trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
through the rents of ruin
ears are ringing so I can't help but think my family is already talking about
I don't think I'm
that interesting once I get out of other peoples beds.
country of my own bed is only for invited tourists.
stop at Little Jim's for a drink before I go to the family party for another
cousin who is engaged.
only 4 o'clock in a Gemini afternoon but already the bar is crowded.
see lots of businessmen eyeing unemployed (or unemployable, as my friend Linc
insists) men in cowboys suits.
has the Gay world become so full of uniforms?
younger man nonchalantly stares at me.
look away and see one of the suits staring at him.
the beginning was the triangle and it is still holy.
walk over to the jukebox to see if there are any new Spanish songs on there and
I find the same old one: "Feliz Navidad."
why is there a Christmas song on this jukebox in the middle of June?
swallow my warm Budweiser and hurry out of the bar before I have to reject a skinny
man with an eye patch who is seeking rejection, and probably wouldnt believe
that Im late for a family party.
so strange but the inside of a Gay bar is like being inside an imaginary country;
rarely are there clocks nor even clues to which city you might be in.
a no-man's land filled with men.
as if were all amnesiacs without any other I.D.s other than what hangs between
exile who isnt an exile.
think of my parents arriving in Chicago not knowing any words of English, their
Puerto Rico becoming only Puerto Pobre.
they used to bundle us up in the winters as if we were going out to play in a
new ice age.
Ill never be the sexy narcoleptic that River Phoenix played in My Own
boots hit the sidewalks in a regular rhythm and I think of that song that Uncle
Israel, before he became Señorita Luna, used to sing: There is a rose
/ that grows / in Spanish Harlem.
arrive at the party, take a deep breath and ring the doorbell.
cousin who is pregnant and fifteen is being honored for trapping her man, an electrician
who is even in a union.
shrugs at me and cousin Tony embraces me and Im pushed into the living room.
is one of the familys heroes because he has been a rich banker's (I've never
seen a poor banker) personal chauffeur for over ten years.
tragedy is that he hasn't had enough free time to make children, or at least "legal
ones" as Mami whispered to me at another party for another pregnant cousin.
our family, sometimes we had celebrations to celebrate the fact that nothing bad
had happened in a long time.
wife, Rosa, kisses me on the cheek and sighs, "Ricky, you've finally got here.
It's you and me against them. I've been doing my part."
a well-established, if undiscussed, fact in the family that I don't have children
Rosa finds this
a more important link than I do, but it provides me an entry, or reentry, into
the family often enough.
cut out of white tissue paper are taped everywhere so it feels like Im inside
an church just for albinos.
secret life is no secret anymore.
suppose to be my secret love.
Will I never
sing: eres tú / la agua de mi. . . .?
Blanca walks into the living room, her body stuffed into a white Christian Dior
yacht-dress and rushes forward to embrace me.
told your mother this morning you would show up," she purrs. "Your parents told
me that you wouldn't. That you had to go to the ballet or something that you --
you know -- you like to do."
like to do everything," I smile back. "That's how I get in trouble."
chokes and Blanca beams.
I wish either of these women had been my mother.
are Mami and Papi?" I ask.
be here. You know your mother. She's like a daughter of the tides. She leaves
the suburbs when there isn't any traffic. She wasn't that nervous when she was
young. But who is young anymore? Not even you. I see gray hairs, hijo."
because I am very good on some very bad nights." I feel drunk, strangely happy.
like the sound of Spanish and English filling the room.
of the men are huddled, talking about the Cubs vs. The White Socks, that ancient
argument where its been agreed there are no clear-cut winners.
join the women in the kitchen who are never more than a few steps away from the
I grab a beer,
look at it in case it's on the latest boycott list -- it's not!
hits my hand. "Put that back, you barbarian. I have a surprise for you."
pushes me through the hallway into the dining room where a bar has been set up.
"See something you like?"
follow her gaze and see a handsome bartender. "Blanca, are you trying to get me
just say I'm trying to manage the trouble you're already in."
I have a sudden taste for a cigarette even though I dont really smoke except
when Im drunk or nervous or sexed-out.
leans forward. "Haven't you had enough of this business? Your parents making up
excuses. You never join the family because your parents. . . ."
kiss her. "Is this like a late graduation present?"
up to you to make it a party. I know its a fact the stud is suffering from
a broken heart. So just keep it below the waist, you get me, huh? You'd be surprised
what can crawl from down there to up here." She pounds her chest and then dramatically
winks then walks away.
savor the moment.
feel as if I'm in Brideshead Revisited, but with a mambo soundtrack.
hermano." I'm a fucking idiot, I think to myself.
am I calling such a stud my brother?
bartender smiles back. "Are you my tip?"
pull back. "What do you mean?"
the Ricky that Blanca told me about."
nod, "The little that she knows to tell you."
extends his hand, "I'm Pablo."
hold his hand, "And I'm very happy that you are Pablo."
breaks into a smile. "Ah, they warned me that you could be charming and that you
have a fat bank account."
smile back. "This is going to sound crazy, but I feel happy today. I mean, just
being with my family -- look at these criminals. You're. . . here and I'm. . .
