Make Love Illegal Again
Tidal Lock: One eye, one ear lovingly fixed on my boyfriend snoring—supine on the bed—other eye always forced towards México, other ear pressed against the door fearing time has run out. I prepare for a second exile just as I steel myself to fight for the luxury of sleeping next to a man whom I am in love with.
Donald Trump is the nominee and people are angry, but mostly afraid. I don’t know how one still has the energy to be afraid after Proposition 187 and its copycats, after the Sensenbrenner fiasco and the rolls of pennies and water bottles filled with urine it sent flying over our heads in the quads of high schools across the country. I cannot be scared, not after seeing Elvira snatched from her son, and, before her, Elián Gonzales ripped from a closet in Miami at gunpoint, and, after him, the dozens and dozens of neighbors and friends taken much in the same way.
Adrenaline loses its taste, it becomes as ubiquitous as hemoglobin and carbon dioxide. I resign to the fact that it’s out of my hands until that eye turns to my love. And again, when I look at a photo of us during my lunch break. And again, when I think about a tender moment as I pass a dodgy yellow light and I hear sirens behind me.
Why do I let myself get attached?
It’s this same doubt that lead to the present estrangement from my parents that began as soon as I entered adolescence, when I realized that even this bond could be severed by a judge or a curious CBP agent at the airport. For most of our lives it had been us three against the world. Even then, I pushed them to the edge of their parental adoration after bouts of underage binge drinking, odious insults and week-long vanishing acts. My grades tanked in high school, I withdrew from university and occasionally from the world. I refuse to materialize the hopes they had for their eldest son out of anger for my condition. I want them to hate me or at least lose faith in me before the day I wake up in Guadalajara and they wake up in California.
This has never happened, instead I am forced to reconcile with all the damage I cause. I have to live with myself, they have to forgive me and I them, for—despite my loving parents’ best intentions—having made me this way all because in 1993 they wanted to give me a better life. My illegality has become the rabbit snare around all our necks, has trapped my siblings. The original trauma thrives.
This is the pattern that has repeated itself throughout my life. Friends. Professional relationships. Dozens and dozens of men who I’ve disappointed.
I don’t mean to excuse my bad behavior, but when you’re illegal love for others becomes a liability and self-love becomes an absurdity.
The internal monologue:
Why build a career? You’re about to be deported.
Why make friends? You’re about to be deported.
Why fall in love? You’re about to be deported.
Why stay alive? You’re about to be deported.
Deported to a violent country. Deported to a homophobic country. A colonized country, an oppressed country that vents its pain onto people like you. The same way you enact it upon your family, your peers, yourself, your partners.
I understand, finally the pathology of colonialism. I embody it. The realization makes me fear it all the more.
In my brain, every friendship is an inevitable goodbye, every job a temporary distraction, every romance a long distance relationship neither of us agreed to. Fear is soil and firmament and everything in between is temporary.
Fear amplified—though I’ve learned to hide it—by the news media and the comments I scroll past on LA Times articles. Once again the same old xenophobic rhetoric I flinched at as a child is given new life by opportunistic politicians. It is given greater potency by the non-profits and supposedly-allied organizations who latch onto it in and shake every dollar from every foundation between San Francisco and Boston.
I want to slip from the snare.
“When love is illegal, it becomes an act of resistance”, is the rare bromide that also happens to scrape against the truth.
I tell myself: I will dream of him tonight, I will think of him tomorrow, I will hold him when I see him, and I will believe him when he says he loves me. I will let love out of the shadows. And, if I fail, I will at least have had those soft nights and those quiet kisses.
I know I will inevitably fail, but I will keep struggling. That is how I will find that better life, that is how after twenty years, I will stop being illegal.