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—six foot two, Dr. McDreamy.
“How are you feeling, Mr. Lopez?” he asks. His voice bears a southern twinge. A white man like him wouldn’t notice me outside of here and now a white man like him 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, reinforcing 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 beating the shit out of us. I was screaming for help and Chino was silent. I heard ‘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 gay bashings throughout New York City. Rallies left and right, drag queens with lopsided wigs and too much makeup, hosting events, raising money for the victims’ families. “WE’RE HERE. WE’RE QUEER. AND WE AIN’T GOING NOWHERE” they scream all over Greenwich Village. “I don’t protest,” I say to myself, though the hateful protesting of my community 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.
Anthony Ruiz is a Latino writer born and raised in Queens, New York. Anthony has been writing poetry since the age of eight and is currently obtaining a bachelors degree in English at City College in New York, NY. Most of Anthony’s early poetry focuses on the plight urban LGBTQ youth face in New York City with issues like poverty, prostitution and HIV. Many of Anthony’s pieces are grounded in spoken word and performance.
This piece first appeared in Hispanecdotes.