Hangin’

By the time you read this I will have reached my destination, but for now I’m on a plane. Love, Simon is playing in this bullshit airplane with no personal screens and old-school outlets that don’t work. No one around me is really watching it – nobody’s got their earphones on – but that kiss is coming and that ought to catch an eye or two. I’m low key excited to see how the old farts sitting next to me will react, although they’ll probably pass out before it happens. Ugh, who the fuck cares, my whole life is in shambles. Literally left on the side of the curve. I’ve kept it together thus far, but as reality sinks in so do I. Deep.

Departing from Dallas rather than directly from New York has helped a bit. I don’t give a shit about Dallas so watching it unfurl below me feels… like nothing at all, like no place at all. And I was in too much of a hurry to even notice I’d left New York in the first place. Dismantling my life took longer than anticipated and it was touch-and-go for a minute. I spent the whole car ride to the airport kicking myself for leaving shit ‘till the last minute, panicking I’d miss my flight. Panicking is exhausting! When I finally did make my flight, I passed out almost immediately.

I came to somewhere over Texas, just in time for a sip of sparkling water and the stale cookies American Airlines consider an appropriate complimentary snack. All I wanted to do was get off the plane, fix my hair in the men’s room and maybe get a drink before my connecting flight. I did my hair first, then washed my hands compulsively. More often than not, whenever I have to handle luggage – and pockets and zippers and locks a million times a minute –, my fingers bleed from the cuticles. The nail folds get swollen and rip, it’s painful and mildly gross. This was such a time.

Blood had dried on my middle finger and it hurt too much to thoroughly rub it off so I had to quit after a few attempts. I walked out of the restroom and through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport only to realize I’d have to take a train to reach my gate, which meant I was, again, already late. My mom always hassled me about leaving things ‘till the last possible moment, but that is quite literally my nature – and at least partially her fault.

I was supposed to be born on September 4th, 1984. If anyone here knows when my actual birthday is, you’ll know I definitely held out for as long as I could. “I was born two weeks late, is that why I hesitate”. I wonder if Gwen Stefani was also a C-section baby. Although I guess that’s not being born as much as it is being forcefully removed from the premises. And my birth was the equivalent of an eviction where authorities are called.

My mom had birthed my older sister with considerable ease and, although growing impatient with my free-loading ass, she figured I’d perform the same and she could wait it out. But the weeks rolled around and so did I, finding new and exciting ways to prevent my delivery. See, the circumstances surrounding my birth are so ridiculous and dramatic I like to believe these were conscious choices I made. I can absolutely picture myself using all that extra time on my tiny hands to come up with this gruesome plan.

They say it’s quite common for umbilical cords to loop around babies’ necks, once or maybe even twice, without compromising their safety upon delivery. Of course, for that to happen, the baby would need to come out as most babies do: head first. I however wrapped that sucker around my neck three times, effectively creating a noose, and stood on my mother’s vagina for gallows. Think you can kick me out? I will literally hang myself, mother!

Alas, being a fetus and all, I was unaware that she could call someone to come in and get me, which on the morning of September 19th, they did. But it’s still a cool story. I love that I’ve been threatening to kill myself since birth. It’s just like me! And it makes the actual recurring fantasy less menacing. Because truth be told, I always think about it. It’s the very first place my head goes to when shit gets rough. But fret not, because I also think I could never go through with it. Not necessarily for fear of pain or the unknown – both very loathsome dreads to me –, but merely because I’m too damn stubborn to quit.

So now, as I face the inevitable return to a city I’ve only ever wanted to leave, this story keeps me slightly amused and safe from self-harm. Although I’m still on a plane. There really isn’t all that much I can do here, is there…

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Yellow

It had been there all morning. All day, really.
Something familiar suddenly misshaped and macabre, an ominous token of misfortune and fear.
Looked like it as it was happening, too.

Do you know how much blood a body can produce – or what that looks like, for that matter?
You don’t expect it.
A slash and a gash and two seconds later there it all is.
Control changes hands, swiftly. And things play out however they play out.

What you can do, I did.
I stopped it but I didn’t win.
Wrapped the rag in a CVS bag about an hour ago and threw it in the trash.

I imagined telling someone how “it looked like a crime scene down there”, but instead I told no one.
I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere already.
This time it wasn’t funny, though.

 

Sé muy bien qué día es hoy

Estoy aquí hace ya once días y he pasado casi todo ese tiempo oculto entre sábanas y colchas de tigre de casa materna (ustedes saben cuál). Realmente creo que, si me esfuerzo lo mínimo, podría calcular con total certeza el número de horas que no he estado en mi cama. En parte porque a) hace un frío del hoyo y no me provoca salir; b) aún no había visto Luis Miguel La Serie; pero, más que nada, c) porque salir de mi cueva significa ver gente y ver gente significa responder preguntas¹. Cómo estás, cuándo llegaste, qué vas a hacer. Mi gato, el único otro ser vivo que comparte este bunker, no hace tales preguntas. Sabe apreciar que esté aquí con él sin cuestionar por qué ni por cuánto tiempo. Entiendo la curiosidad de todo el mundo, pero lamento que los gatos sean siempre como la gente y la gente no sea siempre como los gatos.

Entre las muchas cosas que he perdido – la imagen de mis muebles dejados por muertos en una vereda en Brooklyn se manifiesta clara y cristalina y, como el cristal, corta –, he perdido bastante peso. Todas mis ganancias musculares han sido confiscadas por la depresión, lo cual me enfurece. Me parece además haber envejecido tres años de golpe, los tres que estuve allá, mas puede que esto solo esté en mi cabeza. Anoche fui el único al que le pidieron DNI para entrar al Sargento, so I got that going for me². Pero de lo primero no tengo duda. He comido poco y mal desde que llegué y no he hecho ejercicio en semanas. ¡Si apenas me he parado de la cama y, cuando lo he hecho, ha sido para beber! Porque nadie hace demasiadas preguntas cuando estás brindando.

