I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The story went like this: Camilo waited for me at the park next to my house every day after school. He brought Bon Bon Bum (look it up), cigarettes, and his tongue inside my mouth. He said, Quibo, qué mas? I like you. After he left I walked two blocks north to another park where Pablo under a hoodie munched Sparkies, also smoked cigarettes (although red Marlboros, so ew), and wrote me—ME who was barely twelve—a love poem. It was heaven-like. I was twelve and totally ki-lling it. My friends envied me! Should I tell you about Darío, my third boyfriend? Darío in a leatherjacket while I stroked his greasy brown hair, a leftist revolutionary wearing Zapatista shirts, a beard, etc.… I had not one, not two, but un-dos-TRES boyfriends (I know, and there you sat thinking I was just an angry lesbian).
The next day I arrived early and giddy from so much excitement at my all-girl Catholic school. Really quick: picture nuns, picture impeccable uniform, picture Jesús bleeding from the cross everywhere you look, picture this humble narrator in a ponytail and yellow headband (the 90s mi reina). Amén. Inside the classroom I whispered to all my girlfriends about my romantic whereabouts the night before. His tongue! His mouth! His index finger! His poetry! I showed them the poem, a letter, and the plastic wrap of the Bon Bon Bum as proof of my escapades. Sometimes this was enough, and by the end of first period most of them believed my triumphant romances. Other times, some girls’ skepticism made me repeat Uva Curuba Uva until my upper lip folded into two perfect semicircles proving I was not a mouth virgin, proving I was kissed the night before.
Sidenote: Uva Curuba Uva was a game some girls played in their prepubescent years asking each other to say that phrase over and over, and if your upper lip folded into two perfect semicircles at the center you were not a mouth virgin, someone had kissed you. You earned a new status, etc. I know, go figure.
The truth is: I’ve been having relationships with fake people since the beginning of my time in this precious mama earth (let’s be honest you probably have too and we could all start a support group together!). The truth is: I was enthralled by the attention my storytelling received among the chicas. Every day after school I sat on my desk jotting down a different plotline for each of my boyfriends. I had a notebook separated with each name (color-coded) so I wouldn’t get them confused. They were FLESHED-OUT characters I tell you. I knew their smells (cold medicine, Doritos, cheap cologne), I knew their fears (spiders, tampons, curling irons), I knew what they wanted (a new car, a hot shower, a small revolution in my pants), I understood their complicated relationships with their mothers and why their fathers wanted to enroll them in military school. It was, all in all, amor del bueno que no se lo lleva el viento.
I wanted to grow up so quickly!
Wait, no, scratch that. It was not about growing up but about pushing the limits of my imagination and the boundaries of believability among my peers which, as you can see, were pretty stretchy (I mean, we believed Papi Dios spoke through the tiny speck of white beard attached to our elderly priest).
Anyway, mi vida, some may suggest this was the beginning of my unstoppable lesbianism and in retrospect I realized I was compensating for the gay monster wakening inside me that eventually took over and said: Na-ha mami, we like them girls.
But in that moment I had so much time on my hands! I was so fascinated with the possibility of love and tongue-kissing and Colombian telenovelas (there she goes essentializing her people! Well, duh). Catholic school both ruined and pushed my imagination in fucked-up and feminist ways. It was expected that I imagined and believed this holy supernatural world where seas parted and people turned to salt. In very heterosexist ways reality inside Catholicism was rarely palpable: reality was twelve men in robes munching bread alongside The Messiah (talk about homos), and my womanhood had its genesis in some guy’s ribs.
A ver, do you see the pattern here? My three boyfriends were just my own extension of Bible stories, and then some.
Sidenote II: By the way, Facebook RUINED this for me and all of you: now if you’re really tongue-kissing that mami you got it hashtagged, Instagrammed, or at the very least homegirl has a profile your friends may stalk.
To all this add a weekly mass paired with militant telenovela watching because, déjame decirte, there is no one more dramatic than Mary Magdalene and Jesús in the same room as Gaviota from Café, Con Aroma de Mujer or Juana Valentina from Las Juanas—two telenovelas I watched religiously. I wanted passion, I wanted to be desired and I wanted someone to die for me—and if possible, to be whipped and crucified (which has yet to happen). I wasn’t seeking out these boys in real life because that would have been too boring (and none were willing to play crucifixion). When you are a prepúber, real-life boys are to yawn for. I wanted the desire to be crafted my way, even if that desire was born out of helloooo the most patriarchal system ever (how you doing queridísimo Pope!), I had agency to create, sculpt, and intensify that desire as I pleased: I owned the remote control of their imaginary longing.
