They haunted Yvette. Day and night like white headed pimples or hard scratchy coughs, confident you could get over it but never sure the outcome. They haunted Yvette for their heaviness, for the sheer volume, for the living memorials of someone dead. They haunted Yvette because she was sure they were brimming with untold horrors, of countless lonely days and dread filled nights. She was sure that in them were vast collections, thoughts , pain and fears of him. They were his last words.
It had been almost two years and still Yvette hadn’t the heart to open them. She kept them on the floor of her closet along with his other stuff that she didn’t know what to do with. Her baby boy had gone out of this world wrongly, taking too soon. Discovered in an alley , beaten beyond recognition. The coward sons of bitches had beat his beauty off the face of the earth, silencing that hearty constant laugh, knocking out the teeth of what had been a beautiful smile. Her beautiful yellow boy, he’d always been so, so beautiful and gentle. And she hated it because a Black boy was damn useless being pretty and soft and sweet. As the only man in the house he was no protection in their hood. Yvette did what she could to steer him right, put him in boxing, football and basketball, made him go to the park , made him stand up and go to the store after the shooting of Ms. May’s son . He’d screamed that he was scared of getting shot too but she didn’t give a fuck. He had to toughen up. It was brutal out here. No matter what she did or what reinforcement she got when she had a man and begged him to toughen her boy up, he remained sweet and gentle. He got his ass beat on the regular until the lioness within him came out. And he learned how to duck, how to avoid , how to throw a punch. He refused to let them punk him against his will. His pretty skin constantly nursed some shade of blue until it didn’t. Her boy grew and found more boys like him and they formed a gang if you will. All prancing and proud and rebellious and loud. He grew prettier and easily became the sister to his little sisters .
Yvette sighed and started to read the 1st journal, the one dated for his 16th year . The year she finally kicked him out. The name on the front of the composition book said Emani’s journey. God she hated that name Emani. The fool had been calling himself that since he was 12.Emani was the name on the love letter she found in that 16th year. It was the name he tatted on his lower back that she caught sight of when he bent over. It was the name the boy she caught him with was moaning when she came home early from work one day and saw the vilest acts. He was wearing a long curly blond wig and mascara and servicing a local D -boy like a porn star. Yvette had punched that boy so many times her hands hurt. When he stopped sobbing she told him to promptly get out.He never again darkened her doorstep. She learned that first year that her boy couch surfed various people’s homes, some in her building. She learned how he turned tricks from sun up to sundown. She learned how he lied to survive, forging her signatures to begin hormones and his research in changing his name. She learned he visited his little sisters at school sometimes and dropped them a few dollars out of his little bit of money. By the end of that first year he is living in some kind of community house sleeping on a floor with a “house mother”.
Yvette found herself intrigued at his journey into becoming Emani. He did so much so young. He wrote of being scared of catching HIV, he wrote of feeling so insecure around regular women, he wrote of the fear he had of being killed. He also wrote of often in the same passages, the beauty he found in life, the love for his often fickle, fair weathered friends. He wrote of loving his Black and gay communities. He struggled alot over the years she ‘d learn over the next few months reading the journals. His hustle spirit would grow. He’d learn how to charge more for sex, how to find higher end clients. He spoke of the craft lifestyle and the ability to make thousands of dollars doing some computer sorcery. He was always hustling and at 19 he finally legalized that horrible Emani. His first arrest would happen that same month. The cops had caught him in the act servicing a john by the park. He described the stench of the jail cell as unforgettable and the coldness as his bare ass sat on the bench. The house mother bailed him out from his own savings. He’d be arrested a few more times unable to leave that one strip.
At 20 ,his best friend would be thrown off a roof. He said that the cops would classify it as a suicide but he knew better having known details he wouldn’t write for fear of being found. He starts trying to find a job, trying to find his own apartment , trying to find happiness. Yvette finds herself both increasingly curious and overwhelmingly morose about her son’s plight. He mentioned her often as the reason why, as voices he couldn’t unhear. He expressed sadness that his being a woman made her so sad. He expressed sadness at not being able to make her proud, as not being a strong, successful young Black man. The one who would buy her a house and move her out the hood. He hated her sometimes too. For all her attempts to correct him, to make him normal, for all the fears she expressed that left him with nothing good to hope for in his queer life. Her baby would find love , a real love one time with an older married man. This older man named Mel would dazzle him with adoration, great sex, humor. He met this Mel when he was getting his hair braided. This Mel was selling pepper spray and seemed to “really live” as he put it for him, complimenting his style and beauty. Buried in the pages is a photo of the two of them. Mel a smiling , graham cracker brown man with big brown eyes and a sharp goatie and her baby looking absolutely resplendent in a burgundy afro curl style. She is wearing hazel contacts framed by copious amounts of blue eyeshadow. Her lips are Dorothy Dandrige boldly puckered and her beautiful teeth give sheer joy and love. She had to admit her baby Nick really lived up to be this Emani.
The relationship doesn’t last. One day this Mel stopped calling her, stopped answering her texts even the one she sent him about finally being approved for that project apartment. She expressed a hurt felt that brings Yvette to tears reading her baby blaming herself for the failure of the relationship. It sent her into a nasty depression that followed her into her shifts at the Burger King. A nasty female customer one day hurls ” faggot” one day and Emani spits on her. She is immediately fired and instead of seemingly wallowing about it she took herself to the Cheesecake Factory , went to a bar and cruised the city night having only what she would say were “funtimes with the boys”.
Yvette approaches the end with trepidation. The depression lingers, Emani’s once vast numbers of friends have dwindled, she wrote of her loneliness everyday. She writes of finding herself with her dates who become like her friends. She hustles all day and all night. She starts to entertain groups. She hates herself, she hates everyone. One of her last entries ,she says she came back around the way. She looks so different and dons shades on the hot day. She writes of guys hollering who beat her up when she was younger. She writes of the girls she used to know who played double dutch with her and talked about boys and other girl stuff. And those same girls who never stopped reminding her she was a boy. She writes of passing our building and saying one day she ‘d day hi to Yvette’s evil ass. She hopes her little sisters, now preteens are still sweet and not letting the hell they come from make them devils too.
Her last entry she writes of wanting a vacation ,somewhere far away. She writes of the Arab cashier smiling at her, telling her she was so beautiful. She writes of needing to hear that sometimes. Of the power of feeling righteous in her womanhood. Of loving her face and hair and strength and pretty days too. Yvette finishes her last words. She knows she’ll mourn the daughter she never allowed herself to know. With these final living words, the mystery of Emani is only slightly less infuriating.