The East Bay Express

starry sky

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

The fourteen-year old boy shared a small room with his older brother. In the room, there were two windows about four feet apart on separate walls.  The windows were totally bare except for pages of the East Bay Express that were taped across them. The carpet was old and brown. Yellow paint peeled away from the cracked ceiling. On nights such as this one when his older brother came home, the fourteen year would open his eyes as soon as his brother stepped in the room but he would still play sleep. He would put the cover over his head and fake snore as he heard the lamp being turned on. The gold chains being placed on the dresser, followed by the gold rings, the roll of money, and finally the grill. Then he would hear the lamplight turnoff.

Silence. Darkness. He was slowly dozing back to sleep.

“You been jacking off little nigga?”

Giggles! Then muffled laughter almost to the point of hysteria.

“Shhhhh. You gone wake up Mama and the girls,” the older brother said alluding to his mother and two younger sisters in the other room.

“Nah, I don’t be doing that.”

“Stop lying dammit. It’s hella hot in this room. You was probably jacking yo little dick before I came in here. Thinking about um. Um, what’s the girl name? LaTriece?…”

“I don’t know who you talking bout.”

“Oh you know who I’m talking about. The little dark skinned girl with the dimples.”


“Yes dammit, LaShalle.”

They whispered to one another as if they were in a very dark library, knowing that their mother was more than likely awake and if she was awake then she could definitely hear them through the walls.  But they kept on. The fourteen-year-old totally up now and smiling with every word he spoke.

“LaShelle don’t even go there no more. She moved to Antioch.”

“That don’t mean you can’t jack off to those memories.”

Muffled laughter into the pillow.

“You probably jack off with your left hand too huh? Just to switch it up huh?”

The fourteen-year-old couldn’t help it. He laughed out loud until he gagged. Just then their mother knocked on the door four times in rapid succession.

“GO TO SLEEP!” She said from the hallway.

“Sorry,” the fourteen-year-old said.

The older child said nothing.

They continued to whisper. The fourteen-year-old now fully into his story about N’yesha the new girl in school who sat on his lap at lunchtime and she didn’t even know him and she has a boyfriend. He propped himself up on his elbow and relayed the story as if it were the most salacious scandal the world had ever seen. It must have been because she found out he was on the basketball team, he reasoned. Of course that meant he had to tell his brother all about practice because the two of them were only in the same room together about once every three days so he had to cram everything in.  As soon as the fourteen-year-old began to tell his bro about the fight he almost had with Dwayne over a hard foul, the older brother said:


“Alright dude, you got class in the morning. Go to sleep.”

Thirty seconds later he was snoring leaving his little brother wide awake and in awe. It was crazy because in an ideal world the older brother would have class in the morning too. He would be a senior preparing to graduate and go off to college. He would obey curfew and have a job at Jamba Juice or Round Tables Pizza or something like that. But their world was absolutely not ideal. Their world was real and for at least one of them being a square was not an option. The fourteen-year-old’s eyes had now totally adjusted to the darkness and he would not be able to go back to sleep before his alarm clock went off. All he could do was listen to the rhythm of his big brother’s snoring, until the sun rays lit up the pages of the East Bay Express that were taped to the window.

-Roger Porter

Love Language


He had been going to group ever since he got out of the hole, however, he only participated in the conversation minimally. He said his name. He checked in. He briefly smiled when something was funny and that was the extent of his interactions. But what was being discussed in this session really struck him. The topic made him push his shoulder blades back hard against his chair. This talk about love languages was bizarre to him. It was both engaging and very hoakey at the same time. To have a whole conversation about humans show love was hilarious. He didn’t laugh though. He tried to never laugh out loud in the penitentiary. He felt like it was a liability. So he just smiled for a minute while he threw the concept of “Love Language” around in his head. Dr. Joanne was laying all of the languages out but none of them really resonated with him. She talked about physical touch and that one kind of made sense but it was still off in a sense.


