In the dark I find myself lost in a fog Looking through a mirror and I see no reflection When the days have gone past and the nights have settled My mind feels empty due to no recollections
When the days are as bright as the sun I seem dark and upset; my clarity is missing There is a wall in the way blocking my view All the glimmer and lights right in front of me
Am not jaded, I swear…no really am not But maybe that’s my mind speaking nonsense Because its me who deep down I forgot And my qualities remain tested But my mind is not settled from this I can’t seem to find the light that’s so bright Oh man how I can see it, its almost there and so crisp To start over again now and find stars in the mist
In the mist that transforms so blindly to fog When the nights become darker and my pen writes no log Of what’s happening inside me and I have no one but me Clarity…I need you now, bring me clarity – let me see, let me see
It’s often when we least expect it that we are faced with dilemmas that are beyond our control. How we deal with these issues depends soly on the person, however one thing is certain – the dilemma.
On a otherwise slow night, while reading, I heard a sound I had not heard in quite a while. It came unexpected. The origin – my phone’s pre registered memory ring tones. While I shuffled in my mind to put a name to the sound, it came to me. A name, a sound, I had not heard from in a long time. There it was, deeply stored in the corners of my mind’s memory; it came to me – my ex’s phone number.
I let it ring for quite some time before the ringing finally stopped. I stood there looking at it, wondering, admiring and all the while thinking – “what the F$@!??” It dawned on me then that while most of my relationships had ended on a good note, this was the only one that had not. I picked up the phone and tried to dial back, but quickly hung up. I dont know why I did nor what I would have said if I had called. Strange because it is often rare that I find myself in this situation. But here I was, unwilling to dial a number. Unwilling to have a conversation. Unwilling to come to terms with someone.
You are by far the the most complicated of relationships I have come to have; and trust me, I have had a couple of complicated ones. I have been 80 lbs pounds lighter with you and somehow still miserable. I have been 40 pounds heavier and completely beside myself depressed. My relationship with you has began to complicate itself over the years; I treat you well some days and poorly on others. Sometimes I think you are the most incredible part of me, other times I’m scared for anyone to even see us together because of the embarrassment of what we’ve done to each other. Lately, I’ve have been struggling with you and while some days I wake up happy, others I do not. I know that it is in mind head but somehow I can’t seem to shake it. Some would call our relationship toxic. I know we will probably never have shredded abs … because we love pan too much & well…genetics.
But here we are, stuck together and everyday that passes I begin to accept you more and more. Thank you for being patient with me.
It is said that love will conquer all. It will defy any obstacle. Move any mountain. Sustain any relationship. But I wonder – does it really? Above EVERYTHING else, does it???
My mother used to say that when hunger comes through the door, love will leave through the window. I didnt know what she meant by that, but as an adult – I now do.
Every potential lover, relationship, date – we judge them. The attraction is there, however we can’t help but look at the “rest”. What is the rest? Well, the job, the status, the dreams, the passion, where they live, what they do for a living, etc. etc. The things that love does not see and does not judge. In the end you go with your judgment and not with your heart.
So you question yourself and ask if what you are doing is right. Whether you should listen to your heart. Your chest begins to hurt and your mind starts to wonder. Your left with a feeling of shallowness and selfishness. You begin to judge YOU.
Why is it then that we can’t just allow someone to enter our lives without judgment, with soly just LOVE?
—-Jesse Isn’t that Jesse over there?” Said a friend as I turned from the pool and took of swig of my beer. Silence. Isn’t it?” More silence. With the taste of beer fresh in my mouth I replied, “Yes”. “Yeah it is”. I thought of this moment a lot. I thought of what I would feel seeing my ex in public and with another man. I thought of what I would say, how calm I wanted to be, how “together” I wanted to seem. I thought about what he would think of me and all of the emotions that would overwhelm us. Would I be angry? Would I be sad? Would I be corgal? Now here, everything felt different but somehow I was unmoved by the feeling. All of the hurt that was once there, now gone. I struggled to find an emotion and could not. Are you okay?” Checked in my friend. “You know what?. I am surprisingly okay”. I could see the doubt in his face but I knew in that moment that I was. Somehow all of our history, all of my anger dissipated. I took a zip of my beer again.
