In 2014, I was still living in Georgia and I came to spend
December with my family in Miami. With almost one foot still on the bus, I met
this guy, PhD student in biochemistry, total nerd (like me) and 30 seconds
later we’re seeing each other. I’m staying at my abuelo’s place and I’m
thinking that I’m being discreet slipping out in the evenings and “having
coffee with friends” or “hanging out with friends” for a couple
hours more or less every evening since getting here.
Besides me, one of my cousins is also queer. My parents’
generation was emphatic that Abuelo, our familial paragon of Latino
masculinity, shouldn’t be told about this. Worried he wouldn’t take it well.
Cut to a couple weeks later and I’m not with my friend
because I’m at this soirée that my mom’s boss is throwing. My parents, Abuelo
and I are all there.
It’s getting late. I’m sitting next to Abuelo. We’re both
well fed. Music is playing. Abuelo is working his teeth with a toothpick. And
my friend texts me. I’m pulling out and messing with my phone.
Abuelo, suddenly disinterested in the toothpick says,
“Can you tell that someone is calling you right now?”
“Yeah, a friend of mine is just asking how I’m
Then Abuelo asks, “Is this the same friend that you’ve
been seeing in the evenings?”
I’m a little surprised by the question, but I answer
truthfully, “Why yes. Yes, it is.”
Abuelo has my full and undivided attention at this point. And
then he asks, “Is he nice?”
“Yes he is.”
"That’s good. I worry about you sometimes and it’s good to
know that you’re with someone nice.“
Even after all this time, I’m not used to being at a loss for
At which point, he went back to the toothpick.
to Miami a few months ago to help take care of his abuelo, a job he lost Saturday
morning when his family’s patriarch passed on. After the funeral on Sunday,
which would have been Abuelo’s 100th birthday, Santi will presumably continue
his other passions in photography, video and programming.
Shanti is a contributing writer and photographer for Gran Varones. He lives in Miami, Florida.