Tengo mucho que decir y pocas ganas de hablar, es una situación particularmente terrible. No quiero que se me muera todo adentro, pero tampoco quiero aflojar mucho la soga porque no tengo nada positivo que compartir. Por ahora no, al menos. Cuando el polvo deje de revolotear sobre las ruinas de lo que alguna vez fue mi vida y sea momento de reconstruir, hablaremos un poco más. Por ahora, considérense afortunados de que esta entrada sea tan corta. Las pocas personas que me han visto en vivo – que no tuvieron la previsión de emborracharme inmediatamente, that is³ – se han visto expuestas a niveles de toxicidad que cierran mineras. Literal, doy cancer.

Pero hay una cosa que necesito decir hoy: sé perfectamente qué día es. A esta hora, hace tres años, estaba manejando de mi depa en Miraflores, donde me despedí de mis roommates y del chico con el que salía, a la casa de mis papás, quienes me llevarían al aeropuerto. Esta noche en el 2015 me fui de aquí. En un universo paralelo donde todo sale bien, esta noche estaría viendo a Shakira – por primera vez, csm – en Madison Square Garden. Pero esta noche, en la realidad, “estoy” viendo el brillo de la pantalla en la oscuridad en la casa de mi madre, tratando de convencerme a mí mismo de que tres es un buen número. Que fue bastante, ¡no! Suficiente.

Escribo “estoy” porque realmente lo cuestiono. ¿Estoy, en serio?
Apenas.

 

¹ Después de haberme explayado jodido en inglés durante los últimos posts, me pregunté si podría escribir algo totalmente en español. Es decir, cero spanglish. Conversé de esto con Cali ayer y me dijo “es que tú hablas así”, resaltando que yo pienso en los dos idiomas a la vez, which is true. Este fue mi intento de usar el inglés lo menos posible y descubrí que me disgusta terriblemente.
Por ejemplo, en este caso, yo iba a poner “field questions” en lugar de “responder preguntas”. Si bien esa es la traducción, no es exactamente lo que yo quería decir. “To field questions” implica que yo no quiero responder esas preguntas, que son difíciles, que quizá preferiría evitarlas pero no lo hago. En rigor debería decir “lidiar con preguntas”, que se asemeja más, ¡pero tampoco es exactamente lo que quiero decir!
Podría decir “torear”, ¡pero fielding questions no es evadir respuestas! Torear implica, de alguna manera, que salgo bien librado y que quizá no dije toda la verdad. Ergo, pongo “responder preguntas” pero no tiene el color que yo quería and I hate it.
² Para parafrasear a Liz Lemon, “comencé a hacer this but then yo gave up”. Cómo puedo decir esto en español, ¿”así que tengo eso a mi favor”? ¡Qué horrible, pues! De nuevo, la frase en español no tenía el tinte que yo quería darle así que yo gave up y lo puse en inglés. Sue me.
³ Supongo que esto sería “claro está” pero, no sé, me suena muy formal. O menos gracioso. ¿Es mi prejuicio de pensar que el inglés es light y el español es muy duro? (No pude ni poner “ligero”, tuve que poner light. ¡Light es más ligero que “ligero”! UGH).
Bueno, Cali, traté… y me generaste una crisis de identidad, jaja.

Pt. 2: Pride-atory behavior

We need to talk about #Pride Sunday. As I previously mentioned, this little ditty’s been ringing in my ears for weeks now, seeping all the way into my dreams. Sadly, I’ve missed my self-imposed deadline. It was my wish to release this before the end of Pride month, the time when we (supposedly) reflect on our struggles and celebrate our triumphs as gay people. But much like that Tiffany Pollard meme, the gays™️ too are, um, versatile. Yes, much was accomplished in recent years, which calls for celebration, but in reality the vast majority just wanted to shake our scantily-clad asses. I’m sure guilty of it. The thing is, gays, if we keep neglecting our own toxic by-products, they will run rampant – my Pride Sunday was prime example.

If you recall, I’d said this entry was basically drafted in its entirety within 24 hours of it happening. I have scratched most of it now. Turns out I’d bitten more than I could chew. I tried to cover too much ground and the results were clunky. I’m cooling my ambitions and keeping it simple. I’ve been having the same discussion in some shape or form over and over again through the years. I’ve often let it slide or dismissed it or plain forgotten. But in light of recent events, I feel compelled to address my thoughts on the matter. If I can’t reach a satisfactory conclusion, at least I want to make more sense of it. And you know me – I gotta see it in print.

My lesbian friends and I had been poking fun around “gay culture” at an impromptu Pride brunch we cooked up over a hurried phone call. The centerpiece of that discussion was this straight-by-default girl I’d met the night before, who had said she wanted to hook up with girls but thought her advances were not being taken seriously. “They think I’m being friendly ‘cause girls compliment each other all the time and it’s no big deal”, she’d told us. To this Lauren, my friend’s girlfriend, replied with the utmost confidence “oh, girls hate the idea of being that predatory lesbian”.

I am well aware of what she meant by “predatory lesbian”. Although, from what I gathered, it appears to be more of a staple in lesbian culture than I had known. My friend Mariana shadily pointed out I actually used to be friends with one. Maybe you know one, too! She’d be that pushy lesbian friend of yours who slides into your other lesbian friends’ DMs, even though you’ve never introduced them and she’s never met them. The kind who, if seen in the wild, is reluctant to take no for an answer and hovers over girls longer than necessary – sometimes awkwardly, sometimes confidently, always unwelcome.

That last bit sounds very familiar, though, doesn’t it? Sounds like… well, a man. Men obnoxiously hanging around women, puffing their chest and fumbling at gallantry is a tale as old as time. So you probably think this annoying predator is definitely a straight man. Could maybe, possibly also be a woman, a gay one! But never a gay man, right? Because gay men have either both been signaled as predators or somehow managed to avoid the label altogether under the assumption that two men hitting on each other are operating under equal conditions. Let me tell you about Pride Sunday, and you can tell me whether that is in fact correct.

