Ten years later, he still thinks about me. It is easy to romanticize that fact. It is tempting to hold on to it.
I walked out on him. I needed more than just the promise of a happily ever after. Even at 18, I knew that neither the feelings nor the pure presence were enough.
I hear my departure was rough on him. I jumped on a plane to never look back. I did not say where I was going, what I was doing or what I was searching for. I just left. I said I would be back… but I did not really mean it.
He was what people say everyone should have at least once: The person who made me his world. I now cringe at the thought… but ten years ago he made me into a goddess in his mind.
And no only that, he made sure everyone knew it. His family adored me. We shared mutual friends. And we spent, every possible moment together. He saw my brother give his first steps just as I saw his brother find love in a society that freely gives away homophobic frowns.
We formed that connection. It felt natural. It was easy.
After I left, though, I met someone else. He had a little more trouble. But he did find someone who appreciated what he had to offer.
In the meantime, I stripped myself of everything I was back then. I was forced out of the whiteness I had grown up with, the secular values that had been inculcated in me, and the simple uncomplicated life that I was meant to have. I was soon made an “other” in this country, and every time I went back to my “home,” I would feel more and more estranged from everything that surrounded me.
When I am at “home” it sometimes takes me a while to be able to utter full sentences in Spanish… English has taken over my life, in a lot of ways, even over my soul. I find myself speaking to myself in English… letting it invade my thoughts and writings… Some of it was intentional. I hated the fact that people would pick up on my “Spanish” accent and start giving me lessons about my language, my country and my culture. It also killed me that they would correlate my accent to the sexualized ways in which Latina women are construed in the West.
Spanglish soon became the natural way of living, and something I would fight upon seeing my baby brother refusing to speak Spanish at the age of 3.
Nonetheless, Anglophone-Western culture now permeates even my sense of touch and closeness. I often feel shocked at people’s touch when I go back “home”… the so-called “personal space” has been heavily imposed on me. Thus, nowadays I feel trapped between the realities of “back home” and Western stereotypes that associate me with illegality, promiscuity and violence… And the more I try the less I can get rid of these experiences… of these feelings of liminality.
I avoided going back “home” for a while, as if I could escape the place where I come from. And once I was there, he would appear once in a while. He knew I would be at my parent’s, and he would show up trying to convince me to stay… to go back… to be with him. But the connection has been long gone and life is no longer simple.
Love is no longer easy.
A few years after our breakup my world was shattered, everything I knew was upside down. I had lost a partner who came from a society that depreciated my culture, my language, my colour, my religious background, my existence… And I was grieving among a community that does not understand death, and that is too preoccupied with political correctness to notice how racism, homophobia, islamophobia and sexism crawls under its nose.
It was then that he reappeared in my life again.
He was with someone, but had kept the interest on me. He was still unable to understand everything I had become. My image disturbed his white-mentality, his nationalism and his Christianity. He asked my friends multiple times about the Tehuana flowers filling my pictures; the ayat I would recite under my breath; and my antagonism towards the notions of “border” that now fill my experiences.
He had a hard time grasping the intersections and, instead, decided to hold on to things that were no longer part of my experience.
Sometimes a message or two would appear. He wanted to say hi. He wanted to know how I was doing. I could not get myself to respond honestly. How could I say, things are complicated… They are nasty… They are messy?
A year later he announced his imminent wedding to me. She “deserved” it, he said. Not because she was the “right” person, but because she played the heteronormative game according to patriarchal rules. She was a “good woman.” She kept things simple. She did not leave. And she did not come back questioning anything. Therefore, she had “gained” that right… to be the marriageable type.
He would ramble sometimes about how pretty, smart and funny I used to be. He would recall far away memories to describe the happiest moments of his life… Us celebrating monthly anniversaries. Us skipping classes together. Us hosting parties with our friends. Us driving places together after he got his first car. Us. Us. Us.
In the meantime, I could not do anything but be inundated with images of the darkness that surrounds me… an unfinished degree, a patched memory and a jaded soul.
He got married. I was warned not to make an appearance (as if I would ever do that). I was told “if you appear he will not get married.” He still holds on to that image that he worshiped, and that, back then, I fully believed was worth of adoration.
Since then I have fallen from that cloud, struggling to understand, how is it possible that at 18 I had what people my age still look for, and I let it slide? Wondering, if all this pain is worth it? If the idea of being a stronger version of myself, rather than the unpreoccupied person I could be, will ever yield any kind of happiness? Asking God, if there is truly any meaning to everything I have experienced in the last decade as an immigrant, a woman, a Muslim (by choice), a widow and a radical love gnostic?