Caminando yo, por las calles de Salvador. Un poco confundido con mi propósito en esta tierra. Porque he venido tan lejos de donde yo he nacido? I woke up this morning, terrified of my existence in this country, Brasil.
Last night, I had sex with a man from São Paulo. I returned to the hostel late last night after having a few caipirhas and cervejas com Jaiza e Regina, umas bahianas muito amables, y Ben, el arquitecto aleman que ahora vive em suisa whom I met at the hostel. Before I went into the dorm where I am staying, I opened up the locker where I keep my valuables to put away my wallet. He walked out of the dorm in the direction of the bathroom. He wore only his underwear; they were white boxer briefs with a red waistband. They fit his body nicely. He stood by the door to the bathroom and looked over to me and gestured for me to follow. I did.
“What’s your name?” he asked in Portuguese.
“Joaquim” I responded with the Portuguese translation of my name and told him
“Não falo português.”
“De donde eres?” falo ele.
“México” in my best Brazilian accent. “Y tu?” “Você?”
“São Paulo” he responded as he unbuttoned and unzipped my pants and reached into my underwear. I reached into his provocative briefs and stroked his piece. He squatted down and hungrily took my cock into his mouth and with his tongue soothed my anxieties about being in a country so foreign to me. He wanted more, he wanted me to enter him, to penetrate him, he wanted me to take his cock into my mouth. I did not. My mind became preoccupied with my lover back home. He rose from his position, turned around and bent over, rested one hand on the wall, pulled me in with his other hand and rubbed himself against my member. He came. Perhaps it was the excitement of our public display. I did not. He asked me if I wanted to cum and I told him I did not and that I was tired. I pulled up my underwear, washed my hands and face and retired to my bunk. He remained to take a shower.
In my bunk, I stared at the ceiling and evaluated what had just occurred. He re-entered the dorm, in his underwear that I idolized, and looked over to me. He turned away and climbed in his bunk, looked over to me again and smiled. He gestured for me to join him again. I did. And we continued our play as the three other men in the dorm slept through the humid Bahian night.
Sex is a form of validation, a way to access a location, to acclimate myself to a foreign environment. When I was fifteen, the foreign environment was called my sexuality. When it was with middle-class Ryan, un Filipino, working class Jason, un Afro-Americano, o el fresa de Steven, un gringo, the environment was called social, racial and ethnic difference. Sex is an emulation of a power I do not possess biologically, a literal entering of and being entered by another’s life. I fuck so that I might be impregnated by an element of the land, to impregnate the state where I am on the outside. Through sex, I integrate myself into my surroundings; I become aware of myself in my surroundings. It’s a form of conscientização.
“Não falo português” and the sex I had are linked. I use my body to act on, to be enacted upon. To learn. To inscribe upon. In Brasil, I am starving for fluidity in my expressions and interactions with the people here and sex is the language that gives me access, at this moment.
As I write this, I continue to think about my lover in nyc. He, a southern Black man, a southern gentlebelle. Educated. Trained. For what? We toss ideas back and forth about that often. An introvert. Obsessively brilliant. He and I traveled to Montreal together. We traveled with our friend Mariela, an activist, a Mexicana lesbian from the Midwest, my hometown Chicago. She had recently moved to nyc to grow, shed the layers of conservatism and constraints that shaped her work in Chicago. Her migration to the east coast was her own search for language, for freedom, for work towards freedom, in a country, in a moment, during a war for resources that didn’t empower us, in a moment when freedom felt tenuous. He and I were helping her transition. We invited her, and ourselves, to push more and challenge her newly adopted, our previously adopted and current home, the borders/borderland of nyc, and to embark on a migration to the north, in an impulsive act encouraged by Ogum and Elegua.
“Vamonos, cabron! Andale, vamonos!” said Mariela. “No te apures, me encanta manejar. It’s only six hours; I can kill them.” We traveled. He and I with a passport, Mariela without one.
El y yo, hand and hand. Juntos. Con cariño, sin dudas, assured by our citizenship validated by the little blue booklet with date stamps from the various places we had traveled. Ella, no tanto. She seemed stressed. Maybe it was the long drive. Maybe it was because she was traveling with a tattered copy of her birth certificate and her Illinois State ID. As we approached the Canadian border, he said to me, “you know we can get married in Montreal.”
My heart and my mind missed a few pulses.
What was he saying? What was he reaching for? Was this a proposal? What type of proposal? One resting on the liberty to do something that our own country did not allow us to do? One resting on his love for me? In what other ways does the state determine what we can and can not do, how we can and can not feel?
