As I’ve moped about before, the quality time that I’d hoped to have with him, the sex we never had, the second kiss we never had, plus what was for me the elephant in the room, race. When I first met Pete, I didn’t want to believe he was white. I was convinced thoroughly that he was quadroon, octaroon or something. My friends that glanced briefly at him swore he was white, from head to toe. Early on, one day while we were in the car, I asked his ethic make up. He answered German, Black Irish and I want to say Spanish. In other words, he was lily white.
We did manage to have a few conversations about race, but it wasn’t much. I’d asked him if he’d ever been with a black woman. He said he’d been with all races except for an Indian woman. I got the strong feeling that he had a thing for ethic women, but like so many other topics I wanted to delve into, I never got the chance. Once I’d made the decision to not let his race become a thing anymore, it was easier to address our racial differences.
Once during a car ride home, as he talked about his move into his new home, Pete told me the location, which he said was near Bankhead, an area notorious for drug use. I joked about him moving to an area where he’d be known as “that white guy” in his neighborhood. He assured me that wouldn’t be the first time in his life that he’d be accused of that. I certainly believed him.
In some ways, Pete was so white. In other ways, he was a good mix of different cultures. I told him of my “minor” Tevin Campbell obsession and he gave me a perplexed look and said “Tevin Campbell?” I asked if he knew who Tevin was. He actually did know who Tevin was, he just didn’t understand why I’d have a thing for him, of all musicians. And of course that time he got in the car and I had the Dixie Chicks blasting. He mentioned my connection to the hood in Camden, NJ, but never actually made the statement of me being Black, but I knew it was what he’d meant. I never got to ask him about his favorite musical artists, although I learned at his service that he had a thing for the Grateful Dead.
For whatever reason, Pete and I never outwardly addressed it (another missed conversation topic), but I feel like race made us keep things quiet at work. While we were alone we laughed and told exceptionally inappropriate jokes. But if one of us was with a colleague when we ran into one another, we were polite, but barely acknowledged one another. If he was black or if I was white, I highly doubt we’d have had to act so casual toward in the presence of company. It’s just that on the surface, we were so different that if anyone sensed we were a tad too close, alarms would have went off. I remember one day he and I went to lunch together, and I swear that when we got into the car, no one was there. But by the time I drive out, I feel like half of my coworkers were outside. Then the time I drove him home, I just had him meet me across the street at a gas station so no one would see him. I have a very flirtatious relationship with another colleague (a Black man) and I swear me and that dude could damned near tongue one another down in a common area and no one would say anything. But with the white guy, I felt it necessary to play it cool.
I have an incarcerated black male friend who I’d told about Pete a while back. I told my friend that things were going well with Pete and that there was a strong chance that we’d get some bedroom acting going soon. My friend begged me not to do it. I looked at him point blank and told him that I’d do with my body what I chose.
After Pete’s passing, I messaged my friend and told him that he got his wish and that Pete was gone. My friend asked how. I said “he died of a heart attack.” My friend asked how old he was. I said 47. Then my friend said “So did you let him hit?” I was fucking livid. For the fact that I’ve cried every day since he left me and I’ve struggled like hell in my new normal, this motherfucker is worried about if we fucked?! I literally go 12 and 13 hours, forgetting to eat and the question is about who I’m fucking. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! I responded with “I’m not going to answer that.” I guess my friend assumed “the worst” and said “Wow. Ok.”
I seethed for a moment. The fucking gall! How dare he?! Three minutes after he learns about Pete’s death, the only thing he’s concerned about is if my vagina has been “tainted”? Un-fucking-believable. I shot him back a text message telling him how fucking classy it was to ask such a jacked up question. Granted, my friend is incarcerated and had no way of knowing my mental state. Still man, show some respect please.
At Pete’s service, I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me. His loved ones were beautiful people who were undeniably from a different culture than myself. Yeah, dude was ethnically white all right. I like to think that his Gemini allowed him to flow between worlds seamlessly and give something to love to everyone. Maybe his years of drug use in the streets was a part of his acclimation too. Either way, he made it work. Because he wasn’t just white. He was Pete.