Stephon was a lesson learned, or perhaps a lesson lost.
I can write about him with just a little bit more hindsight, and a handful more wisdom.
If he and I worked out, my freshman experience would have been too good, and had everything been too good, it wouldn’t have been a typical freshman year of college. Something has to suck. I need something to grit my teeth about during senior year.
Now, I preface everything by saying, this will be the last post I will discuss Stephon. If you have no idea who I’m referring to, skip this post. If you have been keeping up, I will answer every question as to what occurred between us and how everything finished.
I will not repeat this a second time.
Go pop your popcorn. Get a bag of Doritos, get a throw blanket. Get real comfortable.
Our relationship was complex and unofficial…more accurately it was nonexistent.
“He’s got a boyfriend, I think”, I heard from one source. “They’ve been in a relationship for almost 3 years now”
I ignored that.
“His boyfriend is beautiful, but he’s a complete bitch.” Someone else said.
I ignored the first half of that. My hearing can be awfully selective when I want it to be.
It happened at the fountain by the big shady tree. We met there when the year first started. Since that time, the tree lost damn near every leaf and grew each one back. Time is a magical process.
“Michael!” He said from beside the fountain in his button-down shirt and little glasses. He’s always entirely too studious and too handsome.
It was merely two weeks before the school year ended. He didn’t openly share with me his ‘senior’ classification status. He didn’t need to. I already knew that in two weeks, he’d be done with this school for good, and I’d have 3 more years left.
My greatest character strength and defect is that I’m very realistic. We can’t start something that we are unable to finish, and more impossibly, we can’t finish something that never started.
He asked how I was doing.
I told him I was doing well.
It was the truth. I was doing well. Even If I wasn’t doing well, nobody would want to hear that.
One of his friends was on the other side of the college fountain flirting with three women at one time. His friend is attractive mostly in confidence. He isn’t bad-looking, a scrawny character, but it’s his confidence that wins people over.
“Usually, I would pretend I’m straight just to help him get numbers” Stephon admitted.
Oh. That’s weird…because you’re actually gay and you haven’t asked for my number one time.
“You’re a good wing-man” I noted. Cutting thoughts and a sly tongue make an awful pair. I read that in a fortune cookie. Those cookies are so wise when they want to be.
“What are you doing for the summer?” he asked.
“I’ll be in Raleigh, working for most of it.” I said.
“Wait. You’re from Raleigh? I’m from Raleigh too!” He shared.
That information was interesting, but only hardly. When the year is done, I like you to disintegrate from my memory. I don’t want you to ruin my second favorite city (1st is New York, of course) on Earth.
According to his testimony, he lives in the southernmost part of Raleigh. I live in the Southwestern part. His area is primarily upper-middle class Black families, and White people who pronounce pen with two syllables and frequently home school their children. My part of Raleigh is younger, packed with graduate students from nearly every part of the globe, and has a growing Islamic community that causes white people to move to his part of Raleigh.
“It’s a great city.” I said, discretely wishing to excuse myself from the conversation.
“Yeah, I’m trying to work in Greensboro though. One of the neighboring colleges asked for my resume, I really hope it works out.” He stated. I think the position was for some LGBT advocacy group at the college that he frequently volunteers for.
Stephon is most certainly an activist. I think that’s what’s so attractive about him. He’s the reason I started showing up to the secretive on campus LGBT meetings in the first place. I also got involved because I’m gay, but clearly that’s secondary.
However, being there, I found my purpose. An entire room packed with young people who feel out-of-place outside of the meetings. Students who sit alone in the cafeteria and spend Friday and Saturday nights alone in the student lounge because they aren’t accepted in a club, bar or house party in the area.
I attend a Historically Black University in the South. I think it’s cute other Universities have established Gay and Lesbian organizations, support groups and LGBT events. In some parts of the world there are even entire bars and clubs specifically for the LGBT crowd.
My school blatantly refuses to put up a rainbow flag on the campus, Which is fine, because I think multi-colored anything is tacky, but I will still need you to respect me as a human being on your campus.
And so after a few weekly meetings of half-frightened students, scared of how the rest of the campus will receive them, I had to fucking do something.
I haven’t been openly gay forever, but never for one second did I ever feel unconfident, or less-than, or inferior, or marginalized. And It would be a therapeutic day in the Iran before I was ever made to feel that way.
And so our separate on campus efforts brought Stephon and I together.
The issue, is that I professor X’d his Magneto.
Yeah. X-men reference.
If you don’t like X-men, go read a different blog.
I probably don’t like you.
I just wanted other people like myself to feel included on this campus regardless of our completely irrelevant sexuality.
Stephon was similar, but quite different. He wanted to prove this campus wrong. He wanted to prove he was just as man as every other man regardless of his orientation. He wanted to prove he was just as big and as aggressive. He wanted to dispel the myths and stereotypes of gay black men, and frankly, he had little patience for anyone who didn’t exemplify his hyper-masculine ideal.
Not for a second did I think his intent was wrong, and we can debate it forever, but what I questioned was his motivation. You can’t live with something to prove.
I don’t need to prove anything to you.
Blood running warm in my veins is proof enough that I’m just as human as any other human.
What I need is to be respected and treated fairly. I need to know that I’m equal simply by being present, not by proving myself equal.
Come the end of my freshman year, two people were awarded by the Diversity Department for leadership.
I was one recipient
Although I more-or-less dreaded freshman year, The unexpected award was something I was extremely proud of.
‘For exhibiting the courage to stand up for yourself and others in times of need. Displaying what it means to achieve greatness and goals to foster renowned individuals dedicated to excellence while working quietly being the visible eye’
I keep the plaque by my bed….and yeah…I reread it aloud every morning while getting dressed. Not because I’m obsessed with my own achievement, but because I did something I didn’t think I was capable of doing. Maybe for the first time ever, I did something beyond myself.
Stephon was the other recipient.
Stephon and I, we aren’t a boy meets boy story. We were more of a boy inspires boy story. A story that was raw, and complicated, and real.
Whether we were in love with one another could be in fact be up for debate, but I think we could at least acknowledge that we had a mutual respect and perhaps reverence for the other.
And so now, there we were at the very end of the year at the very first place we met. He’s almost done, and I’m just getting comfortable. Time is a magical process.
I found an appropriate place to break the conversation. I wished him luck on his future, and he wished me the same.
With my iPad tuked under the arm of denim jacket, I headed off.
“Hey!” He yelled while I was only a few steps off making yelling a little unnecessary. “Could I give you my phone number?”
It was an odd request. Like a reverse request.
Can I offer you a kidney?
Can I donate to your charity
Can I lend you some money?
Sounds weird, right?
I practiced this moment for six months, and he messed up his one line?
My phone was in my pocket, and I could have grabbed it, but I wanted this for the record. I pulled out the marigold colored jot book I use to jot down whatever I’m thinking, I flipped it to the last page and handed him a pen.
“I haven’t written down my number in ages.” He joked.
I didn’t laugh.
One day, my notebooks will be retrieved and curated by museums trying to get the story of my life right based on my musings. My good man, you have just been immortalized.
Thank me later.
“Make sure you hit me up over the summer.” He said.
“I will.” I replied.
Honestly, I won’t. What’s was the point?
People come into one another’s life for a reason, and a season, and then it’s done. I found my purpose on this place because of him, the academic year would end in two weeks.
My greatest character strength and defect is that I’m very realistic. We can’t start something that we are unable to finish, and more impossibly, we can’t finish something that never even started.