Thus far I have been able to manage my own mind just fine while being all by myself for more than 20 years. There were times when I thought and honestly believed that I wasn´t going to make it, that the river was too wide and my arms too weak to get me to the other shore. But, somehow, the beacon always showed me the way and the strength never left my heart.
There have been dark times in my life that have served as proof for those wanting to judge me and turn their backs on me because of the life that I´ve lived. People seem to discard me for facts that are not socially acceptable; living in the street for instance.
When they find out that I´ve lived in the streets they just convince themselves that I am not to be trusted. Who knows what he is capable of? they must think. What they don´t know is that those facts that didn´t defeat me built my personality, they made me stronger, wiser, they turned me into a better person. I don´t know who was the one saying that a person who lived extreme experiences should not be socially accepted.
Is like having a scarlet letter in my forehead. That happened when I met the man that became my partner for more than a decade. He met me while I was in the streets. He saw something that no one else did before. Something draw him to take me with him to his house one Christmas night when he was feeling alone and wanting to share his world with someone who needed it.
I remember what I was feeling those days when I was 16 or 17 years old. I was completely alone. My feet hurt. I didn´t have any self esteem. I had to eat from garbage cans in the streets. My skin was dark by the sun and dirt. I was in the bones. I even had a terrible smell. But he saw something no one else did. He Saw Me!
Did you like the shoes?
Yes, thank you. Merry Christmas. I don´t have anything to give you. But I will when I do. I promise
There is no need for that. Do you have any plans for today?
I looked at him and with my 17 year old mind saw him as a dumb adult. He found me in the ER, brought me to his house, made me do dirty things in exchange for a pair of shoes, he made me take the longest shower I have ever had in my whole life and now he is asking me if I have any plans for Christmas? Come on...
No, I don´t have any plans. Do you have plans for Christmas?
Of course he does (I thought) he´s got a lot of money; that is something one can tell just by being here in this apartment and his car... he must have a multimillionaire family to go to and celebrate the Christmas day; open presents and eat a delicious Christmas dinner surrounded by family, sharing their love for each other.
No. I don´t have any plans either. I don´t see my brothers anymore. My parents died years ago. All my friends have their own families to spend this special time with and I don´t like to be with strangers. So, no, I don´t have any plans for Christmas. Do you want to spend Christmas with me here, just the two of us?
I remember exactly what I was thinking when he invited me to spend Christmas with him in his penthouse. I thought: He just told me he doesn´t like to be with strangers and I am a stranger. Adults are so weird.
And then I said:
Ok but what? What are we doing? Are we having Christmas Turkey? or Stuffed Chicken or those meals rich people eat for Christmas?
He gave me a sweet look and a tender smile escaped his mouth. The dryer machine was tumbling in the back, I could hear it getting my old clothes dry.
What is your favorite meal. Tell me. What is it; Hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza?
I like spaghettis with meatballs
Then, Spaghettis with meatballs we are having
He stood up and went to the kitchen. Got all the ingredients for our Christmas meal and just in time before midnight, it was ready, steamy and looking delicious. We ate... well... he watched me eat. The flavor was amazing, the warmth in my tounge. The soften sensation of the meatball down my throat. Then, he poured white wine and proposed a toast. I found that so weird and couldn´t stop laughing.
Come on young man. Do not laugh at me. I am teaching you something important here. Raise the glass... come on... no, no, don´t grab it from the cane, grab it from its base, that way you won´t change the wine´s temperature with your hand
I kept laughing, I wasn´t getting the logic in that explanation. But he was a sweet soul and found my ignorance and young stupidity... amusing. He started laughing with me. But while he was laughing, with a funny tone he started to bless the table, invoking God´s name and His favors; asking him to protect me from the bad guys in the streets and to help me find my way back to him.
That I understood very clearly. He wanted me back there.. eventually. Then I thought: maybe I can have sex with him and he would give me a pair of jeans or something.
Far I was from imagining what I was about to get. Far I was from understanding the turn my life was about to take. Far...very far away from realizing that life gives you prizes only when you deserve them. Not when you need them.
I spent the night there beside him, seated in the huge white sofa, looking at his Christmas tree. It was huge and so... golden.... everything was like made of gold. Angels, Santas, golden crystal balls, golden ribbons everywhere, all gold. I swear I could feel the twinkling lights inside my eyes. It was so beautiful.
