I always thought that the fish shaped birthmark on my lower torso was an indication that I would be a skilled swimmer, that I would stay afloat against any current, that no matter the undulation or depth of the tide, I’d be able to ride the waves with no problem. I’d be weightless. I’d be fearless. I’d be able to weave through the currents with such ease.
Taking the plunge isn’t my strongest suite
it’s like I’m trapped in a rut watching other’s commute
to their destinations and I can feel the sensations
like, I can see where I am destined to go and I can see how I’m destined to get there
yet, somehow destiny seems just out of reach
I am stuck in a vat of self deprecation
This cacophony of shame is an unfortunate companion
It starts as a whisper, a distant hum in a faint, past life
and transforms into a wave that obstructs all sight
I try with all of my might to source my discomfort
I deduce it too:
The time when the middle aged white man growled: “FAGGOT!” at me from his zooming gray car window. I was sixteen and newly queer. The word shot through my ears and tattooed itself along my retina; forever etched in clear ink.
The time when the young white woman tugged at my floral print dress while her drunkard friends jeered: “WHAT ARE YOU WEAR?” The shock that I felt could have shot through my eyes and pierced glass. I had just found the confidence to embrace my femininity.
The time when my friend thrust their white fingers into my hair and squawked: “I THOUGHT IT WOULD FEEL LIKE A BRILLO PAD!” I had just combed it. The caucasity of the remark caught me off guard yet I stifled my pain behind clenched teeth.
Taking flight is quite hard with such weight in your gut
It creeps up through my spine and takes control of my mind
and I am stuck in a rut with this weight in my gut
I am stuck in a rut with this weight in my gut
I am stuck with this weight
I am stuck with this weight
plunging to the unknown seems impossible
you were gifted this vessel and you will prevail
you are black and you are queer and you are femme and you are idealistic and you are strong and you are incompetent and you are different and you are insignificant and you are beautiful and you are queer and you are complex and you are femme and you are powerful and you are black and you are strange and you are more than the perception of others and you are ugly and you are profound and you are black and you are queer and you are femme and you are worthy
TAKE THE PLUNGE
About the artist...
Jerome Riley Jr. is a queer actor/ writer/ performer from St. Louis, Mo. Jerome is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where he earned a BFA in Musical Theatre with a minor in Women & Gender Studies. He was most recently seen in The Scottsboro Boys at Porchlight Music Theatre, and can be seen in the world premiere of Trevor the Musical at Writers Theatre. Jerome can also be seen every second Wednesday of the month at Berlin Night Club for the latinx night, Duro, where he performers with the queer performance group: The Chanels.
Want to see more of Jerome's work?
Check out his piece, Intuition, from Issue V: Fireworks.