Throwing Fireballs at Closet Doors in the Greatest Place on Earth
By: Grayson Thompson
Joe was from Queens and wore leather jackets in Florida.
His writer aesthetic. He was too cool
with wavy slicked back black hair and brown sugar-honeyed skin.
We didn’t plan it, but
here we were looking for each other in a sea of technicolor beads
standing next to a sign that read:
There was more than one.
We started playing gopher with neon signs.
Crowded bodies parted and he looked like
when you take a hard left with a fresh pizza on the seat next to you.
Bent on one side
with sauce dripping out.
He had a fourth of a bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
lightly swaying from his hand
and a sleepy smile.
Two Florida writers drunk in New Orleans on Bourbon Street.
He said to make sure we write about this for our class.
He pulls some weed out of his pocket asking if I want a hit
and told me he became friends over a joint with some sex workers the night before.
I was in town on a trip with a closeted girlfriend and her best friend who didn’t know.
Drunk with Joe, looking at the two girls having an existential conversation
with a huge Southern white man named MEAT,
The thoughts crawled out of the back of my mind, unrestricted.
I was alone and hated this part of my life.
Sitting in those iron patio chairs in the backlit alley with Joe
staring at the reflection of neon in streams of piss,
I didn’t feel so empty.
We drunkenly dragged each other to his hotel
and I think he sort of hated it.
He groaned at the rich people ushering in and out
with nice clothes and nice cars.
There were different kinds of beads around these women’s necks.
The two of us brown-skinned, in street clothes,
arms linguined across shoulders probably looked more alive than they ever felt.
Leaving Joe at the steps felt like abandoning a lifeboat.
I submitted a piece to the professor about that night
and I know it was probably shit.
It should have read:
I was a gender-confused and angry guy fist fighting with my reflection
(and that dude took as much as he gave)
in an affair with a closeted woman in a life where I was the remnants of eraser rubber.
That trip was an ongoing series of me trying to forget myself with alcohol.
I only really remember Joe
parting the sea of sweaty drunks with Fireball,
a guy who I only knew through black words on white paper,
because only writers know how to hurt like that.
Grayson is a Black, queer transgender writer boi, a poet, moonlighting as a therapist. He has been featured in Carnival Literary Magazine, Backbone Press, and Belletrist Magazine. A Florida cowboy with a West Coast heart, he chooses madness: of the wild, of the truth, of love, and of dreaming. He hopes you can find some in his poems.
"I wrote 'Throwing Fireballs' at the end of the 2020 COVID year in a dark freezing winter. I was struggling with mania (I'm Bipolar) and when I am having manic episodes I write until it stops/calms down. I spent a lot of quarantine reflecting on all of my past lives and started writing pieces about them. Joe is real man who I went to college and studied creative writing with. Memory is difficult for most people with severe bipolar disorder, especially when it's layered with trauma. Writing about Joe was the best way I could try to scratch at a very dark and toxic moment of my life. Being a queer trans person in a relationship with a closeted person, for many, is kind of brutal, even without the gendered piece of it. I was really struggling with figuring out who I was or what life I wanted to live or even if I wanted to live at all, to be honest. And that relationship cycle did nothing healthy for any of those aspects and layered who I was with a lot of shame. Joe was one of the only people on the 'outside' who saw it all live, in a slow-motion horror movie. Even drunk, we were able to look at the story of it all as writers. Writing is a craft historically born out of loneliness, and being able to talk to another writer about a pain you haven't found the words to write about was very real. Probably one of the realest things out of all that. And yes, the man really wore leather jackets in boiling Florida."