AFTERWORD I BY ERASMO GUERRA The Marrying Kind laid out my pin-striped suit, a Paul Smith that cost too much, but I’d bought it any way because there were a num ber of weddings I had to attend. This would be the third. As I got ready, I blasted Whitney Houston’s greatest hits, a two-disk set with the ballads titled “Cool Down,” the up-tempo dance mixes titled “Throw Down.” A friend called the whole collection a “Let Down.” For me, the only real “let down” was that I didn’t have a date for the wedding. Didn’t have dates for the other two either. It should have been easy, a mid-thirties gay man like meliving in New York City where thousands of other gay men made their home, and where each week a handful of same-sex couples announced their civil unions in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times. Instead it was the same old problem: All the good ones were taken. I cued up my favorite song of survival, “It’s Not Right, But It’s OK.” The closest I ever came to married was a miserable live-in situation with my first boyfriend, whom I always refer to as Blame, because he gave me a grim rainbow of grief, and because that fault-finding word sounds pretty close to his actual name. We met in Houston in the early nineties, through the personal ads of a free weekly called Public News, which covered the alternative music and art scene of the city’s bohemian downtown. His ad promised lazy weekend mornings with coffee and both the Sunday Chronicle and the Post \(it was that long agothe Post was Park, and drives to Galveston. I still have his first letter, three-pages long, in which he tried to guess my name \(when I responded to his ad I he wrote, “Eric? Ernie? Elwood?” I enjoyed the fact that he was never going to get it. He claimed the physical was not really important to him. “But, as it seems the custom: I’m 5’8,” 150 lbs, auburn hair/ eyes, straight white teeth \(with a slight gap in the middle, even after six years of included a picture. He hatedand he underlined the word twicethe term “straight acting.” “There is no such thing as straight or gay behavior patterns,” he wrote. “END OF TOPIC. I LOVE a good kisser. Kissing is VERY important. I think long-term gay relationships are possible, but I’m not so sure people were meant to be together forever.” He said he was 23, “politically liberal, but morally conservative.” Then he took a final stab at guessing my name: “Edward? Elias? Efrim?” We dated for a while. Blame loved to quote William Shakespeare. He wrote sonnets on the back of postcards. He also sent me the occasional sappy card that idealized romance. One was even from a line of cards called “the romance of life.” I’ve kept these letters and cards for the last 14 years. Early on he wrote that he wasn’t one to rush into saying “I love you,” but it was becoming “perfectly clear to me that I could fall in love with you.” Not that I was easy to love. Blame came from a hippie, liberal-minded family in Mineral Wells, coming out to everyone at age 14. I was a closet-case from the Rio Grande Valley, where if you didn’t shoot your first javelina or whitewing by age 10, you were called a joto. So I had my own stinging brand of self-hating homophobia. Eventually he popped the question: Did I want to move in with him? I had no idea what I was getting into when I said yes. I had never lived with another a real relationship of any kind, but I wanted to know what it would be like. We moved to a two-story fixer-upper in the Heights, which reminded me too much of the clapboard wreck in which I’d grown up in South Texas. Blame and I started fighting when I announced that I wanted my own bedroom. That’s how inexperienced in love I was in my early twenties. In our better moments, we worked together to fight the injustice that we suffered as gay men. In the summer of 1992, we stopped traffic on Westheimer during the nighttime march, Take Back the Streets, protesting the violent murder of Paul Broussard. Broussard had been killed by a group of teenagers who first asked him for directions to a nearby gay bar and then beat him with a two-by-four studded with nails. Later that summer we marched against the Republican National Convention when it swept through town and took residence at the Astrodome. We blew whistles and chanted calls to action. “What do we want?” “Equal Rights!” “When do want them?” “Now!” Then my mother called one afternoon to say that my cousin Juan, whom we all knew was gay, had hung himself with an electrical cord strung over a tree in his mother’s front yard. Juan was 25, had recently tested positive, and probably couldn’t imagine trying to survive the disease amid the intolerance of our own family. I can only guess that’s why he did it. We never talked about being gay and I never knew he was sick until he killed himself. My family, with their put-downs and warnings, had always tried to keep us apart. I want to think that I ignored the ridicule, that I always knew that those jotos and marimachas were just like me. Not that I defended them. Not that I ever reached out in private and told them that we had to stick together. It was only after Juan’s death that I finally came out of the closet. And found my voice as a writer. Blame, who was nothing if not encouraging, bought me a black T 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 21, 2005
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