VII.

How do you deny patience? How do you dismiss respect? How do you reject unconditional love? 

I will tell you how. You like yourself so little that you find anyone who will give you those things a  fool. Only a delusional, misguided pushover would voluntarily nurture you. 

That is how it was being with him. At night, seeing myself through his eyes felt as if he were  holding a mirror to me and demanding I say what I appreciated about myself. I was tired of  waiting for the veil to be lifted, for the night that he would finally lay beside me and confess: 

I cannot do this anymore. I am overlooking too much. You are exhausting and cruel. So I lifted the veil myself. 

You cannot do this anymore. You are overlooking too much. I am exhausting and cruel. And just like that, I was free. 

Any time regret crept in, I held tight to the belief that I was doing him and myself a favor. I  would teach myself to appreciate a love like his when it presented itself again. I would be older,  wiser, less codependent, and more experienced. I’d have sex with strangers. I’d travel by myself.  I’d accept and celebrate my flaws, so I knew – truly knew – what it looked and felt like when  someone else did. There would be no pit in my stomach anytime I was looked at with love, for I  would know it was real and that I deserved it. I would no longer scan someone’s face for deceit as  they told me I was beautiful, or smart, or talented. I would welcome patience, expect respect, and  delight in unconditional love. 

There were far too many, so I do not recall our first kiss, nor our last, but there a few that stand  out. The first time we kissed while I had my retainer in. The first time we kissed after I told him I  loved him, drunk after Thai food with my mother and brother. The first time we kissed in my  new apartment, with the walls bare, my comforter not yet arrived, and a room that “isn’t too small, right?” 

“No, it’s perfect. And you’ll make it home.” 

Those are the kisses I remember. 

He had a pair of green tube socks. There were two white lines across the top where they hugged  your calf, and on the bottom they read “TME.” Slightly marled, and stained with pale gray at the  sole, I stole them often, and he knew they were my favorite. 

A week after things had ended, he made his way uptown to me with a bag full of my things. I had  prepared a bag of his, and nestled at the top were the socks – now being surrendered to their rightful owner. As he sat on my couch and we exchanged niceties, he noticed them, plucked them  from the canvas bag full of his t-shirts and underwear, and placed them on my coffee table. 

“Those are yours.” I protested.  

“No, they’re not. Not anymore, anyway.” 

I remember thinking how kind it was that he relinquished the socks to me, even after I broke his  heart. I remember thinking I was hoping he’d do that. And I remember thinking I had made the  biggest mistake of my life.

Jose Useche is an actor and writer from Queens, NY. As a writer, his web series pilot SLUT has received laurels from the Official Latino Film Festival, the Baltimore Next Media Web Fest (where it won best LGBTQ Web-Series), the Chicago Pride Film Festival, and Web Series Festival Global. Jose has written jokes and questions for SCRUFF’s in-app game show HOSTING, and does communications for several LGBTQ nonprofits including the Arcus Foundation, the Transgender Law Center, and PFLAG NYC. His personal blog, Manic Hispanic, has garnered over 10,000 hits in its lifetime.

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