After brunch, we proceeded to further celebrate our homosexuality. Went to the parade, had some drinks in the West Village, crashed a block party with bodega-procured beers, talked to strangers and had a gay ol’ time. I left the Village in high spirits and made my way home to Brooklyn, where I was to see Years & Years. I got there after doors, so if there had been a line I missed it. It wasn’t crazy packed by then, though. I wormed my way to the front, looking for friends (more lesbians!) who later informed me via text they were actually in the back. I wasn’t about to give up a good spot to see my baby Olly, so I stayed by myself. Shortly after, a gay couple, who were chatting up another gay guy and some girls, welcomed me into the fold. It was a very standard, Pride-infused neighborly situation and I was very much there for it.

The guys were buff, scruffy and loud, had a pubescent sense of humor and kind of resembled each other. You know, a gay couple. The other gay guy was skinny and had a quiet, slightly awkward vibe. However, he seemed very friendly or at least eager to make friends for the night. So when the guys kept rubbing his arms, stroking his hair or requesting he’d take his tank top off, he’d just smile and shake his head and try to change the subject. “Boys will be boys” and whatnot.

When I arrived, their attention shifted to me and what I was wearing: a black lace romper. Hey, I already fessed up to wanting to show ass. It was Pride and I wanted to unapologetically feel my oats! They made me spin to “appreciate” my outfit and did the (gay? male?) lewd joke thing. “Why are you wearing underwear, you should run to the bathroom and take them off”. I laughed it off and declined, they let it go. Pretty standard. I thought nothing of it and took it all in stride. It actually didn’t bother me at all, I took it as intended. And perhaps emboldened by my reaction (and slightly see-through lewks), they decided to return to skinny gay guy and push, hard. Before they’d even finished saying “take your shirt off, it’s Pride”, they had already taken half his top off. Way past tipsy from my day-drinking, I egged Skinny Gay on. He lifted the one remaining arm and was soon shirtless.

I’m sure you can infer what my stance on public shirtlessness is given what I was wearing. I didn’t think anything of it. That’s literally how you go to the beach or how some dudes go jogging or ride their bikes. I certainly didn’t think the least risqué thing in the world would make this guy uncomfortable. Mostly because, in my head, if something really bothers you, you simply don’t do it. And there he was, without a shirt.

When those guys asked me to go commando under my romper, I wasn’t uncomfortable because I didn’t take them seriously. I felt safe in my conviction that there was zero chance I’d ever do it. I wasn’t about to be bare-assed, junk a-swinging at a fucking concert! I could never be coerced into something so ridiculous and I knew they knew that too, which is why in my head they couldn’t have been for real. That’s just “how things are” with the gays, I thought, and they dropped it as quickly as they’d suggested it.

I would’ve been pissed if they had actually pushed for it, of course. That would’ve been straight up harassment, but they didn’t. And I think maybe that is how things are with gay men. A sort of unspoken agreement to push very far, but only so far. To introduce the sleaziness and see how the other party responds; to, let’s say, gauge interest. But it would’ve been certainly a lot easier to coerce Skinny Gay into taking off his shirt than it would’ve been to pressure me to take my briefs off. And it was. That is exactly what they did. They pushed beyond the checkpoint. Hell, they pretty much did it for him.

Regardless of how firmly on the ground my feet were on the subject, it was physically impossible for them to force me the way they did him. And yet I brushed it off because, in my drunk head, what they asked of him was nowhere near as crazy or overtly sexual as what I had been asked to do. It was tame, it was nothing, and he accepted! Pause, rewind. Did he? It all came down on him fast and from every angle. He was visibly hesitant, yet we all interpreted it as shyness. And you know what they say: “shyness is nice, and shyness can’t stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to”.

But he wasn’t shy, he was reluctant. And neither one of us could see it. Sure I was liquored up, but I still encouraged him. I had a hand in it, even if not as literally as the guy whose hands actually undressed him. And I did so based on the same mistake I often make when it comes to other gay people: I assume their experiences and outlook must be somewhat similar to mine. I thought he’d be game because in my state, I probably would have. But he was indeed uncomfortable, he just didn’t want to alienate us. He wanted to hang out and be friendly and, without warning, found himself in a grievous situation he couldn’t back out from. Until somebody very familiar with such circumstances pulled him out.

“Can you please stop? He’s uncomfortable, just stop”. A woman standing next to us sternly addressed the more obnoxious gay guy, the one who had undressed him, and it felt like curtains falling heavy to the ground. Suddenly the ugliness was crystal clear. It was a music venue right before a show, it was loud as fuck, but you could not hear a thing other than her words bouncing off the walls. She killed the problem dead, shot it right in the head. Actually, she shot it in the balls.

Upon being called out, the guy was impossibly hurt. He was mortally wounded. He loudly argued with his boyfriend, who was begging him to let it go, for the entire time he was there, which wasn’t long. I couldn’t pick much of it up, but I could tell from his wide gestures and the very few things I overheard that his argument was, unsurprisingly, “she doesn’t know how it is (with gay men)”. I can imagine him saying things like “he was just messing around”, “he was being friendly”, “it’s just a shirt”, “it’s not like he grabbed him by the pussy” (you know, like presidents do). At one point he did yell at his boyfriend to “tell her!”, which made me safely assume I was right – and that the guy probably agreed with his beau.

The idea that men are more sexual than women has always been accepted matter-of-factly because science! Supposedly, the average Joe thinks about sex nearly twice as many times a day as regular Jane does. I know, as a man, that applies to me one hundred percent. I think about it a lot. However, not being a woman or any other man but myself, I can’t corroborate the data. I do know quite a few women, both gay and straight, who are very sexual and lead rich, sex-positive lives. Conversely, I know quite a few guys who are not as sexually-driven or as carefree with their bodies and hearts as we sluttier gays are.

And maybe that’s the disconnect. Perhaps it’s not about being sexual, but about our sexuality being… well, kinda sleazy. I’m probably not venturing too far from facts in saying that the average gay man is sleazier than any woman. All people (or most of us) have the joy of consensual sex in common, but the gays engage in some rather “questionable” activities. And we high key like it. That’s perhaps where the whole “women don’t understand us” thing comes in. We know that, more often than not, it’s gonna be a whole lot of sex with a bunch of people, and while you’re bound to stumble across a prop or ten, a single feeling will likely not be found.

