Fragile Bones

ano nakikita Mo?, harana

1948 Scientist Alfred Kinsey concludes that 37% of men have enjoyed homosexual activities at least once.

2002 – 54 years later – In the third grade, someone accused me of being it for the first time. The class was divided on whether I was or was not. Of course, I was sure that I wasn’t, and I hated that half of the class hated me for something that I hadn’t really even thought about yet. 

A boy named Trey was the first to call me it: gay. He did this at the lunch table; everyone just sat and inhaled the carbon steaming off of his accusations. He said it like it was a slow infection that would surely kill me and had the potential to spread to other bodies all the way down to the opposing side of the table. Everyone leaned away from me. He took his bag of milk, one of those plastic sacks they give out at underfunded public schools in the South, and he began displaying what gay people do, by putting the straw in it and allowing the brown chocolate milk to spill out onto his lunch tray. This was the first time I had really imagined my body on top or under someone else’s and probably the first time that I learned what gay people did. It was disgusting. 

The chocolate milk ran onto Trey’s peanut butter sandwich and soaked into it like a sponge after doing the dishes. And then he proceeded to eat it. Some of the kids defended me, by assuring that I was not gay, but most of them said nothing. However, all of them imagined me as that milk sack, getting poked and prodded internally, spilling out onto their lunch trays. Everyone ate everything on their plates. The next day is when I stopped eating, almost completely, in an attempt to convince my mother I was sick and could not go back to school. I was afraid that I’d infect the other children. I fasted for three days until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was visibly slimmer than I had been at the beginning of the week. Trey looked at me from across the table triumphantly, like he had won something.  

#

1952 The American Psychiatric Association classifies homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance.

2008 – 56 years later – a lanky boy named Matthew dared me to kiss him when we were alone in his bedroom. And I did it, reluctantly of course. This was my first kiss; presumably it was also his. I jumped and pecked my lips to his in an instant. I replay it in my mind to this day. We mashed our lips together like one of us was going off to a World War or something and the train was leaving the station and ripping us apart. I didn’t count it as my first kiss; it was just a dare. And it neither felt right nor wrong. It felt crazy, like a thousand bombs were going off inside of me, killing everyone in a fifty-mile radius. I stopped going to Matthew’s house after that day. I wonder if he counts me as his first kiss. Perhaps he’s completely forgotten about it.

#

1953 President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, banning homosexuals from working for the federal government or any of its private contractors. The Order lists homosexuals as security risks, along with alcoholics and neurotics.

2013 – 60 years later – I found myself in bed with another boy on my college swim team. His name was Drake. We weren’t supposed to have relationships with people on the team or be engaged in “swimcest,” if you’re familiar with the terminology. But no one would find out because we were roommates. 

Our beds were bunked and smashed into a corner of the room. I am convinced we occupied the smallest room on campus and the beds were stacked on top of each other out of sheer necessity; there wasn’t enough surface area to have them side-by-side. I had the top bunk and he had the bottom. When I walked into the room for orientation in mid-August, it was hot, and I saw Drake’s muscular Greek body visibly sweating as he hung up his poster of The Bell Jar. I imagined us combining the beds to make one “megabed,” even though I knew it would never happen. It wasn’t supposed to and the dimensions of the room made it completely improbable, but this didn’t stop me from thinking about it. Throughout my freshman year, sometimes late at night, I would imagine Drake on top of me while he was asleep. His hands would be fumbling around and our sweat would mix and pool together like soda and vodka on our bodies. I knew it would never happen and that’s why I kept thinking about it. He was a boy, a young man with a penis and I was too. Trey was still poking that bag in the back of my mind. 

I began acting on my fantasies in winter, by lightly touching him whenever he said something stupid, by watching all of his favorite movies, by claiming that I was “too drunk” to make it up to the top bunk and sleeping on the ground so I could watch him fall asleep. We were getting dangerously close, like a candle next to the curtains. 

It finally happened when I was drunk, too drunk. It felt fake and impossible; it felt like I was lucid dreaming, like I was possibly living for the first time, taking my first breaths out of his mouth. He climbed into my bed and started kissing me. My lips moved behind his as he taught me what to do. It felt daring, dangerous even, when we kissed. Every time we wrestled around on the mattress, one of us would bump our head on the ceiling and then we’d laugh into each other’s throats. We held hands after, but when I woke up he was back in the bottom bunk. We walked to our team breakfast together silently, the next morning. It was spring, but it was still cold; our fingers turned purple. Our hands brushed on our way across the quad and he recoiled like a snake with its fangs all drained. We sat at opposite ends of the table.

