yours to sing, yours to publish. And with all my love and respect for that friend, I would be a consummate asshole to defend her with blind misconstruction—to saunter up to you and to tear open the bruise she forced by insisting that you must’ve misunderstood her social illiteracy. That she’s my friend. That she’s “nice.”
If your friend didn’t want me to write poorly of him—if he wanted me to pen sweet somethings that reflected all his niceness with poetic splendor—then he shouldn’t have fucked with me. Particularly since my reputation clearly precedes me—he should’ve acted nice. These words do not fashion themselves. On occasions like these, they rot inside me before they find their way to the page and breathe. I don’t write them mindlessly. And I always hedge the anonymity of my subjects, even when all my sense tells me they don’t deserve any creative protection.
So please, Christian. Holster your gun. Never again approach me with the chauvinistic assumption that I should defend your homies with respect for the history of your friendships. I don’t scare easy. And I’ve lived two decades in a place where people constantly remind me that silence—that never making a scene—is always best. That if a man should gall me or paint my skin “Puerdo Rikan,” I should grin and bear it. I should stay quiet. I should fancy that he’s a nice guy, despite the fact that he was not nice to me.
Unfortunately for you, that’s not how I operate. I’m very loud. I’m brash and wild and I don’t like to hold my tongue—not for no woman, not for no man. And I know how it sends hot lava through your veins, I do. Ask the anonymous asses who spit fire below some of my more incendiary titles. Jesus, just talk to my mother.
Fortunately for me, you’ll never quite realize that your venom gives me life. It fuels me. Without it, what steam would I have to write?
I take back what I said: Pull the trigger. Never stop firing. And I’ll never stop writing.