Straight from the Heart
A Latino man reflects on his high school friendship-with a straight guy.
-by Lalo Contreras

It's 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 himself!

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 on Broadway."

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 me again.

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 I was.

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 valuable!


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