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                The only reason you get views

                Is you’re another white guy

                Who people ship with his friend

                Cause they think it’s kawaii

                “Decent bars,” Kim remarks in passing, somewhat ironically.

                “Hmm,” Kanye replies, chewing on a slice of pizza, “and he’s self-aware.”

                Kanye has no clue how he got here. He’s watched about 3 ‘roast yourself’ challenges so far. He’s not normally one for mindlessly consuming Youtube, but here he is, eating pepperoni pizza, watching a bunch of white boys attempting to rap. This guy is probably the best one he’s seen, which isn’t saying much.

                The man – Dan’s his name, he thinks – enters into a particularly speedy verse, and Kanye’s somewhat taken aback. He’s actually decent. A bit of refinement, and he might verge on being good.

Your celebrity crush was J-law, but now it’s Evan P?

                What the fuck even is your sexuality?

                The pizza settles a bit funny in his stomach. It takes him a few seconds to pin down the emotion. Jealousy. He’s jealous. He’s jealous of anyone who can freely allude to their homosexuality. Or bisexuality, as seems to be the case here.

                He gazes from the computer to Kim. Kim doesn’t even know she’s a beard. He thinks briefly of Riccardo Tisci. He reels a bit. The man on the screen, bless him, pulls him out his self-pity.

                I’m gonna go masturbate and cry into a slice of pizza (feelings!)

                Kanye takes another bite and laughs. Laughs. It’s the first time he’s done that in a long time. Kim startles a bit at the noise, then goes back to reading.

                Kanye can’t help it, when the video finishes, he watches more of him. He’s pretty. Very pretty, he comes to realise. In a few of his older videos, he can see Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy posters. He smiles a bit at that, too.

                

                “Dan, what’s wrong?”

                Phil bustles through to the living room, concerned. Dan’s at the dining table, laptop open, sobbing.

                Phil gets close to the laptop and. Oh.

                “Is he serious?”

                Dan can’t respond, too busy crying. Phil shakes his shoulders a bit.

                “Dan, reply to him!”

               

               

                Dan cries again.

                

                “Dan, please stop crying.”

                Dan doesn’t hear Phil, too busy crying himself to sleep.

                -

                Dan opens the door, and yep. He has a semi.

                The man, looming at their doorway looks like he’s a statue carved out of ebony. His head gleamed in the sun, like polished marble. The whites of his eyes like opal. His pupils like caramel. His figure like... Dan was running out of quasi-poetic things to say. Hand like tree roots. Or something.

                It takes him a few seconds to realise that Kanye’s hand is outstretched, expectant. He’s dreamed of this moment. It happens in slow motion. They make flesh on flesh contact, and Kanye is warm. Warm and strong and calloused. He can feel both their pulses beat together, discordant.

                “Uh… hi…. Hi… Mister West, Mister West, Mister fresh, Mister, by himself he’s so impressed, I mean damn did you even see the test, you got…”

                “Yeah, hi,” the other man says, quite firmly.

                Phil cringes from behind them both.

                “Come in!”

                “Yeah… yeah, okay.”

                When Kanye makes his way through to the living room, he finally notices Phil standing dumbly by the door. He stretches out his hand, again.

                “You’re his roommate Phil, yeah? Nice to meet you.”

                Phil shakes his hand all too eagerly, and Kanye feels intimidated for some reason.

                “Roommate and husband, yep, that’s me!”

                Kanye suppresses the immediate feeling of surprise. Was his own instinct failing him already? Had he spent too much time in the closet? He smiles instead.

                “I had a feeling.”

                He’s an absolute liar, but Phil smiles back. That makes the lie worth it, he supposes.

                When he sits down on the couch, he notices Dan is drumming his fingers and tapping his foot so rapidly that he feels dizzy just looking at him. He’s almost getting agitated along with him, but then Phil sits next to him and he feels himself relax.

                “Would you like some tea? Coffee? Juice? Water? Smoo-“

                “No, no thanks… Phil.”

                “So…” Phil starts, and both men turn around to look at him, “what do you want with Dan?”

                “Exactly what I said in the tweet.”

                Phil startles a bit. “Oh… so, for like… just a song? Or-“

                “An album,” Kanye cuts in, “Watch the Throne 2: Electric Boogaloo. Although as far as I’m concerned, Dan is a better rapper than Jay.”

                Dan quietly whispers ‘king of memes’ to himself. Kanye hears him, but pretends not to.

                “So…”

                “So.”

                Phil was beginning to grate on him slightly.

