I was 18 when I met him. He hissed. I pretended to not hear him as I walked in front of the corner store collecting snacks to keep my body the fat spectacle it was. I was beginning to shed the childhood insecurities and began walking into the flaws-and-all confidence I wouldn’t fully know until adulthood. Comfort in authenticity was a new adventure when I was 18. He hissed again. I walked a bit faster, terrified by the persistence and complimented by the interest.
“Yo, legs,” he growled once he got closer to my body.
It was a rarity in my life at that time that I was eroticized while the sun was up by someone who was half man and half everything I knew could validate me. His heavy voice carried all the things I had yearned for. Forests grew on his chest, legs, and arms.
I opened the door to the little store and he followed me. Between the Snickers and Doritos, he spoke: “Let me have your number.” It was not that I didn't want him to have my number, but I knew with every step that this advanced I’d be expected to know more. I had only had sex two times just the year before. Each time was with the same inexperienced partner that muttered apologies on my skin while splitting me in half. Anal sex was not fun. My body was not an erotic instrument; it was an awkward thing. Men were not the desirable monsters I had hoped they’d be when I watched Noah’s Arc and Sex and the City reruns.
Instead, men that I interacted with and observed were violent, both emotionally and physically, and they were none the wiser. This is how most people with social power wield it on a daily basis: unknowingly, ignorantly. These men had no idea how they were able to wield patriarchy to get into spaces and shut people out. They had no idea how they were able to manipulate masculinity into a toxic force that harmed and silenced those that dared dissent. They just did it as naturally as a dog learns to bark—dizzy little dogs with dynamite between their legs.
“Aye, just let me get your number,” he said sterner, out of frustration.
I agreed. He pulled his phone out of his pants. I spoke quietly and quickly. I was able to look him in his eyes, but his eyes would never lock with mine as if this contact with a man who dared be wild and feminine while the sun was out would change him. The Werewolf typed even quicker while looking up to ensure nobody was seeing the exchange.
“Aiight, cool. I’ll see you, shorty.”
There was no flowery language in his text messages. It was all pure negotiation. He wanted time, places, and sexual promises. I wanted him to be satisfied. We agreed that a motel was the best option because he was discreet, and I was obvious, and he couldn’t compromise his work or social standing being seen with someone like me whose gender and sexuality were so obviously queer that men like the wolves in poetry felt sure enough that I wanted what they could offer—sure enough that they approached me in public, when the sun was up in the shadows. I was a boy who loved beautiful words, the idea of romance, closeness. I was desperate for a man that was like the Robert Frost’s woods: lovely, dark, and deep. I agreed to meet him the following day at a motel at midnight.
Preparing myself for sex was a lot like preparing a meal. I soaked myself in water and plucked hairs, so I could be easier to devour. I drenched myself in oils, some for the smell and some to ensure a better texture. I cleared out my whole body so that when he collided into me he could only find love. I didn’t know anything about love, but I knew hope desperately. I hoped that this night in the motel with the American flag watching over it like America often looks over black intimacy. The constant American gaze over black pleasure and bodies has always informed our black male paranoia; it has always made it so we always needed to perform a masculinity and desirability constructed for us by white supremacy even when we are all alone amongst a dirty mattress and cigarette butts in a cheap motel. In modern times, we often find ourselves both the slave and slave master to the scripts that domination has crafted for us. The weekday specials plastered on the lawn would be fertile grounds for love. I dressed and took a taxi to the hotel. I briefly looked up at the window as I prayed the cigarette and fried pork smells in the car didn’t interrupt the aroma that I worked so hard to achieve. The moon was full.
Room 313 was throbbing. I opened the door, and he was spread across the bed looking more sheepish than I remembered—he looked more like a man with intense wanting. The little nuance is where humanity lived. Men are required to be predators. They devour what they desire. Men aren’t taught to acquire things, but to conquer things. Because of this, I never had a chance to relate to other men as human—too many too often prefer to be seen as dangerous.
In this moment, I was able to relate. We have all wanted something or something eagerly. I was able to relate to this human characteristic. For a moment he looked at me like a human he desired, not prey. He poured Hennessy into a glass cup provided by the cheap motel, perhaps to make up for the yellowish watermarks in the ceiling or the faint threat of a roach spotting you could not shake, even if there was no evidence.
He parted his fangs, “I want you so bad.”
He gnawed on my neck. He introduced his claws to every place on my body I was interested in hiding. He celebrated those places. He devoured the rest. Minutes were morphed into hours. It became 2:30 a.m., and he left a carcass of satisfied bones out of me. We slept.
I woke up to whimpers. The covers were all over me and The Werewolf was facing away at the window.
I asked, “What is wrong?”
He answered, “I want to die.”
He sat still and erect on the edge of the bed. His skin, his fur, his claws, his head looking more tender than monstrous.
I dared to ask, “Why?”
“I don’t want to be no goddamn faggot. I don’t want to be no fucking slave,” he spit.
The words fell on the floor right in front of me as my man for the night continued, “My kids and my wife can’t know I am no fucking faggot. And this shit—this sneaking around shit just for a bit of freedom got me feeling like a slave.”
I was not sophisticated enough to offer anything smart or healing. I got behind him and began to rub his back.
“Get off of me! Do not fucking touch me! I’m not you and you aren't me. You don’t know me. I ain’t no fucking faggot. I ain’t no slave,” he yelled and stood up.
His eyes were deep yellow with pupils like knives. His fangs grew to meet his chin, and his claws shined in the bit of moonlight that window offered. His guilt more than likely placed inside of him from Abrahamic religion and homophobic society transformed him before my eyes from a man centering my pleasure to a man giving me all of his pain. My body was the moon and all of his anger about his relationship with what he desired and who he had to perform in the world to survive was given to me in a moment of rage. The pressure a confused sexuality transformed him. The socialization of toxic masculinity changed him.
Desire and disgust do not live as far away from each other as one would think. His natural sexual impulse for my body, to explore his queerness, was quickly replaced with fury and disgust for his transgression against the rigid ideas of gender and sexuality that society offers us. Like the moon illuminated his fangs, the damp bed after orgasm shined a light on his failure of achieving ideal black manhood. I pushed myself against the wall and regretted being curious enough about how it felt to be desired to put myself in such a horrifying position.
I began to cry.
He put on his clothes and walked into the moon. I waited for what felt like hours until I understood what had just happened. The Werewolf was not coming back. He was going to go back to his wife, his children, and wait for the next full moon when his sexual impulses became too much to bear.
As I grew older, I met many more werewolves—people who were part man, half nightmare that some little boys who loved men daydream about. I avoided them with as much ferocity as they pursued me with. Most would scurry away with loud, strong words. Others needed silver bullets. But, I always felt sorry for these werewolves because of the experience I had with my own. I never heard someone sound this miserable. I never heard someone that stuck and empty. I had only known people that unraveled before me, their worlds become larger the more they discovered about themselves. As the Werewolf became more complex and unraveled, he was contained in a small room with a dirty mattress and keycard. Society manicured him into the perfect monster, clipping all the things that didn’t fit. On the floor, he had to leave compassion, vulnerability, and open communication to be a fierce beast. His world remained just as small and the frustration and resentment of being confined was palatable. And, that night in the motel translated into fury.
In retrospect, what waited for me in Room 313 couldn’t have ever taught me anything about the things my young heart so desperately desired to know. I learned nothing about love from the Werewolf, but I learned everything about the dangers of only living your authentic truth at night when the moon is pregnant.
Myles E. Johnson is a black, queer writer and editor existing at the nexus of race, sexual identity, gender, feminism, and justice through content creation and cultural critique.