A Spontaneous Action
My name is Melissa Perez… I’m Catholic. I’m Latina. And I’m a lesbian. It was 4:30AM, 2012, just before Valentines Day. Sleep was as unattainable as the romantic love I yearned for that year. A looming misery kept me from breathing normally and I knew there was only one person who could help me feel okay. My mother.
In the dim stairway of my complex, I called her. No answer. I left a frantic message. My eyes filled with tears. I felt hopeless. I called again. No answer. What could I do?
Within seconds my brother Alex, a diagnosed schizophrenic, called me back. “What’s wrong?” he interrogated.
“I need to talk to Mom,” I cried, hoping that he would understand me through my sobs. “Okay I’ll wake her up.” Moments later he screamed obscenities into the darkness of his room. My mom picked up begging to know what was wrong. “Mama, I’m just really sad. I drank too much and I’m not sure if the alcohol made the chemicals in my brain unbalanced but I feel like I’m dead or dying. I called because I feel like you’re the only one who could help me.”
Possessed by Akheron, the river god of pain, I told her the truth. “Momma, I feel like I could never love a man— ever. I feel like I can’t tell you anything because of it. I don’t want you to judge me or hate me.”
She responded calmly, “Only God can judge you, I would never judge you.” She wasn’t shocked. She didn’t cry. Like a mathematician, she calculated that with prayer and counseling I would no longer feel that way. “I love you and I’ll pray for you. Let’s look at life from the lovely side.” She felt worse to know that I was suffering with this for a long time than with the fact that it was true. Her faith so devout, she was confident that I would change.
Coming out for me was more like a spontaneous action with no thought involved. I was so uncontrollably ready. I knew if I went on one more day without saying it, I would go insane. On Sunday mornings I prayed, and at night I exhausted empty encounters with potential lovers in the dark. The futile kisses with strange boys and adventures with women brought feelings of self-loathing. After many wild drunken nights, I realized this: It’s okay to be young, it’s okay to be a wild kid. It’s NOT okay to be someone you are not. It is conflicting. My impulsive actions were solely to fill a void, an emptiness built from hating myself.
The next day I called my mom to see how she was and she said one thing that I remember, “Not being able to communicate with your parents is like being an orphan. I don’t want that. You have to tell me everything that’s bothering you.” Through the misfortune of clashing identities, since that day I’ve never felt more like an orphan.
An orphan is much like a displaced transient always looking for home. For me, home is sacred. It’s a place of comfort, a place to be yourself, a place to display your flaws without feeling judged.
Gradually, silence replaced my euphoria. How do you learn to love yourself when the person you love the most says everything you feel and do is wrong? I could feel my mother’s core tremble the day she decided to ask if I’ve healed. Asking if I’ve stopped hanging out with those girls or those disgusting people. But Mom, I’m those disgusting people. I’m that girl you don’t want me hanging out with. I’m that girl who corrupted your daughter. It’s me. Mom? Mom, are you listening? It’s me. Mom? Mommy? What about your boyfriend? He was a nice guy. He was Christian and he loved you. What happened after that? Someone did this to you. Someone taught you this. Mom, no one taught me this. This is who I am. Mija, pray. Let’s pray. What about loving God? Don’t you love God? You know if you want to go to heaven you have to change. Maybe that’s my story, maybe at the end I burn in hell, Mom. Maybe I wrote that story when I was with God before I came to earth. Do you think God would make that my destiny Mom? My mom’s desperation exploded, I know that you aren’t like that because I saw you grow up. I think something happened to you. You weren’t like this before. Remember? (Laughter and a smile) Remember you wanted to marry Mickey Mouse when you were five years old? Remember that? (Her voice chilled) It wasn’t Minnie Mouse you know. You said Mickey. You were five. Remember that? Yes, Mom. I was five. Hija, don’t tell anyone, okay? You have a reputation. No one should know about this. …Okay, Mom, I’ll keep it to myself.
I feel sorry for her. I feel bad that she believes this. She believes it wholeheartedly. I told my girlfriend that I’m going to put up my white flag, surrender, and tell my mom that I’m straight. It’s a joke. I’m laughing, but the truth is I have friends who have done this. They went back into the closet because their parents’ treatment of them was unbearable. It’s like there is a death in the family but no one knows to seek grievance counseling.
My mom is not a bad person. She’s far from it. She’s just a devout Catholic whose identity is as immutable as my own. She suffers too. All parents do.
In all bouts of pain I have learned valuable lessons. One of the most valuable was the knowledge that pain is inevitable while suffering is optional. I have realized what options we have as two people with very different beliefs. I think we choose to end the suffering when we choose to accept each other. I accept her for who she is and she accepts me for who I am. I think every day I get closer to understanding this.
If I had one last breathe left in me to say something to the world, I’d say: “Learn to love yourself and share that love with others.” If it’s a perpetual war to find that love, keep on fighting because no one is more deserving of your love than you. I will share my story the only way I know how. I will make a film, based on these feelings and thoughts. Along the way, I will share it with you, the rest of the world and finally, my mom.