Before the 2nd Kiss - Part 6

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My uncle's wife was the only one to give me a proper greeting when I entered their house. My uncle hugged his sisters but just frowned at me without even giving so much as a nod.

"The house looks beautiful!" my mom told my aunt as she gazed at the sparkling Christmas tree.

My aunt's parents came out of the kitchen to greet us as well. My cousins' abuelo was practically my grandfather. My mom and her siblings had grown up without a father and since my uncle's marriage to this half-Mexican, half-French Canadian woman 20 years ago, he'd been apart of our family gatherings. Every year, he asked me if I had a girlfriend yet, and if my pants weren't baggy enough or my hair was too neat or long, he'd comment on that too. He assured everyone that my sub-par masculinity was just a phase and the result of being raised by women. At least his intentions and approach were always kind, unlike my cousins who teased me for fun and my uncle who allowed it, no matter how cruel they got.

"¡Epa, Alejandro!" my 18-year-old cousin Bruno shouted with a smile as he crossed the room. He walked past my mom and tía to show me his phone screen open to my Facebook photos, pictures of me cuddled up close with my friends and members of the LGBTQ+ club. "¿La verga de quién te comes?" he asked me playfully, voice low.

"Vete a la verga," I began to snap back, reflexive after years of this type of taunting before I realized: 1. My cousin had access to my Facebook page where I was out and 2. He'd spoken loud enough for everyone to hear. All the adults, except the two who didn't know enough Spanish (my aunt and her mother), turned around to me and Bruno with expressions as horrified as my own.

By making my Facebook profile public, I'd allowed my cousins to see everything. The evidence was no surprise to them, but having that confirmation was enough to let them open the floodgates.

Alejandro was gay. They'd known it all along. Let's pray over him so we can save him from the fiery pits of Hell.

Well, the last part didn't happen; thankfully, my mom wouldn't allow it. She announced that she already knew and was fine with me being gay and that she loved me no matter what. My tía and aunt defended her. My uncle didn't even want to touch the matter. My cousins were amused. Abuelo Alvarez was vocally sad and his wife quietly appalled. After nearly two hours of drama and invasive questions, the subject was dropped.

Later the following day, Abuelo Alvarez motioned to speak with me privately. My mother gave a sharp look, but I assured with a glance that I'd be okay. He sat me down in the guest room, then lowered himself into the rocking chair by the window.

"I was once where you are."

I blinked in surprise.

"I was teased as a child. Like you, I didn't have enough masculinidad. When I was a teenager, I considered I might be gay."

Fighting the urge to drop my jaw, I listened intently.

"But I found God."

My heart sunk. What had I been thinking? I must have forgotten who was talking to me.

"I got married," he continued, "had a family, and I am now happy and blessed." He stood up from the chair and sat beside me on the bed, placing a hand on my shoulder. "I want you to make the right choice as well."

In that room, I just nodded at the old man's words. In private, I cried because I felt so much grief for him. Seventy years of denying himself and the love that he wanted and deserved all to do what he thought was "proper." There was no way in Hell I was going to take his advice. I was going to live out my life like the gay man I was until the day I died.

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