January 10, 2024 · Essays + Reviews

In the aftermath of a breakup, Paloma uncovers a betrayal and steels their resolve to find love, with friends, with future lovers, within themself.

Image: An arrangement of fruit is presented against a yellowish-orange background, including a half-peeled banana, a pineapple, several strawberries, and a halved mango. Illustration by Julia O'Brien.
Image: An arrangement of fruit is presented against a yellowish-orange background, including a half-peeled banana, a pineapple, several strawberries, and a halved mango. Illustration by Julia O'Brien.

This essay is part two of “Con Mucho Amor, Mi Plátano.” They can be read in any order or as stand-alone essays.

I fell in love with your thoughts,

I learned it’s more than your hips.

You know I’m caught in my vibe

But I still give you my rib.

You hear ‘em callin’

My name

But know it’s hard

For me here.

“Silkk Da Shocka” by Isaiah Rashad

Fuck it! Move forward. That’s pa’lante. It came to mind because sharks only swim forward and not backward. They cut through El Mar with a triangular fin. Of course, only predators can be blind to what’s behind while the rest of us are on guard. We can’t afford for the past to sneak up on us.

When Larimar broke up with me, I was heartbroken for days. I cried at work. I sobbed at home. During my wind-down routine, I’d put on a rom-com or reality TV show. But shows and movies about love were the biggest tear-jerkers. I watched “Love is Blind,” a TV show where participants go into pods and propose to each other before seeing them, and couldn’t help but think about Larimar because their soul was equally as stunning as their facade. Before we met, I felt like we knew each other in another life. What previously soothed me, unsettled me. I told them that I could never be friends again with those I truly loved. 

At first, I thought we were destined to end up together: maybe another partner was the universe’s way of maturing us and then Larimar and I would get back together when we were ready. I grew up in a Black church where they groomed women for marriage and/or nurturing children. “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing,” echoes in my mind of the call-and-response instilled in me. The woman of Proverbs 31 was also the pinnacle of womanhood—a woman who manages the household and works. Instead, those traditional gender roles were obsolete: we’d both work, nurture each other, live separately but on one accord, and co-parent a Shih Tzu instead of a human. But no one gave me the roadmap for queer relationships.

Sure, maybe I overreacted when Larimar brought up their ex and triggered panic attacks. But my reactions seemed to anger them more and more because they saw it as controlling or a broken-record-like conversation. Past experiences told me that when an ex hung out with my corazón (whoever that was at any point in my love life) one-on-one and in the shadows, I always ended up hurt. But the monsters within always played a mind game, convincing me that I was overreacting. I pitied Larimar because they had to testify against their rapist in court. Because I was triggered, I felt wrong. But the one thing that my upbringing imparted about relationships (hetero or queer) was to trust my gut. It never steers you wrong.

On the night of my art opening, which I curated of two local artists having a pivotal career milestone, the past caught up with me. Enticing vibrant colors of Boriken filled the room, like the reflection of broken glass. Somehow I made beauty out of my relationship carnage by putting my energy into curating the work and mentoring both artists. After working on the show for a year, it had finally opened to the public, had a killer playlist, and greeted visitors with tostones, mangoes, piña, and fresas. There was such a positive energy. Obi and friends came from their neighborhood to see the show, curators, my mentees, and I looked up. Excited. Touched. My dad drove six hours to come to my show and surprise me. This was the one-year anniversary of my first show at the gallery that he was there for. But an eeriness loomed behind him.

Larimar came to my opening. What flashed before my eyes was the moment I admitted my crush to them when sitting for a painting by them on my birthday. Since that moment, we greeted each other with such tenderness like we were the only people in the room. Our chemistry was potent. But something felt entirely different this time. I gave a quick wave while I was pulled into other conversations. My stomach dropped, but I hid that behind my smiles and jubilation. Seeing them reminded me of our beautiful potential—like an alivia blade collage—but the new information bubbled up like bile in my throat. I felt betrayed. But I shook it off to greet them and their best friend who came in, as I did with everyone else. They avoided making eye contact and looked at me, unfazed with a newfound coldness.

“Hey, thank you for com—”

I could barely get the words out when Larimar walked away, brushing past mid-sentence. Their friend kept chatting with me but what I said escaped me. Embarrassment of rejection, prickled back under my skin.

A friend, Tiger Eye, the guard of all my secrets in the industry, came to check on me at work. We made a covenant because I loved her as my soul. I finally understood the delight of queerness: queer friendship. It’s an unbreakable bond. She and Obsidian, whom I called Obi, were honest to a fault, misunderstood, and some of the most genuine people I’ve met. I told Tiger Eye that I discovered that my suspicions about the ex of Larimar were validated. Obi, who is friends with Larimar and Tiger Eye, confirmed what I felt in my gut. Larimar told me they were visiting Obi. When I asked Obi about these visits, they were shocked. Larimar hasn’t been over in months, they told me. Maybe they were visiting their friend Fool’s Gold, they live next door, Obi suggested. Fool’s Gold is objectively attractive. He caught the eye of many, but he came with a “naive” attitude about how he was complicit in the rupture of relationships. 

“Fool’s Gold? Larimar’s ex?” I asked.

“Oh, Larimar told me that they were just friends, I didn’t realize they dated. Why would they fucking lie to me?” Obi exclaimed. Obi boiled over. Fool’s Gold has an extensive history with artist entanglements. While that thread of the story wasn’t mine, it signaled that I had to get the fuck out. When I thought monsters from within clawed at me, I realized that I was the victim of my own story. I was collateral damage.

Obi and Tiger Eye looked over to see if I was okay like they would forgo their conversations to rescue me when Larimar showed up at my art opening. Perhaps my friends are my true soulmates. But a part of me yearns for resolution within myself and with love. I’ve loved before but have never truly been loved. I ache. I have to believe that what’s coming is better. My soul or my ancestors within whisper, pa’lante.

About the author: Paloma, a messenger bird, ‘cries for the people’ and captures the feeling of trying to grasp reality somewhere between nonfiction and fiction which redefines peace as settling the factions within yourself. They are a writer based in Turtle Island.

About the illustrator: Julia O’Brien was born and raised in Colorado before earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work explores how the body can hold histories and tell stories as the boundary between internal and external identity. She describes herself as an image maker and a storyteller who loves learning new skills and hearing silenced voices.