Dear John, All I Really Needed Was Your Lovin’.
By Lester Mayers Edited by Mariel Stein
Every day, when I open my eyes, I am somewhere between a smile and a tear. I think of you before I wake; your memory feels like a dream. Even when you were here in the flesh, I floated deep into the clouds of your smile. I laid on the comfort of your tongue, pillowed by the trust of your words. Pattie LaBelle sings, “my future looks bright because of people like you,” but because of you, John, my future is enough without the need to ever be loved again.
I was born on the dance floor - I owe my life’s salvation to the beat.
Shit, I remember holding the pole in the middle of the floor with the strobe lights hitting my eyes. There was so much sweat that the floor looked like someone left the faucet running all night - the fog machines made it even more punishing to see. The speakers were homemade; they made my chest sting like a penis slinging free from being tucked all night in a mini dress - ahhh. The next morning, I would leave with my ears ringing, my clothes liquored up; down 10 lbs, easy.
Ass - still shaking. Heart - still pumping. Voice - faded, marching home, screaming,
“Beat that shit!”
I mean, it was a time to be alive. Old-school house music took hold and still has yet to let me go. Ghetto house music gave birth to techno, and for me, music was the sunshine after a Mississippi tornado.
To have been on a packed dance floor with the whole crowd in the ’90s - our arms outstretched in the air, singing along to the soulful beauty of a record. All emotions were welcome. All sizes, all colored asses dancing on one beat. The morning worries that rained down on us washed away at night...
Think about it now - people who wouldn’t even hold the door open for me in the morning, folks who would be disgusted watching two men kiss in broad daylight (let alone acknowledging the 6-foot buff queens who wore heels on the Boulevard during the midnight hours) all gathered together under The Lower-Eastside moon. We found ourselves dancing and living to the beat every Saturday, and sometimes Sunday (when we had it in us), until they lowered the record and yelled,
“Last call for alcohol, last dance of the night, and the final chance to get the phone number of that pretty honey you’ve been eyeing all night long.”
It was just what the O'Jays talked about when they sang "Livin’ for the Weekend" -
As soon as Friday rolls around
I lay all my weekly burdens down
I put on my glad rags
And paint the town!
The next morning, I was still vibrating, pumping over to Tom’s Diner with the leftover immortal melody of CeCe Peniston in me. I wish he, John, my “finally it has happened to me” kinda love, was still here to talk to, to dance with, to pump, to sing,
It has happened to us.
It has happened to him.
Not a day has gone by that I haven’t wanted to tilt my head back and watch the ceiling fan fall, chopping off my bent neck. Not a second has passed when I didn’t yearn for the portrait that lives above my bed to trip forward, finally knocking me out forever - Hell!
Any ol’ thang will do to get me up outta here, any ol’ thang just to see him again...
Not a moment passes that I don’t wish we could relive a groove that only seems to be remembered by the dead - a remembrance of how we all used to swear, dazzled in loving arms, trying to fulfill a forbidden prophecy that someday we will all be free.
“Won’t anybody ever love me & nobody would ever let me love them?”
But then he appeared.
He appeared and I felt like I could’ve grown switchblades and sliced my stomach open to release the growing moths soaring around inside - something once dead inside, breathing again.
You were my only love - you stifled every self-deprecating thought, coated loneliness with kisses, and entertained feelings of unworthiness with distractions of genuine lust.
I remembered when he walked into Sharon’s Bar & Grill with that special sidewalk/ catwalk strut - something only he could do. He strutted straight to the bar where I had been sitting to catch my breath, and over the loud music, I heard him demand,
“A Long-Island, miss thang - but hold the trip’ and give me a piece of Peach Schnapps.”
As the bartender turned to begin making his drink, he shouted out, rhythmically, again,
“Light ice, and don’t cheat it to the brim!”
I started laughing, he turned and said,
“You find me funny?”
“Nah, no disrespect.”
He grabbed the bar napkins, began to dab my sweaty chin, and asked,
“What yo fine ass doin’ over here holding up the bar?”
I probably blushed or laughed, but if I remembered correctly, I said,
“Just taking a break.”
After the bartender handed him his drink, he sipped - we stared at each other for a moment, then Robin S “Show Me Love” rang tight from the speakers, lynched up my neck, and rallied my heart - skipping beats in harmony. By the time she finished shedding,
Heartbreaks and promises, I've had more than my share!
He grabbed my hand as if we’ve known each other for lifetimes, led me back to the dance floor, and we broke! Our mingling tongues were licensed as a mixologist by the third verse, and we created an unapologetically iconic drink like project water. A little rusted peach, something brown, something sweaty, our spit and air bubbles confused with goosebumps from the house music sermon. My hands cupped his hips, Robin S faded away, and naturally, we did what came naturally:
Our tongues deepened into each other, dancing into marriage.
That night, we earthquaked at my apartment - naked, in silence, drunk. I looked at him strange, bruised, beautiful, familiar, fruit - ready to eat him whole. He wrapped his muscular, free, jiggling thighs around my back and hung from me like a disco ball swinging from the ceiling. I walked us over to the large mirror in my bathroom, he and I holding each other, my legs moving for the both of us. Ashy and happy, we stared into the mirror, our hearts touching, our eyes saying “thank you.” I sat him on the ledge of the sink, and we began to kiss. Before I knew it, my lips were around his dick like a suction tube. We made love.
All of that erotic affront ended in a simple wedding ceremony in bed. We stayed up laughing, smiling, staring, feeling everything. I recall looking at that magical brown wooden alarm clock on my windowsill - those big red numbers read 3:00 am.
My favorite number is three. I was three when my mother died and three when I first remembered falling in love with my forever shero, Tina Turner.
Anyways, he was in the middle of a story discussing cornbread as it related to the existentialism of the South when I interrupted,
“I know we fake proposed earlier, but for real - don’t think I’m crazy - but will you be my wife?”
He took my hand and said,
“I’ll not only be your wife, but I’ll have your baby too.”
He leaned in, diamonded his arms around my neck; we began to laugh into a kiss and exalted into round three. Even though I asked him to be my wife, I was so afraid. I knew in some natural way that this was the real thing. The way he joined his body into mine over and over again, as if he had no fear of loving at all. I knew that whatever this was gonna be, it was gonna be for life - we would live together - it was ordained from the first moments of our meeting.
I wonder if he’s shifting through fear up there because he damn sure didn’t down here.
The bravery he bashed right up in my face when we heard about the nigga who shot the nigga voguing on the dance floor at the bar on Christopher street that we were on our way to. A straight nigga killing a gay nigga because he refused to keep his mouth shut about sucking his dick in the project staircase. I remember demanding that we stay in, but he said,
“Babe, no matter what, I would risk death before I stop enjoying and loving life.”
So we went.
All I remember was holding onto him the whole night, and it felt good.
So. Damn. Good.
Three months of love equates to a lifetime of pain.
He’s gone, and I’m here - here plucking one-night affairs like a crow inhaling rotten fruit in the summer breeze. Most nights, I think I’m ready to move on - think I’m able to be loved again - until Etta James comes on Pandora singing,
At last, my love has come along...
I think, at last, my love has died. Again. Every time I think about him, I fall in love all over again, and he dies - he dies all over again. All the songs we sang, all the dances we shared, and all the everything we dreamt through illegitimate realities - caffeinating our emotions to possess courage to love like never before - replays, every second of every day.
“I cannot deal with never seeing you again. But I know I have to. I know you must answer the call, but I need you.”
That’s all I remembered whispering to him before he flatlined.
Before he crossed over to find out if the rumors about God were true.
It was all we ever had, and those moments kept me alive for all these years. Twentyseven years ago, I thought we would live forever. He and I, seeing somebody off to school. Or, maybe, going to pick out furniture, arguing about whether or not Stephanie Mills should’ve played Dorothy in the film version of The Wiz (since we both agreed that while she ain’t no Diana, she sho-nuf had a greater talent). Man, oh I wish. I wish we could’ve grown bellies together, watch our bones slow up, and our views on life change their face.
I wish you could’ve lived; we could’ve created and watched ourselves live once more in a tiny black baby named Fatima.
AIDS is a mother fucker, lo-down, trifling, bitch ass, ugly, cock-sucking piece of shit that preys on the praying innocent.
I’m still fucking mad.
But also, I have peace with it.
Although we couldn’t take credit as a legally married couple, parents, or have known each other for long periods of time, we were soulmates and found each other
while we were still able to be found.
I saw him go from the sexiest, comforting goddess my lips ever touched to a baby in a crib unable to change himself. Unable to eat, crying because he’d learned something
impossible to understand. Unable to move and lose all strength and just like a newborn baby, so fragile, so tender - a cigarette burn could’ve killed him.
I worked really hard to usher those images out of my head; I need to remember him as he lived and not as the virus violated him.
I was loved.
He was loved.
No cause to feel sorry about nothing.
I owe my life’s salvation to the beat. The beat of who lives or who dies. The beat of taking every day serious enough to call love when you see it and imagine it when you don’t.
John is my beat. My heartbeat. My pep in my step, even in silence.
The only beating reason I would trust death to call my name.
I still forever will and in always love you. I will always think of you as long as I breathe. Till the sun goes down on our embodied memory.
Watch Love Lessons with Lester
Lesson 1 - I Don't F*ck With The Lights On"A choreopoem so true for so many. It was not easy to bear this, but it feels so good to release it. ☺️ "I Don't F*ck With The Light's On" is an excerpt from my genderless choreopoem "Swallow From Both Ends; an experience not written from a distance" written and developed at the Playwrights' Center." - Lester Mayers
Lesson 2 - In & Out"The truth is we are all In & Out of lovin ourselves. It's never a won battle or a lost war. But it is a journey, and for those of us still caffeinated on pain of an ex-lover, it can make that journey even more difficult. This live musical recording is a little medicine for that pain." - Lester Mayers
Lester Mayers, Matt Carvin & Keturah Jordan
Lesson 3 - It Will Be A Thursday"I will continue to remind us all that we are deserving of good mental health & emotional wellbeing. That we deserve to LIVE whole, complete...FREE. That we deserve to be seen and not sacrificed. To be romanced and not manipulated. That we must admit when we are lonely so we can appreciate times when we are loved. I will continue to claim love no matter how painful it might've been in the past. It Will Be A Thursday is another excerpt from my genderless choreopoem Swallow From Both Ends; an experience not written from a distance, written and developed at the Playwrights' Center." - Lester Mayers
Lesson 4 - I want a love...“I’m still in that place of altering myself just for love. The lack of love in the world is what propels my he(art) - I’m often creating from a place of pain and loneliness with a dash of hope. But there are moments when LOVE comes to full fruition, and without force, I operate from that blooming LOVE. This conversation is a perfect example of working from LOVE my baby Catherine, and I took all of our histories, pains, and hopes, laying it all out in the name of love in a 5 part Conversation! - Lester Mayers
Lester Mayers & Catherine Keefe-Harris