It seems like the entire world has come tumbling down. I don’t know what to do when I’m in the hospital and they tell me that my father has been pronounced dead. He was found on the bathroom floor.
I’m with Sara Sofia as she hugs my mother who is relentlessly crying as the doctors tell us that they were not able to revive my father. My mother keeps asking over and over “Why have you forsaken me?” To be honest I think she’s talking to God, but I also think she’s being a hypocrite. Why blame God for something bad happening in your life?
“It’ll be OK, Mama,” Sara Sofia is saying.
She’s only saying it because she has to say something like that. She’s lying to my mother to her face though. It’s not going to be OK. My mother didn’t work. My father was the breadwinner. Now that he was gone how would she survive? I was the only one who had a job and a restaurant wage was not going to support my entire family.
“Do you need anything?” Gato asks, “Anyone?”
“Just you here.”
Gato pauses for a moment as though thinking about it but then without even looking back at me he says slowly, “I’m not going to go anywhere.”
I appreciate it. He left work to be here. He’s standing there with his serious face, structured jawline like some guard dog by our side. And it mattered. It made a big difference that Gato was here for me when I needed him the most.
“Can I see him?”
I turn and realize someone has walked up. It’s Mr. Gonzalez. I have no doubt that he got a call from his son and that’s why he is up here now. I can see the tears in his eyes. They are falling hard. Real hard.
“Someone get this FAGGOT out of here before I kill him!” I hear a voice state.
Until now Juan Martin had been sitting on a hospital chair far removed from any efforts to console. I wasn’t surprised by the fact that he was distant. Juan Martin never really knew how to conquer his emotions or process them in a healthy way. That’s probably because Mama put it in our heads to always pray our issues away. So you pray them away and you never deal with the underlying root of the issue. It builds up.
And it comes out later on. For Juan Martin later on was now.
I can see it a mile away but I can’t stop it. I can’t stop Juan Martin from swinging on Gonzalez. He lands the punch and Gonzalez hits the floor. But Juan Martin wasn’t done yet. He tries to get on top of Gonzalez but I manage to jump on his back.
I don’t know what comes over me but I’m hitting Juan Martin in the back of the head. He falls to the ground I get on top of him and punch him right in the face. He’s shocked by it but hits me back.
And then there we are fighting like two mad dogs in the middle of the hospital until Gato and my family breaks us up.
“What is the matter with you two?” Sara Sofia asks, “Our fucking FATHER just died!”
“Your brother is homophobic,” I state, “Mr. Gonzalez has every right to be here. EVERY fucking right. He loved our father—-”
The slap crosses my face. At first, I think it’s from Juan Martin but I notice he’s still being held back by Gato. The person who slapped me was actually my mother. My mother’s face is bruised with pain and it felt as though she put all of that pain into this slap. Not even Juan Martin’s punches hurt as bad as the slap from my mother.
“Have you completely lost your mind, Juan Diego?” my mother asks me squinting as though she was trying to find it through my eyes, “That—-that—-I don’t know what doesn’t belong here. He didn’t love your father. I love your father. And your father only EVER loved me.”
She seems as though she is trying to prove a point in that moment, but not just to me and the rest of my family but to Gonzalez as well. Gonzalez hasn’t recovered from Juan Martin’s punch. Juan Martin could be hell of an idiot but he was strong so I didn’t doubt he almost knocked Gonzalez unconscious. Gonzalez seems so sad sitting there hearing the words that my mother states.
I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for my mother. Hell, at this point I feel sorry for myself.
“He didn’t want the pills,” I state, “He didn’t want the cure. He was happy…”
I know it’s a hard concept for them to understand. That some demonic disease could actually bring happiness to someone. But it was the truth. He was happy when he was with Mr. Gonzalez. He was happier than I’d ever seen him in all the years he was married to my mother.
“Why would you say something so cruel?” Sara Sofia asks.
