Its cold. It’s always cold in Baltimore in February but more so this year. I hope it’s
not this house. I’ve never liked the places I’ve lived but I like it here. If the house proves too drafty I’ll have to move. That’s how I’ve always handled things. I move; move my stuff, move my home, move my body until I find something or someone who can hold my attention. But I don’t want to tell you about the contentment which has eluded me all these years; I want to tell you about Phorest.
I believe the cold I’ve always felt comes from inside me. I once told my doctor about constantly being cold. He asked me to hold out my hands. He touched them and quickly snatched his hands away as if shocked by my touch.
“How long have you been feeling like this,” he asked
“Since birth,” I answered in so low a voice he barely heard me. He prescribed vitamins. I never saw him again because I knew. The cold I felt was from a place no vitamin would ever reach.
I met Phorest the fall of 1985. But I won’t tell you about that. I’ll tell you when I first realized he was beautiful. At Baltimore’s Inner Harbor there was once a newstand that was the only place in the city you could find the intelligent publications for the young and fearless. Only there could we find British and Paris Vogue, WWD, still called Women’s Wear Daily in those days, and Interview Magazine. Phorest and I went to the news stand one Sunday evening. I was completely fixed on the performance of the queens who threw fudge at The Fudgery across the aisle from the news stand. They weren’t called queens in those days; they were called fudge throwers. Same difference I guess. They were singing and tossing fudge. The pun was so obvious. One of those guys went on to become a well-known r and b singer. But on that day they were throwing fudge.
I never looked for anything fashionable or trendy. I just sort of inherited an eye for good taste. Phorest never seemed to notice my indifference to the fashionable, always exposing me to this thing or that. He was eighteen and I was seventeen. Having lived in New York previously, Phorest was far more worldly than me. He knew of the newstand first. He was also the first to get a job, first to cop a drink at a club, and first to kick some guy’s ass who’d been disrespectful to me.
“Come here,” he said as he motioned for me to join him at the news stand. “What are you watching those clowns for? Look at this.” I broke away from my fudge haze. I had begun obsessing over how dirty the fudge must be after being tossed and sung over, bodily fluids flying every which way. I didn’t share that with Phorest. He’d give me that look. We all get that look from the person who likes us even though we’re a bit of a freak when we mention something freakish and irrational. Phorest’s look was pretty deadly but it pulled me back to reality quickly. I didn’t tell him about the fudge because today wasn’t a day for that look. It was the day before the day we were going to find out if we were graduating and at what place in our senior class. Phorest and I both hated school but validation was important to me.
“This is bad!” Phorest was holding the latest publication of Interview, centerfold hanging to the floor.
“Who’s that?” “Warhola. You haven’t seen this?” He was absolutely beaming.
“I know the publisher, Who is that?” I pointed to the centerfold sprawled across the page in black and white.
“Who the fuck cares? Look at the layout. Georges Marciano. This is bad.” Phorest educated me about the use of black and white film, the absence of color, the simplicity, and the retro feel of the ad. What had begun as just a picture in a magazine was now a work of art in my eyes. I wish I could see like he does, I thought as I thumbed through the rest of the magazine. It always takes me awhile to accept anything as beautiful or relevant; Phorest gets it right away. On that Sunday evening, at a news stand stashed away at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Phorest taught me about beauty. He smiled from ear to ear as he showed me all that was great about Warhol and Interview. He, on that day was the most beautiful man I knew.