There were eight other convicts there—four Mexicans, three blacks and a Cambodian. He was the only white guy. Presently people were being asked by Dr. Joanne to share their love language and he started to panic a little bit. He felt like whatever his was it hadn’t been discussed yet. There was a black inmate who was right before him and started going on and on about Quality Time. And how the essence of love is the time you spend with people because your voluntarily giving pieces of your life to someone. Then he started talking about how time is the most precious thing that we have and the white man knows that, which is why when you get in trouble he takes away your time and throws you in prison. The blacks said “Hmmmm” in approval and nodded their heads. It was all cool. It just gave him more time to think. By the time it was his turn he was ready.


“Violence,” he said. “My love language is violence.”


Dr. Joanne looked down her nose at him so he went on.


“I don’t mean like in a super tough guy kind of way. I just mean that everyone that has ever loved me has either kicked my ass or tried too. When my father was in between jobs he used to punch us in the face for not ironing our clothes, or talking back, or playing in the house or sleeping too long. Whatever we did was a problem you know. When he did have a job he would beat us for being ungrateful or wearing our shoes out too fast. Then when he didn’t come home my mother would beat us because she was worried or lonely or because she didn’t want us to be like him when we grew up. I got a little older and got bullied at school. One day I couldn’t take it anymore so I chased the bully home with a knife. When he finally came back to school, he wanted to be my best friend. It’s like until I pulled that blade on him I wasn’t a fucking human being you know. Sorry about the language Doctor. So after that he became my closest friend.


So a few years ago I got a woman. And uh, you know she’s pretty and all that. Things are going good. Then one day she gets on my case for drinking. Like she’s really screaming and crying and just going all out. And uh, I punch her. She falls. I panic and I go back to the bar to finish drinking. And that’s where they arrested me.

My point is, I loved her. It’s weird. I still love her. I just uh, I don’t know. Obviously, her love language is different than mine and uh, I need to spend some time learning a different language because I have 18 months left on my sentence and when I get out I’m never coming back to this fucking place again. Excuse my language.”

He smiled briefly.

“Thank you Chris,” Dr. Joanne said. “We’ll talk more about it next Wednesday. This concludes our group session guys. Thank you all. I really appreciated hearing your voices.”

-Roger Porter

And the lord sayeth



45ED8E1B-F202-492D-B1C9-91C9459DE499We kissed first. Then we talked about god later. I inquired more about her soul than her sex drive and thusly I became too much for her. She wanted to get back in bed and I wanted her to tell me about scripture. Explain to me how it is that God calmed down so much in the New Testament. Is it because he had a child? Do you think that made him compassionate? Without answering any of my questions, she sauntered back to my mattress which lay atop an old box spring on the floor. I hadn’t yet put my bed together because I had just moved into my apartment and I hate putting things together. I lack the patience and dedication. Which is why I think that all Ikea furniture stores should be burned down to the ground Old Testament style. She got to the edge of the mattress and crawled across it ever so slowly and it made me feel like Quavo in the “Working Me” video or like Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman”, but I wanted to feel like Jesus in the book of Matthew. This was not written.


She kissed me on my neck and then starred right at my waistline before asking “What you want me to do?” I said nothing and my silence was more truthful than any words I could have uttered out loud. I honestly didn’t want her to do anything. I just wanted to hear more about her summer in Jerusalem and her experience working on a doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University before she dropped out of the program. Then I wanted to know why she dropped out, and what did her parents say, and how bad are your student loans, and would you ever be willing to start a megachurch in order to pay them off? Before I could put more questions together she started to suck my dick so sloppily and with such vehemence that it legitimately frightened me. It didn’t scare me because we were having unprotected sex or because I figured that the technique that she was using had to have taken hundreds of hours of practice on dozens and dozens of dicks to master, but it scared me because I knew that God was watching. I saw him when I closed my eyes. And just like he spoke to the Holy Prophet Isaiah he spoke unto me. The Lord sayeth “Do not cum my son.” And I obeyed.