#

1962 Illinois becomes the first state to repeal its sodomy laws and decriminalize homosexuality.

2014 – 52 years later – Travis was a small, slim boy and I caught him at a party. He had long, black hair down to his shoulder blades and often tied it up into a ponytail, so I always told him he looked like Kimmy from Rugrats. I was drinking heavily at the party and I went over to him like a zookeeper would to a bear cub, confident but cautious. He was shy at first and I asked him what his life was like. He told me all of the places he’d lived and we learned that we were actually born at the same hospital, hours apart. I imagined us in the same incubator, crying and biting each other with our oversized gums and toothless mouths. By the end of the party we were dancing with our hands holding and kissing each other with our tongues. I woke up the next morning in his bed, confused as to where I was. His dorm room was dark and in the basement of a large building. I could hear people throwing up last night’s beer pong game in the community bathroom down the hall. I tried to get up before he woke, but as I was searching for my pants, he asked me where I was going and he pulled me back into the bed, like the walls of the incubator stop a baby from falling. It was warm and he smiled when I stayed. 

After Travis and I had been dating for a while, we finally decided to try it. A few girls told me how badly it hurt, so I figured it would be even worse as a boy. When he entered me it felt weird. It was sharp and good all at the same time. I wasn’t sure if I really liked it or if I hated it. The entire south campus heard me and assumed that I liked it. We kissed after, and after that we went to class. We had sex many more times and got better at it with each practice. We memorized each other’s movements and I kissed him where he liked to be kissed. Eventually our fluids probably became of the same consistency. We were polluted with each other. It takes months to get someone’s saliva out of your digestive tract after you swallow it. The weird thing is it’s been years and I can still taste his. 

#

1978 Dan White assassinates Harvey Milk. White’s actions are motivated by “jealousy and depression,” rather than homophobia.

2014 – 36 years later – Travis told me he was moving back to his family in Arizona. He told me that he didn’t love me and that he never did, and most importantly, that he never would. I started to cry hysterically and told him that I was depressed and that I needed help. He left me outside of his dorm. It was in March, so it was still cold throughout the night, and I could see the steam coming off of my eyes and out of my mouth like when you open the oven in the middle of preparing a meal. 

He came out to see if I was still there in the morning. And, I was still there in the morning. He dragged me by my wrist into his room, and I let him. He yelled at me and hit me a few times, and I liked it. He told me that I was stupid and that I should give up. And so, I gave up. As I left his room he was still screaming. He told me I could never visit him and he could never visit me. He said he had to protect his family from whatever I was. 

This made me what I am. Both of us were more fragile than we thought. Our relationship was more fragile than we thought. The world had been more fragile than we had thought. I’m not sure who cried more that morning, him or me. Later that day, I couldn’t stop crying and so I told my mom about it. I told her that I couldn’t go on, that I felt like a Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey and the mashed potatoes. She told me that I had to go on and she wished that I’d told her sooner. And I wish that I’d told her sooner too.  

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1987 Hundreds of thousands of activists take part in the National March on Washington to demand that President Ronald Reagan address the AIDS crisis.

 2015 – 28 years later – I was starting to date after Travis. I went to this guy’s house that I met on the Internet. His name was Jacob, and he looked nothing like his profile picture. He was small and very feminine, contrasting the high angles he took to fabricate his height and jawline on whatever dating site we had matched on. He told me that he thought I was adorable and that he wished he had my body. It was weird because I had never felt lucky to have my body. I had always wished that I had someone else’s as well. 

I brought a bottle of wine and he had a bowl of weed packed. I felt odd being in his apartment; apparently, he was moving out the next morning so he didn’t have any furniture, just a mattress on the floor and a bunch of cardboard boxes with plates and knickknacks spilling out the tops of them. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I kept alternating between swigs and hits. 

Eventually, the more intoxicated I got, the more his face started to mesh with my memories of Travis. Jacob asked if I wanted to go to his bed. And, I didn’t say yes, but I also didn’t say no. He began removing his clothes and my clothes equally. A shirt for a shirt, a sock for a sock—until eventually we entered our first sexual encounter together. I asked him to stop and told him that I was too intoxicated. But he shushed me like Drake did, and pulled me back down to the bottom of the mattress with emotion and skinny arms like Travis had done. As we went further, and the haze of the drugs deepened, and he dug into me, I continued to imagine that he was Travis. I closed my eyes and actually believed it for a few thrusts, but then I realized Jacob tasted different. I could feel every whisker of his mustache prick my tongue like the coat of a porcupine does to its predator. It didn’t feel right. And that stung. 

The next day I woke up before Jacob did and drove home still a little intoxicated, during the morning rush. I went to the doctor later that week and got tested. The nurse looked at me like I was irresponsible. It stung when she placed the stethoscope to my chest, everything felt cold and sterile: her fingers, the medical instruments, the patient table against my exposed thighs. She wrapped the blood pressure band around my arm and she squeezed it extra tight, as if the gesture were to punish me. I didn’t even try to explain that it wasn’t my fault, because in a way, I guess it was. 

#

2004 Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize gay marriage. 

2016 – 12 years later – I went to visit Elliot at his school in Miami for a week. We had met a few months after Jacob, before he went back to school. He was tall and dark and he laughed like a nervous hyena when he saw me walk into the baggage claim area. We had sex for the first time that night and afterward he told me that he loved me. He told me that it had never felt like that before, that he had never felt like that before. And I asked him what he felt like and he said “good.” He said that after sex with other guys he usually feels guilty and that he didn’t feel that way with me. He told his mom about me. I told my mom about him. 