As I turned from the bar and took a swig of my beer, I could see the unescapable smile of his. The group of friends surrounding him. Gragarious as he always was. There he stood. Not a mirage, but him. In the actual flesh. I took another sip to ensure it was not the booze kicking in. It’s him. It really is. I though of the last time we had been face to face together. It was 6 years ago as he was walking out the door. Anger in my heart is where I had stored it, but now…not anger. A feeling of joy took over. Seeing his smile made me remember the good times we had together and all of the laughs. Oh his laugh. But what would I say? I had done him so wrong that finding the words to greet him would not be sufficient. Should I bring up our past now? 6 years later? And in this social space? What was the point? I wanted to walk away, but I couldn’t. My body frozen. I look to find his gaze but was unable to. So i dug deep, to find that courage I once had and forth I went. A day later we were having coffee as if nothing had happened. We did talk but this time we both felt so adult. Me with my guilt and him with his anger. Somehow all of that felt to have dropped and what remained was kindness.
—-Raul Oh Raul…Love of my life. What words can be said to describe how I feel about you. It been 5 years since I last saw you and thinking about seeing you makes me nervous again. You about all were the person that opened my heart when I thought it would be closed. You showed me love even in the times when I was not kind. You allowed me to be me and in all ways accepted me. You showed me adventure and what things in life are the most important. I miss that and I missed you. So sitting here across from you make all these feeling boil up. From the night that we slept on the street and cried, not because we were sad, but because were happy. From when I saw you the first time, naked, exposed and in all your glory. I knew then that I would love you. So what do I say to you now? What do I say that will allow you to forgive me for the cowardly decisions I made in my life. Somehow I know that you will not see it as so, and you didn’t. You accepted me and now I can move forward in my life knowing someone like you has a space in my heart. A big space that I don’t think will soon be replaced. “Te quiro chino”
The emotion overwhelms me as I hop onto the bus. It’s a particularly hot day and all of the children around me are screaming from excitement. The air is damp and sweaty bodies touch each other as we board the bus. The smell of body odor is so rank that it’s hard to breathe; it is a typical day in Havana. The bus is bound for Pinar Del Rio and the last one of the day. I am upset because I have always wanted to go to Pinar for the beach, so then why are we taking this last bus? Through the happiness of the passengers, all I can see is the worried look on my moms face. “Mami, que te pasa?” I ask. She immediately barks back – “Callate nino. Para de preguntar preguntas”
This response has become the norm for the last fifteen months since my father left us. My uncle tells us that my father left for a job in Santiago. My aunts say he left us for another woman. My grandfather tells us that he will be back any days now. And my grandmother can’t even look at me when I ask her about it. It’s hard to believe anyone in those days, as there were so many changes happening all around us. The Soviet Union has collapsed; Cuba’s biggest aid following the embargo from the US. The food and social situation in Cuba has become dire. The lines to the supermarket are getting longer. People are waiting five hours just to get some “cafe”, “arroz con frijoles”, and “pan”. My mom says it is because the government doesn’t know what they are doing but all I care about is that we have pan in the morning; I love bread. We spend most nights starting at the news on TV; watching the endless reports of people trying to escape Cuba and failing to do so. It is quite common to hear of bodies being found in the ocean of those attempting to get to Miami. My brother says its all fake. That the government is making it up. There is so much hysteria and misinformation being disseminated. I didn’t know fake news existed back then.
My mother is quiet during the entire bus ride and says nothing, staring blankly into space. No expression. No talking. I can tell she is nervous about something. My brother and I look at each other with the ‘something is wrong’ look. The only words we hear her speak are “estoy bien” [I’m fine]. We both know she is not fine. As we pass San Cristobal, my mom finally breaks her silence and says, “Habre las manos y tomate esto.” [Open your hands and take this]. She hands each of us two white pills for us to consume. My brother, as always, obliges. I, however, have questions…. “What is this? Is it candy? Why does it look like a pill, if it’s candy? Is it a pill? A pill for what?” My mother’s response is a slap in the face followed by an additional pill for me to take.
From this moment on I can’t recall much of the remaining hours. There are glimpses of visions; in one I am being carried off the bus; in another I am in a bush next to my brother. Eventually I come to realize that my brother is holding me as he wipes blood from my nose. The smell of seawater and burnt tires is in the air all around us and I hear my mother yelling something; we are on a boat and all I can hear is yelling. There is an older man with us as well as two twin girls and I recognize them; they are friends of my father. I hear more yelling but I cannot quite understand what is being said. My head is pounding and when I try to open my mouth, my mother shoves two more of the white pills in my mouth. “Swallow!” she screams, “or I will make you swallow.”
