Five years into their marriage, my dad threw a kitchen knife at my mom because she bought herself a dress with the food money. He called her a cunt. My little brother was sobbing and I took his hand and held it tight in my pocket.
When I was 6, my mom decided it was best for me and Artie to live with Gran in Florida. I grew up wrapping myself all day in golden ivy and sultry organza in her dressing room, painting with make-up and looking for answers for my teen restlessness on the corridors of her slowly decaying bourgeois mansion.
At 19, I was back in Los Angeles as a pole dancer – for the next two years it turned out to be my way to cope with expenses and my hideaway from the life I wasn’t prepared to embrace. My parents never knew about it, but my brother supported me all the way.
I used the money from dancing to buy myself a car and drive to Michigan to meet Jerry, or what I thought was the love of my life. We spent three days in his flat, smoking spliff and talking about our miserable lives. The fourth day his wife called.
I drove back to LA and went to live with my folks for a few months. My mom’s health was frail and my dad was drinking even more than before. I took a waitress job at a strip club, mainly to stay away from them.
But I couldn’t. The atmosphere at home was killing me, day by day.
I sold the car and bought a one way ticket to Brazil.
For the first couple weeks I floated in an eerie, melodramatic bubble, considering how little I’ve achieved in my short life and how bad I wanted things to start changing.
The money was almost over when I met Claudia. She was a 35 year old divorcee practising white magic rituals, guiding women like my mom to recover their dignity and liveliness, practising Tantra on both men and women in workshops.
She basically took me under her wing and taught me everything I know about astrology and Tarot. Also, about love making.
She later asked me to move in with her. I wasn’t getting any better at my finances, so I decided to take a leap and join her in her mystical endeavour. I was helping out with everything work wise, and Claudia was pretty much a talent, so I managed to squeeze some savings in my invisible pocket. We had an on/off relationship for two years, until I decided to go back to LA when Artie died from heroin overdose.
It’s been 11 years since that day, and it took me almost 8 to move on past the guilt. I sometimes still tell myself I should’ve been there, or that I failed to be a legitimate sister to him. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s harder than it looks.
After moving back to LA I worked as a beautician.
Twenty-eight years after my dad threw a kitchen knife at my mom, I still look every day at women’s genitalia and don’t see cunts.
A bikini wax is much more personal and intimate than having, say, sex with a stranger. Women come to confess, or small talk 30 minutes of their day away, or complain about parking, or about getting locked out some guy’s house in Echo Park after a night in. I imagine what the day would be like if the word was a regular, like vagina. I imagine my clients on the phone. “Hi Sammy, so set me up for Tuesday at eleven and this time pluck those white hairs too off my cunt, okay, bye”.
I take this word and turn it upside down, left to right, flesh to core: I can’t process its meaning. I don’t know why men see women like that. I look at my lover’s body like it’s a work of art. I look at her mind like it’s a fortune from God. God doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t put women and men into small boxes and labels them as right, or wrong, good, or bad, beautiful, or ugly.
Religion does that, though.
And I was raised in a religion that doesn’t allow to love and let live, unless the commandments you submit to are brute force, power and adversity – for men, fondled with submission, silence and penitence from life’s simple pleasures, for women.
A weak sex, he would say.
Fifteen years after my dad threw a kitchen knife at my mom and my first boyfriend revealed he had a wife, I began to understand why I am drawn to women. In spite of Claudia, in spite of other men I’ve dated and couldn’t love.
Sometimes, in my early twenties, I found myself arguing whether this happened to me out of a sense of solidarity with women and a need to protect them from people like my dad, or simply because that was the life I was designed for.
I met a lot of women since then.
My parents are now getting a divorce and the only thing I care about is to tell them I’m about to get married.
I’m happy for my mom, because she obviously stayed in the marriage too long. And now, with a bit of financial and psychiatric help, she can finally move on with her life. Or try to build a new one. I want to be there for her, but I’m more concerned about living my own life and making my own family, now that the ties are up.
The woman I love is an architect and I want to marry her.
She builds houses where people move in with their kids, furniture, hopes, dreams and kitchen appliances. I want to build a home for me and her, and move in with our years, silences, couple nights in, Christmas decorations, Bon Iver records and our two dogs.
The woman who loves me lost both her parents. My mom lost a tooth when my father touched her with his fist, because the kitchen knife failed to hit her.
Two days ago I proposed to my girlfriend over the phone.
I was at my folks, they just let me know the deal was done.
She said yes. Artie’s portrait on the wall was staring me straight in the eye, and for a moment, I swear I could feel his presence filling my guts and whispering You did good, Sam.
My dad doesn’t know I’m gay. My mom was trying to protect us, so she never told him. Maybe he will have a stroke. Maybe he will call me a cunt. He is old now, used up, and an alcoholic. Whichever invisible knife he may throw at me, I use it to cut my own slate of freedom.