It’s almost 3 a.m. and this late at night (this early morning) I have to take a cab if I want to go back to Chueca. I have no choice: I gave my keys to Chico Rock assuming we’d be coming home together. After all, we sleep a mere balcony hop away.
It’s pouring hard in Madrid, as if the city needs cleansing. The streets of Chueca are empty by the time I get there. The rain has scared off all the little animals that would otherwise be prowling up and down the streets. I’ve never seen Madrid this empty, this cold, this wet. Rick’s is still open of course, so I walk in looking around to see if I can find Rock, or traces that he has been here recently, but nothing.
I order a tequila Squirt and sit by the bar. I’ve come to learn that when looking for someone – friends at a bar, a boy to take home, a future husband, my absent father - it’s better to stay still rather than shoot off aimlessly into the darkness. About twenty minutes later, a man wearing a leather jacket and tight jeans slides to the seat next to me, smiles at me and asks me what I’m drinking. I let him buy me another tequila Squirt. It’s not too late to make friends, and there’s something wildly attractive about his stubble and the thin brushes of silver caressing his buzz cut hair.
We make small talk, I tell him about my time in Madrid, how I’m looking for my next door neighbor with my keys. He tells me about his job, accounting, how he lived in Germany for two years and how he wished he had met me earlier on my trip…
I made my mother cry on her wedding day. It was completely unintentional, like most actions of a nine year-old tend to be. I had been crying that day too, for some reason too hard to decipher fourteen years later. I guess, I just wanted to see her one last time before the ceremony in the chapel was about to commence.
I remember one of my younger aunts escorted me, tears and all, to the room where my mom was applying last-minute make-up and taking control of her nerves. My mother saw me amidst distress, opened her arms, I ran to her, clinching to her satin gown. And I began to cry harder. I gasped for air repeatedly, wiping my tears and unable to complete my thoughts, let alone speak.
The church bells rang, and the maid of honor knocked on the door. “One second!” My mom said wiping my tears and then her own. She fixed my hair and then her own, and I finally managed to say, “They said that I don’t have a father.”
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that!” She responded immediately and with maternal anger I had never seen before.
“But I don’t have a father,” I said not yet consoled.
“Of course you do,” she said now softly and with a smile. She was a beautiful bride. “Your father is standing right in front of you.” I stood back and smiled. I didn’t want to get any more tears on her dress.
I excuse myself from the conversation I’m having with the handsome stranger at the bar and head to the restroom. I take the last urinal and unzip my pants. The small restroom smells like urine, beer and cologne.
As I start fondling my boxers trying to find the opening, I notice through the mirror the stranger walking in and taking the stall next to me. We are alone. He begins whistling, but I just brush him off. I can sense that he’s looking straight at me, and I keep staring straight in front of me at the light blue wall graffiti’ed with telephone numbers scribbled in black sharpie. I feel his hand grab the back of my neck, so I rush to finish and zip my pants back up. “Don’t be scared, daddy’s here,” he whispers, and my Spidey senses shoot off tingles down my spine. I wriggle out of his grasp, step back and turn to him – give him this angry, disapproving look. He’s pathetic.
But rejection is always hard to take face on. The stranger's face gets flushed with aggression, and he pushes me with enough force that I stumble back into the stall behind me, my chest and my back harden with the pain. I push him to the side, trying to get him out of my way. He punches my face, and I taste blood, like liquid copper, trickling down my throat.
A flamboyant skinny blond boy storms in to the restroom, confused as to what he has just encountered. The stranger rushes out, and I go to the mirror to fix my hair. I’m bleeding out my nose, and I clench my fists because I don’t want to cry.
My mother’s wedding was not a big spectacle by any means. In fact, I remember her making it clear that she wanted something intimate. Because when it comes to love, no show can ever be big enough to ever encapsulate what’s happening internally. After my tears dried up, I took my seat in the front row and looked around. All the people my mother had ever met were there, my old family and my new family, meeting and smiling, so proud of the union. They were happy. And I was happy too.
My mother and my stepfather stood together, said their vows and kissed. And they have been happily married ever since.
And I remember feeling like my heart was going to explode. As a child, I enjoyed projecting myself into the future. And that day, I sat and gazed at the beauty of it all and thought, “that’s what I want.”
Outside the restroom, the party at Rick’s is still going strong. Bloody and teary, I walk out and see Chico Rock making out with some guy on the crowded dancefloor. I walk up to him, unconcerned with interrupting, and ask him for my keys.
“Oye tio, y que te paso? (Hey man, what happened to you?)” He asks. But I don’t answer, I ask for my keys again. He reaches in his pocket and hands me my keys.
“Estas bien? (Are you ok?)” He asks, and now I can tell he’s worried. I reach out and cup his smooth jaw with my hand.
“Estare bien. (I’ll be fine.)” I say and force a smile.
I leave the bar and walk to the nearest metro station. It’s still raining, not has hard, but I don’t care. I stand outside for fifteen minutes, waiting for the trains to start running. It’s a brand new day, but I still feel like last night. I lift my head and let the rain splash on my face and drain down my body; I need the cleansing.