I finally awake in a hospital bed with my brother sitting next to me. He is holding what appears to be a magazine with the words “Florida” on it. “Where are we?” I ask. “Estamos en la Yuma”. “Yuma” is the name that Cubans refer to as the United States. “What?” I shout. “Yeah, we are going to go see papi”. We had arrived in Key West Florida and under the current law at that time; any Cuban who touched land would be allowed to claim political asylum. We were one of those Cubans. Before I can comprehend what was happening, my mother walked into the room with a cop. I am taken back by this image, not by the cop (although he is really handsome), but by what he is holding in his hand. A. Bright. Red. Can. The cop speaks a strange Spanish and he and my mother begin talking about what will happen to us next. There is talk of a refugee home, some money they will lend us, and about how they have contacted my father. Through all of this, the only thing I can focus on is the bright red can that the police office is holding and drinking. “Que es eso?” (What is that?). He looks at me puzzled. “It’s a Coke,” he replies. “What is Coke?” He laughs and hands it to me. I take a sip. What happens in the next 30 seconds can only be described as the most sensational feeling in my mouth. I have never tasted anything like this before. “Can I keep this? I ask. “Yes. You can have as much as you want.” This response overwhelms me and I finally cry.
The next few days are a blur as we go from refuge home to refuge home. My mother kept arguing as to why they had not yet found my father. I honestly did not care. Everything around me felt so brand new. The smells. The colors. The people. There was air conditioning everywhere! Even now, the smell of new carpet takes me back to that time. I had never smelled carpet. But above all, I remember drinking Coke; this magical drink that in its own way represented safety, freedom, and America.
My father arrived four days later. My brother was over the moon and my mother was uncontrollable; she hugged my dad and cried for what seemed like forever. My father drove us from Key West to Miami and we went directly to a 24-hour supermarket. As we entered I remember the sight of that supermarket…THERE WAS FOOD EVERYWHERE, and I mean EVERYWHERE! I had never seen so much food in my life. My brother and I ran to the “candy-by-the-pound” tubs and like savages began shoving candy into our mouths. “You have to pay for that!!” my father yelled. Pay? This was “la Yuma”, land of free; I can shove as much candy in my mouth as I wanted.
As we packed eighty-nine bags of groceries into the back of a Toyota Corolla, my dad began to lecture. “Now that you are American’s, there are things you must know” As any immigrant child will tell you, expectations of immigrant parents, are a bitch. We were expected to:
Get a job
Go to school
Learn to speak English
Bring the family from Cuba
Meet a girl
Raise a family
Buy a house
Buy a house for your parents
Buy a house for your grandparents
Buy a house for your wifes parents
It turned out, America wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
It was not until high school that I began to see the crack in my parent’s “American Dream.” I knew early on that I was gay but coming out to my parents would be heartbreaking; not because they wouldn’t accept me, but because I would never achieve the things that they needed me to achieve. They constantly reminded my brother and I that they had a difficult life here. In Cuba, my father was a chemistry professor and my mother a nurse; but here, he was a truck driver and my mother was unemployed. Not having the Ensligh skills to continue their careers hurt them. And here I was, not appreciating any of that. It’s not that I didn’t want all these things; it’s just that I wanted to create my own path forward in this new land. I didn’t want to marry and have children and buy a house…”the American dream.” And telling them I was gay meant that I didn’t’ appreciate all the things they had sacrificed to bring my brother and I here. That somehow I was disrespecting my parents for not being grateful and appreciative of all they had given up in Cuba to bring us to America. Couldn’t I just remain “straight” and give my parents what they wanted?
The day I had the ‘talk” with my mom was about a week after I met my first boyfriend. I was so happy every time I saw him but my heart felt so heavy because I lied to her about it. So I decided to come clean.
“Mami, me gustan los hombres”. Latinos do not understand the word ”gay” and using the word “maricon” sounds even worse, so the easiest to say was…“I enjoy the company of men.” She sat there perplexed, as tears streamed down my face, and remained quiet. After what felt like an eternity, she finally said, “Do you want to be a hair dresser?”