I wanted to talk but she didn’t. She felt rebuffed while I felt totally objectified. In fact, if we were anywhere but at my own place I would have left. I didn’t want to ask her to leave because I don’t think Jesus would have done that. He would have just laid there and refused all fellatio while making her put her soft brown titties back in a bra where they belonged. The conversation grew clumsier until she eventually played her favorite Spotify playlist on her iphone and fell asleep. Another thing that we didn’t talk about in the month that we had known one another was that she obviously had sleep apnea because she snored like a fucking grizzly.


What was the Lord trying to tell me? Why had he sent this woman of uneven faith into my life? And even though I had gone against his rules prohibiting premarital sex, his willingness to give me the strength not to cum inside of her ravenous maw, proved once again just how awesome of a god he is. For even in my most carnal moments the lord hath never forsaken me. I got down on my knees and began praying with my elbows on the mattress and both of my hands clasped together in the front of my nose. I prayed for continued strength and thanked him for his guidance. I took an extra blanket from the linen closet and slept humbly and comfortably on the living room floor. That night I vowed to fight harder to live up to his glory. I promised that the next mouth that I came in would be the mouth of my wife under the holy covenant of God.


It’s far too late


0CE6CB48-280B-43FF-96DB-83844D3F095CWhen one’s beautiful memories begin to drip with the blood of potential, and when one’s future is frightening and full of the torment that only unknown things can bring. And when these two inevitabilities, one’s past and one’s future, begin to collapse on a body unexpectedly; one throws his hands up hoping that he isn’t hit with something heavy enough to take him out. But one does not have faith because he has never learned faith. One does not have hope because he has never been taught hope. All one seems to have is his primitive instinct that enables him to try to save himself. He smiles through the suffering and checks in on other people all while he himself is being buried alive.


How do we master the art of fronting at such a young age when so few of us ever truly learn to love? We rarely learn how to give ourselves the attention that we require to grow. We don’t know how to appreciate what’s real yet we know how to be fake. And isn’t it a shame that so many of us die feeling unloved? So many of us are never taught how to be loved. We never learn how to be vulnerable enough to allow someone to carry us at least a part of the way.


This is the brief story of the long tragic demise of a man. An individual with a haunted past and a horrible future. This individual is currently being buried alive in pieces of the same structure that once protected him. His whole body is immersed in everything that he tried so hard to avoid. This individual is now totally out of options having realized that his death isn’t really his fault but he is the only one who is seconds away from dying—as far as he can see. He now begins to pray, but it’s too late. It’s far too late.

-Roger Porter

The First Time


black-couple-happy-in-bed-s-300x180The first time she feels comfortable enough to poot in your presence and you realize how difficult it must have been for her to suppress her humanity for all of those months. And then she looks at you with surprise but no hint of shame and the both of you begin to laugh hysterically. For you realize that she can never unbreak that wind and she will never again attempt to live up to society’s impossible expectations of what a woman should and should not do while being courted. From this moment forward you will regard her not merely as a love interest but as a human-being. As your potna. As your homie. You lean over and kiss her softly on her giggling cheek then breath in hard through your nose and you are almost overwhelmed because you know that if real love had a smell then this would undoubtedly be it.

A Bad One



When she finally came, she squirted so hard that it scared her. She squirted right on her boyfriend’s stomach as if she were the dude or something. And then she laughed. She actually laughed out loud while she straddled him. He tried to flip her on her back but she got up and went to the bathroom. Then she played with herself while she starred in the mirror wondering if she could do it again. She did. Not as hard as the first time but she managed to do it nonetheless. She was so focused. Just like those people that move things with their minds. She had harnessed all of her desire and all of her sexual fluids into one tiny spot and released it.


