“The Paranoid Who Loves Me” by James Penha

asks me to embrace him
says They are destroying his life
needs to know if I had messaged all his Facebook friends
closes his Facebook account
complains that all my old friends want to protect me
from him
says he remembers their every snub
says he remembers
says the house must be bugged
wants an explanation: today he receives a text from an acquaintance asking about Paris
when yesterday, remember! he was reminiscing with me about Paris
says his cell phone is bugged
says They are destroying his life
says he just knows
reopens his Facebook account
with a different name
kisses me without a word
at the restaurant his chicken is rare
asks me who told them to cook it that way
ruining his life
leaves when I suggest he ask the waiter or at least complain
believes my ninety-year-old aunt orchestrates a world-wide plot
to bring him down
recounts how her pfeffernüsse made him sick
says he remembers everything
every attack
demands to know why I would secretly poison his reputation on Facebook
closes his Facebook account
increases his intake of internet porn
maintains that ISIS is an Israeli front
he just knows
asks if I’m sure the CIA is not behind the recent shootings
reminds me that the grandmother of one of my old friends
worked for the CIA
isn’t talking to me
avoids my eyes
says They are destroying his life
wants to know why I look so depressed
asks how I can be sure the NSA is not listening to his calls
he is sure it is
changes his cell phone service provider
at the restaurant when his entree arrives late
asks me who told them to delay it
leaves when I suggest he ask the waiter or at least complain
doesn’t like the way the parking valet stares at him
thinks the black sedan idling in the driveway
is harassing him
is following him
is under orders from my aunt
to destroy our relationship
he just knows
wants to know why the porn doesn’t turn me on
why I don’t seduce him here and now
and after we have sex
asks me if I have heard from any of my old friends
says the old Chinese man across the street is working for my aunt
against him
he just knows
accuses me of farting purposefully
denies that he is paranoid
does not need a doctor
says They are driving him crazy
isn’t talking to me
at night in bed
he rolls close to me
wraps his arms around me
asks if I love him
hears me say yes
sleeps till at dawn
I reach to him across the queen-size expanse
yells bastard
leaves for his laptop
reopens his Facebook account
wants to know how his Facebook friends know everything about him
thinks his sister’s marriage is being undermined by my aunt
he just knows
I talk to her
he’s going away he says
but doesn’t tell me where
closes his Facebook account
grabs my right hand
rips our ring from my finger
throws it over the garden wall
to return in one mood
or another
to kiss my scarred finger
to search for the ring
to get me


A gay New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. His essay “It’s Been a Long Time Coming” was featured in The New York Times “Modern Love” column in April 2016. Penha edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry.