Memoirs from the foothills of Nepal to the streets of America.
Trade Secrets by J.P. Tamang
Not every small town redneck is a violent homophobe. In fact, some are quite the opposite.
I was living on a piece of land cooperatively owned by a group of old hippies. It was south of the Vermilion Range, a fifty mile stretch of ghost mines in the arrowhead region of Minnesota’s northern tip. One morning I walked the long clay road to a swimming hole where I stretched out naked on a rotting log. I broke a sweat and rolled off, splashing into the water below. I floated on my back through trees and over stones into the lake’s center. As I swam to the bank and ascended it, my skin twitched in the breeze. I began to walk the path back until my nose caught something toasted. I turned around and saw a young man. He was twice my size, seated in a foldout chair near the bed of a candy-apple Chevy pickup. A small fire burned at his feet. One massive, soiled hand rose up to lift a pair of wrap-arounds above a set of green eyes. His cheeks were soft and flush, as if fed for years on butter and beer. I waved, sheepishly, covering my genitals. Then he spoke in a deep and bovine tone.
Him: “How’s the water?”
Him: “Want a beer?”
Me: “No, thanks.” I started to walk away.
Him: “I didn’t recognize you there. Thought you might’ve been a beaver.”
Me:“I’m not from here. Came down from the city.”
Him: “Figured as much. Where’re you at?”
Me: “I’m staying at the co-op on Artlip Lake.”
Him: “Known that spot a long time.”
He replied with remorse: “I don’t mean it that way though.”
Me: “What way?”
Him: “Everybody knows about the queers, so I…”
Me: “...I see.”
Him: “I know you probably think we’re, you know. But we ain't.”
I watched him struggle to find the words to describe himself and me. A Styrofoam dish of meat in its juice sat on the bed of his truck. The boy produced a pocket knife from his athletic shorts and sliced a wooden skewer in half. He drew the meat from the dish with his fingers and held it, motionless, allowing the blood to drip off. I felt sick. The chill from the air left me and I noticed my skin was beginning to dry. I felt a bead of sweat forming under my arms.