CW: Sexual intimacy, racial microaggressions
“My ex and I broke up last month.
She had blonde hair and blue eyes,
but you’re nice too.”
The boy from Durham doesn’t notice how much I fidget during our first evening at his
place. We sit at either end of his white couch, surrounded by white walls, not a sound to
be heard other than our sparse conversation on the 25th floor of a Financial District
skyscraper. No, I haven’t been down here much, I say. I live across the river in New
Jersey, where the houses are only as high as his building’s lobby. Every laugh from him
relieves me, so why do I keep fidgeting? He inches closer to me as we speak, but speak
is all we do. He tells me of his mother’s liking for vintage tupperware, his right-wing
leanings, his passion for architecture and design, and his preference for white women.
The boy from Durham sure knew how to pick ‘em, so why did he pick me?
“I dated an Asian girl in high school though.
The day we broke up,
I went to her house to pick up my stuff,
and she was clinging onto me
like an animal.”
I fail to think twice when I ask him to touch me. I notice as we meet more and more that
he hides behind his kindness and a bush of a mustache, but he obliges. Routinely, he
leans over the couch to kiss me, taking my hands into his. I’m not sure if I’m on his lips
or the stache, but his face is on mine, and that proximity is enough to bury me dead. We
have nothing in common, I think, as he slides my glasses off my face. We have nothing
in common, I think, as he places them carefully on the coffee table. There is
reassurance in the way he walks me to his bedroom that he’ll take care of me. Without
my glasses, I can do nothing but follow.
“What do I like about you?
Well, let’s see.
You’re easy to talk to,
and your voice drives me wild.
There’s not many girls like you back home.”
We stand before each other after he shuts the door. He’s close, but I can barely make
his face out in the dying light. We peel each other’s winter layers off one-by-one. How
am I not trembling? The boy from Durham unclothes me nude, slowly crawls up to me
as I lay, and we kiss again. He barely touches me, hovering like a specter. I feel my
body uncontrollably rise to meet him. Without the sound of conversation, I hear only the
sudden howling of wind between skyscrapers. I find I can’t make a sound, though he’s
soon inside me.
“I’m going back home to Durham during break.
Maybe I’ll meet the love of my life there.
I’ll take her on a drive,
she’ll put her feet up on the dashboard
and live right around the corner.
A girl I’m comfortable with.”
His arms give out, and I am pinned down. My hands are on his back, but I stare at the
ceiling. In ten minutes, I learn a language beyond a look, a conversation, and a touch. I
certainly learn what weakness is, what dissatisfaction is. In the quiet moments where
I’ve traded stories with my mother, she told me once over bread and coffee that she
was never interested in white men. They scared her too much with their brashness and
confidence. Yet what is fear to a girl who’s been praying for months: I want to be
desired, I want someone to want me, I want, I want, I want I want I want? I close my
eyes and turn my back to the shame. He weighs me down, yet still I rise.
Janel Schroth is a Fil-Am writer, artist, and community organizer born and raised in Jersey City, NJ. Since 2017, she has written, produced, and independently released 3 EPs and 2 singles under the name Holyveins, mapping out intimate spaces through nostalgic and ethereal soundscapes. She is currently finishing up her BFA in Recorded Music and Asian/Pacific/American Studies at NYU and working towards writing about artists of resistance and revolutionary soundscapes—a field inspired by her time as a member of Anakbayan. She hopes one day to write a book (or two) about resistance movements, communities she serves, and her own life.