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Music Box

My mouth tastes like shit. The crust tears apart as I open my eyelids for what feels like the first time ever. I look to my right. Beep—beep—beep from the monitor reminding me I am still vital. I go to scratch the itchy patch on my left thigh, the patch that no longer grows hair, when I feel a sharp tug at the top of my hand. An I.V. I have always liked hospitals. They’re wonderfully lit and, more often than not, your nurse is cool. Or your doctor is hot. As if he was my muse, posing for me while I paint him with the blood beginning to re-form at the top of my head, he stands at the foot of my bed. Fucking 6’2, Dr. McDreamy.

“How are you feeling, Mr. Lopez?” he asks. His voice bears a southern twinge. A white man like this would never look at me twice outside of here and now a white man like this is looking at me in my ugliest, most vulnerable state. Even if I wanted to run, I couldn’t. “Do you know where you are?” he asks, quite beautifully. I would know this shitty sanatorium anywhere. I was born here, committed here, but I really hope I don’t fucking die here. “Elmhurst hospital?” I say with a rising intonation, though I already know the answer. “Can you remember anything at all?” His icy blue eyes cut through my brown, lifeless ones.  I close them. “We were all chilling in front of Music Box, smoking. I remember hearing someone scream ‘FAGGOTS’. I heard a popping noise—three or four times. I saw Hugo fall to the ground in front of me.” I breathe in deeply and open my eyes.

He’s still peering into me, McDreamy. He starts again, “then what?” My thigh patch is signaling me for a scratch. “When can we take this shit out?” I curse at McDreamy, re-enforcing what he probably thought the minute he saw my brown ass laid up on this shitty hospital bed: just some ghetto Puerto Rican kid who parties too hard. “When we feel it’s time,” he replies, expressionless. I close my eyes again and begin. “I felt all of Chino’s weight on me, holding me down. Three guys were fucking us up. I was screaming for help and Chino was silent. I heard ‘FUCKING FAGGOTS’ again, so close to my right ear. I heard the loudest pop. That’s the last thing I remember.” Over the past couple of months, there has been a string of bashings throughout NYC. Rallies left and right, drag queens with lopsided wigs and too much makeup hosting events, raising money for the victim’s families. “WE’RE HERE. WE’RE QUEER. AND WE AINT GOING NO WHERE” they scream all over Greenwich Village. “I don’t protest,” I say to myself, though the opposing’s protesting of me has landed me in this very bed, timorous in front of McDreamy.

And then a flutter of wind blows the hospital curtain slightly to the left. Hugo’s mother is wailing on her knees, her rosary on the floor, because she knows Dios can’t do shit now. Because she knows the last words her son heard were not “bendición” or “lo quiero” or “ten cuidado.” She knows her son died a faggot. No prayer in the world will bring him back. I look at McDreamy’s dreamy face again. “I’d like to get some rest,” I say. He has seen too much. He won’t see me cry.


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