two men holding hands

Fucking, and Not Fucking, in the Time of Coronavirus

by
on January 29, 2021

When Touch Becomes Death’s Portal

I disassociate with television.

Sit alone on a couch, reminiscing about lying in bed with a warm body. Recall how worthwhile it seemed to wrap my arms around someone. My skin still remembers the betrayal. With arms hugging an orthopedic pillow, I slip into dreams. My fingers caress knife and door handles. Food preparation becomes a romantic experience. So does preparing to go outdoors. Chores like taking out the trash or going to the grocery store grow exalted.

These were hands that once massaged backs.

I look at my hands, caress one with the other, wondering what they want.

I know this much: They don’t want touch to be death’s portal.

//

“But you should go on PReP.”

“I would rather you fuck me without a condom. The condom makes me scared.”

It’s not my responsibility to disclose how many people I’ve slept with besides you.”

“You make me feel like you’re scared to have sex with me.”

Lee told me these things whenever I expressed concern about his entertainment of multiple sex partners without any barrier. I don’t know whether I’m lucky we only sort of dated for three months. Part of me understood that I put myself at risk for three months too long.

To make the relationship work, to satisfy his hunger for barrier free sexual intercourse, I hauled myself down to the SF AIDS foundation. Two weeks after we first had oral sex, I went to wrangle a PReP prescription. I took these steps to make Lee feel safe according to what held as gospel, his nearly spiritual vision of “Safe Sex 2019.” I see now he offered little to make me feel safe in return. The urge to be validated, to be found desirable, to be held at night, will make you dance with demons and throw more cautionary tendencies to the wind.

A nurse asked me rote questions. How many sexual partners do you have? Are you actively or passively engaged in anal sex? I felt the same anxiety that happens when I subject myself to blood work, opening myself up to the possibility of unwanted results, hoping to be able to exhale that sigh of relief upon finding out that I’ve been issued a “clean bill” of sexual health. The worst part about it was that the (white) nurse said that my body mass index, my 216 pounds on a 5’11 frame, qualified me as borderline obese. He interrogated my diet and so-called non-existent exercise routine. I left with advice to walk more than two miles a day. The nurse also ordered me to cut back on cheeseburgers.

//

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight or so pills remain in the Truvada bottle. They are from that first prescription. It has been twenty-some months since the last time me and Lee had sex.

You might know someone like Lee. Maybe you’ve fucked someone like him. He considers himself a progressive queer white dude. A “good guy.” His twitter bio acknowledges he’s on Ohlone Land. You’ll find his pronouns there too. He re-tweets Jaboukie’s witty takes on race politics. He supported Elizabeth Warren’s campaign! Of course, he voted blue no matter who because haven’t the last four years been the worst moment in this country’s history? He had read Octavia Butler. He doesn’t own a car, doesn’t even have a driver’s license. He reduces his carbon footprint by commuting everywhere by bike. He lives in an urban center condo near transit. He understands intersectionality. Lee is Jewish after all.

He takes his health seriously by taking a blue pill that moneyed, insured white gay men obtained access to long before Black and Brown Queers that don’t have the luxury of a condo, a tech job that fully covers insurance, and a trust fund did. In his world, resources come with ease.

Health comes easily. Housing comes easily. Hoeing comes easily.

Lee believed I was a risky sex partner. He didn’t see himself that way. I told him how it felt to be reduced to one possible menu option even when it seemed that I might be the preferred one. I slept over constantly. He fell asleep in my arms. We went for hikes. We did things besides fuck. I paraded him around as my boyfriend as I played an opening DJ set for Durand Jones & The Indications.

I told myself that I wanted to be proactive with my healthcare; that I needed to ramp up my STI screenings relative to the frequency that we had sex. It would benefit both of us to know and mutually assess risk. I wanted to understand the nature of his desires, what I satisfied, what I did not, and how I could potentially be supportive in exploration and fulfillment of those. His response was always that I was shaming him, not being sex positive enough. I honestly didn’t know how to pursue the relationship further. I was also, after the hell that was trying to date in Portland, desperate for something to work, for a win to happen as I valiantly tried to re-establish myself in Oakland.  If having frank discussions about the cause and effect of our sex lives wasn’t being sex positive, I don’t know what the fuck was.

