Branches and roots
create impossibly tall trunks
as they race towards
a vastness of their own.
Branches and roots
Branches and roots
create impossibly tall trunks
as they race towards
a vastness of their own.
My contribution, at the time and at the table, was the four-second rule. If you can sustain eye contact with somebody for over four seconds, you have one foot in the door.
In my experience, this is true every time. Think of people you’ve crossed paths with on the street. You look at them, they look at you; that’s second one. Then, one of these things will happen:
Two seconds: They/you will look away.
Three seconds: They/you will stop and consider, ultimately looking away.
Four seconds: You’ve gone the distance. Whatever happens next will depend on a number of factors, but at the very least you know they’re not indifferent to you. Whoever’s brave enough could crack a smile and see where that takes you.
I said “in my experience this is always true” but considering the company I was keeping, I should’ve specified it’s a gay male experience. It is how you spot straight men as a homo. They won’t make it past second two. They’d be terrified to look at another man for longer than it takes them to recognize him as friend or size him as foe.
But, it is also how you spot the gays. They will either make it to second four or let you know in no uncertain terms just how unattractive they find you by second three. “But women are different”, I continued. “They weren’t taught to fear closeness with one another, even though society sure seems hell bent on pitting them against each other”.
I can’t empirically know if this works between women for it is precisely the way men have been brought up in this bullshit patriarchy that makes the four-second rule a rule. The lesbians agreed, but seemed disappointed.
⏤ What about straight men?
⏤ You know how they swipe right at every single woman on Tinder? Like that, but with their eyes.
Also, who cares.
When I get down I miss my boyfriend
I know it is unfair
When I fuck up I miss a boyfriend
I never wanted there
‘Cause morning always comes
and bodies, they go home
or get thrown in the lake
in the middle of the bed.
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…
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.
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
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.
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:
— Alberto de Belaunde 🇵🇪 (@AlbertoBelaunde) June 27, 2018
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.
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.
It let itself be known
a maddening wind
punching my ears shut.
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.
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.