Domination as a Bedfellow
By Myles E. Johnson
TW: Suicide, Graphic sex
If I say that I love myself three times while looking in the mirror, perhaps Nina Simone will appear, pull me by my neck, and drag me into my own reflection. She can drag my whole body or just my ghost, I thought. I don’t care. I turn off the lights. I lie. I love myself. I lie harder. I love myself. I lie, for the third time and the hardest because I almost believed it, I love myself. I close my eyes. I clinch my fist tight. I probably was breathing, but I can’t remember for sure, but breath is not important where I am going. Breath is obsolete once my favorite ancestor rescues me from this damned place. Time passes. I turn on the bathroom lights. Red lipstick stains riddle my mirror with affirmations that I promised myself I would believe one day, but today is not that day. Tears roll down my face. It is not suicidal if you are begging for it from some ghost or deity you believe lives in the mirror, I said to myself. It is a thirst for change manifesting as a thirst for the ultimate change, death. I hardly convince myself. This is a bathroom ritual.
I got to my bedroom.
I lay down in the dark. I cry harder than I did while waiting in the dark and let my tears baptize my earlobes. It is ‘round midnight, and today domination won. It is not low self-esteem. It is not poor image. It is not childhood demons, something my mother did wrong, or a daddy issue coming out to play. It is life. You hold the armor and the belief that you are something dearly to your chest, right above your heart. The world says I am lying, but I know that I am magic. So, I write affirmations. So, I study books. So, I look at people that look like me, and worship their beauty. So, I declare myself worthy. So, I dream.
Often, I lucid dream and while moving in reality I can feel all of the history that made me possible conspiring for my stardom. All Africans were not royalty, but I can feel it in my blood that I was a king on these days. All lives may not have a purpose, but on these days I can tell my life is an afrofuturist fairytale written by Jah or Isis. I write with conviction that what my fingertips are summoning the most important things the Earth has ever witnessed. Yes, I am beautiful and brilliant and black with this body, with this amount of money, with this amount of education. I am here. These are good days.
Today is not a good day, or night, so it goes. Domination won and he is in my bed with his phallus inside of me asking if he can cum inside, so he might invade the whole of my body and mind. He chokes me because he knows that I am into that and he kisses my neck to calm me as I whimper in his ear. He hears the moans of my defeat, and mistakes it for pleasure. I put my head in my pillow to sob louder and my tears overflow and fill the bed. He does not look me in the face, or at my history. He thinks that I had an orgasm. Domination rolls off of me and gazes at the moon from my window while he smokes a cigarette, naked. I pray my bed swallows me like that 80’s horror film about the white cis heterosexual male killer that murders children that dream and he seems to never die (when put like this, I am not sure of the difference between that film and my lived black queer reality). I pray my bed shoots my flesh and blood back up, fountain-style, to maybe scare him, to maybe show him what it feels like to sleep with terror. Alas, another prayer unanswered.
Nobody tells you explicitly how intimate oppression is; it is not only located in the streets, panel discussions or in critical essays alone. It is while you brush your teeth and right before you go to bed, and when you say a prayer to the deity you question exists. You are not strong enough, says the patriarchy as you as you wash your face. You are nowhere near rich enough for your dreams, says capitalism as I floss. You are not beautiful enough, says white supremacy as I pour my coffee. You are nowhere near educated enough, says classism as I bring myself into meditation to attempt to chase out the world I will one day rule, according to the lipstick stained mirror I cry into often. Domination is the loyal husband every gal in town desires. I know domination, and resisting it, better than I know my own hands or my own history. And I fight, but some days and nights, I lose. I lose explosively and miserably.
I cry to the man who says he loves me often, and I believe him some days and nights. He reminds me that I am not always right, especially when domination wins and begins to dominate my tongue, lips, language, my vision, my world. He also reminds me that I always write. He tells me that he can tell when domination is winning, but I always resist, because I always sit and read. I always laugh about something small as if to show God, or myself, that I am still grateful for the little things. I drink tea quietly even while under attack. I tell the truth to people who’d like to listen. And this man that tells me he loves me often offers the idea that perhaps when I look in the mirror in the dark with my eyes closed, instead of an ancestor grabbing me out of my reality, I am grabbing an ancestor out of their reality. I bring them with me into my bedroom, and other intimate spaces where I am most at risk of domination. Maybe, according to him and a part of my soul that contains logic and hope, my survival is proof that I am on purpose. Not just designed, but favored. It is proof that I am winning, even on the bad days and nights. I look into his pupils. For a moment, I see Nina Simone. He blinks and I see myself. He blinks once more, and I see victory.