Provincetown is about the only place I’ll buy a white man a drink.
I need a break after my writing workshop, so Monday night I go to a drag show with my friend Octavia, and we’re standing in line. Early. Too early she says. We’re second. She wants a soda or something, so we flag down this cute brother who’s working there and he says stay in line because the rush is about to start. Sure enough twenty-five white guys get in line within the next five minutes. Then more, and more, until there’s a line out to Commercial Street.
I turn to Octavia and smugly say, “Aren’t you glad we didn’t leave to get that soda?” As soon as I finish my sentence six white boys walk up to the front of the line to cut. I’m as hot as fish grease! I have my Black women’s hair issues standing in line in all that humidity, losing my curls and now these white boys—
“Where y’all from?” A disarming, fresh bright smile. All Southern charm.
Tall, and with red hair nonetheless. I’m completely taken aback.
“Philadelphia” Octavia says.
“I’m from Washington, D.C.”, he replies, shifting his lanky frame.
“Really?” I’m still at a bit of a loss.
“Actually I’m from Florida, but I work in DC now. You’re both from Philadelphia”? Octavia and I look at one another because I’m really from South Jersey.
“Are you two together? ” A question asked evenly, not intrusively.
“No. Yes, well we’re here for a workshop--…” we reply simultaneously.
“Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed to be straight. It’s Provincetown”.
Our laughter chases away any lingering tension.
And we’re off, and into a wonderful serendipitous conversation that covers art, politics (he works for Obama---I knew he’d like Barack), humor, family, religion, stereotypes (race and gender), philosophy, …hell. I want to follow this man home for a nightcap. And this exchange is all in line before the show.
“Why aren’t there more Black men in Provincetown? I mean where are they?” I hope maybe he’ll have some insight.
“The gay community is as segregated as America”. He shrugs his shoulders a bit and searches my face for disagreement.
“I guess. There seemed to be Black gay men in The Vineyard when I visited, as long as they weren’t too out. The bourgie crowd wouldn’t like that. People will tell you their son is at Morehouse, but not that he has a boyfriend. Black lesbians seem to be invisible in both places.”
My turn to shrug.
“You know Black women and gay men are the same people it’s just different body parts”.
“Maybe” I say, “but I know some Nazis in both bodies…I guess that just proves your point.”
We all laugh.
More smiles. More connections. More witty, fabulous conversation. From the social construction of gender and race, to anecdotes, to how the hell did that guy get that costume on? We enter the bar. I wonder if his brother is as charming as he is? I wonder if I have my dinner’s grape leaves stuck between my teeth? We sit together as a group at the show. He introduces me to one of his friends who is a fellow alum from my alma mater. It’s his birthday and I buy him a Kettle One and soda. The show is much better than the watery drinks. Octavia and I are invited to his friend’s birthday party after the show. These guys are thorough: they even give us a map. We all walk out right before the last act. It’s getting late.
Octavia and I decide to get a slice at one of the shops on Commerce Street. Two Black women behind the counter eye us closely as we enter the store. They look at us and through us, but was that down on us? After an eternity, they put our slices in the oven. Was that a Jamaican accent? Senegalese? A vodka induced auditory hallucination?
“Aren’t you glad you didn’t go off on that man in line?” Octavia asks, always the peacemaker.
“I guess so. You know, it really is his turf.” I reply, wondering if I can stuff ice cream down my face after the pizza.
“All of America is his turf.” Octavia shoots back.
“Isn’t that the truth” I agree. “But you know he was so nice. So were his friends. I really didn’t mind their cutting line. It was nice to connect.”
“You know he saw us and thought ‘let me talk to these evil sisters before they go off on us’.”
“Who cares what he thought Octavia. He was fab. And you know he said his brother only ever dated Black women.”
“But of course. And why wouldn’t he?”
Octavia smiles broadly.
We throw our heads back and laugh, turn toward the two black women behind the counter and smile. We’re just customers. They acknowledge us, but their eyes are on our money and the tip jar.
“How are you all doing tonight?” She proffers the heated pizza.
“Fine. And you?” We pay and accept.
“Fine.” We drop a tip into the jar, take our slices and leave.
The moon is bright and the humidity has dissipated. We decide against the birthday party in favor of sleep, and writing. I walk my free Black female body toward the workshop writing center as I listen to the dark sea lap against the shore. I love Provincetown. We pass a man in tight satin shorts with better legs than Tina Turner. I glance back at The Pilgrim Monument, artificially lit and looking formidable. I have to laugh out loud. It’s not their turf anymore.
Trained as an attorney, Mona R. Washington writes and analyzes contemporary issues and situations through multiple lenses and ideologies. Ms. Washington is a graduate of Georgetown University's School Of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School. She is a playwright, and fan of all things chocolate.