It was only about a week ago that she had seen Jadafire do it on a pornhub video that she watched while her boyfriend was in the shower for way too long. It amazed her so much she just had to try it out for herself and she got it. She flexed in the mirror. She felt bad, like a bad bitch, The Baddest Bitch, although she didn’t like to use that word. She had never been anything close to a hoe but she knew that she could be one if she wanted to and that gave her one more thing to feel confident about. Like car note paid off; check. Master’s Degree; check. House; check. Passport; check. Pussy control; check. She was everything and she loved it. She knew her worth and therefore she would never let anyone make her feel less than perfect. She blew herself a kiss in the mirror that she selected in the bathroom that she designed which sat in the house that she bought. She was The Baddest one alive and she knew it.



An Honest Woman


       He was the most promising thing that had ever happened to her nonexistent love life. He was marriage material, and it frightened her to think like that because she had never known anyone that had ever gotten married. Certainly not her mother who had her, and her sister by a former standout high school football player who eventually turned to cocaine and crystal-meth. Not her older sister who had gotten herself pregnant by a local hoodlum and want to be playboy who, when drunk, would send her pictures of his dick on snapchat. Not herself, she had never been proposed to by the boy who had impregnated her shortly after her 20th birthday and she had never wanted him to. He was an aspiring rapper who ate with his mouth open and didn’t believe in keeping a job. He had shown an intense interest in her when he met her at the bus stop. She remembered thinking that he was kind of funny looking and had a very thin long face like a camel. She wasn’t attracted to him but she loved the way he wanted her, the smile that he had given her, the crass words about the shape of her hips came out sounding rather sweet. She was even charmed by the way he had to keep pulling his pants up because he had forgotten his belt and his skinny jeans were a few sizes too big. She gave him her number. He called, they fucked a few times, she got pregnant, she told him, he never called again, he blocked her on Facebook, deactivated his Instagram and disappeared. She didn’t really care. Honestly she didn’t. He wouldn’t have made much of a father anyway. Besides she would rather raise her child by herself with no interference.

            But now she met this promising brotha at a church function. He was with his family but his soul still wandered. He stood in the pulpit briefly to tell the congregation about the boy’s camp that he had started and how he needed their help. “Give me your boys” he orated “and I will do everything in my power to make men of them.” She thought this was very corny but she was still intrigued. Her son was far too young to attend the camp but she still got his business card after the service anyway. She emailed him the next day, and when he didn’t respond to her satisfaction she called him at his job and left a message with his secretary. The whole time she thought about his cream colored suit and matching tie. She ultimately became impressed by the dramatic nature in which he spoke and his extensive knowledge of scripture, not to mention his youth. He had to be the youngest settled man she had ever seen. She envied his wife and his daughter. She wanted him for her bedroom and she wanted him for her son. She didn’t feel like she was worthy of all of him just yet but she felt like she deserved a little piece. He should be able to spare that. So she continued to call him at his job, and she visited his home church, she helped out at the fundraiser for his camp, and she emailed him inspirational quotes.

            Finally he began to open up about everything that his marriage was not, and she listened. She began to talk about her son, and he listened. She began to laugh hardily at all of his jokes. Even the ones that weren’t funny—especially the ones that weren’t funny. She called him sexy and said, “If your wife ever slips up then you know who to call.” He ended that conversation abruptly. So abruptly that she just knew that she had lost him and she cursed herself for it. But the next day he called back from his job and after several minutes of small talk he asked in a nervous, secretive tone if she wanted to come and see him every now and then. She said ok. He then gave her a location to meet him and she told him that she was looking forward to it.

            She felt extremely accomplished when he finally reciprocated her lust. She never felt bad at all. She felt contented in knowing that she could have a piece of something great. She felt like his touch would raise her above the predetermined fate of all of her foremothers. That if he left work to be with her for an hour then that would elevate her consciousness. And that after enough hours he would come home to her and teach her little guy how to tie a tie, go fishing, and catch a football while she cooked dinner and ironed his clothes. With this young ambitious man she would be able to press the reset button on her womanhood. She had gotten his attention. She earned her hour and now she would submit to him and he would be hers for as long as it took for him to be hers.


Litseen presents the best SF reading of the week. (via We Who Are About To Die)

Something from the archives.