"Also. . .happy."
I wink back. "Happy."
you haven't asked me about my broken heart!"
me about your broken heart," I ask while trying to offer my best GQ scowl.
gestures toward a drink, "You're too sober and I'm working."
I ask just one thing?"
long as it's not the kind of question that is too inspirational."
lean forward. "You sound like a Hallmark Card."
your question?" Pablo asks as if is guiding me back home through a billion mile
journey. I like his tenderness.
he Spanish or American."
was Spanish-American. A Latino. I only sleep with our kind. Who do you sleep with?"
robot in me cant be stopped once again, "Usually myself."
puts his hand over mine. "Look, I've been hearing about you for nearly a month.
And you are handsome. And you might even be sweet. I don't want to talk about
me, OK? I want to talk about spending next summer in Madrid. Or some other adventure
we might have, can have. Stupid, right?"
cock my head, "Are you a professional bartender?"
shrugs, "Ricky, I'm licensed. God, that makes me sound like James Bond, no? Did
you see Rob Lowe, no wait, it was Tom Cruise in that terrible movie where he serves
drinks in the Caribbean?"
but I'll have to rent it now."
shows up. "Sorry to interrupt this -- whatever it is but I need your help. The
uncles are arguing about who will be godfather to our children."
points, "You two. . . .?"
shake my head, "No, it's a joke. . . ."
yells, "We're two of a kind."
dragged off into the living room.
wave goodbye to Pablo and he waves back.
me this literary theft, but I'm surfing one of Virginia Woolf's waves and drunk
on adrenaline: the waves, the waves, and yet more waves.
Tony grabs me, "Am I or am I not your favorite uncle?"
nod my head, "No."
Uncle only pats
me on my back, "America is still a land of choices, right?"
I laugh. "But you're always going to be my uncle. I have no choice!"
Tony playfully pushes me away and I watch as the conversation slowly descends
into a series of private concerns and confessions.
can't help but think of Señorita Luna and wonder what he is doing right
now, at this very moment -- no, wait -- this very second, right now.
many times I have tried to find him but it seems he has legally changed his last
in the family still has no place at the table during prayers for our god is a
jealous god and wants the spotlight all to himself.
me about Spanish men I admire and I'll tell you of my Señorita Luna, he
who taught me how to dance to Aretha Franklin records, whose last words to me
before he disappeared (lost desperadoes in America): Honey, I'm taking a slow
boat to China and I may never see you again but think of me each time you open
a fortune cookie.
were his last words.
he was gone.
if I'll disappear just like that someday.
need a new drink, a new bartender.
word -- "bartender."
Father Time, love
me tender and I'll be so good to you too.
Ill even be good for you.
think of escaping my family, of making my way back to Little Jims
and being picked up.
want to be seduced tonight and not be the seducer.
been dismissed as a fucking romantic by many of my so-called amigos.
thoughts get cut-off because Mami and Papi arrive.
too soon, Im their referee once again.
avoid Pablo, feeling as unsexy as old bean burritos in a 7-11 microwave.
I do call Pablo and he meets me at the Chicago Diner, a trendy vegetarian
restaurant blocks from the bars.
a creature of habit, feeling safe only with the familiar, the explored, the tamed.
Columbus I am not.
always have to know where the emergency exit is in the theater, the skyscraper,
airplane and on first dates.
Jim's is two blocks from here and French Kissing is three.
shows up, looking a little older than he did at the party.
that's because he is dressed more informally, in a jeans and a tank top.
maybe I'm just sober.
smile at each other, stumble through orders, and face each other without saying
much of anything.
breaks the silence. "So your lovers, Americans?"
smile back, but not so to reveal much of anything. "You and I are Americans too."
laughs and the tension breaks.
like this man, although I don't know if I can love this man.
am I thinking about this over lentil soup, with a side of hand-shredded carrots?
says, "When I was young I wanted to change the colors of my eyes. I wanted them
to be sea blue."
at his brown eyes, the eyes of a Mark Anthony before his encounter with a destiny
I have to stop reading personal ads.
smile, "There are contacts for that now."
shrugs. "But I've changed. I came to realize that blue eyes wouldn't help me look
like James Dean."
wanted to look like Sal Mineo, the smart one in Rebel Without a Cause."
pats my hand. "At least, you pick a dark hero."
what do you think?"
understands. He shakes his head. "It won't work. You, hijo, are too Americanized
to live in my world. You know your family's party. Well, I belong there."
at twirling his pretend mustache. "And someday you'll succeed. And you'll get
away from them too."
do you mean?"
