by G.C. Estrada
I walked into the class, and there she was; she was wearing her checkered uniform skirt, and white t-shirt that adorned her body and contoured every inch of her tiny waist. I knew she was interested in me, like I in her, because her eye-lined sparkling brown eyes were locked with mines in an instant. “She is the one!” I thought, and gave her a little smile.
I was a freshman in high school, and so was she. Sarahi was her name. Although the men in my family have always been known for being “good” with ladies, I was not the case. But neither was I good in sports, nor in any activity that involved physical strength, unlike them. It’s not that I was not good at talking to them, because I always felt more comfortable chatting with girls, but the thought of being with a girl was frightening to me. You see, I was raised by women. I grew up helping mom and my sisters in the kitchen: flipping tortillas, tasting the food for saltiness and flavor, and my favorite of all was helping when baking came around. So naturally I was taking part in their conversations about their lives and whatever it was that they would rant about.
At the age of 8, I was detached from the kitchen. My older brother insisted that I had to become a MAN, and “the kitchen was no place for man!” he would say. He took me under his mexican-macho wing. He would wake me up very early in the morning, before the sun showed up at the horizon line, and take me to work in the corn field with him. At first, it was all great because I never really had a father figure in my life, and this was the closest thing to having one, but slowly it became a tedious chore; I would spend the whole day under a merciless burning sun and a nagging brother who seemed to find joy in making fun of me because I was unable to carry a 20 pounds load of corn kernels. He would also enjoy embarrassing me in front of the other man in the field; he would scream from across furrow to “go faster!” to “man up!”. I really wanted to keep up with everyone’s pace, but I was just not cut out for this tasks. The merciless sun of the field made me miss the heat of the kitchen even more.
When I moved to the city after middle school graduation, I was the happiest guy; not only was I getting away from the bullies of my hometown and my nagging brothers, but I had a chance to a happy new beginning. This time in school I promised myself that I will no longer be the joke of others. I was determined to be a man, and Sarahi was the perfect start. In class I sat behind her so I could make conversation with her, and so it all began. We hit it off right away and started dating a few weeks later. We were the envy of everyone at school. I was the tall boy with pretty, long curls falling to my shoulders, and she was the most gorgeous girl in school, and not to mention her great sense of humor, but most importantly we both were rock lovers.
Two months later, on a day when the sky was crying and the wind was blowing against the windows making trees dance in unison, Luis stormed in the classroom.
At the age of 6, I found out I was not like the other boys in my school. The boys in my class would make fun of me because I would prefer to befriend girls. Is not that I did not have any boy friends, but it didn’t compare to the amount of girls I would play and talk with. I was constantly made fun of, and the subject of bullying from the other boys. I even got a beating once for talking with a boy’s girlfriend during recess!
Luis was wearing the same uniform all boys wore, blue jeans and a white Polo shirt, but there was something about him that caught my eye. This was not the first time I looked at a guy and butterflies flew in my stomach, but it was the first time I felt like the other boy felt the same. “Stop!” my brain shouted, “be a MAN!” He shook off the water from his shirt and combed his jet black, straight, hair to the back, exposing his dazzling green eyes, laced with a pair of long eye lashes, sitting under two perfectly shaped dark eyebrows. He sat next to me and Sarahi during class; gave us a smile and said “Hi”. That day, we invited him to sit in lunch with us since he was the new guy and probably didn’t know anyone yet.
During that lunch, we sat on the benches behind the library; this was me and Sarahi’s usual lunch spot. Luckily, the rain had stopped a few hours before and there was a shiny blue sky above our heads. That lunch we all we talked about music and food, Sarahi’s and I favorite subject and as we came to find out Luis’s too. Before the bell rang I headed to the restroom, because I knew how strict the following teacher was about leaving the class. What I didn’t know, was that Luis followed quickly after, and once in the privacy of those four walls, he gazed at me, and although I knew what his look meant and what would follow, I did nothing to stop what came after. He slowly moved towards my frozen body and took his lips to meet mine; that was the best most uncomfortable feeling I had ever had at my short fifteen years of life, I was both excited and afraid. I abruptly pulled away and walked out of the restroom.
At the age of 8, was the last time I was allowed to play alone with my cousins. My cousins were the only three girls of their house and like most girls of their age, they had a great assortment of dolls, teddy bears, and costumes. I often went to play with them, our favorite game was to recreate telenovela’s scenes; we would put on costumes and recreate a scene from a telenovela we had recently seen, but this particular day we were playing with their dolls. My mom called me from the living room because it was time to go, I didn’t respond to her, and so she walked into the room, she saw me sitting next to my younger cousin Rosie, I was wearing a crown on my head and my Ken was kissing with Rosie’s Sheriff Woody. My mother moved swiftly towards grab me by the arm with a strong grip, picked me up from the floor, pulled the crown off my head, and we took off. A reprimand followed when we made it home, “Boys don’t play with dolls” she repeatedly told me.
I walked into the classroom and sat next to Sarahi, “Are you ok?” she asked “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”, “I’m Ok, I just ran because I thought the bell was gonna ring on me” I replied. Luis walked back into the class quickly after and gave us a smile like he had before, but this time it made me go back to the moment when we kissed and gave me goosebumps. For the rest of the day all I could think of was how great that kiss felt.
Luis and I started meeting secretly before and after school around the campus, and after two months in a secret affair with Luis, I came clean with Sarahi. Turns out she likes girls, but she felt pressured by her family to keep a straight façade; “it is easier this way,” she told me when she opened up to me. After I told her about what had been going on between Luis and me, I felt as if for so long I had been holding my breath and I was finally able to breathe again. We had a laugh after realizing we were each other’s “straight cover up”; she agreed to keep pretending until we had a believable “break up”.
Two days later, I found myself at the front of the school; holding Luis’s hand, body shaking for dear mercy as if I was lead into the death row. I had already come clean to Sarahi, and it was time to come clean to the world, to come clean to myself; regardless of what everyone would think or say, and they would. We were walking through the school’s gate and everyone’s eyes fixed on us, I froze for a moment, but oddly enough my brother’s words resonated in my head; “Man up!”, and for the first time, I was a man.