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The Oak Lawn Tales – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I was already in Dallas on September 11th, 2001. We watched CNN in a conference room, went to the local sports bar for lunch because they had lots of televisions, and called our loved ones after work. It’s hard for me to say that everything changed after that day, because I’d only arrived in Dallas nine months prior. What I can say is that George W. Bush had been their former governor, and they believed everything his administration said whole-heartedly. I would say that I existed in a political abstract through college. My best friend Ruben definitely was a huge influence on my liberal philosophies, but I would say I could talk the talk the talk but not walk the walk. By the end of college I was a knee-jerk liberal; I knew the words, but I didn’t know what they meant. However, I couldn’t help being inundated by conservative philosophies in Dallas. My co-workers couldn’t wait for the invasion to begin, FOX and Friends played in my gym, and my co-workers wives were frightened of terrorists. Being in Dallas post September 11th in some ways helped cement my world view, mostly because I knew these people were crazy.

Teaching ESL was in some ways an escape. The library was on Cedar Springs Road near Oak Lawn, which was firmly in gay liberal territory. I would come on Wednesday s and Saturdays and converse with people from all over the world, or people who came here to make a better life. Because I spoke Spanish I could bring out some of the students who weren’t comfortable talking. It was an unlikely group of friends. One of the students was named Erik. He was a short, handsome student who had come over illegally from Mexico. He worked two jobs: one at the hotel near Cedar Springs and a second at a South American café around the corner from the hotel. His English was poor, but he tried hard and had a lot of opportunities to practice.

One Wednesday evening he stayed to talk past the time the library closed, and we kept talking on the stairway. Conversation had become more casual and he told me that he was gay, though In retrospect I’m not sure if he knew I was gay or if he had feelings for me and was trying to see how I felt, but I probably should have managed his expectations. Instead I had the misconception that somehow we could be friends even though he had feelings for me.

I began meeting him occasionally at the café he worked at on weekends, and going out with him outside of ESL. We’d go to the clubs, or hang out and talk. One night, he took me to a gay Tejano club in a more remote side of town. From the outside it looked like a warehouse, but on the inside there were gay Hispanic cowboys and Latina lesbians all out on the dance as Tejano music blared out at an ear piercing level. To me it was eye opening. I’d always thought of Hispanic culture as holding machismo over all other traits, and I thought of gay culture as being overly effeminate, but there I was on a dance floor of macho gay Hispanic cowboys dancing with their partners. It changed my image of what it meant to be gay.

However, I was playing with fire; Erik was in love with me, and I was trying to be friends. What makes me angry is that I did care about him, and I may have even loved him back, but I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship, especially one that spanned cultures and language. I let him get close to me, and then told him that I didn’t feel that way. I still remember walking away as he cried. Breaking someones heart takes a piece of your soul with it.

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