X / by Ronald Clark

Hate takes more energy than love does. One must care in order to hate. To hate is simply to love in the opposite direction. It is love’s ricochet. We would not know what love is if not for hate. I would say vice versa, but I disagree with that notion. As humans, we would still know hate, even in the absence of love. Darkness came before the light. We have always known the darkness. The same cannot be said for the light. The light is a guest of darkness. And it has long overstayed its welcome.

Darkness looks back at me with the same cluelessness as it did during light’s origination. He renamed himself in recent years. Thomas is what it is calling itself nowadays. And this is the most attention he has given me since my mother forced him to be a father. It did not last as long as she would have liked. She took her duty to the next level. Originally, she forced darkness into fatherhood with the promise that she would be around to help. She broke the promise recently. Took her last breath without warning. Leaving darkness and light alone to reconcile their function in each other’s worlds. At the very least, we must find a way to get back to dusk and dawn. Staying in the midnight and noon hours will leave us forever separated, perpetually missing opportunities to reconnect with each other, to meet in the middle, to mix darkness with the light.

I am aware of how much darkness fills my light. I am half-darkness after all. I have lived at dawn for years now. Dragged my feet towards the light as darkness continued to pull at my waist. It was not a pull of jealousy. It was a pull of interference. A recognition that preventing me from seeing the light would leave me in purgatory, void of darkness or light. I would be nothing. A neverending story.

Thomas has not stopped staring at me. I question whether I should seek his love. I fear for my psyche, what my emotional health would look like in his lathered in lotion yet calloused hands. I morph into lines on printed paper. Material on his desk at work. A creation to be studied, read over and over again. His overtime hours in the flesh. A pro bono assignment. All work, and no return. A project with no deadline. An issue with no clear resolution. A representation of his loss of control. My humanity dissipates. A son, no longer. Person is the past. Project is the future.


The limo stops. Darkness, or Thomas, remains. Tilts his head to the right. Rotates it back to his left. Back centered. Raises his chin. Fixes his coat. Slowly, exits the vehicle. I sit in what remains of his shadow. The door closes behind him with just enough to leave a lasting impression.

“Where to, young man?”

Limo driver, hush. I am trying to think. Never struggled with gathering my thoughts like this. Last time, maybe, five years old? I have to be coming up on a decade of knowing exactly what I want.

Nothing has changed…

I have nowhere to take my emotions. My shield is becoming one with the earth we buried her in. I could dig her up, hoard her remains until I no longer need its nutrients. But, no. That would be unbecoming. I just… I do not know where to go from here.

Return to the darkness before the darkness returns to you…

“It is getting dark outside, young man. What would you like to do?”

“Just take me down the street, thank you.”

Gas given. Wheels rolling. We embark on such a necessary journey. So short in distance, long in relevance.

“Here, please.”

We stop.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Be careful, young man.”

“I will.”

“And… sorry for your loss.”

“I appreciate the sentiment.”

I exit facing the houses. As the limo departs, I turn towards the canyon behind me. And to my left is Walter. I smile. He holds a change of clothes for me.

“I thought you might need these.”

“You would be right.”

He hands me my garb. Black short sleeve button-down collared shirt. Black loose-fitting slacks. Black socks. Black sneakers. Black laces. Black baseball cap, no logo. Only thing that stays the same are my boxer-briefs. But you didn’t need to know that.

I keep an extra outfit at Walter’s house. The runaway ensemble.

I remove what will never again grace my skin. White short sleeve button-down collared shirt. White loose-fitting slacks. White socks. White sneakers. White laces. White baseball cap, no logo.

My black is nicely lied down on the sidewalk in front of the canyon. My white is tossed to the ground in a pile of forgotten. In complete disregard of my surroundings, stripped down to my undergarments, I dress in what is my reality. I must not forget the place where I found Baldwin. The place where I tackled intellectual immaturity.

“You got it?”

“You know I do.”

“I can always count on you, Walter.”

“Hey, I’m only here for the fireworks.”

Walter reveals the slabs of wood. Plays with his lighter in his hand, his teeth foreshadow the brightness of the near future. I cannot help but to smile right back at him.

We carry the wood down into the canyon. Our past still where we left it. We place our future where the past has sat since last summer. We do not visit here as often as we once did, but when we do, it is as if we never left. We both understand when we need to return. Like today. This is much needed.

“Lighter or dropper?”

“I’ll drop.”

“Good. I wasn’t allowing you near the flame anyway.”

Walter hands me my white clothes. He initiates the flame. It smothers the wood in its heat. Smoke enters the air, floats ever so slowly towards my mother’s current conversation with God.

“Drop ‘em.”

I place each white garment into the flame one by one. The flame grows, its light glistening off the teeth of Walter, who enjoys this. He likes fire. It is the one time being explosive is a good thing for him.

The fire scarfs down the garments, inherits their stories with grammar-Nazi perfectionism. 

“Sit down with me, my dear friend.”

“You’re so gay --“

He looks to me. He knows I disapprove. I do not force him to read bell hooks for no reason.

“I’m sorry. My masculinity does not define me.”

“That’s better.”

“I hate it when you make me be smart.”

“Intelligence is not ugly. It is the most attractive thing a person can exude without seeing it.”

“Wouldn’t that be love?”

“An inquiry?”

“Dude, I’m already trying to backtrack and figure out what the hell ‘exude’ meant. Now you hit me with inquiry?”

“No apologies.”


We breathe in the unhealthy toxins produced by our makeshift fire as if it is fresh air.

“So sorry for your loss, bro.”

“I’m sorry for my loss, too. And thank you. For being there.”

“Ain’t nothing soft about losing --“

And there it is. The mask removes itself from Walter’s unyielding exterior. This is the only place he feels vulnerable. And I am the only one invited to such a locale.

“I know you miss her.”

“It never goes away, man. It never does. As much as you shake your head back and forth. As much as you cry. As much as you throw your fists into a wall. As much as you want to kill… It never goes away, man. I will die without a mother. That is the only thing I know to be true.”

A black boy painter with James Baldwin tattooed to the brain and a white boy with tattooed scars on his skin sit amongst the flames. Friendship further connected by their joint disconnections from the only people they have ever known to truly love them – besides each other. I am thankful to be a part of this duo, of this bond, of the unexplainable. It is all we know now. It is all we want to know.

Walter puts his hand in his front pocket. Dives in with purpose. Yanks out a small, shiny object. The fire attacks it, shines light until it glistens in the night shine.

A box cutter. I cannot help but stare, for I have my own. But I assume that my reasons for ownership are different than Walter’s.

“I wonder what it would be like to kill my father.”

I assume correctly.