I watched you watch them. I'm not even sure if you know how far away you've placed
everyone from you."
must be crazy, but I just put my right hand in his crotch and rubbed him. "I'm
right here, baby."
lifts the hand, kisses the open palm and puts it gently into my own lap. "You're
too Puertorriqueño and no matter how you try, you can't make the United
States your real bed. I'm not talking about your body. I'm sure it knows how to
sleep almost anywhere."
is a pause and we're both laughing.
feel so good.
to love this man.
want to love you, Pablo."
want to love you too, Ricky, but. . . "
stop him from talking.
dinner is excellent as usual and deserving of the big tip I offer.
walk Pablo to Belmont Avenue and flag down a taxi for him, but before he enters
it I kiss him slowly on the lips.
hands wrap around my hips.
pulls me to him.
can't let go.
We don't let
I jump into the
taxi and we go to his place near the Taco Bell in Andersonville.
walk up the stairs past stoners in black T-shirts and underwear munching on tacos.
think how the neighborhood looks like a Mexican Disneyland.
apartment is crazier than I thought it would be because he seemed so damn polite
and not the free spirit he feels free to be at home.
are cacti painted on the wall; orange chairs are all over the place.
like pumpkins that no one will carve with human faces.
are different colored lightbulbs in the lamps throughout his place.
has filled an aquarium with broken wine glasses.
of parties?" I ask in an amused voice, "Or glass slippers youve
me a look that makes him look like a brat, a mischievous little boy, a sideshow
I thank Pablo
for being my new brother, though I want and need him to be my lover.
thank the men whose names I don't remember for giving me memories which I'll never
We mess up his
place as our shadows rub against each other.
love with him is both silly and beautiful.
brown skin covers me and it feels like I'm falling into the sun head first.
wake up at midnight, my heart racing.
look at the man next to me and Pablo looks uncannily like me; were not twins,
but we do look as if we come from the same planet.
wake him up and insist we walk naked to his balcony.
vecinos will call the cops, hombre," he half-protests.
your neighbors," I growl.
you're not going to be very faithful, are you, Ricky?"
pulls me to him and soon I get him to look out at a city of lights.
don't say anything.
don't need to speak in Spanish or English about this moment as the weight of his
body and mine are burdens we share.
Rico, my hearts devotion, let it sink back in the ocean.
quote musicals at the worst times.
feel as if I've stopped falling into a black hole and that I have landed alive
whatever scars I might have are only causes of celebration -- that I've made it
to the present, this now which is as naked as we are.
asks me where the North Star is but what do I know of space, of cosmic forms?
kiss him slowly and he rubs his face against me.
don't care if we are ghosts among ruins.
now, we're dreaming without even having to close our eyes.
will happen to us in the morning?" I stutter.
a million years away," he whispers.
in the morning?"
I nod my head.
daylight, one can trust one's eyes.
the dark, the body knows the route to survival.
have instincts that have developed within us after millions of years of living
and dying on Earth.
become cold and we go back to bed where earlier our shapes, or the ruins of them,
have been etched out in the sheets.
desires are often explicit.
the next year, Pablo and I become friends and stop sleeping with each other.
a little surprised one March night to see him waiting for me as I stagger home
from Little Jim's.
alone, broke and tired of my clothes smelling like smoke.
smell like a goddamn fireman; the bars are becoming more and more like the hearts
is that I spent most of the night hugging the jukebox.
didn't really want sex.
do right now.
it's Pablo who is here and we are now just amigos.
is as gone as I am, but I sense he is here for a safe place from some internal
my apartment because if you open up the balcony door you can smell Lake Michigan.
that you can see it!
building is one of the last rental unit in the lake shore area of New Chinatown.
I see yuppies shopping for $100,000 condos right in this building.
I will have to move out, replaced by a young banker, a pretty actor, a successful
photographer, or a dedicated accountant.
