Masculinity

By Jorge Cino

Sean

In a personal essay written for Mrs. Bloom’s English class, Sean Burns believed himself to have revealed a little bit about himself and an awful lot about the nature of human relationships. At the time, Sean was a sophomore at Bernal High School in Vermont and a known troublemaker. The year prior he had put together an oral presentation on the history and culture of Afghanistan to educate his classmates about the better aspects of that country, and though he’d been careful to leave out political or religious undertones, a classmate had shot up from his seat and sucker punched him in the face. That was in 2002.

This essay was not nearly as incendiary, but it was just as disconcerting. The bulk of it made the claim that a fundamental aspect of people’s lives was the drive to form close personal relationships and then tear them apart. To prove his point, he described his parents’ nasty divorce a few years earlier and detailed his crumbling relationship with his girlfriend, Meredith. He considered writing about his recent distancing from Jesse but realized that doing so might get his former best buddy in trouble.

“Maybe it’s the whiskey talking, Mrs. Bloom,” he wrote, and indeed he had sneaked whiskey from his father’s bar and was drinking it out of a teacup as he wrote. “But when I really think about it, the one common feeling that ties me to my close relationships right now is disappointment—disappointment above all. How can you get close to someone and then want to pull away from them? It’s not normal. It isn’t natural.”

And to conclude: “I’ve heard people say that when you’re under the influence the truth comes out. I think it’s the exact opposite, Mrs. Bloom. What I experience under the influence is not a real emotion; it’s a grenade that’s about to be tossed. The next day I wake up thinking, Did I really say that? Did I really do that? That’s when I know I’ve been played by my own feelings. And by the drugs. I think this happens with a lot of people, and I think we secretly love it.”

Mrs. Bloom was not happy to read any of this. They sat on wooden benches after class, and she went over the essay guidelines with Sean. She conceded that the prompt had been intentionally vague: “In five pages or fewer, please explore what human nature means to you.” But the rest of the guidelines had been clear.

“For example,” she said, searching for words on the piece of paper she was holding, “the essay should have consisted of just one main argument, not two.”

“I had too many thoughts going round my head, Mrs. Bloom,” he said, feeling his hands getting warm inside the pockets of his grungy Radiohead hoodie.

“Regardless, you were supposed to only support your argument with examples of things we talked about in class, not your own life.”

“Honestly, I couldn’t remember a thing we talked about in class that would’ve fit my argument.”

“You didn’t even bother to type it out,” she said, holding the essay up to him. It was handwritten and ripped from a spiral-bound notebook.

“Inspiration struck me the morning the paper was due. I wrote it on the bus. Would you have preferred me to not write anything at all?”

Mrs. Bloom looked him in the eye for the first time since their meeting began. “So you were drinking whiskey on the bus?” she snapped. “Look, Sean, there’s a lot of anger in your essay, not to mention all that talk about drugs and alcohol. Is everything okay?”

“Yep,” Sean said, sinking deeper into the bench. “Anything you need to know is in my essay.”

She took a moment to think. “That’s what worries me,” she said. “You know I’m going to have to share a copy of what you wrote with your mom.”

“But—”

“That’s why I wanted to hear from you beforehand …”

For most of the school year, Sean hadn’t given Mrs. Bloom’s loose long skirts, black thick-framed glasses, and nervous speech a second thought, but now that he was alone with her—now that he was able to take a closer look—he noticed the untidy binding of her long brown hair, the cracked pink polish on her fingernails, and the fixed apprehension in her eyes. She wanted so desperately to make a difference in his life at that moment. She seemed ready to offer help. He was simply not ready to accept it. Could it be that her intervention was more for her benefit than his? She was a young teacher doing her job, invested in avoiding being accused of negligence should he decide to blow his brains out or run his car into the school’s gym. His on-and-off girlfriend was a gymnast.

“I’m sorry I’ve worried you, Mrs. Bloom,” he said, standing to leave. “Don’t feel guilty about telling my mom. She won’t care.”

“Sean, I—”

It was cold outside. He walked past a grocery store on West Street and went inside Ven Bemis’s bookstore. He browsed the New Arrivals section, thinking that today was going to be a tough one. That thing he had said about his mom not caring wasn’t true. The contents of his essay would confirm her fears about him, and she’d leap at the opportunity—not to offer help but to remind him of “the dangerously childish young man” he was growing up to be. He could already hear her saying it. Prior to a mental breakdown that had sent her packing to New York City, his mom had been a therapist for twenty years.