                “So, when I collaborate on music, I like there to be a period where there’s no outside forces interfering on the process.” Another lie. “Please don’t take offence Phil, but I’d prefer it if you left for a few days.”

                Dan and Phil are silent for a few seconds, taking in what he’s said. Kanye’s a liar. A filthy, filthy liar. But he wants Dan to himself. He feels queasy from all the soft, soppy looks they’re giving each other from across the room. He hated it. He hated their living room, which they had so seamlessly managed to manifest with both their personalities. The décor, the posters, the bookshelves, hell, and even those cheap rainbow plastic chairs – it reeked of sentimentality. It reeked of commitment. It reeked of a world where Dan and Phil were permanently, unconfusedly themselves. A world that Kanye would never know, a world that Kanye was incapable of penetrating. Of altering.

                Most of all, he hated the bravery in Phil, the fact that he so openly admitted that they were married. Doesn’t he know hip-hop is a homophobic genre?

The tension is thick and pulsing. They all feel it. Phil’s the first one to speak.

                “Yeah… sure… if you want. Is that alright with you, Dan?” Dan nods. “Okay… uh, do you want me to just stay in my room for a bit, or do you want me properly out the way?”

                “Properly out of the way.”

                Dan and Phil share a look.

                “Okay then. Louise told me about this nice hotel they have quite close to here. I’ll pack my stuff and go there. Are you alright with that, Dan?”

                Dan nods, solemnly. Kanye has no clue who Louise is. Maybe Phil’s actually straight, and he’s having an affair with this woman? Kanye lets himself get distracted by the fantasy for a moment before he’s pulled back to earth. No. That’s stupid. The décor… people prone to infidelity don’t have such corny, saccharine décor.

                Phil stands up and makes his way to the door. But before he leaves, he kneels down to Dan and grasps his hand. So softly, Kanye can feel the tender, adoring touch on his own skin.

                Bile rises to his throat.

                “I love you.”

                Dan simpers.

                “I love you too.”

                Kanye sprints to the bathroom.

                -

                “Are you okay?” Kanye could throw up again at the look of concern on his face.

                Phil had gone. Kanye hadn’t been there to see their sickening goodbyes, but he heard the squelchy kiss they gave each other. It disgusted him.

                “Yeah, yeah I’m- I’m fine.”

                “I knew we could be a bit gross, but I didn’t think we were that bad.”

                Kanye attempts a laugh. It comes out as a bark. “Well, you are. Nah, I had some pizza last night and I think it’s sitting in my stomach weird.” Lie count: three.

                He thinks Dan sees through him. But he doesn’t challenge him. He nods his head complacently and moves into what appears to be his bedroom. Kanye, in a moment of stupidity, follows him.

                Dan sits on the edge of his bed. Kanye sits on it too, a significant distance away from him. His hand is itching.

                A strong breeze batters itself against the window.

                Apart from that.

                It’s oh so quiet.

                It’s

                oh

                so

                …

                Kanye breaks it.

                “It’s like Giovanni’s Room.”

                Dan doesn’t get it. “Huh?”

                Kanye ignores him. "The great difficulty is to say yes to life..." he quotes, mostly to himself. It goes still.

                Dan really doesn’t get it.

                It breaks again.

                When Kanye crumbles and sobs next to him, Dan tries to get it. He holds him, whispers gentle, reassuring things. Pats and rubs his back. Meticulously, as Kanye trembles and wets his t-shirt.

                How long did he sit there and cry for - hours, months, centuries? What had passed in the outside world while Kanye wept?

                It was all flooding out. How many years had it been since he last cried? Properly bawled? Probably 2007, probably then. His mother never knew… she never knew one of the greatest facets of Kanye’s person. All those faked ‘I love yous’ to beards of yesteryear, to Amber, to Kim, they floated around his head like the ghosts of past sins. (And then there was the one time he meant it. To Riccardo, his blessed Riccardo…) How could he atone? Did they know? Did anyone know? Could Dan - this self-assured, bisexual pop culture behemoth - feel it through his skin? His ultimate wrong, greater than all his lust and his greed, swam underneath his flesh and yearned to get out. His awful, sickening homosexuality.

                He’d finally thought the word to himself. A word he hadn’t touched for years, never in relation to himself. Never.

                Clarity. Lucidity. The tears stop. He quickly becomes aware of what’s happening. He’s being cradled in the arms of a man, a man he’s barely knew for 2 hours, and he likes it. He likes it.

                He lifts himself abruptly.

                “I’m… sorry about that. But. Thank you.”

                Dan feels strange. He’d just had a man he deeply revered weep into his neck like a baby. And now he was trying to pass it off as if it were nothing, eyes still red and damp from tears.