The odd thing about it is, of course, #notallgays. The level of immodesty varies from gay to gay and straight people are not your best tool when navigating such situations. No tea, no shade, but straights are huge fans of the binary. They may talk about “gray areas” but that’s because they still see things in black and white. “He cheated on you? Call off your gay wedding!” Uh… how about we define what cheating is within this specific relationship, Brenda? Surely nobody’s into being lied to, but some people are into welcoming others to their marital bed. This is a discussion to be had, like any other. You gotta make sure you see eye to eye on fundamental shit like this. Just like you would ask your man if he wants to be a daddy before getting engaged, Susan!

I recently talked to a dear friend about his impending divorce. He was still rattled by the reality of it, and kept going back to the very first time things went sour. He suspected his fiancé, now soon-to-be ex-husband, had a threesome with another married couple before their wedding, after being explicitly told not to. His fiancé denied it (and does to this day). Right on cue, his straight female friends advised him not to go through with it. I didn’t know any of this, but had I known, I probably would’ve just asked if an open marriage was something he’d be willing to consider. ‘Cause what the hell do I know, he might be! You can’t ever be too quick to judge gay relationships because you
simply
never
know.

In my friend’s case, he tried and discovered to his own surprise that he couldn’t make it work. It turned out to be a bigger issue than he’d wanted it to be. Meanwhile, his partner was merrily involved in physical and emotional affairs. Shit got very ugly. “Is it me? Am I uncool for not being able to be as open as he is?”, he asked me. I assured him that, at the very least, that wasn’t his fault. People want different things. You need to find the one (or two or three, whatever) whose needs match your own. And while I think it’s commendable to try to make things work, when you know it’s not working, you need to get the fuck out. They plowed through at the expense of their mental and physical health. They suffered greatly for it and the ending remained the same. Although, as far as I’m concerned, if you keep under wraps for years what a big whore you truly are, you rip what you sow. Por mosca muerta.

My point is I couldn’t have told him what to do, no one could. Arrangements are made and you have to assume everyone is happy with their choices. If they’re not, only they know and they will deal with it in their own time, on their own terms. For instance, I had another friend who was in a relationship where they could only sext with other people, but never actually sleep with anyone else. Their relationship gradually opened up to allow others in in sensible numbers. And later they discovered that while they loved each other dearly, it wasn’t working and amicably parted ways. All this I knew. What I didn’t know was that, before they opened the relationship, my friend wasn’t actually having sex. His boyfriend was kind of asexual. This is why you can’t chime in willy-nilly, you just never know what truly goes on in someone else’s love life. He had made his choice to be with just him, regardless. Then changed it to let others in, then changed it again and let himself out.

If women don’t “know how it is between gays” it’s because not even the gays know what the fuck is going on. We have been influenced by both heteronormative culture and queer counterculture. We’ve been told to model our relationships after mommy and daddy and, within the same breath, been scolded for letting the punk within the gay die. “Yay, gay marriage! Ugh, gay marriage?” It’s fucked up… and low key hilarious. However, whether women understand the gays or not, they most certainly know a thing or two about harassment! And this heroic bitch spotted Skinny Gay’s distress like a fucking hawk. Only a woman could possibly recognize what that particular brand of mortification looks like and, on that Pride Sunday concert, one did.

Later, the injured party did something that puzzled me, though. He thanked the girl for stepping in, thus confirming what only she knew and we all ignored. But then, without skipping a beat, apologized to the gay couple “for making things awkward”. The one guy said something along the lines of “it wasn’t you” and left almost immediately after. I didn’t get it. Was Skinny Gay not all that uncomfortable then? I decided against unfairly questioning the validity of his comfort-level and instead asked myself why anyone would so earnestly apologize to their tormentors for being tormented.

The best I can come up with, after this long ass entry, is this: two men interacting with each other are not always operating under equal conditions. There are predatory gays and it appears they have written the playbook. Gay male culture might be gay, but it’s still very much male. It’s wired around this “boys club” mentality in such a way that Skinny Gay actually felt he had to apologize. Because he “understood the code”; he knew they didn’t mean any harm nor were they an actual threat, but it didn’t make him feel any less uncomfortable. When he allowed this woman to label them as predators, he “broke the code” and he knew it. And it doesn’t seem to matter – to them or even to him – that he wasn’t okay with the code to begin with, that the code doesn’t speak to him, it doesn’t include him. Not only did he fall victim to it, but saw his own status as victim immediately invalidated by it, all in one swift swoop. In hindsight, what impresses me the most is how unremarkable it all seemed as events first unfolded. In reality, it was all very, very dark. Until a girl saved the day.

 

Pt. 1: Pride-less

We interrupt the ongoing Loss series to bring you a special, two-part #Pride event I was not planning to make. It takes a hearty serving of gloom-and-doom to produce the second and third parts of Loss. Recent developments, however, briefly pushed me in the opposite direction. That’s over now, surely enough, so they still may or may not come. But this entry, on the other hand, could not be stopped – bile seldom can be.

I originally meant to release a mea culpa about the dark side of the rainbow and my participation in it, first. That’s still coming, since it was drafted nearly in its entirety right after Pride Sunday. [Update: it’s here!] But I saw something today that enraged me in such a way that it walloped my introspective lens outward, toward the realest of enemies. Know right now I wrote this in the deepest of ires, so it’s an ugly rant. I tried to bring the heat down in editing, but I’m far too angry still.

This is what I saw:

Hi. I’m @AlbertoBelaunde and this is what I frequently get for being gay. [pictures of homophobic slurs and death wishes via retroactive terrorism and/or AIDS!]

Seeing this, I feel no fucking pride in being from this cess pool of a country. None. You can particularly take your World Cup bullshit and shove it up your god-fearing assholes. I had been trying distinctively hard not to shit on your delusional parade, but as far as I’m concerned this racist, classist, homophobic, woman-beating place deserves not a second of joy.