“You too Sara?” I ask, “Why is everyone mad at me for telling the truth? The truth is hard sometimes…but the truth is Papi loved Mr. Gonzalez back.”
I expect to be slapped again by my mother. I have prepared myself even. The pain doesn’t hurt. It hurts because I know I’m hurting my mother. I can hear her heart break when she starts crying over what I said. She’s so weak from her tears that she has trouble walking and Sara Sofia literally has to carry my mother out of the hospital towards the cars.
“Look what you did,” Juan Martin states, “Look what the fuck you did. I swear to god I think I’m losing my fucking brother to this…”
Juan Martin doesn’t say what “This” is but I have a feeling “This” was the disease he was mentioning. He seems so upset when he’s standing there. It’s to the point that he was shaking. I knew telling my mother the truth would hurt her. And my brother was so protective of my mother that he was seeing red at me this time.
“You should go check up on your mother, Juan Martin,” Gato states, “I’ll take JD home. But oh Juan Martin?”
“You keep disrespecting your older brother and I’ll break every bone in that body of yours,” Gato threatens in a serious voice that even makes me think about how painful it would be.
It works on JD though because he walks away. I walk over to Gonzalez and help him up.
“Are you OK?”
“I lost the love of my life,” he states, “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. Hell, I was already super moody whenever I took the pills.”
That’s when I remember what my father told me before he died. He said that he and Mr. Gonzalez were caught. They forced my father to take this “Cure”. I’m assuming they must have forced Mr. Gonzalez too. That meant that Mr. Gonzalez was also taking the cure through the form of pills.
“Super moody?” I ask Mr. Gonzalez.
He nods, “To the point that I think I’m going crazy. I don’t know. Maybe I should see someone while I’m here…”
It’s weird how Mr. Gonzalez walks away and proceeds to ask random professionals in the hospital for help. Gato and I watch him with curious faces at his strange behavior.
“I feel so bad for him,” Gato whispers to me.
I nod and cross my arms, “Why would he kill himself?”
Gato shrugs, “The Phase must have hit him hard.”
“The problem wasn’t the Phase. My father never looked better during the Phase,” I explain, shaking my head, “The problem was the cure.”
“What are you saying, JD?”
“You’re going to think I’m crazy…”
“Spit it out.”
“I think the cure is what caused my father to kill himself…”
It’s late that night. It has to be about 4am in the morning. I’m lying on my bed and Gato—yes, Gato—-is next to me. It’s just like old times. I have my computer out and he has his phone out. He had kept his promise and stuck around with me during my mourning.
But mourning wasn’t enough. I wasn’t going to walk around my house crying like zombies. My entire family has been hit with this tragedy and I wanted to know why.
What happened to my dad?
“That’s the 4th person we found that got the Phase and ended up committing suicide once they went on the medication to cure it. You would think they would have had a recall on these pills by now.”
“They don’t care,” Gato states.
He shrugs a little bit.
“What are you saying?”
Gato isn’t really thinking about it. He’s talking in a very matter-of-fact manner when he quickly just shrugs and says, “They don’t care. There’s no way they had the opportunity to properly test out this cure. It seems like it came about in such a panic….”
“Families are being separated.”
Gato nods, “Exactly. So when you said that you believed the pills were the cause, I believed you completely.”
I watch him as he’s laying on the bed. He’s taking this seriously. You would think it was his dad that had been killed because of this.
“Thank you,” I state.
He turns to me. Those eyes of his were always so deep. It’s as though I could fall into the brown and never come back up. He had a way of licking his lips really hard he’s thinking deeply and he’s doing that right now.
“Being here. Elias called a few times and there were a bunch of other people who did a lot, but you—-you were actually here.”
And I knew he would be. I always knew he would be.
“You and Elias getting close, huh?” he asks sitting up on the bed.
I shake my head, “I meant to talk to you about that.”
“I’m supposed to be your best friend,” Gato explains, “I knew you had the Phase when you let him go with forcing himself on you in the beginning.”
