Straight from the Heart
Latino man reflects on his high school friendship-with a
-by Lalo Contreras
hard for me to believe that ten years have gone by since high
school graduation. Growing up a Latino teenager in the conservative
depths of the San Joaquin Valley, California wasn't easy. I spent
my first three years at Exeter Union High School buried in my
school books, hiding from my sexual orientation. I even proclaimed
myself a "nerd" because to me being a nerd was, at
the very least, more respectable than being a fag.
But during my last year
of high school things changed-I reached out and developed a close
friendship with Oscar. He was a handsome Latino guy who had short
black hair that he slicked back in the '80s-style way, light
brown skin, piercing brown eyes, and a perfectly groomed moustache
over his beautiful lips. Everyone in the class liked Oscar because
he was easy-going, sure of himself, and was simply a lot of fun
to be around. He had this way of always smiling and making people
laugh, and I would jokingly tell him that he had to be that way
because he was so short (about 5'6") that people would ignore
him if he wasn't making people laugh and calling attention to
Though we knew each other
distantly ever since we had homeroom together our freshman year,
Oscar and I really started to hit it off our senior year. We
began to hang out more and more and our friendship grew stronger.
I found myself regularly going over to his house in Farmersville
to kick back. I remember always getting a thrill out of him coming
into his room wearing only his boxers-his bare slightly-hairy
chest and huero legs exposed to me. He'd lay down on the carpet
as we watched movies or played video games. Sometimes we'd cruise
around town in his lowered navy blue Lincoln Continental. We'd
listen to Stevie B's "In My Eyes" or bounce our heads
up and down to the bumping bass of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Posse
Our favorite past time
was to ditch first period Physics and walk over to Winchell's.
We'd leave our friend Lee (who was an even bigger brain than
I was) there in the lab to do our assignments for us as we munched
down on glazed donuts. A few times we ditched school altogether
and drove up to Fresno to hang out in the mall and look at clothes.
We'd always end up looking at all kinds of socks because Oscar
had a thing for them.
As the year progressed,
Oscar and I became even closer. I couldn't help thinking what
would Oscar do if he knew I was QV. I was his friend, but from
my side, I grew to love him. I would dream of him at night and
imagine what it would be like for him to hold me, kiss me, make
love to me, and make all my worries go away. I wanted to spend
every minute I could with him, and I would get jealous whenever
he hung out with other people. I could feel my heart fall to
my feet and shatter into a thousand sharp pieces everytime he
told me about his dates.
One time, together with
Lee, Oscar and I reserved a limousine for Prom and we each invited
"friends who were girls" to come along. Oscar and I
picked out our tuxedos together and we ended up with the same
style except mine was black and his was white. When Prom came,
Oscar was chosen as Prom King and I was so happy for him. I felt
so lucky to be in his life.
Of course, as my senior
school year approached its end, I began to feel depressed. What
would happen between Oscar and myself after graduation? I had
been accepted to the University of Southern California in Los
Angeles, and with my encouragement and help, Oscar found himself
headed for Fresno State in the fall. A panic settled in my head.
I felt like I couldn't give up our relationship, yet I knew that
the time had come to move on with life.
Grad night came and went
without much ado. In my mind, I knew what we still had one whole
summer before we were split up. We made the best of it by hanging
out as much as we could and doing all the usual things that we
liked to do.
Then the first week of
August 1989, Oscar left town for school-three weeks before I
was to leave for Los Angeles. We said goodbye over the phone,
and inside, I wanted to spill my feelings for him, but I was
afraid of what he'd think, or worse, that he'd never speak to
My first semester at USC
was hell. I was deeply homesick. I missed my parents, I missed
the few good friends I had made my last year in high school,
and most of all, I missed Oscar. I missed him so much that I'd
pull out my yearbook and prom pictures and look at him. I even
used his last name as my PIN number on my ATM card so every time
I withdrew cash from an ATM machine, I'd remember him. I'd write
him all the time to tell him about my classes (and how horribly
I was doing in them). He'd tell me about his adventures at his
school and about all the fine girls he was meeting.
As the end of the first semester of college approached, my heart
leapt at the thought of going home and seeing Oscar during winter
break. We did-in fact we talked on the phone before I left Los
Angels and made plans to hang out together on New Year's Eve.
We got together early that evening and hung out as usual. We
headed over to Visalia where we ate at Mearle's, a diner and
regular hang out that we used to go to. We talked at length about
school and the people that we had met.
He surprised me by bringing
up the subject of homosexuality. He told me about how he met
this guy in his dorm who was QV. The other guys in the dorm
would tease him, but not Oscar. He said he'd let him cut his
hair and they'd really get into conversations about the whole
"QV thing." Oscar said he would ask him questions
like, "What do you see in a guy?" "Did you choose
it?" and all the usual questions a straight guy might ask.
I sat quietly as Oscar told me his story. I could only smile.
Then Oscar proclaimed, "You know what, QV people don't
choose to be QV, that's just how they are."
I wanted to hug Oscar right there, but I kept a hold of my composure.
Deep down, I wanted to blurt out that I was QV, but at that
point, I was still, in fact, buried deep inside my own closet.
Oscar's words allowed me
to start off a new year, a new decade-1990-with a positive bang.
When I got back to school, I started to search my soul. Oscar's
words stayed with me and gave me strength. His words made me
realize that not every straight person would hate me because
I'm QV. I got counselling, and I began to finally accept who
At the same time, the letters
between me and Oscar became fewer and further between. I suppose
that was all part of the distance and going to two different
schools in far-apart cities. Slowly, I began to meet new friends
in Los Angeles, and he began to meet other friends and even got
himself a girlfriend.
Alas, the years have gone
by, and Oscar and me have completely lost touch. Due to circumstances
beyond my control, I was unable to attend my 10-Year High School
reunion this last summer. But I thought about Oscar when I got
the invitation. I had heard through the grapevine that he was
now married and had at least one kid. That made me happy to know
that he was making a good life for himself.
I know that I'll run into
him again-soon. And when I do, there will be so many things I
will want to tell him-the biggest of which is that I am QV.
I'll thank him for the understanding words he gave me that night
at Mearle's. I'll thank him for being a good friend in high school
and bringing me out of the depression. And I'll thank him for
being the first person, a straight guy, to really make me feel
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