Why am I so livid, beside the obvious? Because I have been away from that toxic swamp for three years and am a better man for it. I suspected little or nothing would change in my absence in regards to LGBTQ+ rights, or even human rights, but being confronted by reality unchanged feels very, very different. It cuts even deeper now that I know I’ve run out of options and time. I may be in New York but it is still Trump’s America. Want it or not, they’re still under his children-caging thumb. Under this administration, the likelihood of me finding a job in the US has gone from “difficult” to “miracle-adjacent”. I’m too much of a hassle now, experience be damned. Fuck my drag, right?

If you got a little lost in my rant, let me confirm that, yes, I did say I am going back to Peru. I hope to return to New York as soon as humanly possible, but for the time being, this is it. I still can’t bring myself to book that flight just yet, though. I’ll probably just do it over the weekend when I’m good and drunk. We’ll see. However, knowing this bullshit is what I have to look forward to makes me wanna jump off the Greenpoint Avenue bridge. That doesn’t sound very dramatic ‘cause it’s a small, lesser known bridge, but it’s right here. I will not be inconvenienced by my own suicide. What would be the point.

I am aware there are good people in that marsh; all of my gay friends fighting the good fight, all of my straight friends raising better children. You will all be a sight for sore, bloodshot eyes. But I’m not an optimistic person by nature, I have to squint harder to see the glass half full. And right now all I see is you’re a crystalline drop in a mop bucket and it crushes my soul. Here, I am a double minority – and this city’s not without its homophobes or racists, but “the people” have your back. Not just your people, but all people.

No one has ever harassed me in any way here, but I’ve seen it happen and each time there’s been a far larger and louder chorus shutting that shit down. Assholes are the real minority when you can trust a multitude of total strangers to stand up for you, for what is right. Reading those tweets my friend – an openly gay congressman, for fuck’s sake – received, reminded me what being a minority truly feels like. No chorus behind you, a few scattered voices if you’re lucky. The assholes are impossibly crueler and louder in Peru.

I wrote this in English because I’m sick of hearing about the strides #Peru has made. Oh, the food! Oh, the culture! Oh, the economy! Oh, how they’ve turned themselves around! They have not. I have never publicly contradicted anyone saying good things about my country, because I don’t wanna be that bitter bitch, but you know what? I will be that bitch today. Food’s great and Machu Picchu is as impressive as ever, but it is still the home of wife-beaters, female reproductive rights-deniers, horror movie-level femicide (with a side of presidential ignorance, so you can gauge just how backwards it all is), toxic/idiotic masculinity and this fucking bitch:

Whaaaaat? Tire yourself already, faggot, and quit your shit. God created man and woman, the rest are hybrids. You latch on to such a sad tragedy to try and impose your degeneration.

[edited for clarity because she’s an illiterate piece of shit. One comma and it’s in the wrong place, FML]

If you’re wondering why I single this monster out, my answer is threefold. One, I expect this from chauvinistic, toxic males. But I am always especially sicken when it’s a woman spouting their trash. Two, the contrast between her smiling grandma avatar and the sewage in her tweet. Three, she revealed strategy and hope in a single line: tire yourself already. This is what they do, they oppose resistance so we, the faggots, get tired. They’re an unmovable mass we, the faggots, must keep pushing for the right to live. And it stroke a deep chord in me BECAUSE I DID GET TIRED. Thirty years of this bullshit, I GOT TIRED AND I LEFT AND I’VE BEEN MY HAPPIEST, GAYEST SELF AND NOW I HAVE TO GO BACK TO SEE YOUR FUCKING FACE, YOLI, AND HEAR YOUR FUCKING BULLSHIT ECHOED IN ALL THE OTHER HOMOPHOBES THAT GOT YOUR BACK AND NEVER MINE.

Oh, but watch out, bitch.
Unless this post substantiates my petition for political asylum, I am coming.
And. I. Am. PISSED.

Loss [pt. 1]

A horrible hangover the other morning had me wrapped around the toilet puking fire. I don’t know what it is Dallas BBQ puts on its boneless buffalo wings but it is as delicious going down as it is hellish coming back up. It clogged my esophagus and burned the back of my throat, a nightmarish sensation I’ve never experienced. I feared its imagined consistency, red-hot paste struggling up my tubes for the longest time. This is how people choke on their vomit and die, I thought. However, what came out more closely resembled tomato juice. Perhaps a little more orange than a bloody mary should ever be, but it didn’t kill me. I hold the same hopes for the ugliness making its way to the tip of my tongue-fingers. Hunched over my laptop like I was over the john, I brace myself for something equally gross. Word of warning: this, too, will take a while.

A strange win occurred on my way to Budin, a nice little café in my neighborhood where I started drafting this entry. As I was writing, a doble-level tow truck had gone by, filled to the brim with the remains of flattened, shredded cars. It was and is irrelevant to my story but I’d never seen a derelict vehicle reduced to its paltriest, let alone that many at once. Not sure why I was so attracted to such wreckage, but I was. This was not the win, though.

On my walk to Budin I stumbled upon a local bookstore a couple of blocks away. I had been thinking of a passage I’d read days before, a tweet of a picture of a book. The excerpt, which belonged to Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, would later reveal itself to be a colossal spoiler, but as I walked into Word looking for it I had no such information. If you intend to read this fantastic book, which I recommend you do, perhaps you should skip the following quote.

And while they wished to look out for each other, and to keep tabs on each other, staying in touch took a toll on them, serving as an unsettling reminder of a life not lived, and also they grew less worried each for the other, less worried that the other would need them to be happy, and eventually a month went by without any contact, and then a year, and then a lifetime.

I strolled through neatly stacked shelves fully aware I only had $18.57 left in my bank account for the next three days. I held Hamid’s book in my hand and turned it over. Sixteen dollars. Would be less than prudent, yes, but I still had some food in the fridge and not a whole lot of plans. As I got closer to the register, it dawned on me I hadn’t considered taxes. I was pretty sure I was covered but math has never been my forte. I spent those last seconds steeling myself for embarrassment, just in case. Exit West came up to $17.42 with taxes. This… was not the win either.