“He didn’t force himself on me…’
Gato shakes his head not believing a word, “Whatever makes you feel better. All I’m saying is to be careful with Elias. I’ve been telling people for years that he’s not right and what he did to you is something that I’ll never forgot.”
“I guess this would be a bad time to tell you that he asked me out on a date.”
Gato turns towards me. He’s pissed.
“You really trying to fuck with my head huh?”
“I didn’t say yes, but he just text me telling me that he’d come take me to brunch tomorrow. I’m assuming it has more to do with my dad.”
Elias wasn’t the only one who reached out to take me out. I had gotten an outpouring of support from family, friends and my co-workers at the restaurant. Even Olivia ended up texting me to show solidarity. But it’s Elias that makes me anxious.
“So you just full on gay now?” Gato asks.
I pause for a minute.
“I don’t remember the last time I talked about Michelle…”
“That’s so crazy because you were obsessed with her,” Gato laughs, “I was literally going to agree to take out her ugly friend if she gave you some pussy.”
“Haven’t thought about pussy in a while,” I shrug.
Gato shakes his head and stares at me.
“Wow. Gay. Wow…”
“So about that kiss—”
He squints and turns to me as though getting a spark of interest again, “Yeah what was that! I was like sad and then all of a sudden your trying to stick your tongue down my throat.”
It’s so awkward but I just shrug and admit, “I mean you’re Gato, did you think I wouldn’t be attracted to you if I turned gay.”
There is a pause.
Then Gato sneers, “Damn. Actually you got a point. If I were gay I’d want to fuck ME too.”
We both start laughing. Gato’s sense of self when he came into his looks definitely was something that always cracked us up. A lot of people take him seriously when he tries to be this overconfident person but Gato and I find it funny because we both know the truth. We both know what Gato used to look like and we both know how low his self-esteem can get sometimes.
“Was it good?” I ask him.
“What?” he asks,” The kiss. Hell no. You were all like trying to control my head and eat my face. Is that how you kissed girls before the Phase? Fuck JD—-no wonder you never got any pussy from Michelle. I need to teach my best friend how to properly do it…”
He pauses and laughs, “Here let’s talk tips…”
“Yes now,” he states, “You need to take your mind off of your dad. So here. We are going to practice kissing. Here—make ur hand into a fist and lift up your thumb so that its close to your index finger. like you’re about to make a face on your index finger’s side knuckle and then talk for it.”
He shows me by locking his upper and lip in the part of his hand where the thumb and index would meet. I do the same.
“Pretend the lips on the hand are the lips your going to kiss. Now slow…just like that. Right. A little more tongue. More like this…”
He’s showing me how to kiss, tonguing his hand slowly. I can’t help but to get turned on at that moment watching him do this wondering all the other wonderful things that tongue of his could possibly do.
“Damn….” I state.
He looks down. I look down too. My dick is hard. It’s completely hard. My face gets red with embarrassment and I want to just hide under the comforter until I see Gato point at it and laugh. Him laughing honestly makes me not feel so awkward about it.
“Damn I might like you being gay,” he states.
“Makes me feel good about myself,” Gato replies, “Just from kissing. You should try it out on your next little boyfriend—–NOT Elias. And oh, JD?”
“One more thing—–make sure u hold her in a nice way while your doing it, cuz girls like to be held,” he tells me, “Good luck.”
“You going somewhere.”
“I’ve been dating someone, staying at their house.”
“Who is it?”
Elias’s ex. I give Gato a look.
“Gato what the hell…”
“You’re NOT going to give me shit especially if you are going out with fucking Elias,” he states, “Besides you know me. I don’t love these girls.”
He pauses, “When you did what you did I was hurt…”
“Gato I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t want an apology, but I’m saying that to say I couldn’t imagine being in love with someone. What you did hurt so bad. I don’t think I could give anyone that kind of power.”
“But your admitting I already have that kind of power?”
