Black Boys Are 'Blonde' in the 'Moonlight'
By Ronald E. Lynch, Jr. @atlasrey | Illustration by Ethan X. Parker @EthanDrawsStuff
Long before Frank Ocean streamed an ENDLESS conclusion to an era or Tarell Octavian let the world in on a quiet expression of discovery with “In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”, or even before I had a pulse on queerness, I found intimacy from a boy as I excavated who I was when I wasn’t trying to realize the versions of myself people would want to exist.
Then he was gone.
Since then, I’ve never been able to explain how the breaths at 26 taste no differently from the pain that he left me with at 18. That was until BLONDE and MOONLIGHT arrived to help Black boys like me reckon with the holiness of heartbreak.
Black art forever serves as the conjuring of magic that lay dormant in our aura, because in it, exists the iterations of ourselves that we have tucked away because we’ve lost the faith to cherish our connection to pain. So we commemorate the art that reflects us when we couldn’t see ourselves by offering simple and chaotic testimonies to bestow to someone what we wish we would’ve been imparted with, but are, instead, now responsible for saving someone else from compounded devastation caused by an uncomfortable truth, then a breaking heart.
With hopes you don’t spend 8 years trying to erase infinities,
This is my love letter to you.
I live in a nervousness when I watch MOONLIGHT because it has a way of imagining for me what I could never speak, honestly, from my mouth. Because of this, my mind battles the screams of what ifs planted in its blaring silence. When not in battle, I find a home in the scenes that my then-green imagination could never access, just to check the floor of possibility. Every time I stop, I’m back in my dorm swimming under the moon and recounting the memories and missteps, as I live on repeat for 6 months in 2008.
Sitting with this discomfort makes it is hard to watch “Little”,” Chiron”, and “Black” grapple with, amongst many things, knowing self while being carved into by a light skin, curly hair Black boy who shouldn’t have seen them, but decided to anyway. The characters need for one another reverberates in the quietest moments of their desire for affection.
My light skin, curly hair Black boy, Dylan, commands my memories, as I stab laughter out of his body with gentle fingers that swirl around his pits, stomach, and soul. We are engaged in intimacy that straight Black boys were never supposed to find with one another, but constructs blur when touch supersedes the need for air. I won’t locate oxygen again until he is leaving my dorm, months later, angry because half of the 625 dollar ticket he is responsible for is “actually more than the 300 dollar check” I wrote; that, or it was easier to hide his hurt there, rather than be vocal about heartbreak when all of the love that we shared are found in silent memories.
This aberration of love, time, and hurt is split by the honesty that lives in a cruel aftertaste of the film that rages, quietly, to the echoes of Frank Ocean’s Godspeed; "This love will keep us through blinding of the eyes, silence in the ears, darkness of the mind."
This film’s gift to us is silence and passion, so I hold my breath and keep loving on a ghost.
I don’t remember how we start playing this game of chicken, or why I agree, but Dylan is now behind the wheel of my car speeding down a low-lit, winding road and our eyes are locked. There is a peace that I find staring at him, because prior to those moments, I don’t know if I knew what it felt like to be visible. I want to live, but I’m comfortable when we play roulette with our lives, because he sees me, even if he doesn’t see the oncoming traffic. He swerves, and I swear I remember BLONDE playing the soundtrack to our recklessness, so I pantomime last words that sting like “Forgot to tell you...how much I vibe with you, and we don't gotta be solo.”
Dylan and I are lost somewhere between “Why you pretending? You trying to put on a show for me, Black?” and “Who is you, Chiron?”. I think we are both holding on to sweet memories of probability because I don’t even blink when the gringa presses her mouth against his. His eyes plead “If you could see my thoughts you would see our faces.” I laugh, knowing that we have to be the people the world thinks. So I watch her stomp the embers out of our possibility, only now we are at the beach and Dylan leans in for a kiss, but it wasn’t a kiss, It was a coded invitation that I don’t recognize or know how to accept, so I move.
Being honest would’ve been easier had I known “Juan” would stand at my side, and teach me that “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can't let no one make that decision for you." It is all I would have needed to know to stand still in the moonlight, but instead, I played “knock down stay down” with his feelings for me, while he walked into the arms of my best friend asking “what would you recommend I do?”.
I did my best to outrun the heaviness that has stirred in my chest all of this time, but the boy that I failed to love fast enough, still found permanence in the art that makes me feel like I've had it's acquaintance and his love for years. The art is our only meeting grounds when he doesn’t accompany me in my dreams. When he does, he sings loudly and sprints quickly through the streets; I trail him and struggle with keeping my breath and his pace, but am always grateful for his presence. We’ve long since stopped running together, but the vibes of BLONDE and MOONLIGHT have done a better job of outpacing our past while keeping us together, because when it's queer, even if you aren't aware it is, the universe is kind enough to let chaos blur into order thru the possibility of art.
I am dreaming of him again, wondering why my dreams look like two young black boys, tumbling in the grass under the Pink + White Miami sky?
. . .
The queer thing about heartbreak is when you are a boy loving a boy the end feels like the next step in an illimitable memory. Written out of the possibility of Black love, the first time we often see ourselves sharing it is done so explicitly for the eyes and desires of a vengeful audience. We learn from 26-minute videos that our love will be quick, so we have to be wild and passionate.That’s why Black boys who love Black boys cannot so easily erase one another because it is often in these short, edenic relationships we find and share home.
Love, which is always to include heartbreak, reminds us how godly we are. It is our penance from delighting from the “Tree of Life”. Only we did not become immortal, our devastations did. Honoring those devastations are what makes it possible to emerge unscathed on the shores of time with blue skin and blonde hair honoring our failings to the Moon and her rays by achieving love; and at all cost, protecting it even when it has left us ravished.
Ronald E. Lynch, Jr. is a writer, editor, and fearless Afro-futurist educator from the land of Houston, Texas. He is committed to helping Black, Latinx, and/or queer youth find liberation in the ways that make the most sense to their agency and survival. Ron is an alumnus of Morehouse College where he studied Cinema, Television, and Emerging Media Studies & Film and Spanish. He is a co-founder and co-director of The Black Teacher Association. More importantly, Ron loves his little raggedy children. They have taught him more things than he could’ve ever wish to have taught them.