As my depreciated card returned to me, the lady announced it was Indie Bookstore Day and I had “won a little something”. She handed me a small bundle, neatly wrapped in delicious brown packaging paper. “Oh, cool!”, I offered with unabashed, unwarranted enthusiasm considering my bounty were the most random books I’ve ever laid eyes on. But I didn’t know that at the time and it ultimately didn’t matter. This was the win I had urged the universe for after the longest, most miserable streak of shit luck.

The possibilities and excitement concealed within the little brown parcel far exceeded its size. Although it would’ve been nice to get something I actually wanted to read, the jolt of genuine joy I had for that couple of blocks’ walk to Budin was my actual prize. Once I opened it, of course, I didn’t feel as much struck by luck as grazed by it. However off the mark, though, a win is a win is a win.

Having allowed a strange, off-brand victory to remind me the little things, for better and worse, matter most, other modest triumphs revealed themselves to me instantly. For instance, finding five unlikely singles in my wallet, which effectively covered my four-dollar cup of coffee (plus tip) at a place where there is a five-dollar minimum for cards. Also, I didn’t have five dollars in my card, so this, compounded by the fact I got the table right in front of the floor-to-ceiling window, felt like a killer sweep.

And with all those wee gains under my belt, I thought I could finally approach the foulness that had been bubbling up inside me for a full year. I had let some of it out before, but seems insignificant now. I had basically said I felt like a loser, and while that is still true, I later understood I was grappling with what made me feel like a loser: loss.

A finished draft for what would’ve been Loss (pt. 1) has been sitting in my desktop for the longest time. It is virtually identical to what you have read up to this point. But from here on out, I had said something along the lines of “let me tell you about fucking loss: I’ve lost a father, a boyfriend, nearly all of my friends in this city and am weeks away from losing my authorization to work in this country, as my OPT comes to an end. With no other job in sight, I am bracing myself for the loss of the life I have built here and my hope to stay”. Thus setting Part 1 to be about my dad, Part 2 about my ex and Part 3 about New York.

All that stands. I still wish to export all that bullshit out of my brain. Heaven knows, now that my EDA did in fact expire, I have nothing but time. However, I realized it implied I was, more or less, equally devastated by all three. I was not. What I had wrote for Part 1 made me feel good… and that’s how I know it wasn’t honest. I minced my words. I tried to look good. I didn’t lie in what I wrote, but I was purposely focusing on the positive feelings I was left with, instead of the full truth:

I promised ugliness and here it is: I wasn’t moved by my father’s passing.

No, I promised ugliness and here it is: I don’t care my father died. He was “an unsettling reminder of a life not lived”, of the wellspring and offspring we did not turn out to be. I suddenly found myself performing grief while dealing with his loss. Putting on the mourning show for all the sympathetic people around me who were only sympathetic as long as I complied, as long as I bothered to clothe my relief with acceptance. But make no mistake, a loss is a loss is a loss, too. And this one was felt. In fact, it had always been felt. It started ages ago, on the night of my first earthquake.

I don’t really remember how old I was, my memory paints two very young kids watching TV while their mother is at work and their father is, as usual, locked in his bedroom also watching TV. I must’ve been no older than six because I didn’t truly know what an earthquake was until it introduced itself to me as it happened. My sister and I banged frantically on the door while the earth banged beneath us in similar fashion. All three of us stopped around the same time. My father came out to scold us but not immediately. Him and I have been dying ever since.

So you see, his actual death is the end of an ongoing loss to which I had become accustomed. The negative space of loss, as it turns out, is also loss. I don’t know how else to explain it, to you or myself. However, being Father’s Day and all, I believe it’s important to set the record straight: I absolutely do not hate my dad. That’s too strong an emotion, I didn’t know him well enough for that. My feelings are lukewarm at best, as they would be for a silent benefactor. Occasionally dampened by the fact he wasn’t always silent.

He was who he was and that is fine. I am an adult, I understand. I am not angry at him. I am not bitter nor resentful. I am at peace with us. But I will not make excuses for him to convince people that I am okay. I won’t remember him fondly in every conversation to appease my family. Death does not a saint make.

When somebody dies, people often expect you to immediately wipe their slate clean, no matter what, as if forgiving and forgetting were the same thing. As if acknowledging the unsavory parts equaled holding a grudge. Sugar-coating his memory seems a lot more offensive (and pointless), if you ask me. I don’t need that to remember him warmly in the few occasions that I do. I can celebrate the good without erasing the bad. That’s our whole story. It’s all in me. That’s what being human is. Denying it serves no one and it brings me no closer to peace.

Where absolution was needed, it was granted. I long forgave him for not trying and myself for walking away. I forgave us for this nothingness we had, if only because it stopped making sense to hold on to it. I believe he was ill-equipped to be my father, perhaps a father, and that I can understand. If nothing else, that deserves some compassion. Whatever anger I had went with him the last day we saw each other and, when he finally passed, I was relieved for both of us. Relieved he wasn’t suffering anymore, but mostly relieved I wouldn’t suffer our nothingness anymore.

Like any love story, some pairings are just not meant to be. They are what they are, last what they last and have the impact that they have. I was always meant to survive his absence. And I did. I wouldn’t have been able to earnestly hold his hand at the end otherwise. I believe it was important for both of us to let the other know we had owned up to our history and let go. No struggle or resistance, just acceptance and release.

And there it is, I admit it, I’ve let go. Entirely. I don’t think about it. I don’t feel any particular way about it. I wasn’t sad on the day nor am I today. I actually didn’t remember the one year anniversary had happened until half a week had rolled by. And even then I said nothing. I briefly considered texting my mom, but it felt contrived. I dismissed the idea immediately and spent the rest of my morning roll around the bed wondering why I felt guilted still into fabricating grief. I’ve let bygones be bygones and accepted us for who we were… and for that I am somehow seen broken or monstrous.

 

What had happened was

Ok.