“Exactly how many partners have you had, besides me since we first had sex?” I asked him. I had a birthday coming up and the last thing I wanted to drag into a new year was “man problems.”

“I dunno. 8?”

“Did you ask them about their STI histories or whether they were on PReP like you?”

“No. That’s what the PReP is for. Also, what I do with other people isn’t your business.”

The phone call lasted 14 minutes. Again, I tried to explain STI risks and how disclosure is respectful. I know I was only doing that for myself, to keep my mind off the storm of emotions, the tears that were brewing. How in the hell was this ever viable? How can I feel human when I’m literally a single link in a sausage factory? I’ve done a great job actually. 18 months after that call I haven’t shed a tear for Lee. I feel the resigned numbness I felt once I got the next round of my STI results, another “clean bill” of sexual health despite my existence in the sexual warzone queers voluntarily enlist to enter over and over again.

//

1 in 750 indigenous folks in the United States has died from COVID-19.

1 in 800 Black folks in the United States have too.

//

I sit back and cackle at the shirtless, ab’d, tanned and waxed gays clinging to hedonism as if clinging to life preservers. They splash in the waters of Puerto Vallarta. I’ve snooped the Instagram feed of an old flame from 10 years ago. He’s spent most of the pandemic taking advantage of cheap accommodations to travel to Italy, Spain, Ireland and Denmark while he gets a masters in Berlin. As if none of these places haven’t been the set of dystopian horror films.

I stare at another acquaintances’ loud and vocal plans to relocate to Los Angeles couched in new year-new me-new-age manifesting rhetoric, his language hiding the institutional wealth that makes this choice possible. I ignore his texts lest I reply THERE’S ABOUT 1 IN 3 POSITIVE COVID TESTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY NOW.

Another former flame gallivants all over Sacramento, never investing in a selfie stick, promoting businesses that gentrified the district he once represented. He wouldn’t dare use his clout in politics to support mutual aid lists.

“This is how they’re coping with a world that’s not ‘normal,’” the apologists say.

The irony in the apology remains unspoken. These travelers carry on with their lives as if nothing extraordinary is happening. Who wants to miss out on stuffed French toast halfheartedly eaten over gossip about whose throuple is collapsing? Who doesn’t want to move forward with plans to visit the vineyards in Napa? They’re less crowded these days. The booze will be cheap. Is seasonal change even real if you haven’t gotten your speedo tan lines on a beach far away in a land you can practice what you learned on Duolingo?

Don’t get me wrong. This phenomenon isn’t restricted to (mostly white) Gay Men TM. There are people of diverse backgrounds booking flights to warm locales because of cheap airfares. They all say that they need breaks from the stress of working from home. They must escape from the dishes and the children are driving them stir crazy.

Makeshift restaurants have overtaken Oakland’s street parking. We all crave social interaction. Salty, overpriced food and craft beers justify breathing the same air.

Memories flood back to happy days when one only needed to be concerned about mutual sexual desire. Then, I only grappled with consequences when sucking a dick led to swallowing jizz, when a rimjob went balls deep without knowing someone’s status. How long will this go on? Those with the resources to stand in solidarity have grown accustomed to a seat at the table. Meanwhile, the rest of the world waits on them. They proudly have no connections to the ancestors whose graves they stand on.They were robbed of connection to them by an epidemic most of them don’t remember. The burden of duty falls to those who weigh accountability and history with carnal desire. Those of us living with the truth in our bones become ghosts that haunt them, craving to be freed from this collective underworld.


Time Capsule or actual human being, who knows. Laurence Jones has been sifting through ephemera of the past seemingly forever, spinning vinyl for you, taking film photography and entertaining you with instagram posts of the decrepit old cars they own. You can find previous writing by them at djlarsupreme.com and medium.com