We’ve asked our friends at to present our readers with their pick for the best reading of the week. The writers at Litseen cover the majority of the reading scene in San Francisco and we want to give you guys the cream of the crop, so Evan Karp has selected one reading that happened last week and one reading happening this week. His pick from this past week is Roger Porter reading his short story The African Dead: [youtube=http://www. … Read More

via We Who Are About To Die

Ms. Hershey’s Kiss


Roger Porter 

Note: This is a short story taken from The Souls of Hood Folk (2010), now available at

            I must say I like all the girls on your website but if I could only be in a room with one of them it would have to be Ms. Hershey’s Kiss, so baby this letter is for you. I love your style, your presence in the bedroom, and the way you carry yourself like you’re not the slut that you are. You’re the type of broad that I would be willing to spend a lot of money on- even more than I do now. I am a member of every website you regularly appear on, I have all your magazine shots on my wall, and I own all your movies including Wet Monkey, Cocoa Abyss, Ghetto Action 4, and your first leading role Melts in your Mouth. I feel like I have a good knowledge of your character on camera but I want to know how you are off screen. I want to know how good sex feels to you and why you can’t get enough, I mean what makes a whore like you tick? I plan on hooking up with you one day so guide me through a day in your life and let me know every slutty detail so the letter will get me through a lot of lonely nights. Also be sure to let me know the title and release date of your next film.



Love Always,

Thomas Goldstein


Dear Thomas,

                       I have to admit when I first read your letter I wanted to put it down but I couldn’t. I have never read anything from any fan before I read what you sent me. I normally would have ripped it to pieces after the second sentence however something empowered me and allowed me to get through it. When I think about it, what happened to me yesterday gave me the strength to endure you. So you want to know what makes me tick? You want me to take you through a day in my life? I hope you’re ready baby because I’m about to purge.

            When I woke up yesterday I was very sore because I had been shooting the previous day for about an hour. I don’t know why they make us film for so long when after the edit the scenes are never longer than eight minutes. I think it is so all the fools behind the camera can get off. I hate that because I have to make all these punk ass noises and act like I’m having the time of my life when in actuality I think about everything else in my life except what I’m doing. Like the song in the background, how much I’m going to get paid, how many people will see this movie, the good people I used to know, how I remember when I was still a virgin, and how much I must be letting my mother down.

            After a while they turned the cameras off to change positions. They asked me if I wanted to do a facial for $300 extra. So I said hell yeah- the guys got a kick out of that. During the climactic scene my mind started drifting. I started thinking about this field trip I went on in the 5th grade to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. It was exciting for me; even at the age of eleven I could appreciate Picasso and Monet. I think I held up the whole class for ten minutes when I first saw Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge. It tripped me out how it seemed so enchanted but real at the same time. When I saw that painting I didn’t want to leave –it was really talking to me. Besides that I had been a good girl the whole day- until it was time to get back on the bus. When we got outside it was so foggy that all you could see were the tires on the bus. It looked like the clouds had descended upon the earth so we could walk through them. So I said to my best friend Taylor who lived down the street from me and caught the bus to school with me everyday “Let’s run through the sky.” So with that we ran through the parking lot until Mrs. Jackson screamed after us. Taylor got scared and ran back but I didn’t I turned my face up toward the sky and smiled. Then out of nowhere drops of rain began pelting my face.

            After I took a shower and got dressed I walked as fast as I could to my car, by the time I got to the parking lot however some of the actors were already outside waiting on me. Some fool was smiling talking about “What’s up Ms. Hershey’s Kiss. Later on tonight the fellas and some of your home girls are going to rent a hotel room and have a party. We figured we’d do some practicing for our scene tomorrow. I got pills, drank, smoke, powder, whatever you do we got it— so what’s hapnin?” I told him straight up, “First off them bitches ain’t my home girls, I don’t kick it with them hoes. Secondly hell naw I aint kickin it with you. You don’t even know my name.” Then I smashed off.

