Drew Pisarra’s short fiction collection You’re Pretty Gay gleefully challenges existing heteronormative and cisnormative expectations.
The following is an excerpt from the short story “Fickle” by Drew Pisarra—one of several stories featured in Pisarra’s latest collection of short fiction You’re Pretty Gay, published by Chaffinch Press on June 25, 2021. The collection draws from Pisarra‘s own experiences as a queer person dealing with the world’s heternormative expectations.
You’re here to tell your story. You like a little attention on occasion and you have a story to tell. It’s a love story. Now, you’re a little nervous because you’ve always been unlucky in love.
Well, I’m here to tell you to relax. We’ve all been unlucky in love. And they can’t hurt you. They can’t see inside you. They’re just reading what you wrote. Or at least what I wrote. And so we continue. Or rather begin.
Sometimes someplace somewhere someone sees somebody else, some certain stranger, and suddenly something so special happens. Someone’s heart hiccups. Someone’s getting giddy as his hopes heighten. Someone finds he’s getting hardly any breath so someone meets somebody else’s eyes with a steady gaze that says it all. Let’s love to the end of time. Let’s share the most intimate details. Let’s go out to your car and get it on.
The funny thing about love is that it happens when you least expect it and if you’re always expecting it, it never comes. Back when I was in high school, hitchhiking, that’s when I met my first boyfriend. Talk about unexpected places. I can’t remember where I was trying to get to at the time, but once I got in the car, he rested his hand on the back of my neck and began to massage it. You’d think the massage would’ve helped me to relax, but it didn’t. I knew where this was going and this was illegal. Two men in Maryland. And me just 16. So I told him to stop. Hey, this is where I get off, and I got out of the car and ran up to the first door of the first house I saw as if this were my planned destination. And, since he didn’t pull away, I opened it and ended up walking into Mrs. Boudreaux, my chemistry lab partner’s mother. She asked if I were all right, but I didn’t say anything. Just turned around and walked the mile home. Thinking.
I ended up excelling in chemistry and that summer went to an honors program at American University in Washington, D.C. ,where, amazingly enough, Matt, the guy who’d picked me up in his car, was a teacher’s aide. Within the first week we’d hooked up. I remembered him immediately. I remembered his hands. They were small and square. Everything about him was like that. Small and square. His body was a connection of variously sized blocks.
On my way out of the men’s room, on the second day of class, even though he said he didn’t remember, he came up to me at the urinal and introduced himself. How sweet! Then we ended up going outside, walking around the campus and holding hands. But it never got any more intimate than that because Matt had a girlfriend at the time and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
I decided to go to college in New Orleans. Our relationship bloomed via the mail. What started out as an inquisitive postcard on his part, just a note—
Is this you?
Do you live here?
Let me know.
ended up being just that: Love Mack. From his letters I started to love him. His notes were funny, charming, sexy. And the photographs that followed … well, they were pretty sexy too. The first was an extreme close up of his fat, freckled lips puckered in a kiss. The next was your standard mug shot, just his round, cherubic face, sporting a cockeyed grin and his straight blonde hair falling over his left eye just so. Next was a medium close up with his head and crotch cropped off. All you could see was his scrawny chest and belly, and between his belly button and the border, a lewd trail of hair. The final shot was a full-bodied nude, profile, tasteful, no dick apparent, just his beautiful black skin, and crouched down as he was, in the middle of the photograph was his armpit hair, a tuft of grey. Premature. Who? Me? I remember it felt like … No, it wasn’t a memory. It was a photograph. It frightens me how easily I confuse the two.
Mike came down to visit. He came down to stay. To give it a try. And it was hard. The letters had been easy. It was all in the head. Mick seemed different, indifferent, in the flesh. We’d both been on our own for so long that neither Nick nor I … Wait. Did I say Nick? That’s funny. Rick. (I’m sorry, Rick.) That neither Rick nor I could, well … Where was I? One of us … Who was it? Somebody wanted commitment. Instead, we decided to take a break.
I moved to Seattle. Of course, Dick followed shortly thereafter. There was no separating Dick and me. It’s been me and Dick since the beginning and it’ll be Dick and me in the end. Actually Dick and I broke up recently, I’m sorry to say. Although I swear I bumped into him at a bar last week. He came up to me, drunk again, cigarette in hand and said, “Match?” And I said, “Exactly.”
You’re back. You chat. Things are what they were and it’s weird ‘cause you’re totally outside it. Watching. Waiting. But there’s no such thing as a return to the past. There’s no such thing as a second honeymoon. Things change. For everybody. Nobody had a hand in it. Nobody knew what was happening till it happened. Everything looked back to normal, as it should be, as it was. The familiar was deadly. Killing. And when someone saw the back of somebody’s head, someone thought of a target, someone thought of a gun. It would be so easy to break this neck, someone thought in the middle of sex. In the middle of making love, someone committed murder because someone wasn’t there, and somebody was nobody to him and nobody was the only one who cared.
Excerpted from You’re Pretty Gay by Drew Pisarra. Published by Chaffinch Press on June 25, 2021.