Four Glimpses (prose poem)

Mundo Meza, Self-portrait, 1983.

I was honored to have another piece, “Four Glimpses,” published by the good folks over at 433 Magazine this week. The theme is “Pride and Prejudice” in celebration of Pride month.

I had a hard time getting started. I wanted to talk about the prejudice I’d encountered at the hands of family, but I didn’t want to limit myself to just these experiences. Because, of course, the gay community isn’t exactly what you’d call all-accepting or all-encompassing and is instead rife with discrimination based on skin color, gender, body type, race, language, class, etc. I was interested in expressing the intersections of identity (in my case, being Latino and gay) and how I’ve experienced this in my life.

So, an “autobiography” of sorts was born in the form of this piece.

I hope you enjoy it! And make sure to check out the original post, too.

FOUR GLIMPSES

He pins you against the stucco wall. He stutters with a hate so deep your insides quiver. He is unfamiliar, charred in his fury. The boil of pinto beans hangs heavy in the air stirred only by the dusty whirl of the ceiling fan. The house holds its breath. Telemundo drowns out the shouting and your mother’s rain of fists on his tense back. He strikes you with an open palm because you have defiled the name you share. He reads your future in the cracks your shoulders made in the wall. Three letters, written in bile. Your father again curses the marrow of your bones, your still tender soul. You’re seventeen and afraid like when the earth shakes because it too is indifferent to your prayers. But what he doesn’t yet know, years before you’ll forgive him: when he said I can’t even look at you what he really meant was I can’t bear to see the truth.

His name is Jake. Eighteen, like you. Short, spiky brown hair; eyes as green as palm leaves. Dimpled smile, navy blue Dickies shorts, biceps so big they stretch out his sleeves. You can never quite hold his gaze ever since you met in Ms. Thompson’s fourth-grade class. Now he wears eye-stinging cologne and drives a white Ford truck, clean as heaven. Two decals: an American flag carried by an angry-looking eagle and on the other side, West Coast Choppers. You’ve never been inside a white boy’s truck before. No Doubt on the radio. Jake kisses you, his mouth fringed with iced coffee. A stubbled tap of lips: the first time you taste the mouth of another man. That was my first time, you whisper to the dustless dashboard. You lick your lips and savor the caffeine. Well, you’re my first Mexican, he grins, knowing full well your family comes from El Salvador.

Happy birthday. You and your best friends strut into the club after downing the cheap vodka you all passed around in the backseat. This year’s about forgetting your shyness. The dancefloor is sticky with spilled cocktails and the air is thick with cologne, sweat, beer. A daddy in his fifties dances by himself near the haze machine, gyrating his hips too slowly for the song. He claps along to the beat. You take a sip of your rum and chill in the corner as the boys pour into the club. Black boys, brown boys, white boys, Asian boys. Los Angeles: the heterogeneity of homosexuality. You and your friends discuss. Compare. You take your pick and move toward him just as a cumbia comes on. You watch his body stutter as he struggles to find the beat. You help him find it, because if there’s one thing you dance well, it’s cumbia. Not my type, he shouts over the music. He speaks to you as if you were a mischievous child and should have known better. He shakes his head, Not my type. Not my type.

Ten days after you meet, you will come to love him because he uses words like succulent and cosmic to describe what you had always called flabby and stout. He mispronounces your surname, tripping over it each time but you didn’t mind training his tongue. You’ve got nothing but a freshly-minted degree and a whole lot of reluctance that he chips away at bit by bit. Starting with that first bump. You’ll snort and sweat together and you are afraid because for the first time in your life you feel young. So you give him more of your body and sign over some of your dreams. He will love your every curve and even the gentle bulge of your stomach they used to tease you about and you do not care when he lies to you at other times. From those full lips they fall so innocently. The sunrise fizzling in his veins, he will say You are the pulse of the universe and You make flowers unfurl and you will respond nothing because you are afraid he will take it back if it looks like you believe him. He will leave anyway: A fire only lasts so long.

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