I got in bed with a married man. He said he loved my body, and I—I never knew too much about him and, quite frankly, didn’t care enough to ask about the slightly paler strip of skin on his ring finger. My mind was somewhere else, looking back into a time when I felt safe and seen, if only for a little while. That is, until I noticed the family portrait that proudly sat on his nightstand.
A younger version of himself tastefully hugged his brunette wife by the waist. His two children were only half his size, rosy-cheeked and starry-eyed. They were probably married by now. Maybe they even had mortgages to pay, kids of their own and nannies who came to babysit them every other Saturday. Maybe they had nine-to-fives, nicotine addictions, and fancy food processors. But how would I know? He’d offered to buy me a drink at the gay bar where we met that night. Coca-Cola, rum, and a lime resting over the ice. Was there anything else in it? How could I know?
“¿Algo que declarar?” the border patrol officer repeated impatiently. Buzzcut, piercing blue eyes, blond beard.
“No, nada que declarar,” I replied. He held my visa up and instructed me to take my glasses off. He slid the visa across the counter and looked at his monitor for a few seconds before signaling to hand over my backpack. I stood in silence while he inspected my toothbrush, deodorant, moisturizer, and pastel blue briefs.
“What’s the purpose of your visit?”
“Going to Hillcrest,” I said. “Trying to see some friends.”
Friends. The word lingered as the officer buzzed the metal gate open for me. Friends. Was it the fear of presenting as queer that kept me from saying it out loud? Or was it the fact that my relationship with Dylan and Brian wasn’t really anything else? At least not concretely? I still remember the winter evening when Dylan brought it up as we made out on the bridge over Cabrillo Freeway.
“Is this what polyamory feels like?” he whispered into my ear, one hand tenderly holding the back of my neck, the other resting on my waist. I looked at him, listening to the cars below mimicking the breaking ocean waves. It was no secret that I wasn’t the only person Dylan and Brian were fooling around with, but I could feel a bond materializing between the three of us.
The way they welcomed me into their home without hesitation when my parents had denied me their acceptance was something I hadn’t seen from anyone else before. Friends, maybe. But lovers? I didn’t want to get too comfortable with that idea.
I reached for my pocket, grabbing the $2.50 I had prepared in advance while waiting to cross the border, and made my way up to the trolley. The familiar scent of sanitizing chemicals and air conditioning welcomed the waiting crowd as the red doors folded open. This was luxury compared to Tijuana’s camiones and calafias.
Siguiente estación: Iris Avenue. I put my earphones in and unlocked my phone: no new messages. The pit in my stomach grew deeper as I started wondering if the feelings between the three of us were ever mutual. Clearly, they didn’t need me as much as I needed them. I tried to drink it away, I tried to put one in the air. I turned the volume up in an attempt to drown my thoughts out.
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around in circles think I made myself dizzy
I slept it away, I sexed it away, I read it away
Away, away, away, away away—
Damn. Double-click. Next song, please. Stupid. I can’t even say I didn’t see this coming. I can’t say I didn’t overhear the objectifying comments they’d occasionally make about other hookups. I can’t even say I didn’t notice how they spoke to me the way one speaks to a child, how they looked at me with pity when I confessed my hunger for freedom and my lack of experience in knowing myself, as if to say: we hear you, but we do not understand you.
Two white gays living at the epicenter of white gay culture in San Diego. There was only so much they could grasp about living in Mexico. What it felt to be burdened by a fence, what it was to have a three-dollar wage working in an overly gentrified city, having people constantly tell you how much they hate their president for keeping your people in cages, dealing with gays and white women asking to get Spanish lessons the moment you introduce yourself at the club, or having to cross the border only to be somebody’s spice-up to their relationship.
Now I can’t help but think they didn’t fully see me as a real person. But then again, I didn’t know any better. I was barely 21, and, having been secluded from almost any social circles by overbearing parents, they were the first queer people I’d ever truly been intimate with. Andrés, you’ll always have a home here with us. We aren’t afraid of feelings—you can tell us anything. You are so beautiful. You are so special. You matter to us. I’d cried so many nights in their bed, out of love, out of gratitude. I’d held the warm mornings I spent between them dearly in my mind. And then, radio silence. They said they loved me, and I never knew too much about them.
If you don’t say somethin’, speak up for yourself, they think you— Pause. I unplugged my earphones, exited the trolley, and hopped onto bus 215. I unlocked my phone again: nothing. Can it even be considered a breakup if it never even was a proper relationship to begin with? We were, after all, friends. I could definitely expect this from a random date, but not from someone I would call a friend.
It was after this abrupt ending that I’d entered one of the most self-destructive periods of my life: buying one-way trolley tickets to Hillcrest, getting guys to buy me drinks to the point of blacking out, spending every single weekend in some stranger’s bed.
In some sort of twisted way, I thought maybe, someday, I would see them at one of these clubs. Over and over, I pictured them waving and smiling. They’d apologize, give some reasonable explanation for their sudden disappearance, and ask me to spend the weekend with them again. But that never happened, and there I was again, at the edge of the bed of a man whose name I can’t even remember, my naked back splayed across freshly washed white sheets, looking at a family portrait.
“Why are you crying?” the man asked, inching his thumb closer to me to try and wipe the tears off my face. I pushed him away and wiped my own tears with the back of my hand. I stood up from the bed and started getting dressed.
“You’re married,” I said, pulling my pastel blue briefs on.
“Don’t worry,” he replied. “She’s out of town.”
I grabbed my jacket and shut the door behind me. I frantically got into the nearest elevator and left the apartment complex, repeatedly glancing back to make sure he wasn’t following me. His cologne had stained my shirt. I could taste him in my mouth as I walked toward the bus bench with my shoelaces still untied.
I checked my phone: 3:32 AM. Fuck. Two hours before the buses start coming. I looked up to the sky and watched the early morning’s ultramarine blue starting to fade into venetian pink, breathing in the coldness, breathing out the rum, listening to the drumming of my heart still making its way up to my head. Hot tears slid down my face as I leaned back and closed my eyes. I put my earphones back in, pressed play, and awaited the sunrise.
I came to your city, lookin’ for lovin’ n’ licky
‘Cus you promised to put it down
All up in your city, lookin’ for you
Searching for you like
Illustration by Simon Abranokowicz for GQ.