Black on White (Yi Chao Foong)

(edited by Laura McPhee Browne)

Black on white. That’s how people see us. A splotch of black, spoiling the virgin white. It is my good fortune to have him, they tell me. A straight (and here they giggle politely) path to citizenship.

We are a favourite at parties. Like a trophy. We look good together, black and white. No, better than good. Like #lovewins, #faithinhumanityrestored. He’s from South Sudan. He’s from Bendigo. Kind smiles, warm handshakes. Isn’t that lovely?

One time Steve, the cardiologist with the Northcote mansion, referred to me as Ethiopian. You could taste the furious offence in the room. He was embarrassed, humiliated, mortified, and more. I said,

‘Never mind—teach me some Aussie slang and we’ll call it even.’

As we were perfecting my ‘G’day mate,’ my love snuck into Steve’s bedroom.

We made a killing that night. A new Rolex and a thousand in cash. As we were leaving Steve gave us a bottle of Japanese whiskey. Service with a smile.

We follow a template. Someone will ask how we met, hesitantly. We have perfected the story. A night out, or a museum, depending on the crowd. He was forty, and unashamed. Unashamed became flamboyant, as my English improved. A laugh, a touch on the sleeve. I was half his age and half his weight. I was (pause here)…messed up, but he never wavered. I enthral the audience and he slips away. It would be rude to be distracted when I’m sharing.

The truth is more mundane. Detention centres kill your libido. When I got out, the first thing I did was to get on grindr. I took my shirt off and looked at my scrawny frame in the mirror. It had to do. In ten minutes I got a message. He looked alright. Bit old.

‘Top? Bttm?’


‘Cool. Face pic?’

A picture of my penis.

‘Nice. Wanna hang 2nite?’


‘B there in twenty. U like maccas?’

‘What’s maccas?’

He turned up fifteen minutes later with two quarter pounders, large fries and Diet Coke. It tasted of home. He was the flavour of madeeda hilba[1]. Well, madeeda that had been out too long.

Tonight will be our biggest one yet. A mansion in Kew, a costume party, with the theme ‘Around the world’. I put on the jellabiya. My love looks at me, and shakes his head.

‘Nah, that’s boring.’

He frowns, then hands me a white feather.

‘Here, put this in your hair. It’ll make ya look exotic.’

I hesitate. Back home, white feathers mean you’re a pansy, a luti[2]. The last time I had a white feather, I was not top.

I place the feather in my hair. It is stark against me, white on black.


[1]      Fenugreek porridge

[2]      Derogatory term for ‘gay’, literally means sodomite.

Yi Chao Foong has recently moved to Geelong from Tasmania. His other work can be found in Ghost Parachute, Pencilled In and Djed Press. He hopes you enjoyed the piece and if not that’s ok too.