(Both images are taken from reddit.com/r/FrankOcean/)
(Top photo of Willy Cartier's hands was taken and posted by Frank. Bottom photo of them in the car was rumoured to have been from a scrapped Super Rich Kids music video. Make of them what you'd like.)
It went without saying that Frank was late to the photo shoot. He hated this part. The falsity of it all, the egotism. He despised the placid smiles of interns and the press cameras shoved in his face as he tried to make his way through the crowd of hounding bodies. It was too early for this shit.
Not that he hated the mornings exactly.
Sometimes he’d relish them. Awaken, at dawn and find himself drifting towards the rooftop of his loft. There he’d watch the sunrise and the orange set in the clouds. He even went for long drives down the highway sometimes, until he got to the ocean. That’s where he would park his Tesla and dangle his feet over the edge of the cliff. And then just, take shit in. You know?
The birds were awake at this hour—circling over his head. He’d often observe as they plummeted down into the cliff face. And then, accelerating their wings, they'd elevate themselves into the horizon just in time. This season they were making their way to another ocean—chasing the plane as if it were another flock of larger, aluminium birds.
What was it that Jenny always said in Forrest Gump? “Dear god, make me a bird so I can fly far far away from here.”
But this was different. This was demand and crowds and having to pose in awkward positions and answer superfluous questions. He’d survived about five different shots before the photographer, noticing his eyes melting down into the floorboards, warranted, to Frank’s relief, a short smoke break.
He didn’t trust the patronising tone of the intern as she inquired as to how he liked his coffee. “Black or milk? “One sugar or two sugars?” Her wide eyes pierced into his skin like a vulture on the hunt for prey. Too many fucking questions. “I’ll make it myself.” He insisted, or mumbled rather, raising his hands in front of him to stop her from protesting as he pushed his way through the glass doors that opened out onto the street. The lady remained stagnant there, stumped, with the tray of Beveridge’s still in hand. He could have sworn he heard a cup smash against the floor.
The humid summer air blew against him angrily as the doors slammed behind him. And Frank, taking a deep breath for the first time in what felt like forever, found himself dissolving into the blistering bed of concrete.
He had parked himself against the wall of the studio and had finished lighting a cigarette when he heard a voice croak from beside him. “Excuse me, man, could I err, borrow a light?” The voice was foreign, French, he decided. These words rolled off the stranger’s tongue in waves that swelled and crashed within Frank’s crumbling cave walls. His voice was low and husky and familiar, like the nostalgic hum of a childhood song or nursery rhyme. It flooded the banks of his throat and burned the words forming on his lips—a sensation reminiscent of a match to the skin, each fine hair dwindling away until simply nothing remained.
He repeated this over in his head, turning into a cacophony of sound; a whisper simmering in his ear and washing over him. The fire subsided as the tides turned in at the rocks. But wait, that was just the cigarette he’d forgotten about. Tracing the ash between his fingernails, he hissed in pain and withdrew the cigarette from his lips, shaking out his wrist to relieve the pain.
The French boy laughed and it was vivacious. This is just what he needed right now. In the wake of all the tabloids and talk since the album and the letter and his songs…more laughter, more talk, more judgement. “Is that a yes?” The boy pressed. It was sibilant, lingering like a snake in a Moroccan marketplace, or the end of a lullaby as it echoes around a babies crib after the door is slammed closed and monsters have risen from the shadows.
The boy was leaning down towards him. His silky hair draped over his shoulders like leafy vines tangling down the brick wall of an abandoned European castle. Frank could taste his breath as he leant in. It mixed in with the warm wind that elevated the burnt orange leaves drifting from the trees behind them. This time, the warmth crackling in his chest wasn’t from the cigarette.
He looked at the boy properly. The long coat of hair swept over his shoulders was like that of an Indian American tribesman in an old sepia-drenched cowboy movie. The boy’s eyes reminded him of a coffee cup after it was mixed with a swirling drop of milk. Frank felt himself falling into them, one at a time, then all at once. Eyes that were studying his own. They were blinking behind a shelter of wild fawn lashes. They were examining his lips and waiting for a reaction. “Uh, yeah man, of course.”
Frank was about to simply hand the lighter over but the stranger had already placed a cigarette in his mouth and was leaning towards Frank’s unstable hand. He looked down at him through the curtain of his windswept mane and waited for Frank to commence. Frank was as motionless as a Grecian statue. The stranger smiled, coaxing him, nodding down at the lighter.
