Ramón was a humble, hard-working man whose first relationship experience left an unexpected footprint on his life.
Ramón felt strange when he saw the naked bodies on the pages of the magazine laid out at the entrance of the night club. The only bodies he had seen in his life were that of his own and of one of his teenage friends, when his house didn’t have an inside shower and they had to go to the river that ran through the prairie to bathe. Even then, nature was their only witness, their private parts remained hidden in their underwear, and their desires were secretly carried away by the current of the river. But now, it was all in the open, right from the beautiful chest of the model on the cover of the magazine directly to his groin, and Ramón’s eyes burned with desire!
The only problem was that Ramón always thought of himself as being physically inadequate compared to the average man. He religiously worked out two hours a day at the gym to maintain his husky physique, yet he disliked being short, thought that his nose was too big, and his lips too thin. He dreamed of finding someone who could overlook what he called his “birth defects” and love him anyway. It was as if he thought that being loved by another could help him to love himself.
One night at the bar, his gaze crossed that of a very attractive young man whose body had everything Ramón was physically looking for. They stared at each other and felt a deep, mutual connection. While the young man, holding a beer in his hand, smiled at Ramón, the latter became excited to the point of losing his breath. Ramón never knew that another man could, within the matter of seconds, cause such quick changes in his body temperature; at times he felt his skin was on fire, and at others he had chills.
That same night their bodies submerged in a profound passion -a foreign feeling to Ramón- that set the beginning of a long but sick relationship. Ramón was ten years older than John. He worked at a small restaurant in West Hollywood. He did not make much money but with the tips he earned enough to rent a simple, one-bedroom apartment in Downtown. He covered his main expenses including food, and even had some left to take his boyfriend out.
Once John moved in, Ramón’s life started to revolve around his partner’s. In fact, Ramón got a second job at Target, organizing clothes. With the extra money he earned, he satisfied all of John’s whims, who in return spent his days at home drinking and watching TV, and his nights and weekends at bars. At first, Ramón went out with him, but soon, the lack of sleep, long hours of work, and the routine itself, all started to wear him down, so John started to go out on his own.
Ramón was very attentive and considerate of his partner. Sometimes it seemed as if he wanted to make up for his lack of energy to hang out with John at night. At other times, he gave the impression that he was trying to buy John’s love through unlimited pampering and attention. He ironed his shirts, his pants, and polished his dancing shoes. He even let him drive his car after his driver’s license was suspended due to reckless driving, and gave him money for the cover charges and two drinks. Every day when he got home, Ramón heated the dinner he had prepared in the morning before going to work. And he also washed the dishes. He mirrored many women, when decades ago they were taught that women were born to be solely housekeepers and housewives.
Inexplicably, Ramón stayed with John despite his cheating, verbal, and physical abuse. Every time he learned that John was sleeping with another man, he immediately ended the relationship. But as soon as John started crying, begging and blaming Ramón by saying: “I love you,” I won’t do it again,” “Go out with me more often–you always feel tired or are working,” Ramón felt guilty and they got back together. Ramón would justify John’s behaviors by convincing himself that “he is young and just needs guidance.” “I should be more patient, John is trying to change.”
After eight years in the relationship, a terrible incident forced Ramón to finally face reality. John suffered a car accident. He had surgery but his recovery was impossible due to the fact that he was living with AIDS. They never knew it; neither one ever got tested. When Ramón learned about John’s health condition, he decided to take an HIV test himself. Unfortunately, it came out positive.
However, the HIV diagnosis put things in perspective for Ramón and motivated him to seek professional psychological help. He recognized the need to work in his self-esteem to stop putting other people’s needs above his own to the point of neglecting his health and even his own life.