The first time I heard a man say that he loved me, I felt as if his words compromised me. That 10-year-old man followed me to the river on his bike ever since. He followed me later when he went to the bread, to buy food, when I went away from the adults, when he played with his sisters. On the coast we children were loose, we walked together, we warned each other of visible and invisible dangers. The brothers of the man in question told me: he is coming for you, you have to go. And I ran out. At first I ran, then my parents gave me a bicycle that I had asked for under the pretext of going faster on errands. I was embarrassed to have to say that someone who loved me made me feel guilty for having a body. When I told my mother, she suggested that I wear a loose-fitting shirt for swimming. I remember how the shirt swelled up with the water and how difficult it was to dive with it to look at the stones and the goldfish in the river. I remember the pain that it caused me to admit that the shirt did not make me disappear, but that it was the method that my own mother had used at my age to prevent her growing breasts from showing. It was the first time I felt fear when I recognized myself as a woman, as a girl. Eventually I stopped going to the river because one turned five. Five boys in their twenties were chasing me, arguing that they felt love for me.
I had to forget about the smell of freshly pulled grass and the plums that grew on the trees in the open fields. I had a perfect route to run away from the love of that child (in my mind, he and his friends were just like me: children). I threw my bicycle just before the patio of the house with thorn bars and ran at full speed to get out the other side, where my father was waiting for me working iron, annoyed because after fleeing I liked to stare at the blue light of the welding. They could never reach me, but they didn’t stop chasing me.
One day my grandmother came to visit us and I had to tell her: that boy said that he wanted to marry me. I cried, I didn’t know why I was crying if love was supposed to be celebrated. My grandmother locked herself in with my parents and they spoke quietly. Then he told me: you’re going to play the pantheon and I’m going to take care of you. The pantheon was a beautiful place, the moss covered the tombstones and the boys were afraid to follow me there. I took my bike, left the house looking everywhere. And then the boys came out of hiding ready to chase me. I knew how to skid, I knew how to jump off the bike in motion, I knew all the maneuvers you need to know to escape, but this time they were too close. What would they do with me when they caught up with me? Would I have to get married and be like my friend Maria, who had given birth before she was fifteen? Before they arrived, my grandmother appeared around the house, holding something under her blouse, she told me go! And I threw my bike and ran towards the place of eternal rest. I heard her say to them: I’ll kill them if I see them close again. Years later, I learned that he was holding a white pistol, the same one with which he defended his eight daughters from the men who climbed the walls to try to rape them.
That night was too quiet, the small coast seemed to have cooled off.
A few weeks later we had to leave, it was like an escape: my mother was driving the cart with the few things that had not been sold and my father was next to her drunk. My father never drank, but the neighbors of the boys who were chasing me had forced him to drink, gun in hand. They were said to be hired killers, they were said to traffic women.
That was my introduction to the idea of love. The affection of my dog seemed more sincere to me than that of the man who told me he loved me, huddled in the bushes, panting while I bathed. Also in those years I vowed eternal love with my friend Charito, the effeminate boy. We were part of a club, along with María, the prostitute’s daughter, who had been adopted by a distant uncle, a paralyzed old man who sold vegetables on a sidewalk outside the market. When the uncle died, Maria followed the fate to which people had condemned her. No one offered him a roof or bread and he had to surrender to the “love of men.” The last time I spoke with Charito, already out of the closet, a couple of years ago, he told me that María was unrecognizable and that she looked twenty years older than us. He told me that he had whispered to her: Sister, let’s get out of here, but she didn’t even remember it anymore. He was afraid of something, of someone lurking in the shadows of the shack.
Every time Charito and I talked about our childhood, the river, the tacuates that people called “Indians” or “savages”, we had to have a few drinks on top. We avoided looking into each other’s eyes. Privileged, helped by our families, we had managed to get out of this systematic violence, we had studied a few years at university, we had fallen in love with our own sex and the opposite, we had been able to theorize about the things that had hurt us. The analysis of our pain softened things to the point of making us amnesiac, hypocritical.
