DEPUTY EDITOR IN CHIEF
I read her the title of this piece. At this point, it’s only an idea—a small idea for a potential column I think I might be writing for my college paper (a stupid idea). She leans in, over her plate of pork tacos, all of which I’ve already taken my fair share of bites from, and says: “So, ex-lover, huh?”
I don’t say anything, and you’ll come to find out eventually (if you don’t know already) that this is RARE.
My almost ex-lover (let’s call her Aubrey) eventually picks up the tab.
We’re sitting in a restaurant in Uptown Whittier called Colonia Publica. It’s a Friday summer night, and I don’t have a wallet.
Colonia sits between a bicycle shop and a small record store called Lovell’s that Aubrey and I have been going to since we were both in the proverbial high school womb. A pretty bearded brown man seats us towards the back of the restaurant and I can’t decide if I’m fucking freezing or just shaking from nerves. I remember having my eighth or tenth birthday party here, when the place used to be a pizza joint. I look around. I also start to second guess my exposed shoulders, among other things while sitting here, in front of her.
While I’m in my own head, Aubrey tastes her beer as if it were the first time, and tells me about needing a cigarette. I am reminded of all the times and all the trouble I put her through when I was trying to score a pack in high school on the steps of Rick’s Drive In & Out #1 or wherever, how much she hated me for it, and how much I wanted to be eighteen. We used to talk about how bad her dad’s Honda CRV smelled because of his chimney smoking. Aubrey doesn’t smell the same anymore, the way she used to. And I can’t even really explain to you what I mean by that in detail because it’s been so long, and I don’t even think now that it’s because of the cigarettes. It’s weird how men and college and work and depression and acceptance can change you. Anyway I choose to make fun of her for it later.
While contemplating whether or not we are still hungry, we find things to talk about: her ex (who despises me for reasons I’m too busy to keep track of) who she can’t stop dreaming about. We also talk about sex, my current partner—a wonderful and sweet man who I’ve been sprung over for months—and who I’m sure Aubrey is close to being tired of hearing about (by the way, hi Papi, te quiero), our parents, our friends, high school, and what usually comes with high school talk: our odd and (spoiler alert) rather tumultuous relationship.
According to Aubrey, I had signed her eighth grade yearbook, but I don’t remember this. It was probably something generic and stupid like “ALEX WUZ HERE,” or “Have a great summer! =)” I do remember feeling a sense of reluctancy then, though—almost 8 school years ago now, when we were 13 or 14—in being her friend. A small part of me thought of her as bad, which is why I think I stayed away from her for so long. Granted, I was also high on E for half of that year and didn’t know what the hell was going on basically ever. Since then, our relationship has evolved from stranger, to acquaintance, to friend, to best friend, to person I rejected, to acquaintance, to friend, to best friend, and now to family. Somehow, we’ve made it work.
In the past, we have both (interestingly enough) hated each other’s ex-girlfriends and it’s equally hilarious and pathetic, in my honest (and democratic) opinion. At one point in time, Aubrey told me I was batshit crazy for being with my ex-girlfriend (let’s call her Pearl) when I was. This was a long time ago, but I would eventually tell her the same thing about her ex.
Did either of us listen to each other? Not a chance. Do we regret not listening to each other? I myself can neither deny nor confirm that. But here we are: together still. Against all odds. Looking back now, she had her reasons to hate. I sure as hell did.
High school was confusing. This is obviously not an original experience/feeling/idea of course—and yes, it’s a fucking understatement, but I’d like to still put it here. High school was confusing, especially if you knew you were queer and didn’t know how to deal with it (here I go again). Holding Pearl’s hand for the first time in front of everyone having lunch in the Quad was a revolutionary act for me in and of itself. Nobody was watching and nobody gave a damn (except maybe Aubs), but I felt like I was on top of the world.
Until I didn’t anymore.
Love was lost (or more taken away), blog posts were written, priorities changed. I’m trying to analyze that experience for you: my first time being in love with a woman, willing to do anything for her, protect her, love her for who she was despite it all, etc., while not being able to label or put words to what I was going through. Eventually I accepted it: alright, I guess I like girls too, screw you mom and dad and company, whatever. But Pearl wasn’t ready for that, and wouldn’t be for a long time. She felt the exact opposite of me: I felt liberated and in turn wanted more. And she didn’t; that killed me at the time. I had to move on, and I believe that I moved on to a man to combat this confusion and pain. To run from it. I found someone that didn’t and wouldn’t challenge that part of my identity, the part that was so sore and so contentious, despite it being so untouched and unattainable in a lot of ways. But I was wrong again. He would eventually challenge this part of me, but for his own curiosity, pleasure, and fetish. “How many girls have you kissed before?” he asked me once, randomly. I told him I didn’t know, that keeping track of stuff like that—let alone talking about it—isn’t something I do. He replied with, “I don’t know. I might like it.”
My mind went wild. And not in a good way.
I immediately thought back to my first kiss with Pearl. Would this person, someone who was supposed to be my partner—respectful, sensitive, understanding—like watching two underage girls kiss and touch quietly in the dark on a school night? Two underage girls that still, even in the ugly aftermath of their relationship can’t and won’t talk about what actually happened? That last question was rhetorical, but the first wasn’t. My answer to the first question remains as follows: FUCK OFF.
As much as that first time with Pearl was special and real and so needed, it was painful, and she would eventually write about it in one of her infamous leather bound journals. Her mother, a woman I truly miss and felt at home and safe with, found the entries. She flipped—a reaction I expected (and still expect) from my own traditional Mexican mother. The cherry on top of Pearl’s mother’s reaction to (G_d forbid) her daughter liking and having love for someone who didn’t have a penis, was the way in which she decided to cope with that unfortunate fact: by accusing me of abusing her daughter. According to Pearl’s mother, her daughter could never—so she must’ve been coerced or forced in some way. Pearl’s response? Radio silence.
That part of my identity imploded then. I was lied about and betrayed, and that’s what I thought I needed to do in order to protect myself.
So far, Aubrey has been the only person that I’ve been able to talk to about things like this, about my queerness. She spends her days trying to navigate it too, and she listens. She’s most definitely kissed more girls than me, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re both desperate for connection, but we’re also tired and too depressed to love and get our hearts broken by yet another artsy girl from Whittier.
Aubrey tells me in a text sent around lunch time a month later that she is no longer attracted to me. “This is gunna sound SO rude! But I’m less attracted to you now, than I’ve ever been,” she writes me. “In HS I couldn’t look at you without wanting to kiss you. And now I look at you and just feel happiness ... I just see our relationship in a different light now. I think that’s why I’m not jealous of the person you’re dating this time around. I’m happy for you and want to be supportive of your happiness.”
I think to react to what Aubrey is telling me, but I don’t really (again, RARE). I think to protest and defend myself, but don’t. I think to fish for more, but don’t. I decide that for today, for this week, for this month, I don’t want to talk about me liking girls anymore. I don’t want to talk about Aubrey or Pearl or the past. I don’t want to feel guilt, or longing, or anything like that. And so I let the conversation slip, like the summer has through my tired and typing (soon-to-be-arthritic) fingers. I surrender, for what I decide will be one of the last times I ever worry about any potential of my bisexual past, especially when it comes to me loving the high school/girl versions of a women I used to consider almost lovers, and who I now simply consider to be for one, a stranger or an acquaintance, and for another, a best friend, or a long lost sister almost (whether she likes it or not). Responding to Aubrey further would be unproductive, emotionally laborious, not worth it, and might even be considered cheating in my book if I thought about it more. And even worse things go for Pearl, I’m sure. It’s probably for the best.