            I can’t remember the last time I had sex off camera. I was about to get down a few weeks ago with Will this dude I’ve been dating for six months, I guess you can say we’re in a relationship, well technically we are but it just sounds awkward saying that. Well at any rate I was hella bored and hella drunk one night so I decided to call him over. So he came through and he was acting like he didn’t know why I called him over so I decided to get things crackin then he started pulling away like I was the dude and he was the woman. After that he started talking about this is just the wrong situation and our first time should reflect our feelings for each other. Finally he gave me a kiss on the cheek and left. Yeah right I heard that game before all he is trying to do is get me sprung before things get serious so when they do he’ll have the upper hand. That’s the same shit Taylor tried to pull when we started talking in the 10th grade. I was a virgin then and he was acting like he didn’t want to be my first. He would say he was waiting for the right time, and I was too smart for him, and I deserved better than him- like we wasn’t from the same hood. We had been together for a year when Junior Prom came around and he said that would be the night. But the week before the Prom he got in an argument with someone during a dice game and they shot him through the heart. The prom was the day of his funeral so needless to say I didn’t go.

            The funeral was full of crying pretty girls one of whom claimed to be pregnant with his child. I guess she wasn’t too good for him. Everyone there was crying, males and females alike. Everyone except me because I didn’t give a fuck, or at least I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t. Anyways, that’s why I tried not to bother with dudes unless money was involved because they are raised to lie. Deceiving women is part of being a man so I decided to flip the script and have the actor in the scene with me and all the people watching at home believe I am in ecstasy when the truth is if I could commit suicide and still go to heaven I would have done that shit right after my mother had that stroke and passed away my first year in college     

            I was on my own after that so I had to get the bills paid and to be truthfully honest going back to school was the last thing on my mind. I have always been an artist at heart so I auditioned for every ballet in the area but for whatever reason I couldn’t get on with any of them. I think it was because I couldn’t erase the death of my mother from my mind, which made my dancing look really forced and unnatural. A few of my friends at the time were strippers so I justified it by saying to myself it was dancing and dancing is an art form. I auditioned and got a job. I hated it but the money was good. Every night there would be recruiters from various magazines, websites, and adult film companies. I never even accepted a business card until the club got shut down because a few girls were engaging in illegal activity on the job. By then my credit card bills were sky high so I told myself I would just do one movie to pay them off. But after I did it a few times I came to the realization that no other job would pay me as much as I was getting paid so I kept doing it. That was two years ago. I ain’t slept with a man off camera since.

            I met Will in a library. He was a librarian and while checking out my books he noticed I chose America, and The Trial. He said, “So you like Kafka huh?” At first I thought he was a fan trying to make small talk and then ask for my number real smooth like you guys always do. That was until he started talking about existentialism like a college professor or something. He was going on about the battle between the individual and an oppressive society and everything, and I responded to every idea he threw out there which shocked the shit out of him I’m sure, but then it worked pretty well because I like shocking people. We ended up talking for almost an hour and it turned out he had to drop out of college for financial reasons too. The connection was so intense it scared me. So without him even asking I gave him my real number and my real name.

            Through our many conversations it occurred to me that he had no idea who I was or what I did. So one night during the third hour of our telephone conversation I blurted out “You know I’m a porn star right?” At first he thought I was joking, then he was disappointed that I waited so long to tell him, then as strange as it may sound he accepted it and he accepted me. He is the only person in my life right now that accepts me. And I swear I didn’t even believe him until I got off work yesterday. We had planned to meet up for dinner at 8:00 and when I got to the restaurant he was already there— early as usual. But something was very peculiar; he was sitting at the table sweaty and nervous looking.

            He looked as if he were about to vomit. So I sat down and we began talking but he was stuttering and mispronouncing his words so I asked him what was wrong. Then as if that were his cue he got down on one knee and proposed, and I said damn. I wanted to cry so bad but I couldn’t. All I could manage to say was yes. We’re getting married in May.