“Um…no.” I replied. To which she said, “Well then, I don’t understand…” As I began to explain myself, she interrupted…”Mira niño!” She went on to tell me how I was not gay; that I was going through a phase, that I could be a “bugaron” [A “bugaron” being a man who is married to a woman and has children]; the wife knows, but they still maintain a life of “normalcy”, but when I told her I did not want this for me and that I wanted to love a man, she became angry. This is when she raised her voice and lectured me for twenty minutes about all she had given up to bring me, all of us, here. How I was being selfish by choosing to be gay…and all I could do was to sit there and listen. I was angry, I was sad, but above all else…I was silent. “oh so you have nothing to say?” she barked
I looked at her and thought of how disappointed she must be in me, of all things that she had planned for my life and all the dreams she had for her children. I imagined my mom holding us on that raft years before knowing that no matter what, her children would be in a better world and that they would have the life she never could. I thought of my father, risking his life year earlier on a raft full of nine men, working at a car wash and fixing broken vacuum cleaners to make ends meet. Yet having a masters education and giving that up for his children….and here I was, selfishly shattering that dream for my family.
With tears in my eyes and my heart in my throat, I could think of nothing more to calm me down and so I said…
After some wondering around I have decided to call Chicago my home now. With anxiety and also a sense of excitement, I welcome this city. I am reminded of 10 years ago, my move from Brooklyn to the Bronx: how significant that seemed at the time…move from one borough to another.
As I look out into Chicago, I think of all the miles I have traveled and all the miles I have left to go.
I took another zip of my coconut. The water tasted sweet, refreshing, as if I was drinking it for the first time. “...É o momento em que você sente todas as emoções de uma vez. O momento em que você começa a entender que nem tudo na vida precisa ter uma resposta. Que algumas coisas precisam ser sentidas … e não compreendidas …” I felt what he said and at the same time, my hair began to stand up.
This is now my second time in Brasil. This land that is fill with so many emotions continues to fill my heart with so many feelings that are hard to describe. Its people are like no other. Its beaches are one of the most beautiful in the world. Its spirit…unexplainable.
You will hear that Brasil is dangerous place. You will hear that the people are violent. You will hear that there is poverty. You will hear that there is inequality. What you will not hear, is the joy that lives in the hearts of Brazilians. They are people that are fill with joy regardless of the struggle. Regardless of the obstacle. Regardless of what is to come. Similar to mi querida Cuba, this country continues forward in regards to its struggle.
I took another sip of my coconut and asked, “how can you be so happy in the face of such adversity/sadness? Don’t you want to change the things that are wrong?”
“Você tem que encontrar a felicidade no momento que está aqui. Não aqueles que estão por vir”
While here I have truly found much happiness. I have traveled and met some great people. Seeing a Brasilian movie alone (so difficult). Happiness in the ability to be free and to seek the things that make you happy. Be those things that are alone or with someone.
I finished my coconut and the following song began to play….
Muito obrigado Brasil
Deixe-me ir Preciso andar Vou por aí a procurar Rir pra não chorar
Deixe-me ir Preciso andar Vou por aí a procurar Sorrir pra não chorar
Quero assistir ao sol nascer Ver as águas dos rios correr Ouvir os pássaros cantar Eu quero nascer Quero viver
Deixe-me ir Preciso andar Vou por aí a procurar Rir pra não chorar
Se alguém por mim perguntar Diga que eu só vou voltar Depois que me encontrar Quero assistir ao sol nascer Ver as águas dos rios correr Ouvir os pássaros cantar Eu quero nascer Quero viver
Deixe-me ir Preciso andar Vou por aí a procurar Sorrir pra não chorar
You check the messages again. You notice that the two little checkmarks remain gray. You ask yourself why and you make an excuse in your head as to why. You know you are wrong. Or worse, you are are right. What was once blue, now no longer.
You thought that maybe this time it would be different. That the things that were said meant more. You wanted to believe it. You did. And now you are here again, in the same predicament. You try to explain it. To ration it in your mind, but you know the answer. You know that maybe deep down, taking the leap was never what you wanted to do. That maybe you should have listened to your intuition. After all, is it not there for a reason?
You ask yourself…”what did I learn?”….silence creeps and you begin to wonder that maybe there was nothing to learn. That the experience is just another step in the direction of the one thing you don’t want to become…jaded
You remain optimistic and recite to yourself….
“If you keep reaching out, then I’ll keep coming back. And if you’re gone for good. Then I’m okay with that….and I am finding out, that there’s just no other way, that I’m still dancing at the end of the day”