A table with several copies of The Da Vinci Code grabbed Sean’s attention. Jesse had read some excerpts to Sean a few weeks ago, the last time they’d hung out.

“It puts the whole idea of Christianity into perspective,” Jesse had argued while they passed a joint back and forth in Sean’s car. Radiohead had been playing faintly in the background, the only band they listened to when they got stoned.

That afternoon, one conversation had led to another and in their psychoactive daydreaming they’d enumerated ways and circumstances under which they would consider taking their own lives. Then Jesse had started weeping. Sean had never seen him like that. He’d tried to do it, Jesse had said. Do what? Fastened a belt around his neck and pulled so hard he’d passed out a little.

“When?” Sean had asked.

“Last week.”

Sean had bitten his lips, hesitated, and said, “I don’t think that qualifies as a suicide attempt.”

“What do you mean?” Jesse had asked incredulously.

“If you’d really wanted to kill yourself, you’d have tried hanging the belt from somewhere up high—”

“Wow, dude, that’s fucked up. I’m opening up here.”

“Come on, dude, I’m just playing,” Sean had said, letting out a nervous giggle. “Plus, your neck’s too fat for the belt—”

Jesse had grabbed his backpack, yanked the car door open, and left without another word. They hadn’t spoken since.

“Do you want me to gift wrap this?” the store clerk at Ven Bemis’ bookstore asked Sean, referring to the copy of The Da Vinci Code he had decided to purchase.

“No,” Sean said. “Yes. Yes, please gift wrap it.”

At first, Sean wanted to purchase the book as an excuse to reconnect with Jesse, but that could happen later. First, he’d give it to Meredith, as a way to say sorry. Earlier that day, he had spotted his girlfriend walking across the school parking lot. She hadn’t returned his hello when he waved to her. She was still upset about the previous night, he thought. And yes—his hands had gone scavenging under her T-shirt and sweatpants, and she had followed each excursion with a yes and a no and a maybe. For god’s sake, Meredith was almost a senior. What could possibly be holding her back? Should they have played Scrabble all night? Was he not supposed to “show some initiative,” as Jesse had once advised when he had heard that Meredith and Sean had not gone to third base after dating for almost five months?

“Not like this,” had been Meredith’s retort as she pushed him away, and he had rolled off the bed, plummeting on top of the Scrabble board.

“Don’t you like me?” he had asked, on the brink of tears.

“What are you, a girl?” she had chided.


John / Chris

The CB radio in John’s semi-trailer truck spewed heavy static, but he kept flipping the dial. He was trying to reach Chris. It was another gloomy day on the VT-18 toward St. Johnsbury, and John had just finished listening to a radio host outline the many benefits of relieving stress by seeking support from trusted friends, an idea that John had first dismissed and then reconsidered, because what the hell, he might as well give it a try. He had a lot on his mind, after all, and Chris could be a good person to talk to. They had spent many nights together at truck stops by the side of the highway, shooting the shit and talking about women and baseball.

“Hey buddy, what’s up?” Chris said.

John didn’t bother with conversation starters. He spat it all out: his daughter, Meredith, had decided she was a lesbian and had told him a few weeks ago. His wife, Amanda, had tried to reassure him almost every night before they went to sleep that this was just a phase, that a lot of teenage girls who were scared of men or in search of attention resorted to building intimacy with other females, where they were able to find comfort and safety until they were ready to open up to men again.

“John, buddy, what about—”

To make things worse, John continued, she was now dating a classmate. He couldn’t remember what her name was, but she had been to their house many times before, always as a friend, though now he couldn’t be sure what in God’s name had been going on behind closed doors. They were soccer teammates or something like that, and they held hands in public and wore matching rings on their left hands.

“And you know what the worst part is, Chris? That I’ve been so good to her,” John said. “I’ve given her everything she ever wanted. Never said no, even when she was being mean or irrational, though maybe I should have. You listening? Chris, you listening, dude?” John asked, fearing that he would not have the balls to repeat it all.

Chris’s voice finally came through: “Yeah, I got the basics.”

Fuck, John thought, holding the microphone to his mouth and realizing that he had to go on speaking. He searched for more words, knowing he had them locked up inside him somewhere.

