‘Til Death do us Part
To Have and to hold
Forever and Always
Since I was a young boy, I would sit in the church pew next to my Mother, itching to get out of this “once a year” outfit that fit tighter than it did last year, wondering what flavor the cake was going to be.
These words were ingrained in my head: Loyalty, support, unconditional love. It’s what marriage is supposed to be. It’s what a relationship is supposed to be.
When I got older, I sat in the uncomfortable hour every 7th grade boy experiences with the outdated VHS and the creepy PE teacher telling you about ejaculation and how body hair is normal. At least we were also taught to practice safe sex.
That same year in my catechism class, I was taught that sex is love, and you should only participate in sex with someone you love after you are married.
I created a preconceived notion that my life would be a fairytale. It would be how it was on TV and movies. I was going to fall in love the way it’s supposed to happen.I was going to own a big house on the beach with my adopted children and the love of my life and a dog that we put on the Christmas cards and an extensive collection of Selena Quintanilla memorabilia.
* * * *
We had dinner and drinks, and in a blur of Jack and Diet Coke (because it’s less calories and bulking season was over) I had sex. It wasn’t sex with a stranger, it wasn’t a whim of the moment type of experience, but it was with someone who was special to me. I didn’t think he was cute because of his smile or because of his body or because of his wallet. He was cute because he had the ability to electrify a room. He had the ability to electrify me.
Afterwards, my mind raced. I was already something “new” to my family; no one was gay. I was the first and only, and although I was met with support and love, I still had that pressure to show them that we’re just like them. We get married, we love, we live lives that parallel what is thrown at us by society.
I drove home that night confused, but knowing that what happened was supposed to happen. No, we weren’t married, but it didn’t matter because it was still something special. It wasn’t done how I imagined it. It didn’t have the ending I wanted. But it happened, and for that, I was thankful.
What do I say? Do I text “goodnight”? “Hey, thanks”? “Good job!”?
I sent, “I got home, goodnight. Text me tomorrow.” And I went to sleep with a smile on my face and a smile in my heart. I did it right.
The next morning was met with a text apologizing for the horrible night, and how alcohol definitely shouldn’t be around when we’re together. Before my thumb flipped open my phone, and before I could re-read the message through my crusty eyes, my whole outlook on love had changed.
Even though I tried, I couldn’t escape the reality of this new dating culture. It still sank its teeth into my naive flesh and infected me. Sex instantly became something that just happens when we drink too much. It became a mistake that we can brush off and continue to make whenever we feel compelled.
I wasn’t ready to view things that way. I was still looking for my fairytale ending.
The shame and humiliation was overwhelming. I betrayed the high school boy who always knew he was different, but didn’t have the courage to admit it to himself. I betrayed the young adult who finally found the courage, and vowed to find the love that existed in movies and keep the sense of normalcy in the culture I grew up in. I betrayed the men that had shown me love in the past but were ignored or dismissed because I was so set on this one.
When my lips kissed his, I wanted to communicate how magical he was. To him, it was just my lips on his. When he pulled my hand, I thought he was leading my soul into his and making every cold part of me forever warm. This was my vision. This was my dream.
Yet, to my friend who briefly became my lover, this experience was a source of discomfort. I may have forsaken everything I thought about love, but as a homosexual Latinx man, today I find myself empowered. I am empowered to seek new understandings of love and sex, and to recognize their powers as well as the messes they make.
It was a different mindset for me, then -- my heart was searching, but in the wrong place. His heart didn’t find mine in a special connection, and perhaps he couldn’t make room for my kind of love at all. Looking back I can see, there’s nothing wrong with that, or with me.
In the end, I learned something I will take with me always: Lessons aren’t always pretty, but sometimes they are the lens that makes experience beautiful.
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