El Cid," I smile. "Come inside. If you want to be cold, I'll put some ice in your
He follows me
inside, holds me, takes a deep breath.
are you doing?" I ask gently.
holds me even harder. "I want to never forget how you smell like. The nose is
one way that a poor man takes his revenge on a rich man's garden."
down. You're drunk."
you've been smoking tonight? Trying to pick someone up? Why don't you take the
bull by the horns instead. You know what I mean?"
glasses of wine later, we stop talking.
grow sullen as we next finish off the leftover and frowning rum.
this is what I miss most about not having a lover anymore: two bodies in one space
not having to say anything to each other.
is still young, too young to be this unhappy. "So why are you here tonight?"
becomes animated, as if a spell has been broken.
know about Chino. I mean, you know he's dead. You went to his funeral. They never
caught the guys who did it, you know."
move over by him. "I know, honey. Chino's probably in heaven looking down on us
right now. Jerking-off, I hope."
pushes me away. "Ricky, he tried awfully hard to go to hell."
say nothing for the next ten minutes.
stole Pablo from me even though Pablo was never mine; I didnt want him until
he was unavailable.
family asks about Pablo although they are afraid that if I find a companion then
I will demand for them to treat us as a couple.
couple of thugs.
talking and I know it's going to be one of his monologues; Im right but
first, "Stop, let me piss first and get bigger glasses for the vodka."
follows me into the bathroom. "Why do you always know the right thing to say to
"Pablo, a man needs
his privacy sometimes."
seen you at the Belmont Rocks doing God knows what. It was hard to tell from where
I was but your butt. . . ."
ice, radio tuned to a classical station.
the New World Symphony; I'd laugh at the selection but Pablo might think
I'm laughing at him.
speaks slowly, deliberately. "It's my anniversary. Chino has forgotten all about
me. The dead are putas, no? We went out just a couple of months. Then he got killed.
And today is the fifth month anniversary of our first date. Chino was something
special. That's why he got stolen from me. You liked him, I know you did because
you didn't make jokes around him. You listened to him. Everyone did. Not any more.
Chino doesn't have a tongue. He doesn't have hands. He doesn't have those beautiful
legs. He doesn't have a cock. He doesn't have a neck I wanted to bite tonight
like I was fucking Dracula or something."
cries so hard that he is no longer saying words and I hold him.
Chino was killed in a drive-by shooting.
had been in the wrong place and in the wrong time.
Will I never
belong to anyone?
don't know what to say and end up making Pablo angry with these words, "Honey,
you celebrate the sixth month, a year, 25 years. But the fifth month, well
we have five fingers on each hand. Five. You should know. You jerk-off enough.
You should know that five is important. Five. Five."
paces the room like a trapped animal.
open the balcony door. "Take a deep breath."
almost says something, stops and takes a long look into my tired face.
then takes that deep breath.
Michigan!" I prompt. "There are some things you just can't see even if they're
forward, throws his glass of vodka in my face.
I fall back. "What?"
want to lick it off."
does and we end up kissing.
just sleep tonight, OK?"
I have sex with a guy just to sleep next to him. To breathe in the air he's just
him towards the bedroom. "You're sick and thats why you are the most perfect
friend in the world for me."
think I'm going to be sick in the morning."
you're human," I add.
whispers in my ear, "I love you, Ricky Ricardo Jr."
wish you did."
Pablo to bed and he floats away to some safe place in his head.
do I always feel like I'm being left behind?
body is my true family.
soul is the orphan that Ive adopted.
mother and father are sleeping in each others arms and why cant I
as a gay man have the same refuge?
my Señorita Luna going to make his cameo in a seance soon?
no loner and is that my tragedy?
is doing the cha cha cha in Chicago tonight.
to guard my friend against some invisible enemy tonight.
sit on the couch, listening to my neighbors argue about alternative music not
being alternative since its so mainstream now.
I shake off my
blue mood by thinking of someone I slept with (Did he even have a name? Did he
ever share that much of himself with me?) who stayed over on a night when these
very neighbors were going for each other's throats.
boyfriend (who hadnt been a boy in a very long time) cooed, "They sound
like jazz musicians without instruments."
didn't know what a poet he was.
remember him listening to the arguing couple some more, cocking his head like
a dog that is left alone very often.
listen to them go up and down the scale, baby."
remember that much of him.
still appreciate that much of him.
remember orgasm with him, just that moment listening to the neighbors.
how the body is an amnesiac.
we all men of the Mancha, our erect lances against windmills?
glad to laugh at myself.
turn on the television and fall asleep watching, of all things, It's A Wonderful
in his sleep.
wings on the television everytime a bell rings.
it a wonderful life?
blue midnight blows out the candles, one by one.
end up in the dark, face down.
spite the gods by dreaming about reality.