He thinks about it.
“Yeah, guess you do.”
He shrugs. It’s no big deal to him. I guess it would make sense that I would be the only one able to make Gato cry.
“Does that mean we’re still friends?”
He thinks about it, “Best friends. Forever.”
With that he leans over and grabs me. He hugs me close. He’s done it before. This long hug that tells you that he really doesn’t want to leave. He probably had Olivia up waiting forever knowing Gato. She probably expected him to come over a while ago and Gato got sidetracked by me. Like usual.
What isn’t normal is me sniffing him. What isn’t normal is me squeezing around his waist. I lay my head on his chest. I don’t want to be without him.
“Stay with me tonight,” I state.
“She’ll be pissed. I promised Olivia—-” he starts but then stops, “You know what. Fuck it. This is where I want to be.”
I don’t know what his plans were with Olivia. They probably had to do something really important in the morning. Whatever it is doesn’t matter to him when we go to bed together. We sleep with our clothes on but I notice him not being around to get close to me.
And I realize at that moment there is nothing I wouldn’t do to get closer to him in return.
“Thanks for meeting me,” Elias states.
“I expected a fancier place for a date.”
I say it in a joking way when we end up at a coffee shop. Elias does look nice when he walks in. He gives me a warm smile and leans over.
“I just have been wanting this uninterrupted time with you for so long,” Elias explains, “How is your family doing?”
“Getting the funeral together,” I state, “It’s hard.”
Just at that moment I get a text. The name pops up on my screen and the buzz makes Elias look down at my phone.
He sighs seeming clearly irritated when Gato’s name pops up on the screen.
“Don’t be like that.”
“He can’t go 10 minutes without you. Its like he’s addicted to you. I’m trying to show REAL interest with being with you and—-”
He’s interrupted again. It’s Gato again.
Elias sighs heavily when I pick up my phone, open it and read his text: I FOUND SOMETHING! CAN WE MEET?
I text Gato back immediately: I’M ON MY DATE.
Two seconds later.
A message from Gato.
And that’s all he needs to say. It’s fucking weird because Gato knows the power he has over me. He knows that’s all he needs to say and here I am looking at Elias ready to make up some fake excuse to leave our date.
I meet Gato in the park. He’s shirtless which is making it extra hard to be here. He’s been running which he does every Saturday. It helps keep his body toned. And that body of his was definitely quite toned. Him being extra sweaty doesn’t stop him from reaching over and hugging me tightly.
“Stop you like it.”
“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m attracted to everything manly.”
“So you are NOT attracted to me?” he asks.
He smiles when he asks it. I’m irritated but end up smiling back. It’s hard not to smile when it comes to Gato.
“Oh god. You’re super conceited, aren’t you?”
“So you’re not going to answer the question?”
I roll my eyes, “Did you interrupt my date so that I could come here and bullshit with you? I think you did that on purpose to get me away from Elias.”
He shakes his head, “No. I didn’t. I know someone. Someone who has been looking into F.A.M. just as much as we have.”
“Who is this person?”
“Dennis…Dennis from work.”
“Since when are you and Dennis cool?”
He raises an eyebrow, “You know you are not my only friend right?”
I roll my eyes, “The only one that matters.”
He sighs, “See that’s exactly why I told him I wanted to talk to you before we all met up. I have a crazy jealous best friend.”
I’m confused. Why would I want to meet with Dennis?
“Listen me and Dennis have been weird ever since my brother gay bashed him…”
“Trust me, I think he’s on our side with this,” he states, “When I told Dennis about your father he wasn’t surprised. There are others out there who committed suicide.”
“We knew that though.”
“Dennis knows more. Because well…Dennis is patient zero. Scientific proof that that the Phase was started by F.A.M…using state of the art drugs,” he tells me.
“Are you saying that this cure is fake?”
“I don’t know why but it seems like F.A.M is up to something. The same people who were trying to come up with the cure had been the people who came up with the disease…”