Wheelbarrowers by Justin F. Robinette
cw: sexual imagery, homophobia
My dad put me in a wheelbarrow when I was seven and rolled me around in between doing yard work. It was an accident, but I got hurt when he hit a rock and I toppled over. From then on, I had a crescent-shaped scar under my chin. At the time, I was too young to put two-and-two together that it was a lesson about how men would treat me, because he was my dad.
Being gay, I was treated like shit, but while in school, not in the good kind of way. Although it impacted my grade, I took a half-point for gym each day, instead of full credit, since I refused to shower after class. I was the last to develop certain hair, so whenever I undressed, the boys let me have it. After school, the boys beat me up at the pick-up spot directly in front of my mom. They told her it was because her kid was gay, and although I said I wasn’t, my mother knew. At home, she told my father, who tried to teach me how to punch. I couldn’t hold a candle to the other boys. They pounded one side of my face so flat that just my eye looked out like a frog. Afterward, my mom and dad had my cheekbone reconstructed. They hoped it would be healed into a pristine cheek. They silently hoped.
My mom and dad were adamant that I join the baseball team, but the boys made me team manager, which meant I didn’t play. Instead, I served the other boys who played, like bringing them snacks when they were hungry. After a game, you were supposed to form a line, shake hands with the opposing team, and say, “Good game.” One of the boys on the other team spit on his hand, smacked me across the face with it, said it was his semen, that I liked it, that I was a fag. These reiterations of the same lesson learned: how the boys will treat you.
In college, I accused another male student of sexual harassment when he was too rough. The administrator who found him “not responsible” was a woman with a giant rainbow flag on her door. She took me aside to tell me she thought I had a thing for the man I accused. She told me she saw it all the time. For her, it always came down to how the boys will treat you. She looked at me sadly. I’ll remember it to this day, she said that I was “claiming it’s rape because the top rejects you.” Back then, I was overly concerned and distraught over the fact she would think I would want to be with this boy. I didn’t want to be his boyfriend. He was too clean-cut. Almost a geek. I was into harder and older.
My first real boyfriend and I met on a gay sex app.
“Hey man,” I wrote.
“DL only,” he said. I ignored that.
“Pic?” I asked.
“I have one, how about you?”
“You messaged me,” I said.
He sent a pic of his body so I sent him mine. “You look a little femi,” he said. “Are you out?”
“Yes,” I said, “I guess I’m okay with it.”
“Don’t you think the idea of a man marrying another man is just a little bit embarrassing?” he wrote.
“I don’t think I would mind,” I replied.
“What’s something you are embarrassed about?” he wanted to know. “The worst thing you can think of?” I didn’t answer at first.
“I’m down for anything,” I said.
When we moved in together after just three months, we were dating, or maybe I just needed a roommate. He called me and told me to wait for him and his friend at home.
“Sure,” was all I said. When they arrived, I blew my boyfriend on the bed, on my back, and he finished. He was getting hungry and wanted to go to dinner at La Fetta Italian Restaurant. I was busy doing the gay version of “wheelbarrowing,” taking multiple loads while on your back.
“You like being just a mouth?” our friend said. He held my nose for almost two minutes before he relented.
“Just hurry up,” my boyfriend called. There was this: I’m gay so they knew I’d like it. Additionally, I was really gay… It’s fine by me because now I do like it.
Justin Robinette lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has published short fiction in the winnow magazine where he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (prose) in 2021, and in Literary Heist, Misery Tourism, Rhodora Digital Magazine, RFD Magazine, Angel Rust Magazine, and Apocalypse Confidential. Short fiction is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys and Beyond Queer Words: A Collection of Short Stories. He also published short fiction in the Erotic Review magazine, short horror fiction in Danse Macabre, Datura Literary Journal, Horror Sleaze Trash, and his short story was the opening story collected in HauntedMTL’s horror anthology, Queer as Hell (2021).