“I’m not trying to blame anyone, you know? It’s not Amanda’s fault, it’s not my fault; hell, it isn’t even Meredith’s fault, you know? She’s just—she’s gone crazy, man. There’s no other way to explain this. At the end of the day, she’s my daughter, and I’m scared for her. I hate that she’s ruining her life and there’s not a thing I can do about it.”

“Wow, John, hold on now,” Chris said. “C’mon, dude. Your daughter didn’t choose to be a lesbian.”

The buzzing sound signaled it was his turn to speak, but John didn’t respond.

Chris emerged from under the static again. “I feel your hurt, dude, but think about it for a second. Read the papers. People are born the way they’re born and things aren’t what they used to be.”

“I’m no dumb son of a bitch, Chris,” John now yelled into the microphone. “I know what you’re talking about, but my girl is not even eighteen years old yet. She’s a baby. What the hell does she know about who she is? It’s tearing Amanda apart to see her be out in the open like that, exposing herself, making us look like a family of freaks … Does everyone and their mother need to know that she’s a––” He swallowed the word dyke, letting his silence fill in the gap. “—I don’t think so. Do you think when she was with that boy, that Edward Scissorhands look-alike, she was faking it? Not that he was much of a man either. I caught him putting on Meredith’s eyeliner once. I guess it’s a thing now, to dress up like you’re dead …”

Chris turned the radio off and threw the microphone on the passenger’s seat. “What a bunch of bullshit,” he grunted to himself. In a moment of violent hallucination, he saw himself running his truck into the guardrail and testing whether God would take the wheel, but then he blinked back to reality. In reaching out, John couldn’t have known that the same anger and fear had spewed out of Chris’s own mouth a few years earlier, and that he had lost too much because of it. But he couldn’t bring himself to share that story with John, not yet.


Chris / Trevor

In the summer of 1997, Chris was forty-five years old and had achieved very little in life: a 1989 Chevy Silverado and a quaint single-family home outside Nashua that he didn’t even fully own. His wife had bought her used Subaru with her own money, so it didn’t count. Meanwhile, Chris’s brother Kenny had a second home in Nahant, Massachusetts, just so his siblings and their families could unwind in the warmer months and enjoy the beach and air conditioning. Chris wasn’t sure how his brother had come into wealth, and he’d never bothered to ask. Somehow, Kenny had managed to go from bartending at a club in the Lower East Side to becoming one of the city’s prominent party organizers, whatever that meant.

On a particularly sunny weekend, Chris’s son, Trevor, asked if he could have the keys to Uncle Kenny’s cottage.

“You’re blocking the TV,” Chris said, his hand on the clicker and his eyes on the Fisher Cats baseball game. It was his fifth day off in a row, waiting on a new load assignment.

“Come on, Dad,” Trevor said, moving out of the way. “A couple of friends want to head up there. I checked with Uncle Kenny and Uncle Matt, and no one’s going to be using it.”

“What friends?” he asked.

“From the swimming team,” his son offered. “Mark and Carl.”

“What are you kids gonna do up there?”

“I don’t know,” Trevor said, growing more impatient with every word. “We’re going to chill. Does it matter? Can I take the Chevy or not?”

“Not with that attitude.”

The truth was Trevor didn’t even know how to change a light bulb. There was nothing for those kids to do up there other than get drunk and hurt themselves. But Chris’s wife, Martha, had a different opinion. For once their son was showing initiative and wanted to hang out with friends. Shouldn’t they encourage that behavior and let him go? If they wanted Trevor to behave like a regular person—instead of spending his time locked in his room playing video games and chatting with who knows who online—why not trust him to organize a weekend trip with friends?

“He can take your car then,” is what Chris would have liked to say, but he didn’t. Instead, he yielded to his wife’s wishes by handing Trevor the keys to his Silverado, and to the cottage.

“Do me a favor, kid,” he told Trevor. “Don’t wander around too much. It can get dangerous up there.”

But the evening after his son left for Nahant, Chris noticed immense, low-hanging dark clouds covering the sky. He didn’t need to check the weather channel to know that it would hail that night. The car cover for his Silverado was sitting in the garage.

“Martha, I need your car,” he yelled.

In the midst of hellish rain, he missed the exit sign for Nahant twice. He was to drop off the car cover and drive back home; secretly, he also wanted to make sure Trevor and his friends weren’t drunk to the point of helplessness, or starving. Trevor was his only son, after all—so what if he wanted to check up on him?