            So to answer your question my next movie should be coming out in a few months I don’t know what the title will be nor do I care because it will be the last movie I will ever appear on. I figure with his library job and if I get a nice quiet office job we will make out just fine. Hell, I might even be able to go back to school and get my BA in Art History. I know that it would be naïve to think that I will ever be able to leave that life completely behind because of loyal fans such as yourself, however I am now truly ready to live. I’m not trying to be a celebrity and I’m not about to run anymore.           

                                                                                                    Sincerely Yours,

Mrs. Hershey’s Kiss


P.S. I hope this gets your rocks off.

The Busted Fighter

Roger Porter

The Busted Fighter


          Dorian lay awake on the couch gazing up at the ceiling like a fallen fighter looking up from the canvass into the eyes of the referee who is counting him out. Dorian couldn’t smoke weed anymore since his urine was being tested every month and he was never much of a drinker, which left sleep as the one high that he could enjoy in his solitude. If he was asleep, he reasoned, he wouldn’t have to keep looking at his cell phone and checking his emails hourly to see if he had been hired at that construction site. All manhood is is a feeling, he thought, and it’s hard to feel like a man when you don’t have any income coming in. To make matters worse, he had been cleaning all day in an attempt to stay busy. He washed the dishes, waxed and mopped the floors, cleaned the toilet, vacuumed the house, and did laundry. All the while awaiting a phone call that he knew would never come.

            He knew he wouldn’t get the position as soon as he saw the smirk on the face of the white boy who interviewed him. He was a chubby little guy who looked to be about 19 years old with a cluster of freckles on the bridge of his nose. When Dorian shook his hand he was taken aback by how soft it was, as if he had never worked a day in his life.

            But Dorian didn’t panic, nor did he show any other sign of discomfort. He answered every question with a quick response and a bright grin. In fact Dorian was doing so well that he surprised himself. Everything was going exactly how he prayed it would go the previous night until the young interviewer paused. He looked at one page on the clipboard then at the next one with a puzzled expression on his face. Then after several torturous seconds he asked Dorian about the prolonged gap in his employment history. He responded to the inquiry by looking the young interviewer dead in the eyes and telling him without hesitation, or shame, that he had been incarcerated for ten months of his life. But, Dorian added, while in jail he had managed to earn his GED and during the three months he’d been out he had already began making regular payments on his restitution, and in addition to all that he was very qualified for the position. He knew how to work the machinery and he knew how to deal with the people because he had done it for the two years preceding his arrest at another site.

            As Dorian spoke the interviewer nodded as if he was impressed but Dorian couldn’t help but to notice him lean back further into his seat creating the maximum distance between the two of them, however Dorian continued as if he hadn’t noticed at all. The whole felony thing was a mistake, a misunderstanding, his life had temporarily gone off track but that didn’t explain who he was as a person. Dorian smiled while the manager pursed his lips together even tighter.

            The rest of the interview seemed to be a mere formality and Dorian felt as though he was being patronized for his time. He felt as though the interviewer was looking at him like he had a big “C” on his head—a “C” that could have stood for criminal, convict, or coon. It didn’t matter which one because as he sat there in his black cotton button up shirt, cheap tie, and five year old gray slacks that he was surprised he could still fit, he felt like an equal mixture of all three.

            After the last question he shook the man’s limp hand and was once again repulsed by it being so smooth and without callus. Dorian continued with the empty formalities playing the naive optimist until the very end, feeling somewhat empowered by the increasing discomfort that his presence was causing this white man who now refused to look up from his clipboard.

            “So when should I be hearing from you?” Dorian asked.

            “Uh, we’ll make a decision by no later than Friday.”

            It was a Thursday afternoon and Dorian knew better than to get his hopes up but they seemed to rise up naturally.

