The following is an excerpt from the memoir God Save the Queen Diva! by Big Freedia with Nicole Balin.
“WHAT’S UP,” I yawned from behind the glass partition one night at about 3 a.m. at the Middle Store. This kid set down chips, a Snickers, and a Big Shot pineapple cold drink on the counter and followed with a couple of dollar bills.
“Two ninety-eight,” I said. He started searching his pockets for some change, I looked at his face for the first time. His hazel eyes were intense and his mouth slightly slack. I couldn’t help but study the majestic wavy curls that framed his face. Lawd, you cute, I thought, suddenly perking up. He was patting the pocket of his Sean John button-down, coming up empty. “Don’t worry, I got you,” I said.
“That’s what’s up!” he said, flashing his huge smile. His lips were positively kissable. “Thank you!”
I had never been one to flirt. As a gay boy in the hood, I learned early that throwing game at another boy could get you a beatdown. But I was twenty-one and getting tired of being undercover. It was like I was out and everyone knew I was gay, but I was told not to be too flamboyant and my relationship status was ignored completely. Somehow, courage came over me, because I uttered, “You so cute,” and then added: “Here, take this,” as I slid him a note with my number.
“Cool, cool,” he said, placing the piece of paper into his wallet and walking out the door. Right before the door shut, he turned around and said: “I’m Hasan, but call me Hockey. What’s your
“Freddie!” I closed that place down thinking of the boy who came in that night, with the cute fade haircut.
When I got home that morning, I had a little extra skip in my step. Every time my phone buzzed, I hoped it was Hockey. Finally, he called. We talked for hours. When I got off the phone, I realized my body had broken out in a sweat. I had about an hour to sleep before I had a decorating gig for a family down the street. Blowing up red and silver balloons, all I could think of was Hockey.
When I got home, I called him. “Come see me tonight,” I said. By this point, my mom had started dating this man Keith. He was a postman and none of us liked him. It was just his attitude, like he thought he was too good for my momma’s kids. But Momma liked him and that meant she spent a lot of night away and it was just me, Crystal, and Adam. I had never had a guy come to my house. It was a bold move for me, but one I was ready to make.
“Okay,” Hockey said. “Can you get my cab?”
“Sure, baby,” I said, giving him my address. “Come down the back alley of the house tho’, ya heard me?” I didn’t want my neighbors to see him. He texted when he arrived. I ran down the back steps and paid the cabdriver. His curly ringlets looked gorgeous in the soft light coming off the moon. I led him into the backyard and we sat together on my futon and lit some herb. He explained
that his family would kill him if they knew he was with a guy.
“I’m not gay, anyway,” he said.
“It’s all right,” I said, touching his arm. Finally, he settled back against the cushions of the couch. I leaned in so close that I could almost taste his breath. “In fact, it’s even better.” I think it’s because as a young kid, I was surrounded by straight boys, so they were the ones I had my first crushes on.
We made it into my bedroom and got to business. He leaned in and put his wet, glistening lips on mine. Hockey spent the next few hours introducing me to sexual positions I didn’t know existed. He was younger than me, but way more experienced. That night awakened something in me. Before that, sex was forbidden. It was secretly feeling up red-skinned Joseph in his bed when we were supposed to be studying.
That night was the first time I cared for someone and felt it was reciprocated. And, though my momma sure wouldn’t have approved of it in her house, the sex wasn’t something I felt ashamed of. It felt intimate in a way I hadn’t experienced before.
Over the next few months, I saw Hockey almost every day. If my mom was home, he’d come over for dinner and leave before bed. Ms. V was very strict about sex, didn’t matter if you were straight or gay: “No one but me has sex under this roof,” she’d say. If she wasn’t coming home, I would sneak Hockey into the house. Crystal was the only one who knew the deal, so she’d let him in through the back door if I wasn’t home from work yet.
But Hockey was adamant about not telling anyone about our relationship. He said he had cousins who would kill him. I reconciled being undercover because I was crazy for the guy. I hoped that, in time, he’d come around and so would his family.
One day in December, Hockey just straight-up vanished. I called him from work one night and left him a message. He didn’t hit me back all night, which was very unlike him. After twenty-four hours, his phone started to go right to voice mail—and I started to worry. Three days passed and nothing, no word. I was starting to tear my hair out.
A few days later—and still not hearing from him—I summoned the courage to walk to the projects and knock on some doors. “You know Hasan?” I asked some young kid passing me in the courtyard of the project.
“Hasan?” he said. “Nah.” A woman walked by with a laundry basket under her arm and two kids behind her. My stomach felt like it might fall out. “You know Hasan?” I managed to get out. She just shook her head and grabbed the hand of one of her kids.
I don’t remember feeling so profoundly despondent before. Part of it was that it was my first love. I had known longing and unrequited crushes, but this was love, which meant my heart was broken. I continued to call every few hours for the next couple of weeks, feeling like I was going insane, dialing over and over again, to no avail. Eventually the phone got turned off completely.
I don’t know if I ever got over that bitch, but at some point in early 2003, the pain dissipated enough that I could start to move on.
Just as I started to emerge from the haze of depression, something crazy happened. I was getting ready for a show at Detour. Uncle Percy had sewn studs up and down the front of this new Gap jean jacket for me. I brushed back my hair, applied some lip gloss, and walked over to the club. By the time I got there, there was already a line around the block. More and more nights were sold out.
I circulated through the crowd, waving to friends. “Hey, Freddie.” This neighborhood kid, Ronald, was suddenly in front of me. “You need some smoke?”
“Nah, I’m good, baby, thank you,” I said, and then as I stepped past him, I locked eyes across the room with a boy who looked exactly like Hockey. I thought my knees were going to buckle—and then in an instant, he disappeared. For a second I thought I could be hallucinating. I clinched my fists. I pushed through a group of girls, almost knocking one over, and started racing to the corner spot where I thought I saw him.
Suddenly Katey was in front of me. “What’s up, girl?” she said. Seeing her jarred me back into reality. “Coolin’, I’m fine,” I said.
“I didn’t ask how you was,” Katey said and laughed. “Okay,” I said, smiling in an attempt to disguise my agitation. “See you in the back,” I said and walked away. Addie and Monney
were already there. I fired up a fat blunt and fell into a cloud of haze.
“You’re up, Freddie!” I heard Addie yell and I put out the blunt and ran onstage.
When I got home that night, I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. When I looked at the number, I recognized it. It was Hockey.
“Was that you? At the club?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Where the fuck have you been?” I said, my hand shaking.
“Atlanta,” he said.
“And you couldn’t fucking call?” I said, trying not to cry.
“Sorry, Freddie,” he said. “Me and my brother had to leave to go stay with family. It was sudden.” Pause. “Can I come over?”
“Yeah,” I said, my heart pounding with excitement. I had never felt so angry and overjoyed at the same time in my whole life. When I hung up, I suddenly burst out crying.
The sex that night was more passionate than I ever thought possible. All that emotion for six months was released. I held him close all night in bed, but I knew I could never trust him again.