Es la una y diez de la mañana. Estoy sentado en el mismo escritorio de IKEA que me ha sostenido por más de dos años. No sé si lo han visto en mi instagram. Solía tomarle ene fotos, mostly para documentar la incontenible progresión de mi OCD. Es pequeño y bastante simple, pero su color me encanta. Es el mismo marrón chocolate que mi cama y cajonera. En este instante me provoca describirlo como cremoso. Solo porque el otomano de cuero falso que descansa al pie de la cama, donde guardo las toallas y ropa de cama y MI TÍTULO DE NYU (porque me falta espacio pero no vergüenza), también es marrón chocolate… pero no es cremoso. Usualmente editaría un detalle tan estúpido pero, as I type this, decido en tiempo real que esta noche la censura no procede.

Tengo meses borrando y reescribiendo esta maldita entrada. En parte porque no encontraba las palabras, en parte porque las cosas seguían cambiando. El borrador sobre el cual estoy trabajando, por ejemplo, es del 7 de enero. Se llamaba Gay Interrupted y era un texto terminado. En él hablaba sobre sentirme alejado de mí mismo, viviendo vidas prestadas en una ciudad que no es mía. Aún quiero hablar de esto porque, hasta cierto punto, aún es verdad. No obstante, el texto que ustedes leen hoy se llama What Had Happened Was y cuenta con algunos cambios fundamentales, entre ellos:

Mi novio, pobre, no entiende qué me pasa. Cree que él no es suficiente y me da mucha pena verlo triste por mí. Pero es difícil explicarle que, para compartir mi vida con él, necesito tener una vida, que sea mía y solo mía. En este momento, no siento que la tenga. Siento que él conoció a una persona que no es enteramente yo y no sé cómo solucionarlo. Dudo que volver a Perú sea la respuesta – though I may have no other choice. Ugh, todo es tan fucking difícil. Todo lo que tengo son 33 años de falsos comienzos y ene textos de mierda sin terminar.

Mi novio y yo nos separamos a fines de febrero.

No voy a continuar de inmediato con este tema. I will circle back to it, pero por ahora dejémoslo aquí. Sepan que cuando escribí eso, el 7 de enero, I meant it. Pero hoy, 19 de marzo, sé que nuestros problemas eran otros.

Gay Interrupted fue el fruto de mi primer mes de terapia, hence the iconic reference. Entonces aún no sabía cómo me sentía al respecto; ahora no sé cómo voy a sobrevivir sin Megan. De hecho, he ~transicionado~ al tipo de persona que empieza sus oraciones con “mi terapeuta dice que” y me doy vergüenza y orgullo a la vez. En esas primeras sesiones, describí Nueva York de la misma forma que un ex amigo la describió para mí en el subway, citando a un autor que no recuerdo: “Nueva York es como un escultor que va quitándote lo que no sirve, lo que sobra, y te acerca poco a poco a la mejor versión de ti mismo. El problema es que nunca para de tallar. Si te quedas demasiado tiempo, te empieza a destruir”.

Mi gran preocupación entonces era haber cruzado inadvertidamente esa línea. Temía que la ciudad estuviera carcomiendo piezas que realmente necesito. Temía que me estuviera desdibujando.

Have I overstayed my welcome? Aún me encanta vivir aquí, pero no sé qué vida estoy viviendo. Mi trabajo es un favor, básicamente. No tiene nada que ver con mi carrera, la cual se siente cada vez más extrasolar. Ahora solo escucho de “estrategias” o “briefings” o “planning” como un eco del espacio exterior, en entrevistas de trabajo que no se concretan o de amigos con mejor suerte que yo. Me divierte lo que estoy haciendo, es fácil y paga muy bien, pero no creo que sea algo que pueda hacer por siempre. Corrección:  que no es algo que pueda hacer por siempre, este es el último semestre en que la universidad puede emplearme. No estoy acreditado para enseñar de por vida, no es mi carrera, no tengo el cartón. Tampoco sé si lo quiero.

Siempre he creído que uno no es lo que hace, pero el trabajo que elegimos informa nuestras vidas. No sabía cuánto hasta que llegué aquí y tuve que hacer algo que no elegí. No me malinterpreten: he amado cada segundo y estoy muy agradecido, pero fue circunstancial. Hay decenas de personas que me han conocido en los últimos dos años y todo lo que saben de mí es que soy profesor de NYU. Eso significa algo y ese algo no soy del todo yo.

Obvio que suena regio decir que uno es profesor de NYU, ergo lo que estas personas piensan de mí no me quita el sueño. El punto era que YO me estaba rayando, viviendo de identidades prestadas. Suena súper ridículo, lo admito. But that’s how I felt a month into therapy. Miraba hacia atrás y veía trescientas líneas truncas, running every which way.

El punto es que antes era otra persona, y antes de eso era otra, y cada iteración se siente más lejana de mí. Siempre he vivido vidas semi prestadas en esta ciudad. En 2014 cuando trabajaba en Publicidad y estaba con Michael, viviendo mi mejor vida en Williamsburg patrocinado por la agencia. En 2015-2016 cuando estaba en la maestría y todo era alegría con Camila y mis amigos y mis salientes, no tenía responsabilidades reales y vivía en una burbuja (ubicada, for the most part, también en Williamsburg). Luego empecé el OPT y me fui acomodando en este rol – prestado – de profesor universitario, sabiendo que no estaba construyendo mi carrera en lo absoluto, que la gracia se me acabaría más temprano que tarde y que, encima, me iría quedando cada vez más solo, as all my friends started to leave.

Pero mi ansiedad no tenía nada que ver con mis “vidas prestadas”, sino con el hecho de que todas tenían fecha de caducidad. Ninguna me permitía hacer planes, entablar relaciones reales, establecerme de verdad en esta ciudad. Ni siquiera podía adoptar un puto gato, que me habría hecho mucho bien. Quiero estabilidad, maldita sea, ¡tengo 300 años! ¿Saben lo agotador que es cumplir un sueño y vivir bajo la amenaza de perderlo todo el tiempo? Me siento en All Stars, csm. En cualquier momento la vida me saca el lipstick y boom, soy Shangela.