            After a few more moments of self pity he logged onto Craigslist and applied for two more jobs that he was certain he would never get. As he glanced at the time in the lower right hand corner of the screen he noticed that Nicole was half an hour late coming home and then his mind flooded with shame for even noticing. Lately Dorian had been completely consumed with his girlfriend Nicole, which troubled him because he didn’t know if it was because of his love for her or because of his unemployment. There was no doubt that for the whole ten months he was incarcerated and the entire three months since he had gotten out, she had been the only positive thing in his life and he told her that as often as once a day. When he first got out this made her smile but for the past few weeks whenever he told her it almost seemed to agitate her, as if she wanted to say something in return but couldn’t find the words. He needed to get a job, not for himself, but to make her feel proud of him.

            He slung himself back on the couch, turned on the television, and flipped through the channels until he saw a classic boxing match, then he stopped. He immediately recognized the bout as Oscar De La Hoya vs. Ike Quartey and smiled genuinely. It was his favorite welterweight fight of all time. It was De La Hoya’s left hook Vs. Quartey’s straight right; it was Quartey dancing around the ring Vs. De La Hoya’s come forward style; it was flashy Vs. consistent; it was heart Vs. heart with each man falling to the canvass and each man getting up again. To Dorian the fight symbolized what manhood was all about, you always get back up.

            He watched the fight up until about the tenth round, dozing in and out of consciousness as each man tried to land his big shot, until he finally went to sleep. He dreamed of being a professional fighter himself and Nicole sitting ringside at all of his fights with about three, maybe four children sitting around her. After he won his third belt and unified the title she came into the ring with the children for the post fight interview and Dorian dedicated his victory to her.  As the cameraman zoomed in on her she blushed and looked down at the bright blue canvass beneath her feet. As he leaned in to kiss his wife in the dream he heard Nicole, in real life, unlocking the screen door to the apartment.

            He sat up just in time to see her dark silhouette in the doorway.  Nicole took a few steps into the house, her heels lightly slapped against the white tiles in front of the door, then she stopped abruptly as if each step was causing her great pain. Dorian could now see from the glow of the television being cast onto Nicole’s face that her eyes were a deep red which meant that she had been drinking, but he could also tell from her still erect posture that she was not drunk. Her reluctance to come all the way inside the house took away Dorian’s wind like a right uppercut landed underneath the heart. He gasped for air then stood up, still woozy from his nap, still stinging from the blow but somehow he managed to ask;

            “What’s wrong?”

            She turned around and shut the screen door before shutting the wooden one, taking just as much time as she pleased. She turned on the light and said rather mournfully but with steady tone;

            “We need to talk.”

            A left hook landed to the ribs that nearly doubled him over and she was still coming forward.

            “About what?” he shot back but he knew exactly what she meant.

            Nicole took a deep breath and stepped into the middle of the living room.

            “I just can’t put up with this shit no more,” she cried. “I mean I work way too hard to be supporting a grown ass man…”

             “Wait hold on you act like I ain’t tryin…”

               It was a fight that Dorian should have seen coming but he didn’t. He could tell that she had been emboldened by the alcohol but he also knew that it was not the alcohol speaking for her, on the contrary, she was using the alcohol to help release three months of pressure, perhaps even thirteen months of pressure, perhaps even more.

             “Well god damn it you need to try harder! I mean how is it that I can get two jobs but you can’t get one? You don’t be applying yourself that’s the problem. You think just because you been in the pen the world supposed to feel sorry for your ass? Why? You the one that did what you did to get in there and it ain’t nobody fault but yours.”

            He was hurt. She caught him with a straight right to the cheek that buckled his knees but he was too proud to clench. He loaded up a desperate punch, put his head down and let it fly.

            “It’s a recession going on! It ain’t that easy!”

            The blow landed but there wasn’t enough power behind it to back Nicole up. She went in for the kill.

            “I’m sorry Dorian. I just need some space right now. I can’t do it. I need you to move out.”

            Dorian was looking for another right but she dropped him with a left hook to the jaw. He fell forward onto his face and his body shook on the canvass. There was no need for the referee to even count—he was out cold. He would never be the same fighter, he would never be the same man, and the only positive thing that ringside observers could say about his performance was that he showed a lot of heart but he just didn’t have what it takes to be a champion.