If We Must Die Let It Come After a Long Evening of Laughter

Jan 18, 2021 | Bubbler

after Hanif Abdurraqib

The last night I drove him home, I took a wrong turn, 

crisscrossing Baltimore, wondering if he noticed 
how many times we’d passed the arboretum.

His eyes were as bright as ever, and his chin 
was peppered with the wiry excuse of a beard.

I wanted to tell him—You got older.
I hope we both get so, so old.

That evening, he kept starting stories
he couldn’t finish and I found myself repeating

It’s all right
although he didn’t ask.

It isn’t enough to wish for him 
a story with a happier ending.

As quickly as I found him, he was gone,

tearing on about needing a house and a dog 
and a husband to come home to,

frantic as the night I held him down with my palm
over his racing heart, trying to make him understand

he was having a panic attack—not dying—

Although what truth was there between us,
as he leaned back into the car, grinning

and swearing he loved me more 
than anyone. Swearing that I was his best friend.

He made it easy to smile back,
to tell him whatever he wanted, 

and then leave him, beaming after me in the dark.

DJ Hills is a queer writer and theatre artist from the Appalachian Mountains, currently living in Baltimore. DJ’s writing appears most recently in Appalachian ReviewCold Mountain Review, and Arkansas Review, and their plays have been produced in and around Baltimore City. Find them online at www.dj-hills.com.