by Marcos S. Gonsalez
The cup on the counter. Unwashed, days there, your body reflections through the smudge marks. You and your form. The butt bare and naked, on the bed, sprawled. I adore you. Lover, boytoy, hookup: all three at once. This, our summertime fling. Tell me how this ends? You in your corner, and I in mine. Defensive and defenseless. The portrait in my head is of us, old and withered, on the corner dancing to our salsa and bolero loves, our loving through the war years.
To the hot air of this dorm room, our present, our now, “Querido...”
Not loud enough. To hear is to respond, to acknowledge my speaking, my affection in the auditory.
My finger to your skin. Into it, more like. Digging a bit of nail, tearing into flesh as if knowing what’s to come, knowing this will be more than a summertime fling, more than this fun and games, this Wednesday lunch this Saturday fuck this Monday morning text message cuteness. The body knowing before the memory happens.
“Mira...joto asqueroso...that hurt...”
Calling each other the things they called us. Maricón, joto, pato. The hurt diminishes in the playfulness. If I told you I could hear what they said, and how they said it, their emphases and intonations, would it make it better? To know what you know? To live what you lived? Lessening the memory of an island boy who sashayed a little too hard, who spun the campo runways a little too fast, too fabulous in your Santo Domingo step? If I could take it all away, mi amor, I would. But is that what you want? What any of us want? These evasions of memory, a watered-down past, erasing our own erasure. They called us names they feared. They called us names they delighted in hearing. They called us names they knew meant liberation. They called us maricón or joto or pato and we didn’t know it then because we were kids, and we took things personally, and we made excuses for the cruelty of others, and we repeated those words to ourselves in isolation and disgust and worry and pain, but those words meant radiant things, that we were precious and beautiful, with wings and dance, with verve and attitude, with a life energy unequalled. They called us names we call each other now and each time we say one we say it with love, lovingly reworking a history which, if we let it, if we allowed it, would consume us, would keep us awake at night. I say joto, you say asqueroso, making the memories of our different yesterdays, of our island campos and small farming towns, a little easier to live with, to remember on our own terms.
This word I will come to know so well. Sorry said a million times over. In different contexts, different places. Sorry it had to be this way…sorry I did that to you…sorry I made you hurt…and sorry over and over again. Is this what love is? What becomes of our summertime fling, if we let it, if we want it? If I knew then what I know now—would I insist, persist, go on?
So many of us want to be more than just a hookup, a friend, a casual encounter because we exist in a world which values such kinds of longings, such aspirations. I question this, in retrospect and in prospect, inquiring as to what other modes of intimacy, caring, and loving are possible beyond the couple, the you and me, the one plus one equaling the white picket fence, the dog and the kid, the destination wedding. Then again, this dialogue I am having with you, querido, this letter I am writing to you, mi amor, would not be possible without our being us, our history in a plural pronoun.
But, lindo, we are not yet there, at our being us.
Our silence. No words, no more. Just these bodies, these vessels of flesh meaning and signifying and symbolizing: the dimples in the cheeks, the brown eyes, the curls of the hair, the scrunched-up nose. Picturesque, all the angles just right for the abstractions I place upon you, all these concepts, these head in the cloud wanderings, these big ideas. I see you as the redeemer. The man who loves man, who gives man affection, who kisses man softly and who kisses man barbarously, who promises to love and to protect. I never knew it could be this way with a man. The men in my life have always been cold and distant, body separated from body, emotion denying. Flawed, as all men are, as all people are. Selfish, even. The future to be brings with it complications to these delusions of grandeur. These hopes one man, a man, can save me from my loneliness, my childhood fantasies, my dream of being hurt no more.
In your body is knowledge to be gained.
But that’s tomorrow, not today, not our yesterday. Let this love we do not call love at this moment run its course. Let the passion grow, let the arguments come, let the hope we can make it work last. Let our us happen.
Today, because that is where we are, some weekday, some Tuesday, is the evening wane of summer. The car horns and the traffic of Wall Street outside. Our naïve beliefs about the world, our ideas of masculinity and sexiness, our preaching how unlike we are to our parents. Your form in heated shadows, by yourself there, statuesque and nude, the liberated body. Caressing you with my eyes to not ruin the moment, outsider and observer, voyeur to your life. This distance, you and me, not yet knowing what this thing is forming between us. To be and not to be with you—how to imagine it? My twenties without you is no more. My memories are structured by your presence, inevitably. But I’ll say in this moment that I know you better than you know yourself. For this is my portrait of you. You the boy in the white coat at my doorstep. You in this dorm room, on this Tuesday, beside me. You at ease and easing my body into night. My fiction of what you were, and of what I imagined us not becoming. This profile of a body full of wonder and possibility. Another summertime fling, supposed to be just these lines and shadings of my creation, then afterwards nothing more.
Marcos S. Gonsalez is an essayist and PhD candidate in Literature living in New York City. His essay collection about growing up a gay son of an undocumented Mexican immigrant and a poor Puerto Rican mother in white America, Pedro’s Theory: Essays, is represented by agent Lauren Abramo and is currently on submission with publishers. His essays can be found or are forthcoming at Electric Literature, Ploughshares, Catapult, The New Inquiry, and Los Angeles Review, among others.