He asked if I wanted anything to eat and I watched the muscles of his body tense with each undulation of the syllables. I told him that I didn’t, even though I hadn’t eaten much that day or much in the weeks prior to the trip. No one had seen my naked body in a while and I was cautious about it being put on display again. I often would look in the mirror after I ran 10 miles on the treadmill or after I did 1000 sit-ups to notice if there was any change. I would be upset that I didn’t run 15 or that I didn’t do 2000. My stomach growled for the rest of the night and we laughed each time that it did. He asked if I was sure that I wasn’t hungry and I told him that I was sure. He told me he loved me again, when he dropped me off at the airport. We shared a slice of melted cheesecake from a Styrofoam box in the parking lot before I left. I told him that I loved him too, and we haven’t seen or heard from each other since. 

#

2009 The Matthew Shepard Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on October 28th. The measure expands the 1969 U.S. Federal Hate Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

2016 – seven years later – I woke up to a voicemail from Travis. He confessed that he still loved me and that he didn’t know why. He told me that he was in conversion therapy somewhere outside of Tucson and that he missed me. He told me that he was sorry. This came as a relief, as he was in every one of my dreams and now I know I was also in every one of his. We exist somewhere indefinitely, in the same incubator, getting ready to finally die or to be born again. We see each other in memories and imagine what it would be like with each other in the future. 

Travis is the reason I started running. I called him back in the middle of my run the morning after his call, to tell him I was sorry too. At the end of every tunnel, behind every tree, watching from a branch, under every pile of leaves, and waiting in every bathroom stall along my favorite trail, I half expected to see Travis there, just waiting for me. I’m not sure if it’s worse to live with this blind hope or know that he never is actually waiting. The phone rang infinitely and he never picked up. 

#

2015 Gay marriage becomes legal nationwide. 

2018 – now, two and a half years later – I’ve found a good guy. His name is Chris. And I imagine what it would be like if we actually married. Would we feel weird when we went to kiss each other in public? Would our children get bullied at school? Would our dogs hate women? Would we have a lavish wedding or would we just walk with arms stiff at our sides, down to the big impersonal courthouse? Would our vows be deep and meaningful or would we cut them short and masculine? Will he ever tell his mom about us? Will my extended family ever refer to him as anything but my “friend?” Will we be able to love each other unconditionally or are we all suffering from some kind of PTSD? Did that one time in third grade scar us? Or did the assassination of Harvey Milk scare us enough to be deeply rooted, even several years removed, in our generation? Will he ever tell me that he loves me and mean it? Will I ever say it back? I often hypothesize when and if all of these things will happen. Sometimes I look at my phone like Travis might call back and sometimes I think about pressing charges against Jacob before the statute of limitations runs out in whatever state we had non-consensual sex. But then I think of how meaningless all of that really is. Maybe I’m letting it all get to my head. There’s a theory that dating within the gay community is fragile, because the people of the gay community are fragile, from years of bullying and an inherited fear of finding out who they really are; but I don’t buy it. 

I’m going to invite Chris over for dinner tonight. And I’m going to ask him about his thoughts on aliens and he will ask me about mine on ghosts. And then I’m going to kiss him like no human has ever kissed another human before. Our future remains uncharted and undocumented. It’s a collection of the spontaneity of our present and the hard facts of our past. We are all of these things, Chris and I. We are Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard sharing a piece of cake. We are Alfred Kinsey and Dan White kissing openly and often. And sometimes when Chris and I are kissing, I just look at him and he just looks at me. We’re both really there, on the other side of each other’s lips. It is not a dream, not a fantasy—it’s reality. It’s our darkest childhood thoughts coming to light. We both exist. We both want to be there in that moment. We’re both a fabrication of history and a prophecy of the future. 

This is an invitation to the future wedding. Maybe not mine; Chris and I may be incapable of making it that far. We might get in a fight, or we might cheat on each other, or we might be too afraid to have the other standing there and leave him at our home, for so long that he dies, locked in our closet. We could each very well die alone. But one day someone will get married. They’ll kiss each other and they’ll do it proudly, and they’ll mean it, truly mean it, and it will last forever.

About the Author

Natt Hawkins · Columbia College Chicago

Matt Hawkins graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Fiction Writing. He is now pursuing an MFA at Florida Atlantic University with a focus in Nonfiction. His work has also been featured in Allegory Ridge. “Fragile Bones” first appeared in Hair Trigger.

About the Artist

harana · University of California

harana is a senior design major at UC Davis whose art is shaped by her identity as a Pilipinx-American immigrant. Ano Nakikita Mo appeared originally in the University of California -wide Matchbox Magazine. You can find more of her work as an artist on instagram @harana_, and her work as a designer at EmiliaTongson.com.

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