As he pulled up the long driveway, he noticed that the house lights were off, but his Silverado was parked in front. Trevor and his friends had to be in the back somewhere. He turned off the car and sat still for a few moments, listening to the sound of the rain hitting the car top. It was a faint, delicate tap. It could still hail later, he reasoned.

In the two years since Kenny had bought the cottage, Chris had only visited the property once. It was what he would have called fancy: the arched front porch with the balcony perched right above it, the hydrangeas climbing the cedar-shingled walls, the twenty-foot-tall pine tree in the blue spotlight; even in the half-light one could sense its worth.

Then he sensed bass bumping from the back of the house. They were listening to music out there; loud music; a party, possibly, but why were there no other cars parked out front?

He got out and walked toward the music down a shadowy path. Far in the distance, beam-lit bushes and trees circled the back of the property. He now heard playful screaming and high-pitched chatting, but they seemed to only be coming from a few people. It wasn’t a party, not a big one at least. A little closer to the bushes he saw a line of limestone tiles, and finally one of the corners of the swimming pool. At that point, he froze.

This is what he remembers: the two guys in the water were talking over the music in half-formed sentences that often included words like fucker, fuck, shit, and faggot. Every now and then they broke into laughter and playfully splashed water at each other. They were definitely men, not boys like his son. One had a full-grown beard; the other wore dreadlocks. He couldn’t hear whatever else they were saying. As Chris tried to determine their age, his son’s lanky figure swung into view. He was naked and holding a bottle of something, singing to the music and flapping his dick up and down. Everyone laughed. Chris’s stomach turned, although to this day he wasn’t sure what had surprised him more: the recklessness of the whole situation or catching his kid unfiltered, behaving like any other kid would.

Before Chris thought of a way to naturally make his presence known, Trevor placed the bottle on a picnic table and jumped into the swimming pool. When he emerged from under the water, he was between the other two guys. The three of them came together like magnets; they hugged, and then they started kissing.

“Wait—wait a minute,” Chris heard himself mumble. Then he screamed, “What the hell’s going on here?”

There was a lot of screaming and apologizing and talking over one another. Trevor and his petrified friends stayed in the water while Chris circled around the pool. His son later accused him of threatening his friends’ lives and said he was lucky they wouldn’t press charges. But that’s not how Chris remembered it; he wasn’t mad or upset, but he had to smash the bottle of alcohol on the limestone, he had to throw those lawn chairs into the swimming pool, and he had to grab a kitchen knife that was lying on the picnic table so that those two guys stopped taking advantage of his son. He wouldn’t tolerate it.

Chris made them sweep the broken glass off the floor and put the lawn chairs back in place—he might have still been holding that knife. The guy with dreadlocks sobbed through all of it.

“I’m taking these two home,” Chris finally said to Trevor. “You can drive back on your own, and think about what you’ve done.”

His son moved to the West Coast as soon as he finished school the following spring. He never forgave him for what happened that night in Nahant. Martha—who heard a tamer version of the events later—still talked on the phone with Trevor every now and then. He still visited them, but only for a few days and not more than once every couple of years. He always came alone.

What had made Chris stand there in the shadows that night? Why hadn’t he simply made some noise and said hello or called the house to announce he was coming or simply put the car cover on the Silverado and left? He tried his hardest not to dwell on these questions—or rather, their possible answers. Something else, something far more concrete and circumstantial tormented him about that night in 1997: it didn’t hail.


Trevor / Osvaldo

It was chilly in Trevor’s office at San Francisco General Hospital, and yet Osvaldo was sweating profusely, though whether from his illness or sheer nervousness Osvaldo couldn’t tell. The realization embarrassed him. His friend, who was now his doctor, was sitting across from him and had surely noticed.

“I need to call my mother,” Osvaldo said, his voice hollow. “She lives in Honduras.”

Trevor nodded. “You can use my phone.”

Osvaldo shook his head. “She doesn’t know.”

“At all?”

“At all,” he echoed, and then he started to cry.

About five months ago, Osvaldo had casually shown Trevor a strangely shaped mole on his lower back while they were in bed. He said it itched like crazy, and that he wasn’t worried about it—but should he be? This was the second or third time they had slept together after meeting at a bar in the Castro neighborhood. Why had Osvaldo decided to show him the mole now and not before? Trevor had asked. “No lo sé,” had been Osvaldo’s mindless response. They communicated mostly in Spanish because Trevor had worked with Doctors Without Borders in Mexico and Osvaldo didn’t know much English. He worked at a pizza parlor in North Beach, was uninsured and scared to go to a doctor for a consultation.