                “Yeah. Uh…”

                It’s quiet again.

                “Uh… I won’t push you, but,” Dan moves to touch him again, and Kanye rises to leave. Dan drops his hand as if it were lead, “If you ever want to talk, I’m here. I’ll sign a waiver, I don’t care.”

                Kanye cracks a smile at that. “Yeah, thanks. You’ve done enough already, though.”

                He leaves.

                When he’s in the corridor, he can feel every millimetre of distance between him and the man who’d been holding him. He’d vomit again, but there’s nothing in his stomach anymore.

                -

                Later that night, when Dan was in his bed and Kanye was in Phil’s, Dan decided to search for ‘Giovanni’s Room’.

                It’s a book, apparently. He finds a PDF of it and starts reading.

                “Oh… oh.”

                -

                “You look a mess. Rough night?”

                Kanye’s pushed all of yesterday’s happenings to the pit of his stomach. It didn’t happen. Nothing had happened between them.

                “Yeah, was up to 4am…” Dan mumbles, shaking his curls out of his eyes. His posture and movements remind Kanye of a poodle, and he hates himself for how endearing he finds it.

                “Why?”

                “Um…” does he tell him or not? Oh, fuck it, “I was reading that book you mentioned. Giovanni’s Room?”

                And all of yesterday’s happenings flood out of Kanye’s stomach and find new residency in his brain. So it did happen, then.

                “Yeah?”

                “It was brilliant actually…” Dan glances away and scratches his arm, “one of the best books I’ve read.”

                Kanye floats away from the situation. From the ceiling, he observes the man, whose mannerisms made him seem more like a young boy. Eyes turned coyly, a womanly stance … Kanye begins to assess his attraction to him. He’s suddenly reminded of another James Baldwin work, Another Country. He remembers Elridge Cleaver’s criticism of the lead character. A stern voice seeps into his brain.

                “Rufus Scott was the epitome of a black eunuch who has completely submitted to the white man.”

                His own name seemed interchangeable with Rufus’.

                He floats back down.

                His voice is shaking. “Yeah? I wish I’d brought some of his books with me then, I’d have lent you some.”

                Dan looks back at him with a loose smile. “Yeah? I could just order some online.”

                -

                Dan’s prepared dinner. He’s not as good of a chef as Kim, but he’s passable.

                Through a mouthful of salad, he contemplates the man adjacent to him. After a few seconds, the lyrics to one of his own songs comes to his mind.

                What if we fuck right now?

                What if we fucked right in the middle

                Of this motherfucking dinner table?

                He puts down the fork, but. He doesn’t freak out. Not again, never again. He can’t keep running from the ultimate truth. He is homosexual. He is gay. His skin crawls at both words, but they’re true. He’s a friend of Dorothy. And he wouldn’t mind twisting the man in front of him over this table and railing him.

                Well. That’s sorted then. A feeling of clarity sifts through him. He nearly floats off again, but he doesn’t, picking up his fork instead.

                “’S good…” he mumbles, chewing on a bit of pork. Not seasoned well enough. Texture too rubbery. Could have done with a few more minutes in the frying pan.

                “Yeah?” and Kanye, with everything in him, tries to ignore the gentle way in which his face lights up at the compliment.

                “Yeah.”

                -

                Kanye didn’t come here to engage in solemn introspection. Nor did he come here to have a sexuality crisis, ponder the meaning of life, debate with himself about why the sky is blue and grass is green, etcetera etcetera. He came here to write music, and write music he shall.

                He makes his way to Dan’s room to get a start on it, when…

                Dan jumps, and then lets out a maddening laugh.

                “Do you like it?”

                He’s wearing one of the jumpers on his clothing line. And he looks like a frumpy old woman. Kanye stares him dead in the eye as Dan struggles not to corpse. Then he opens up his phone.

                -

                Phil’s phone lights up. He’d since put Kanye on tweet alerts so he could maybe get updates on how the writing was going. He was prohibited from contacting Dan. He’d received a rather stern text from none other than Ye as soon as he’d left the house.

               

                He didn’t send the ‘dickhead’ text.

                He’s hoping for a selfie, first and foremost. He misses his husband’s face, and the many pictures he had of him on his phone weren’t cutting it anymore. ‘Selfie, selfie’ he chants to himself as he opens the tweet.

               

                “Oh God,” he groans out loud, “he shown him the potato sack jumper. Oh God.”

                -

                “But don’t you think I work it? Surely I’m the exception to the white people rule, yeah?”