“Then let’s get married.” A challenge I posed (who was I challenging?).
“I want my mother present when I get married” he responded moments later. “She would want to be at my wedding.”
“Your mother’s heart is socially constructed,” a thought that occurred in response to him, a language I constructed in a moment during my first year of college, during a conversation with Maygin Kinney and Jacqueline Lewis, others in my cohort, about the institution of marriage and its relation to our personal values, inspired by an Introduction to Feminist Thought and Action course we were taking with Ann Snitow at the New School. I should have said it out loud to him. Instead, I swallowed my words and began digesting a divergence entering our relationship as we were crossing the border.
It became evident to me then that the state had the capacity to enter our personal lives in violent and intrusive ways. It became evident to me how we experience border crossing and the effects of migration are unique to the individual. The individualization imposed upon us by the state sometimes, as in our case, leads to chaos beyond the immediate grasps of the individuals involved.
“Where are you from?” asked the border patrol officer, a reddish-pink faced woman with short orange hair.
“From Chicago, but I just moved to New York” said Mariela, still negotiating the fact that she was now living in nyc.
“So where are you coming from and where are they from?” pointing to us.
“Chicago, well, New York, we’re coming from New York, they’re from New York.” Responded Mariela. I noticed she had become nervous and started sweating.
“Where are you going and what is the purpose of your trip.”
“We’re going to Montreal. We are going to a conference at McGill University” (our boarding pass to freely enter the country).
The border patrol officer’s shoulders relaxed and she casually asked, “How long will you be in Canada?”
“A couple of days.”
“Are you carrying more than $10,000 with you?”
“I wish!” I shouted. I couldn’t help myself. The earlier moment was too thick and I felt she was lightening up; I wanted to keep on that path. And I did wish I had $10,000. “But we’re not carrying more than $10,000.”
“Enjoy your time in Canada.”
Driving away from the border, into Canada, we were individually exhausted, frustrated and upset. When we arrived to Montreal, we had ceased from communicating with each other. Frustrated with the signs on the expressway in French, we drove around in circles until we found the campus, drove around in circles, trying to get a sense of the culture, how the city and people operate, drove around in circles, in silence, questioning our migration, our relationship to the state, our previous state, and each other.
What did solidarity look like for the three of us in that moment? Would sex rectify the crisis between me and my lover? Where was the space to be real, in the flesh, with him and with Mariela? Our minds and bodies contracted because of the unsurity of the place where we had arrived. This unsurity is the same one that accompanied me in my trip alone to Brasil, and I argued with the discomfort of this unsurity without him, and with another.
After wrestling sexually with the Brasileiro, I wrestled all morning with myself about whether or not and how to share this with him. Nos encontramos por el hecho de los santos. But our connection wass still new, still fresh. What is “new” or “fresh” in relation to an ideology that operates beyond the confines of manmade time?
(my connection with the “him” of Montreal materially, did, and, did not yet, exist during my connection with the “him” of Brasil. What is common is my ability to engage in a form of spiritual linking that I was incapable of in a previous state; the “him” for me is non-linear.)
What shapes my relationship to him as his lover in a context where that naming is not encouraged?
While thinking about this, an image entered me of my body trajected into the sky, across continents, far from where I began. Dis and re-locations lead me to hold the memory of my previous state close to me. Is meu enamorado now a part of that previous state? Am I reborn in this place, in this moment called Brasil? When meu enamorado was in my presence, was he filling the role of the present tense of a previous state?
(what are the elements of that entity that I am naming “previous state”? I speak of a “previous state” as the state of domination, the state of incarceration, the state of criminalization, the state of dehumanization, the state of inferiority and as a consciousness that moves beyond the lived experience of disempowerment.)
I am reminded of my mother and think about how far I’ve grown away from her. My father and his imprisonment. He wrote me recently. I received his letter the day before I came to Brasil. I have never received a letter from my father. I didn’t know what to expect. He said the imprisonment of his body has led to the liberation of his mind. Was my father, too, encountering his previous state? Might it be “joint-talk,” maybe. It all depends on him. Reading his “cuantas letras” was an agridulce moment I hope I will always have the memory of. Since I’ve been in Brasil, I have carried the letter, like the memory of my sweetheart back home, with me everywhere, to keep me company, to protect me, to encourage me. My personal Iyewà. A blessing to push me forward through my ignorance of the “Portuguese” language and my mission to learn about and become Brasil.