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How I became a Gay Gringo
By Cal Avocado
I am a Gay Gringo facing old age and looking back on history through romance, especially one. I arrived in Mexico bursting with dreams for love after 25 years in San Francisco and New York as the AIDS epidemic began and burned through. Fulfillment came but not as I hoped. My conflict is not wanting boundaries for love and sex in a world of homophobia, disease, poverty and the nature of men. A world full of obstacles.
I planted my desires into Paco like a container that would take them. Each event between us leafed into possibilities and problems. My thoughts grew seeds of doubt and hope, and rained and shined over them. He might not recognize himself from my point of view and feel insulted as will others. These are my opinions. I’m not a camera. Names are changed to blur identities, to protect the innocent from my distrustful and hurtful speculations. Most people prefer a portrait of themselves as a flower or a god, myself included. I present details without vanity or consideration to hide ugly. I want the dirt of real history on my pages. We name streets after ideas we support, not diseases we suffer, but both are guides to living. The HIV crisis shaped my life more than any other event. The empathy of autobiography smells like bodies, fresh or stinking. Autobiography is musty paper crumbling apart in your fingers recalling original oils, delivering an unrepeatable, nostalgic experience fiction cannot.
An outsider discovering strange boulevards and gardens in Mexico City and new pleasures like tasting orange papaya and yellow mango for the first time. And Mexicans to love and lose. The one that stirs me today from a safe distance occupies the gaudiest memory from the list. When we were near, it got hot and thinking about him mushroomed into uncontainable emotions and a desperate need for someone to hear me talk, to get him out.
Like one empty night in San Miguel de Allende, a small city north of the capital where I rented a room in the winter of 2002. On weekends, I traveled down to Mexico City hoping to meet Paco, but I was back. It was Monday and I went to a support group for the addicted and lonely, Alcoholics Anonymous. I wasn’t alcoholic but it was available and anxiety qualified me. Although the moderator was a straight man, a warning sign, I noticed he was friendly with a lesbian type so I took a chance sharing, misjudging his tolerance for confessions of one man’s loving addiction to another. Shortly into my release he cut me off ordering, Who wants to go next? A cold sweat and past insults ran through my mind. Foolish faggot, dicks are for chicks. Perhaps he meant no harm, or wasn’t repelled by me, but he became a villain I resented. Usually I avoided inflaming homophobic prejudice by keeping silent.
I was testing livability in San Miguel for a gay man in the expat community and failing to find enough. In New York, it had been easy to find support in the gay community but no gay groups existed in San Miguel. So, I sought out an individual I'd met in his 40's like me, one partner of a newly arrived couple from rural California. It didn't go much better with him and I was convinced the time it would take to knit support in this town would not be worth it. He was out for a night time cruise in the vacant central plaza where gay men covertly hook up. He grew up in Texas. His family had disapproved of his sexual orientation. His relationship was open, and probably sexless. He was starved for some. I had accepted an invitation to his house once. A laptop computer was conspicuously placed in the entry way playing a porn video as I entered, as a hook. But I wasn’t interested, somewhat annoyed, and ignored it.
Tonight, wasn’t different. I wanted his ear not the cock he was offering. I'd returned from Mexico City frustrated and Roger impatiently listened to me climb out of worry before rudely cutting me off, You need to get on anti-depressants! He was revealing his lack of interest. He didn’t want to listen but did want to tell his story. I decided to hear it rather than be alone. In a tense outpouring, he recalled a Prozac overdose in a California supermarket. He squalled in his pants before making it to the bathroom. Naturally he was embarrassed and it was dreadful, but I thought to myself how much worse it would be if caused by a disease he couldn’t control, not an optional medication he could dose down or exchange. He finished his story and left right away. It was clear after two meetings, he’s too self-absorbed to listen to anyone. He has scant potential to be a friend.
Every Friday I walked through colonial San Miguel to the bus station for an enjoyable ride to Mexico City. San Miguel always seemed delightful when I was leaving. I reluctantly returned on Monday mornings knowing I’d feel isolated again. In Mexico City, I spent the weekend at gay cantinas shedding 20 years of New York City striving. In New York, it hadn’t been convenient to go to gay bars. Work or distance interfered. Mexico was a long-crafted plan finally become reality. I'd left before to faraway places. After high school from Phoenix to San Francisco and eight years later, with 2,000 dollars and a million in excitement, from San Francisco to Manhattan. I was splitting ready to move in each case but breaking off was excruciating. The fight for courage to go just a little stronger than fear not to.
During my last years in New York I took trips to Mexico that got longer and longer. It was so exciting turning off to sleep could be hard. My favorite destinations were Mexico City and Oaxaca but I wanted to the entire country and fantasized living where ever I happened to be. Being a foreigner was interesting for many reasons. Like speaking Spanish and the handsome men, a mixture of Spanish, Native American, and African. Apart from the different culture and people were new landscapes and plants. Jungles as astounding as any northern forest I’d enjoyed. Mexico also offered the comfort of familiar landscapes from Arizona and California I'd grown up in that recalled home after two decades in New York. Finally, Mexico had low prices.
I'd lie awake in bed unable to sleep, Mexico City racing my heart, and get up tired the next day. It was a huge city, too big to understand, and mine to discover. I'd felt the same in New York and San Francisco each in its era, but they had gotten smaller over the years. Here, I had the money to choose where I wanted to live, not forced to last choices like in the former. If I had a tail I would be fast wagging.