                Dan had managed to find a bunch of Yeezy clothes that he’d brought with him, and was now pretending he was on a catwalk. He was wearing one of his tattered, navy-grey jumpers and it should look good, considering how much flesh was on display. But he just looked like a little kid playing dress-up. Kanye rests his face in his palms.

                “No.”

                Dan had stopped treating him like a deity and had started treating him as a friend, and it was making a funny, glowing thing bloom in his chest. He hadn’t felt warmth like this course through him in a long time.

                He pulls his head out his hands and gives Dan a look that, Dan feels, lingers for just a bit too long.

                “I came here to write music with you, yeah? Not to watch you try and model.”

                “Why can’t we do both?”

                Kanye ignores him.

                “So… I brought some records with me. I wanted to listen to them with you, see if anything strikes you. I like to start with potential samples first.”

                “Oh, okay.”

                Dan smartens up a bit and sits down on his floor. Kanye, like some sort of magician, manages to pull a record player and hundreds of vinyls out of his suitcase. He already had a vague idea of what and who he was going to sample, but he felt like he needed a secondary opinion. It was a collaborative effort, wasn’t it?

                They lie there for what feels like hours. Kanye plays him a whole mix of things – free jazz, doom metal, gospel compilations, industrial hip-hop, even some of Beethoven’s late symphonies… Dan has a piece of paper where he’s noting down what he likes, what would work in a hip-hop beat. Kanye’s noting everything in his head.

                They discuss sample and instrumental ideas deep into the night, and before either of them notice, it’s 8PM and neither of them have had dinner. And, to be frank, neither of them really care.

                -

                Kanye was a bit tentative about this visit. He wasn’t sure how cohesively they’d work together. But, Dan appeared to have the same sort of artistic flair that he had, even if he weren’t much of a musician himself. Kanye, against all odds, was enjoying himself.

                He’s staring at the ceiling. It was dark, but there was still a bit of light seeping through from the moon. Phil’s room filled him with revulsion. He despised it. Even though it was his ‘own’ room, there was still so much of Dan that bled through. He’d had a look at their bookcase. They’d wrote books together. He’d flipped through them, the distaste in his mouth becoming more repugnant with every passing second. After a few minutes, he threw the books back - he almost considered throwing them out the window. He had trouble settling down after that.

                When he finally sleeps, he’s met with vague, unreachable dreams. Visions of himself surrounded by glass. And reflected in each pane, softly, like the passing wisp of a memory, was Dan. Sometimes his face merged with Tisci’s, sometimes it didn’t. And when he wakes up, he’s crying.

                -

                Phil misses Dan. Intensely. The outdoor pool and cheap cocktails weren’t distracting him as much as he wished they would. And every ten minutes, his sweaty hands would find his way to his phone somehow and start typing a message. He’d get halfway through it before remembering.

                Who did Kanye think he was, anyway? Dan was his husband. He had every right to contact him if he wished. But. He knew how much this meant to Dan. He didn’t want to upset him.

                He lies on his (super comfy) hotel bed and sighs. Deep within his heart, he knows that Dan feels the same way. It was almost palpable, the soft reverberations around his chest.

                Phil was right.

                Kanye has hijacked their gaming computer and downloaded ProTools on it. Dan didn’t mind. He was watching him fiddle around with the complex-looking program, giving his input every now and then, and generally enjoying himself.

                Kanye loads a new vocal sample into a channel, titled Ray-J_-_One-Wish.wav. Dan tries to stifle a laugh.

                “Yeah, yeah, I know,” the other man says, moving the sample about and adjusting the pitch, “what do you think of this?”

                He hits play, and the room is filled with an eerie, piano-based instrumental. It was heavy with reverb, and Dan thinks he can hear a choir sample intertwined with the drums. He’s about to start freaking out about what a genius his idol is, until

                Couldn’t be alone, couldn’t be alone…

                Dan’s face falls a bit.

                When it finishes, Ye looks at him expectantly.

                “It, it was stunning… uh, Kanye? I miss Phil.”

                I mean, he supposes it was the reaction he wanted, right? He wanted to evoke emotion in his listeners, but… there’s that queasy feeling again.

                “Yeah. You’ll see him soon.”

                “How soon?”

                He looks desperate.

                Dan knows he looks desperate

                He doesn’t know why, they’ve spent longer apart than this.

                Kanye gives him a dark look.

                “Soon.”

                -

                I just want to feel liberated.

                I wanna wake up with you.

                I… I… I… I…

                Dan wakes up in a cold sweat. His sheets feel like a second skin on him, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t shake them off.