When I Said It


It was a garden level apartment, too far from Boston and too close to nowhere. On the day I moved in, I wrangled a queen sized mattress by myself until a young Latina held the lobby door open with her foot and guided the bed with her hands, using facial expressions and Spanglish to communicate, “Mira, left, left!” That first night, I lay awake on the bare mattress and listened to muffled conversations seep through the walls, too distant from English and not close enough to any language I could comprehend.

I was alone in a way that I had not been for more than twenty years—seven hundred miles and a secret separated me from my family.  It was not a complete break, but more of a fracture that we were attempting to heal, as if giving it a rest could mend the broken bones of our marriage.

I tried setting up rituals to break up the solitude, drinks at the Picadilly Pub with co-workers on Thursday nights, take-out sweet and sour chicken from Chin’s Garden for Friday dinner and a run along the abandoned rail bed of the Assabet River trail on Sunday mornings. But on Saturday nights, when the light faded, loneliness crept into my unfurnished apartment, like the scent of foreign foods being prepared by the unbroken families around me.

The sun would slip below the horizon around 4:30 pm and shortly thereafter, a group of Brazilian men in dark Levis, whooping and hollering, would emerge from the cinder-block apartment building and climb into the back of a pick-up truck, the night stretching out before them like a lubricious promise.

I chose one of those Saturday nights to rent a video, when video stores were still a thing. I walked up and down the aisles surveying the titles, already knowing which DVD I would select, too ashamed to see it alone in a theater and barely brave enough to hold it in my hands. I would rent it and return it through the after-hours slot and then cancel my membership.

I waited until most of the customers left. My heart pounded as I walked up to the cashier, DVD in hand holding it close to my body so no one could see and placed it title side down on the counter.

“Do you want popcorn or candy?” The cashier asked, nodding his head towards the selection.

“No, just this please,” I said without looking up.

He turned the video over, glanced up at me and said “I need your membership card.”

I thought his stare held a certain conviction as I fumbled through my wallet and when I looked up after finding my card, I caught him regarding my wedding band.

When I returned home, I poured a healthy amount of gin into a glass, placed the DVD into my laptop computer and sat in the single chair next to the small, folding kitchen table.

A dusty little town, the longing twang of a guitar chord and the forlorn landscape of Wyoming was all it took for me to know their love was doomed from the start. When it ended, one dirty, blood-stained shirt neatly folded into the other, it ended me too.

Like Ennis del Mar, I’d have to stand in that open space for a while, too afraid to move forward and too changed to go back. Looking into the mirror that night I decided for the first time to try out the foreign words, see how they might fit. It was more of a confession and less of an affirmation and only a whisper.

“Shit, I’m so gay.”



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