I was wearing nothing but a bathrobe, his white bathrobe with a golden shield in its right side. He started the fireplace. It was a dream-night for me. I had never experienced something like this, ever in my life. I don´t remember my thoughts that night. All I remember is that next to him I felt safe. Protected and for the first time, wanted, but not for the wrong reasons. He wanted me, not my ass.
He kept drinking wine and didn´t allow me to keep on drinking along with him. He asked about my life, about my parents; my mother; my father and my sister Erika. I told him everything. The sun came up and we were still there talking. Well... he was listening. I was talking.
The next day I was ready to leave his house and return to the streets where I belonged those days, but, he wasn´t there. I got up and started looking for him in the apartment and couldn´t find him. The maid was there. She gave me a dirty look and said: If you are leaving now. There is the door
I was a little hungry but I wasn´t going to ask the maid for a piece of bread or anything... it was obvious she didn´t want me there. So, I left. I put on my clothes my new pair of shoes, grabbed my old ones and left. Before stepping out the building I said to the doorguy:
Señor, can you please search me out and be sure I´m not taking anything that doesn´t belong to me? please....
The doorguy looked at me with a smile in his face and agreed. He noticed that I didn´t have any bags or a jacket to hide something in and let me go after saying:
You are good boy. Stay out of trouble.
Si señor. Gracias... I said
And I left. It was a windy, rainy day. But I was happy. I had a new pair of shoes. But, then I realized that I didn´t want the new ones to get ugly and old. So I changed back to the old ones, and clingged to my new ones.
Weeks later he found me again. I don´t know how. He once told me that "it was ment to be like this. Don´t try to understand it. Just it was the universe´s plan" and I learnt to believe everything he was willing to teach me. I learnt to think the way he did. It took me years and several mess-ups but I learnt and he was proud of me when I turned my self into what he dreamt for me to become; a highly educated young man.
But, as I was explaining, people don´t forgive the fact that you´ve lived in the streets.
So, Thomas, this is your new acquisition hu? Not bad, not bad at all. Where did you find him?
Almost a month after he found me again. He asked me to move in. He told me he wanted to give me the education that I needed. He told me he wanted me to have the best any young man of my age could have. He told me that he was going to love me and protect me with his own life if it was necessary. I believed him and said yes. I moved in. I didn´t have a suitcase with me so it was just a matter of stepping inside his car and it was official. We were now a couple.
That night he was having a party in his penthouse... it was my first social appearance in the uptown gay powerful world of Bogotá, after months of learning so many new things.
Thomas took pride from those experiences I had in the street. He grew to know who I really was so he was proud, but didn´t know that people didn´t think the same way he did.
How did I find him? Well, it is actually a very beautiful story. I found him recovering in the ER where I was working as a Christmas volunteer.
Recovering? What happened?
Someone attacked him in the street, it was nothing serious but he needed some medical attention. The thing is that the ones attacking him were a couple of policemen.
What? Oh My! That is outrageous! Why? What happened?
Thomas thought that particular moment was the right moment for me to mingle with his powerful rich gay friends and asked me to tell them the story. I did. I told them that I was living in the streets and that the policemen saw me getting up the tree and grabbed me and kicked the shit out of me for being homeless and when I finished they were all trying hard to not let their jaws drop to the floor.
Oh my! This one has met the world face to face! Jesus!
The party didn´t last long after I told the story. The parties actually didn´t take place again. His friends didn´t invite him to their parties ever again. He was cut off from their circle for having the new street-boy boyfriend. As they called me once. But he didn´t care. He found me a good High School and took me there everyday so I was able to get my first degree diploma. I got it in just one year. With the best grades ever. He kept on feeling proud.
By the time I graduated I didn´t know what I wanted for a professional career so he let me think it over. He found an English Institute and registered my name. I was there one semester.
He didn´t let me finish the course because when he knew I had some modest grasp of the language he decided it was time for us to travel the world together. See new countries and new places. He didn´t speak English so I was always his interpretor. Those years with him where the best of my life. So many adventures were opening my eyes. So many smells, colors, smiles, people with different accents and customs.
At first, I was totally numbed by all these new things. I wasn´t paying attention to the feelings he was expecting me to feel for him due to all the things he was doing for me. But, after two years of living together and growing up next to him and with his guidance... I felt in love. I was totally, absolutely in love with this 25 years older than me man who showed me that I was a better human being.
By Mauricio Betancourt 2011©
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