Pero hay algo más… and this is where I address that Facebook picture with Olly Alexander, whose caption haunts me to this day. Como dije antes, fue un momento de suma debilidad. Lo borraría, pero el daño está hecho. Contexto: Acababa de terminar con mi novio, venía de solucionar la renovación de mi depa solo para quedarme sin roommate, y ninguno de los trabajos a los que postulé me había llamado (they still haven’t). Decir que estaba teniendo una semana, quincena, mes o año de mierda would be an understatement.
Enter Olly
.

Además de tener el privilegio de escuchar parte de Palo Santo, pude hablar un rato con él. El evento era para gente “de la industria” y yo era el único infiltrado, así que me porté muy decente y esperé pacientemente mi turno. Por supuesto, tres copas de vino blanco más tarde, me sentí súper empoderado. Había esperado suficiente. Le dije “debo ser la única persona aquí que no trabaja en medios”. Me respondió “get out”. Nos reímos. Creo que estábamos hablando de sus ideas para el tour cuando recordé algo que genuinamente le quería preguntar: quién está manejando la campaña de Palo Santo en redes. “WMA”, dijo.

No bien dije ~redes~ sentí que había resucitado. No recuerdo la última vez que tuve una conversación seria sobre lo que yo solía hacer. Hablamos del rollout en Facebook Messenger y lo mucho que me había impresionado. Me dijo que él también había quedado complacido con el trabajo creativo de la agencia. Fue bacán. Le dije que justamente estaba buscando volver a trabajar en agencias (recordemos, tenía tres copas encima y él me sirvió una cuarta… rumbo al hoyo, lento pero seguro). Me preguntó qué hacía ahora y le dije que enseñaba español en NYU.

Something snapped.
That’s not what I came here to do.

Estuve extremadamente feliz de conversar con Olly, pero horas después, cuando subí la foto a Facebook I realized exactly what I was mourning: I had failed. Terminé la maestría, tengo el cartón and straight As, pero nunca escribí nada. Dejé de trabajar por casi tres años y no publiqué nada. Para qué hice todo esto entonces, si ni siquiera me ayuda a conseguir trabajo ahora. Suddenly it hit me: I had come to New York to write and I never did. I failed. Por eso mi diploma está escondido en el otomano. Con qué cara.

Alguna vez conversando con Pepa sobre la maestría, le dije que me sentía como en Drag Race. Ahora cuando pienso en el asunto, literal escucho a Aja en mi cabeza: “I was like ‘oh yes, I got this!’ And then the challenges and the runways came along and I was like, I don’t look that good, I’m not doing that good, I’m not feeling that good… and then I went home”. Honestamente, no me fue mal. Nunca recibí críticas terribles y efectivamente estaba de acuerdo con casi todo lo que me decían. Pero el programa no me ayudó a corregir mis errores. No sé si es injusto exigirle más, quizá debí exigirme más a mí mismo. Como sea, me habría gustado más input de los profesores y menos bla-bla-bla de los alumnos.
And I definitely could’ve done without the snobbish assholes, but I guess that’s unavoidable in that world.

En el caption de la foto con Olly dije que estaba decepcionado de mí mismo y las decisiones que había tomado. Creo que exageré porque estaba triste. Tenía una idea muy específica de lo que sería estar aquí, haciendo lo que quiero hacer, estando con quien quiero estar y cuando nada resultó, me deprimí. Mi relación (told you I’d circle back) también era parte de este sueño y, de algún modo, sentía que fue otro fracaso. Pero he cambiado de opinión.

This is running a little long, so I’ll keep it brief y esto será todo.

Siempre me ha ido pésimo en el amor, pero nada ha sido más duro que esto. Amar a una persona, genuinamente y por quién es, y tener que aceptar que no es para ti es, literal, lo peor. I had to break his heart and my own, pero estoy convencido de que es lo mejor. No somos lo que el otro necesita ahora y no podemos seguir ofreciéndonos en sacrificio. It shouldn’t be so hard.

Amo a mi ex novio. Lo amo. Se merece a un huevón que quiera lo mismo que él y se lo deseo, en serio. “I realize we won’t be able to talk for some time (…) We were together during a very tumultuous time in our lives. I will always have your back and be curious about you, about your career, your whereabouts…”

* plays harmonica *

There goes the bride

It let itself be known
a maddening wind
sucker
punching my ears shut.

Blows
to the chest I surrender
a lost embrace blinds cold.

Important things have been lost to the winter
and you, a hue of blue
Nature cannot paint twice.

Prueba de vida

Déjenme empezar esta pequeña nota diciendo que me arrepiento terriblemente de haberle puesto un caption tan deprimente a mi foto con Olly. Fue un momento de debilidad. Subir una entrada titulada Last Words inmediatamente después probablemente tampoco ayudó, jaja.
For what it’s worth, they weren’t MY last words!

¡Amigos, duh, obvio que estoy vivo! Sé que no he estado muy activo en redes o en el blog, pero ha sido un invierno duro para el alma. A lot has gone down and important things have been lost. Así que aquí estoy, rumiándolo todo bajo la nieve.
Pronto, estoy seguro, llegará otra primavera y saldré como Shakira o el sol or both.

Una entrada* más larga sobre todo esto está en el tintero, pero necesito masticarla un rato más.
Por ahora, ofrezco esto como prueba de vida.
You haven’t seen the last of me.

*While I find the words to put that entry together, I will be posting a series called “Crap I wrote that I never finished”.
Join me in this journey through my failures! 🖤

Last words

Morning unzips the dark

giggles down the street.

If he’s okay wakes me up first thing.

Finds me nestled still in the curlicue of a long night’s neck.

Leave me alone stretches my palms

open. I grieve

for all that exceeds my grasp.

I don’t want to see you sits within the periphery.

Only stepping into focus to jag from time to time.

Twilight slashes the sky again

nightfall spurts out.

Somebody maybe will go to work.