YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN IN THE BOYFRIEND VILLAGE
by TASHA CORYELL AND BRIAN OLIU
You are sitting down to read the newest installment of Boyfriend Village, brought to you by Black Warrior Review. You are thinking about how kind it is to have Black Warrior Review produce Boyfriend Village in honor of writer, editor, and friend Zach Doss, who passed away in 2018. You remember that his book, Boy Oh Boy won the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction and is coming out soon from Red Hen Press. You are good at remembering.
You are in an apartment in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with cinderblock walls. Instead of a table, you have a countertop that separates your kitchen from your living room. It is not the most perfect apartment, but you love it because it is yours alone.
Before you begin to read, there are a number of soul sucking activities that you should be doing instead. You are thinking of applying to PhD school. You need to finish your book. You need to finish grading your students’ papers. You should eat some greens.
You don’t do any of that.
Instead, you buy a new pair of Vans online even though you’ve been ordering delivery cheeseburgers a little too much lately, and the delivery fee along with tip is more than a little egregious. You recognize the delivery driver from your dating app and neither of you acknowledge this.
You try cutting your own hair because you think if you could have the exact right hair then you could be the exact right person. It turns out this is wrong because you don’t have the skills to give yourself the exact right hair and end up revising endlessly like a chameleon who is trying to get a beautiful boyfriend.
You think reading this issue will be better with vodka, so you walk to the corner store with the pickles in a bag and the hunks of pizza and you buy as many flavored minis as you can: rootbeer flavored vodka, vanilla flavored vodka, basically, anything except vodka flavored vodka, because who has time for that these days? There is enough bitterness in the world because, hell, you’re in it, you joke, but your friends know that this is just something that you say.
You feel loved around your friends.
You eat donuts in dark kitchens on Saturday mornings, and even though you’ve already eaten two donuts, you eat a third, and I am here to tell you that you should’ve eaten a fourth.
You watch the football game on Saturday in a bar that is painted dark green and smells like a mixture of cigarette smoke and bleach, the combination of which is somehow worse than those things on their own. You don’t care about the semantics of football, the rules of points, but you do love the quarterback’s giant chest tattoo that everyone else hates. The truth of it is that other people have bad taste.
You worry. You worry that you will never be a successful writer, that no one will ever love you, that you won’t have enough money to pay your bills. You worry about your student loans, about your mom, about politics.
You have a lot you need to be doing and instead you go see a movie featuring a handsome superhero. You love him. He loves you if only for those moments that you’re staring at him on the screen.
You call your mom. Your mom is effusive in her love and you appreciate it because you know that not everyone has a mom like this.
You worry that you, like all things, are ephemeral. It is so easy for a person to be forgotten, left behind.
When you enter the Boyfriend Village, you see yourself in there. Some of the boyfriends are killing each other, making violent love to each other, plotting against one another. Not you. Not your boyfriend. Your boyfriend is allergic to wearing a shirt and it’s great because you love his perfect chest tattoo. Your boyfriend thinks you are the best goddamn thing in the village.
“I will always be here for you,” your boyfriend says.
“Don’t say things you don’t mean,” you respond.
But he means it, he does, and he will be in this village with you forever.