Sidenote III: my therapist also says I have control issues, but that’s another story.
Yes, at twelve I had my own set of feminist Colombian boys which, believe me, is rare. Three handsome boys who—like Jesús Abraham and María—lived in a drawer of my imagination.
The three boys were not the first or the last fake people I loved (but they’re memorable and I keep them close to my heart). Leni was my imaginary friend up until my eleventh birthday. By the way, I know what you’re thinking and I’m not an only child. I cherished this relationship deeply. We were BFFs. I still have memories of seven-year-old me peeing while Leni stood next to the shower chatting it up about how my mom’s new haircut was una nota! I dressed in my father’s running shorts, used my mother’s pearls, and smeared makeup all over my face. He did the same. It was Role Playing 101. I drew a picture of Leni that was lost in The Big Migration, osea when I moved from Bogotá to Florida eleven years ago. But you can always call my mamá and she’ll verify Leni’s existence. My mother is (always) more than happy to talk to you about my imaginary friends and to give you a detailed account of the fictive people taking over my life.
On the subject of fictive people: you may be thinking, she’s probably over this now that she’s an adult (barely, really, and struggling), right? Sure, we all had our batch of imaginary girlfriends/boyfriends in our childhood, but that’s what children do! But at 26 you should be purged of fantasizing about the non-existent. At 26 those are pendejadas! Mariconerías (ha)! Signs of some truly unresolved daddy and mommy issues (also another story).
Well, mi reina, I’m a fiction writer, my official title is Person Who Makes Up Other People and Makes Them Breathe. How can this be accomplished without falling for some of them? How can I not fall say, for instance, for (fictive) Michele Bachmann when in this story I wrote she’s clearly in pain—still homophobic and Republican—but somehow capable of love and intimacy with a certain María. Michele shows her tulip tattoo! And María braids Michele’s hair! And they hold hands in the dark! (Mrs. Bachmann, if you’re reading this, I wrote a story about you and I think you should give lesbianism a chance. Just think about it).
Some writers are able to keep distance from their “fictional people,” but, let’s be honest, I don’t. The truth is I never stopped having these relationships, no mi amor, not even close:
1. When I first moved to Miami I pretended my math teacher was my lover and we walked around Floridian lakes holding hands. She also wrote me letters that I wrote every day during my job at Payless.
2. The Christian dancer in the story I submitted for graduate school still haunts me in my dreams (or awake).
3. I’ve stopped people on the street thinking they are one of my three feminist boys.
4. For one year I pretended Sylvia Plath lived inside me and she wanted me to carry out the remaining of her writing career burrowing my skin.
Luckily I have a partner who indulges in all of this with me and sometimes swears she saw someone just like one my characters selling her coffee.
There is nothing more feminist than being able to imagine and long for possible worlds outside our own. To be able to create worlds that push the boundaries of normal, that house the deviant, that redefine hierarchies; to imagine is to resist. Imagining is a verb, an action. This is what I do daily. This is what Catholic school taught me (among other things). This is what Darío, Pablo, Leni, Michele, Sylvia, are for me: an opening of possibility. I cannot conceive of a life without this longing (and I don’t want to).
…And then, on one gloomy Bogotá morning my fake boyfriend and I were invited to So and So’s party. My girlfriends were eager to finally meet my boyfriend, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. I did what any teenager in a dangerous city would do in the 90s: I went online (dial-up) to a chat room, I got me a boyfriend named Darío Gómez (sí, my fellow Colombians, like the fucking singer), and asked him to meet me outside So and So’s house. Yes, yes, I realize how lucky I was that the kid was not a psycho old man (a guardian Angel by the last name of Plath looking over me). The point is: when he arrived I debriefed him on everything he had to say and the kid was down for it! (Darío wherever you are, thank you, homie.) Everyone believed the story. I went to that party with my real fake boyfriend Darío Gómez and made out the entire night.
(See? With Facebook I wouldn’t even have time to think about this.)