Frank finally caught on, realising what the guy was getting at. Then coming to life from a restless, temporary slumber, shaking himself out of this glistening stupor, this dream-like state, he raised the hand that gripped the plastic contraption towards the boy's mouth.
Frank ground his thumb against the rusty wheel—and voila! He steadied his hand, keeping it in place as the boy breathed in the flame, consuming the smoke and inhaling it down deeper until it reached the hidden chambers of his lungs.
The boy looked at him curiously and Frank realised he was still holding the lighter towards him mid-air. He noticed after a beat, retrieving it and frantically shoving it back in his pocket. “Merci.” The boy thanked him as he continued fiddling in his pocket.
Frank thought that there were butterfly’s fluttering through the dry summer air. But when he turned around there was nothing there but the two of them and the empty parking lot. Well, that, and the periodic orders of the photographer inside that were permeating through the walls.
There was another beat.
“Oh, Nah, it’s…it’s cool, I…”
“What’s your name?” The French boy interjected, biting back a smile as he smoothed his lips together.
Frank laughed. Really? Someone who didn’t know him? That was a relief after this week. Maybe this is just what he needed.
“It’s uh, Francis…Frank.”
The boy smiled. “And what do you do, monsieur Frank?” He asked teasingly, lifting his chin up and exhaling smoke into the capricious afternoon air.
A moment of silence passed as Frank wondered whether he should tell the truth or not. He could be anything to this stranger. I’m a mixed-martial artist from Japan. I’m a Parisian baker. I’m an artist from Brooklyn. A dentist from Philly. That’s what he thought. “Well uh, I’m a musician, actually.” Is what he said.
The boy turned to face him, sleepy brown eyes gazing idly, blinking for a moment and opening again, possibly doped up, searching Franks expression with an air of curiosity and warmth. “Like err, Frank Ocean the musician? The Frank ocean?”
“The frank ocean.” He emphasised cynically. “Yes, you could say that.”
The Frank Ocean was gazing at the floor cautiously and then back at the boy as their eyes meet between interchanges.
“Oui, I know,” the boy realised, humming quietly to himself. And then, after finding the words started singing tentatively. “Thinking bout youuu. Do you think…think…” And he hummed the rest, the words trailing off into the wind. Then the stranger is laughing and after a moment of stillness, Frank laughs too. Keeping his eyes focused on the boy and his lips as he hums. “That’s it, he encourages.” More laughter. “That’s the one.” He claps silently in praise.
The sound dies down and they’re left watching each other. The floor spinning. Waiting for the other to say something first. “Ay, do you wanna get outta here?” Frank suggests. The boy butts his cigarette out on the ground, the ash smudged under his boots. “What about the err…photo shoot?” He nods towards the glass doors Frank had previously exited from and should be entering once more. Surely five minutes had passed by now? Actually Frank couldn’t be too sure about anything anymore. Especially time, since it had seemed to slow down the moment the stranger had begun singing and the world started spinning.
Frank shakes his head, lifting himself onto his feet and offering a hand for the boy to take. “That can wait.” The boy’s raised eyebrows melted into a smile as he accepted the offer and was consequentially elevated into the air, falling into Frank’s arms for an infinite moment.
The two of them collapsed into the Tesla. Frank steadied his hands around the steering wheel, gripping the smooth surface upon each turn until they reached the highway.
Frank could feel the stranger beaming beside him, waiting for him to say something. The boy took a breath as if to speak, but decided against it.
“You’re quiet,” he finally observes.
"Thinking about what?"
“The silence. It’s comfortable, is it not?” He meets the boy's gaze so as to watch the change in expression and turns back to the endless road rolling out in front of him. The French boy falls back into his seat. Thinking about it for a moment. Fading into the static of the silence. The low rumble of the engine and the wheels gliding over the twisting road. He must have discerned this to be true, because he looked at Frank and then down at his right hand that was no longer on the wheel, resting on his lap. There are no other cars passing, and he notices the landscape outside the windows and rear-view mirror transitioning from factories and gas stations into vast, and sweeping desert the colour of the restless, discarded leaves from outside the studio.