I have never been able to tell Charito that the second person I fell in love with, at age 18, when I lived alone in the most monstrous city I have ever known, organized a collective intrusion into my body in a moment of involuntary sedation. That guy also told me that he loved me. The effect of that rape, an ephemeral pregnancy, gave me something that I could never define and for which poetry has served me above all: I experienced “a feeling of love so great that it ruined my life in the world”. My rescue raft, that poor definition of my pain, kept me afloat. Verses that put into words the elevation, the ecstasy and the impossibility of keeping myself in that unique state, no matter if I decided to have the child or to throw it away. The truth is that this unborn love saved me, made me run away, ask for help, preserve my life. One night when I was determined not to have it, I heard it beat. The whole room pulsed with him, the walls, the whole house. What was he going to do with that child if he was born? What wounds would he be condemned to? That son made me understand that the destiny of love is also to say goodbye.
I learned more reliably about love taking care of my dogs. They taught me that it is a transcendent feeling. The most necessary in these times, the most frowned upon. I don’t know why people understand love as a gesture of vulnerability if for dogs to love is to become stronger. It is like a superpower, something they know their own, it is what gives them their role in the world. With submission the love of dogs is not carried out, it becomes fear. That is why I have never wanted to train my dogs, I like to recognize them as wild, it makes me feel that I am witnessing something vestigial, a mistake in the matrix: an animal that has rejected its fierce nature to keep us company.
A couple of weeks ago, Kichi, one of the dogs I have loved the most, died. The first time we met, he greeted me as if he had been waiting lives for me. She was the one who was always by my side, the one who in country races tried to keep track of me when I increased my speed on the bike on long descents. Everything happened very fast. After our house was flooded my smallest dog was sick, vomiting, convulsing, rolling down the stairs with her eyes rolled. The vet said she was traumatized, but I got sick too. Kichi started laying on top of us. It licked us. I licked his chrism, licked my hands to get rid of the fever.
One day Kichi woke up sick, she was pregnant so her body, full and vulnerable, was defeated. I understood what he had done: he had taken what was ours and made it his own. The last time I saw her alive, she was staring at a fixed point in the dark. It is the first and the last time I saw her submissive. He was surrendering to the one thing that is worth surrendering to. What are you looking at, Kichi? There was nothing where he was looking and, even though I turned his face away from my fear, Kichi looked back at the same point. I have only seen that look in the dying, that look into the void looking for their luck. I wanted to refuse. How was she going to leave, if she seemed eternal? If we led lives waiting for each other.
The night her remains were brought in, something opened the door to my room and she came in. I was between asleep and awake, immersed in that pleasant moment of amnesia that our body gives us after the loss of a loved one or a tragic event, in deep fatigue, no longer fever. She came in moving her little body happily, got on the bed and snuggled with me. I looked for her the next day while recovering my memory. His visit, his joy at saying goodbye, made my life and grief lighter. To many people it will seem a bit strange that the death of an animal hurts so much, but isn’t it true that what grief for an unborn child and a dog who gave her life for yours have in common is that unblemished love? No chiaroscuro, no submission, no power games, no entangled behavior, no trauma.
It is inevitable for me to unite the idea of love to that of mourning. I do not want to believe that I am making mistakes, from my point of view this is the same as accepting that life ends, that it is death to live. That each heartbreak is a reminder of our common destiny.
I went through many years here and there trying to solve what was wrong with me, that which obstructed my encounter with the love of a couple, to realize that love is in other things, things that sometimes one does not perceive or do not measure. My trans sister looks at me suspiciously when I talk about this. She, who somehow accepting herself finally accepted that love would be difficult, that it would be interfered with by neglect, by rejection. But also with its acceptance came the certainty that there will always be hope for union, for forgiving the opposite gender, one’s own, oneself.
I haven’t been able to write anything that lives up to what Kichi did. Love is not something that can be written, I think. It is something one tries to describe. I believe that love is God, something without dimensions that receives a brief name and is reduced to our poor understanding of things. Like a gigantic paper that is folded into a box to fit and of which we can only see one side. I have felt it, I have run through the mountains, together with my dogs, I have walked through the desert, swam in the sea with the sensation of having it on my back, inside, on top of me, I am sure. And, curiously, it has reached me at the height of my own loneliness. There, my love objects radiate, I realize that, just like God, over time they belong to an order of things that should be kept secret, that is: to be forgotten.
This text was read by Clyo Mendoza during the Oaxaca International Book Fair (FILO), as part of the ‘Conversations’ project
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.