Oliver has cuts and thorns tattooed on his back. The word family on him arm. His best friend’s name, who he lost, on the back of his calve. I ask him if they hurt.
“Tattoos hurt. It’s not like, the most painful thing. But they’re definitely not comfortable.”
Oliver has a six pack. Narrow hips. Short clipped hair the same length as his beard. He collects sneakers. He often tells me I shouldn’t be around him.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking,” he said once. “I’m not a good person.”
This visit, he’s taking me to meet his family. He doesn’t tell me that when I meet him though. He takes too long to come outside and greet me when I get there. And I know the reason why. I just won’t say anything first off.
Because someone like me understands that there are some things we would just rather not discus.
When Oliver opens his apartment door to meet me in the corridor, he’s wearing a low pair of camouflage shorts, with a white hooded sweatshirt and scuff-less white leather Nikes. It’s been seven months since we have seen each other. Seven months that I have been overseas.
“Why are sitting you there?” he asks. “I could have met you downstairs.” He reaches his arms to embrace me and the movement lifts his sweatshirt to expose the black band of his Calvin Klein briefs. I am immediately warmed by the sight of it.
I stand and he kisses me. No tongue. He presses his lips firmly against mine, lingers, withdraws, repeats. Three times. I wrap my arms around his neck in a vice grip unaware of the reflex until Oliver says, “You’re squeezing me.”
Oliver’s never told me exactly how much time he’s spent in jail. From time to time he mentions a court date. He tries to hide it from his mother who he loves more than anyone in the world. This makes me simply want him more.
He instructs me to get in his car and although I don’t come out and ask where we’re going, I imply my wonder. He replies, “Does it matter? Do you care?”
He’s driving me from Queens to Brooklyn to see his family. I watch his eyes occasionally droop. I fall in love with him when he pulls clever lyrics from the hip hop that’s blasting while I smoke a Dutch. It doesn’t matter who it is. It’s what Oliver is saying, the way he’s saying it to me.
I don’t take my eyes off him the entire times he’s driving. His smooth olive skin. Amber red eyes. He makes jokes and teases me. I can tell that he’s high because sometimes his eyes are droopy. I casually comment on that. He doesn’t reply.
We reach our destination on a summer night when daylight still lingers at 9pm. We go into a house of his cousins, their partners, and his aunt and uncle. I am shuffled down the stairs so he can talk to his cousin Joseph.
Joseph is near six foot three with enormous shoulders and hurricane eyes. He isn’t interested in me in the slightest. “Joseph, meet Lucile.”
Oliver and Joseph step into the bedroom. I’m pretending to not hear what they’re talking about until Oliver calls, “Lucile! Come in here.”
I immediately obey and enter to Oliver saying to Joseph, “She wants to smoke. What do you have?”
Oliver and I share the common ground of fire attraction. Two moths moving toward natural light.
In the morning, Oliver sits on the side of his bed blowing smoke rings. He doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Sometimes he pulls on a cigarette so deeply that I feel it in my throat.
“I’m so mad I started again,” he says. “I quit for like three weeks.”