“Why don’t you come visit me at SF General?” Trevor had said upon taking a look at the mole.

Within two weeks, it was determined that Osvaldo had advanced melanoma. Without understanding much about it, he had agreed to begin treatment immediately, but now Trevor was telling him that things did not look good. The cancer had spread from his lower back to his lymph nodes and kidneys.

Melanoma. The sound of the word was repulsive enough to make Osvaldo want to puke. He would be dead at twenty-eight, but that wasn’t even the worst part. In what tone, in how many words was he supposed to break the news to Mamá, and how was he supposed to do it over the phone instead of in person? He had been damned to be the most terrible of sons, and now he was going to die thousands of kilometers away from her.

“I can’t—I can’t tell her,” he said, pools of saliva making him mumble. “Can you call? Tú hablas español, no?”

After the call to Osvaldo’s mom, Trevor held him for a few moments.

“Now I will never get to repay you,” Osvaldo said in Spanish, his head buried in Trevor’s chest.

The ghost of a comforting smile flew over Trevor’s face. “Stay here,” he said, breaking away from the embrace. “I’m going to order some tests for you.”

Hopefully Marina could help Mamá put a suitcase together and get a passport to come to San Francisco, Osvaldo thought. At one point during the phone conversation, Trevor had told Osvaldo’s mom that a plane ticket would be ready for her as soon as she was able to come. Osvaldo had played along for the duration of the call but had later told Trevor in a panic that there was absolutely no way he could pay for his mother to come, that he had not a penny to his name, and this he repeated, half in English and half in Spanish, until his eyes met Trevor’s and he understood that his friend was going to pay for it, and that all he could do was cry tears of gratitude.

Alone with his thoughts now, Osvaldo thought about his co-workers at the pizza parlor. He hadn’t shown up to work in three days, and they were no doubt wondering where he was. On his cell phone there were eight missed calls and three voice messages, all left by his manager, Mr. Echeverría. The messages were not only nasty but also menacing. He would call that asshole tonight. Didn’t matter anyway. He wasn’t going back.

One of the missed calls was not from Mr. Echeverría but from Andrés, a young busboy who had recently become a close friend at work. Andrés was a kid, twenty-one years old or maybe younger, but he had pretty green eyes and seemed interested in what Osvaldo had to say. He had never mentioned the melanoma to Andrés, of course. But it was time. Without thinking twice, Osvaldo pressed the call button and waited for Andrés to pick up the phone.


Silvia

Silvia talked to some doctor first and then to her son much too briefly. When she hung up the phone she realized that she had barely uttered a word throughout the entire conversation. The black cat slept on her lap. Marina was washing dishes in the other room. Silvia didn’t want to tell her daughter just yet. She wanted to sit with it for a minute. This was the first time in decades that something was actually happening to her. It was going to happen to Osvaldito, but to her, too. With her son’s death, she would also die. In fact, what else could the rest of her days consist of other than grieving for her lost son, dying little by little every day, until her own end? Yes, never since being abandoned by her husband and having to raise two children on her own had life laid out its plans for Silvia so clearly. Osvaldito was the only thing her soul managed to whisper. Osvaldito …

The doctor had been very polite and had spoken better Spanish than she did. The plane ticket had already been bought, he had said. She just had to pick a date. Who had paid for it? Who was going to pay for the medical services? These questions she dared not ask. Even though Osvaldito had been gone for so long, Silvia had never visited him. For that matter, she had never even been on a plane. The idea that the process to obtain a passport and a visa was complicated and would take more than a minute confounded her. Osvaldito was dying now, at this very second—she had no time to waste. Both governments would surely understand her haste, wouldn’t they? Yes, the whole world would understand. God would delay Fate. She needed to see her son one more time before he left her. Heaven would not be an option.

“Why are you crying, Mamá?” she heard Marina ask from the kitchen.

She pressed one of her sleeves to her eyes to dry the tears.

“Osvaldo has cancer, Marina.”

In the way her daughter took the news, silently walking into the living room with her hands still dripping with dishwashing soap, water still running, in how she let the wall support her while her gaze fixed out the window, Silvia knew in her heart that her daughter was relating the news about Osvaldo’s cancer to God and His punishment. Osvaldito was gay; that they had always known. Silvia had been the one to suggest he move away when a group of men threatened to beat him up at a party and then followed him everywhere for a week.

