All I could think of in that moment was how terrified I was.
The sweat dripping down my back, the uncontrollable bounce in my leg. If it wasn’t for the novela playing in the background, I was sure you’d be able to hear my heart nearly beating out of my chest. I swore to myself that I would never tell you — that I would rather let my secret die with me before I telling the woman who helped raise me and risk losing her forever.
As I dared to raise my voice to speak in the middle of the novela you found so riveting that day, I couldn’t stop but think about the last 21 years of my life I had spent with you, abuela.
I remembered all those early Sunday mornings, watching misa on your favorite Catholic TV channel, and even though I hated every second of every oracion, I secretly loved that I could spend such peaceful moments with you.
I remembered how you took the time and patience to teach me how to cook.
I remembered walking through the Chinatown swap meet and watching that frantic little boy looking for his mother, yelling “mamá, popó!” over and over and over until we couldn’t keep our laughter in anymore.
I remembered you shushing me as Walter Mercado came onto the TV and laid his oh so wise blessings upon us (and every other Latino watching TV at that exact moment).
I remembered watching you make tamale after tamale, and even when the pain in your fingers and your back was too much to bear, you continued.
In that moment, all I could think about was every time you would call me “Danielita,” and the terror it struck within me at the prospect that you would never want to speak to me again. The dread that filled my very soul at the sheer idea of you taking down the many (embarrassing) pictures of me you had in your house.
Then, I started to remember every time I lied to you.
Every comment you made about my clothes, and how I looked and dressed like a boy, I forced myself to brush off.
I lied to you every time I redirected our conversation when the subject of boys and dating would come up and you’d interrogate me as to why I didn’t have one. I’d give you the lame excuse that it wasn’t because I didn’t like boys, but that it was because all the boys my age were awful (which, let’s be real, is actually pretty true, boys are kinda gross in general).
And then I remembered why I was there at the proverbial end of the world.
In that moment, I knew that even if it killed me, I had to tell you about this secret I had been keeping from you for the last seven years.
The tears were already falling before I had even said a word.
“Me gustan las mujeres,” I told you between choked sobs.
Of all the emotions that cycled through your face: shock, anger, confusion fear… I never would have guessed the one you would settle on.
“Es okay,” you said slowly.
I knew in that moment that you didn’t approve, and it only made the pain my chest ache even more.
“Do you still love me?” I asked in Spanish.
I looked up at you, with tears in my ears, not knowing what you were going to say.
“Claro que si, mi nina.”
You went on to tell me that no matter what, gay or straight, you were still going to love me. You didn’t understand how I thought you could stop loving me.
There you were — a saint in your own regard, putting aside any personal or religious preconceptions, and reminding me that gay or not, you were always going to love me.