CW// Sexual Violence
“I’m going to fucking rape you!” he told me approximately one second before I punched him in the head.
We were wedged into the back of an alley near San Francisco’s Tenderloin district as the sky vomited buckets of water that mimicked my own grief. “You have to breathe,” I told myself while clenching my hand, magically thinking that if I stood still enough, I could somehow save the night.
“You bwoke mah aw,” he screeched. Yes, I’d broken his jaw, but he’d shredded my heart. We were supposed to be taking a piss, but that was subterfuge for revealing his combustive awfulness. I thought my world was ending because this man—who I loved—believed that I had been leading him on, and decided to peg me down until I delivered.
But I couldn’t. I was gay; just not for him. Unwilling to cause further injury, I pissed my pants and fled back to our hotel. That was the first and last time that we hurt each other.
We’d begun this dance 8 years earlier, in 10th grade. We were members of an advanced after-school choral group. I was a reckless brat, known for walking around our Southern Californian campus sporting an A-shirt, baggy raver pants, a safety pin through my left nipple, and a green bed sheet that I called my cape wrapped tightly around me to keep me warm.
I was gay, just not for him.
He was a straight-laced, all AP-classes taking nerd, whose South Korean-nationalist parents had purchased a house in our city so he could attend one of the UC schools at state tuition rates following graduation.
For a while, I thought that was his sole personality trait: Asian nerd jock who extracurricularly sang madrigals to pad out his CV with something other than robotics or key club. But he revealed a sardonic wit that held zero fucks for respectability, and called bullshit on anyone who was trying too hard.
“The only reason I pretend to care,” he’d tell me, “is I don’t want my parents dragging me back to Busan.” He was stoic in public, but volatile behind the scenes. He was every inch of the together-presenting guy that I wished I could be. He saw me walking home along the highway one day and offered me a ride. That drive transformed into a friendship built on throwing frisbees badly, sneaking into movies at the local strip mall, and talking about all the dreams we’d never accomplish because “aspirations were for losers”.
He was going to become a doctor and marry another striver, in accordance with what his parents had decided. I had no plans beyond surviving another day of family trauma-induced ulcers or sneaking out of the house to bury my rage in some random person’s crotch: ideally someone old enough to make me feel sexy, but too immature to see my actual pain.
“If anyone you fuck ever tries to fuck you over, give me a call,” my friend would say. Between rescuing me from hook-ups gone wrong, he’d demand that I see beyond what stung in the here and now, then borrow my anguish to chisel away at his own masked rage. He’d answer my words of thanks by snorting, “That’s what friends do; use each other to get better.”
I couldn’t see what I was doing for him, but I was grateful that he was willing to act like the brother I wanted, instead of the one at home whose sole advice was “keep your head down.”
We continued to ride with each other even after leaving school, during his trips home or my own return visits from New York. His future hadn’t changed, but mine had blossomed. I couldn’t say that he was resentful that I had left him behind, but I could sense that there was something he needed from me: to confess all the things he bitterly denied wishing that he could do. The things that I’d managed to realize.
Thinking that I was being a good friend, I told him: “I won’t ask, but when you’re ready to talk, please know that I’m here.” And now we were both here, in San Francisco, on a joint trip together celebrating his upcoming engagement to the girl who would make his parents happy. That’s when I realized why I mattered to him: because all I wanted was for him to find personal happiness.
“You’ll sleep with anyone,” he said. “So why not me?”
I was a fop who dressed like the wreck that mirrored his own home life, but I grew up and found my peace. I thought he was proud of me for it, but I learned that my openness was a reminder of everything he could never be and that my promise to listen was weighing us down.
“You’ll sleep with anyone,” he began as we boozed towards an alleyway. “I like it; you take what you want without worrying about what anyone thinks.” It was a strange compliment, but I wasn’t going to argue. “What about me?”, he continued. “Oh you could totally get it,” I joked. So he took it; he kissed me, and I had to remind myself to breathe.
There is an awful moment when you recognize that you have something another person wants, but that you are unwilling to give. You realize that your entire life together, you’ve misread what things were really about.
“But you’re not gay!” I protested, hoping that it was true. “You’re getting married?”
“Like that’s stopped you before,” he retorted without ceding ground. If anything, we were closer than we’d ever been before; his breath filled my lungs and hands pinched my flesh, even as I tried to pry away. “You’ll sleep with anyone. So why not me?”
Objectively, he was very good-looking. Six feet tall, with spiky black hair, a square jaw, clear skin, thin though wide lips, and the buff body of an office worker who never missed his 5:30 AM gym workout. He celebrated my best parts and laughed at my worst with equal relish. So why not him? On one long drive while we were still kids pretending to be the adults we were flailing around as now, he randomly told me that he’d take a bullet for me. And I believed him. So again, why not him?
I loved him; he was as devoted to me as I was to him; and there was no way I could ever fuck him over. I still believed that love was something you took in brief spurts and left forgotten in the back of cars or abandoned alleys like the one we were standing in now; not something you nurtured and remembered with a friend. I was a fuckboi, but I wasn’t fucked up enough to fuck over the most important man in my life.
I still believed that love was something you took in brief spurts and left forgotten in the back of cars or abandoned alleys
“You deserve this, but you’re not entitled to it from me,” is what I wish I’d told him in that moment, before our whole world fell apart. That I didn’t think he was in love with me, but that even if he was, I hoped my friendship would be enough. I wasn’t good enough for him, but I was brave enough to accept his friendship even if I was too cowardly to swallow his lust. But when I tried to speak, my tongue fell numb at the silent prayer I felt whispering from his heart:
“Let me use you and you’ll use me,” his breath implored me, moments before the request actually licked my neck. His tongue flying across my collar bone made me gasp at the idea of making out with my brother. What should have been exciting was making me ill.
“You’ve done more than he was asking for with people who meant worlds less,” I chastised myself while swallowing the bile that threatened to burn past my teeth. “So who cares if this makes you cringe. Smile through the tears and moan.” Mistaking my trembling for enthusiasm, he startled to fondle my ass until he tasted my tears.
What should have been exciting was making me ill.
“What’s wrong?,” he asked me with the same gentleness he used to give me whenever I called him to bail me out of trouble. The only acceptable way to answer was obvious: say nothing, give him this one night, and send him home to his future bride. Lie to him and tell him it felt amazing, just like I’d lied to so many other men and women. Rescue him for once, and repay every kindness that he’d ever given me with my body. “What’s wrong?” he repeated.
Stalling for time, I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that we could both be sent to a world where parents, expectations, and pain didn’t exist. But when I opened them, we were still there, paralyzed with lust and dread..
In five minutes, our relationship would be over, but for now, there was a wall at my back, with the man who knew my everything pressed against my front. I couldn’t speak. Instead, the rain broke for both of us; crying over the straight boy pretending to be a man who knew what he wanted, but who never had a chance ♦