“I need a passport and a permit to travel to the United States,” Silvia said with effort. “You’ll have to run the shop on your own for a while, until … Maybe Florencia or Alberta can lend you a hand.”

Marina did not acknowledge her. Why wasn’t she crying, talking, doing something? Thanks to Osvaldito living in the United States, they received a monthly stipend that covered most of the costs of their self-service laundry store.

Unnerved, Silvia stood up from her chair, walked up to Marina, and stood right behind her. What in the world was she looking at? The neighbors across the street had their wooden curtains pulled down; a couple of unleashed dogs played across the street. For God’s sake, what was this ungrateful daughter of hers looking at?

“I hope you’re praying,” Silvia said before going to her room.


Osvaldo / Andrés

Osvaldo had been at the hospital for about three weeks and was asleep when Andrés walked in. Andrés waved anyway. The artificial lights only served to accentuate the impersonal sterility of this hospital room, likely the last room his friend would ever inhabit. He deserved to die in a nicer place than this, Andrés thought. He deserved to pass away at his mother’s house in Honduras; on top of a mountain; in a bed worthy of a king; in his sleep, painlessly.

Andrés sat down next to the bed and observed that his friend looked no more terrible than he had the day before.

“That’s actually a good thing,” the doctor said a few minutes later when Andrés brought it up. They continued their casual conversation in Spanish.

“How do you know Osvaldo?” the doctor asked.

“Work,” Andrés said. He didn’t think about asking the doctor whether he knew Osvaldo personally as well; Trevor never gave him a reason to.

When Andrés came back from the restroom, the doctor was gone. As he sat back down, he decided he would stay the night. He didn’t have to go to work, and if Osvaldo woke up, he wouldn’t be surprised to see Andrés there. Although they had never had a heart-to-heart talk, what was there to hide anymore?

Osvaldo’s hand lay there, in front of him, palm facing up, fingers slightly bent and jerking every few seconds, as if calling for someone to touch them. Was it a full moon tonight? The pull to love was relentless.

Andrés’ right hand landed on his friend’s forearm. As if they were returning home, his fingers drifted down toward Osvaldo’s hand, tracing the lines on his palm delicately before sliding in between their doubles. Their hands, coupled together, grew warm. He wanted to wake Osvaldo and ask if he needed water or food. He wanted to start yelling and crying, but then the sight of his friend opening his eyes filled him with emptiness and anticipation. Yes, Osvaldo’s lips were lightly parting; his head was turning; he gasped for air.

“Was I making noise?” Andrés said in Spanish. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“You were squishing my hand,” Osvaldo muttered.

Suddenly self-conscious and ashamed, Andrés tried to pull his hand away, but Osvaldo caught it back and smiled.

“Where’s my mom?” he asked.

“We had dinner downstairs and then I called a cab for her. She needs to rest in an actual bed at some point.”

Osvaldo nodded. “Thank you for letting her stay with you … hopefully not much longer.”

“Don’t say that,” Andrés said.

“How was the food downstairs?”

“I ended up not getting anything,” Andrés said.

Osvaldo seemed to be drifting back to sleep, but during a moment of lucidity, he said, “Let’s watch some TV.”

Andrés chose to watch a reality show in which men and women competed against each other to see who lost the most weight. The episode focused on Sean, an obese white man in his late twenties who lived in Vermont and claimed to be a virgin. Admittedly, his particular weakness when it came to food was not candy or sweets but rather white and red meats: pounds and pounds of them. By the end of the episode, Sean had actually gained weight. The cameras revealed secret footage of him gorging on half a turkey in the dead of night. After some shaming by the show’s judges, the participant was voted out.

“I don’t know why I slipped,” he told the camera after his elimination. “Anyway, I learned a lot during my time here.”

Andrés felt bad for the guy. It really did seem like he had given it an honest try.

“What a dumbass,” Osvaldo said, his eyes closed.

“I thought you were asleep,” Andrés replied.

“I’ve been listening here and there,” he said, squeezing Andrés’ hand playfully. “You assume too much.”

Andrés didn’t catch the Star Wars reference, but the words stuck with him. He did assume too much. They held hands for the rest of the night.


Jorge Cino’s work has been featured in Jonathan: A Journal of Queer Fiction and Revista eSe, a Latin American fiction magazine. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jorge completed an MFA in Creative Writing at University of San Francisco, and lives in San Francisco, California. You can find him online at www.jorgecino.com and @jorgecino.