The French boy combed a stray piece of flying hair away as it sticks to his face and observed the other man in the rear-view mirror before slowly sliding his hand—which was covered with dozens of dainty silver rings—inch by inch, towards Franks, until both of theirs touched and worlds collided. This, in turn, causing the tank of the Tesla to burst open and an explosion to engulf them in flames on the open road.
Okay, that last part didn’t happen. But the rest was all too real, as the Tesla continued to skid down the dusty asphalt and a high and a kind of glow set in over Frank--even though he hadn’t touched the green since yesterday.
He couldn’t help thinking about forever when the stranger’s hands brushed against his arm. There was something Frank realised he hadn’t asked yet that he should have asked an eternity ago. “I never got your name.” The French boy was looking out the window when he asked that, and his fingers wrapped tighter around the other guy’s hand. “It’s Willy. Willy Cartier.”
Hours passed and the condensation was spreading over the frosty glass window as the sun started to set and a chill emerged in the air. Frank had played all of the old cd’s that littered his glove compartment—from the Beach Boys to Kendrick to Prince, which is what they were currently jamming to.
They were screaming out the words to ‘Kiss’ and Willy’s hair was blowing in every possible direction as his hands were moving like dolphins on a wave through the wind outside the window. Frank was brought to hysterics then and there, watching the strange yet familiar boy dance and howl at the darkening sky.
“Man, you’re something else aren’t you?” He thought out loud. Eyes lighting up like the car’s headlights in front of them. The track switched to ‘little red corvette’ and they both became subdued and introspective. Willy had slipped down gradually to rest on Frank’s shoulder and the unexpected weight of another person made Frank feel incredibly fragile. But ultimately, warm and content. It’s as if the Tesla had lifted them off the ground and they were now floating over the orange clouds above the birds and the planes.
He pulled over at the cliffs edge and Willy’s eyes fluttered open. The boy shrugged himself up and looked out the window to take in their surroundings. “I like to go here sometimes,” Frank replied before he could ask anything, stepping out of the car. “It’s…it’s quiet, you know?”
This meditative smile softened out Willy’s chiselled features. “You like the quiet, I know.”
Frank looked down at his Nikes that were now dangling scantily over the kilometre or so drop below him. If his skin was the colour of Willy’s surely he’d be blushing right now. “S’cool if you don’t. I can…”
But having followed Frank out into the open, the other boy interrupted him, placing an adorned finger over his lips. “Don’t talk,” he whispered.
Frank was more vulnerable than he’d ever been in his life as Willy’s finger and gaze trailed over his lips softly, falling into the swirling black hole of his puzzled dark eyes. His lips were parted, and his breathing heavy; becoming a whirlwind, escaping through the rise and fall of his chest and the violent surge of his heartbeat. Willy’s hands continued travelling down Frank’s face. They reached his jaw and began easing him forward as the space between them started to close like the final scene from a movie fading to black.
The world seemed to freeze as if they were floating through space and time, gravity was leaving them. He was close enough to taste Willy’s breath once more, taste tobacco, mints, and herbal tea, and warm ocean breeze—and it felt so right to be this close to someone.
The kiss was gentle and cautious at first, and they held it there for a moment, closing their eyes longer than necessary to take it in and taste it and exist in it. It’s as if there was a force field sheltering them from the distractions of the outside world. To allow them to simply exist in the whirling torrent of each other’s colliding energy; to see everything clearer, closer, in slow motion and reverse.
The colours and the textures melded together in one spark of light and movement and for the first time in his life, save for a couple of bad trips a while back, frank witnessed a visual manifestation of a sensation. The sensation of coming home.
The once stranger’s hands were now caressing Frank’s back and trailing down his spine as he stroked at a delicate strand of the boy’s Pocahontas hair.
They went in again and, this time, it was fast and desperate and breathless and uncontrolled and the force field burst into thousands of pieces. Frank could feel the friction of the boy’s stubble against his cheek as they kissed, and ran his fingers through the endless mane of hair; coming up for breath only to switch positions.
They were gripping each other by the shirt collar and he was pushing back on the other boy, working his way down his neck and leaving a trail of love bites between his collar bones, when a stone skidded under Willy’s palm and they almost lost their balance.
They gripped each other as close as the limitations of skin and gravity would allow, and watched in shock as the stone disappeared down into the murky tide of water out of sight. Frank tugged Willy away from the edge of the disintegrating rock and they both collapsed in a pile of limbs. Panting and trying to catch their breath.