“I know that we are young, and I know that you may love me, But I just can’t be with you like this anymore…………Alejandro”
Alejandro happened two summers after C. It was summer of 2010 and I was due to turn 18 in a few months. This was a period in where my identity and dress teetered between a gay boy and gender- nonconforming. I identified as a gay boy, a flamboyant, feminine, colorful, gender bending gay boy.
During this particular summer I worked in the Trading Post, a cute way of saying the camp store because we didn’t except anything as a trade besides money. I worked with three other people, a girl and her best friend and our manager was my coworker’s mom. There was a sister who worked at another place within the camp. Essentially I was the one on the outside because these three were connected. As staff week came and went we were expecting another staff member to join us in the Trading Post at the end of the following week. I’d never met him or seen him before, but he was apparently the nephew of my manager and cousin of my coworker.
Two weeks into camp on the Sunday night of week three he arrived in Loveland, Ohio all the way from Madrid, Spain. I remember his aunt, two cousins, and their friend leaving for the airport late that afternoon to pick him up. When he made it back to camp he spent the entire day sleeping and resting. News of him making it to camp spread like wild fire, everyone was talking about him, but no one had yet seen him.
The next morning I skipped breakfast and went straight to the store to begin our daily setup before our daily staff meeting. And after a while everyone else joined; my manager, her daughter, their friend, and the guy everyone had been waiting on Alejandro. He was 6’1ish, with a rich golden brownish skin color that reminded me of cinnamon. Eyes the color of pecans, so shiny and they looked glassy the way they do right before you tear up and brown hair so dark it almost looked black, formed into the most effortless looking fohawk I’ve ever seen to this day. Though his hair resembled a fohawk it was also so mature looking and subtle that I could ever tell whether or not he was purposely going for a fohawk. He was extremely friendly and greeted me with a bright smile and a warm hug. He was always smiling, for the short few weeks I’d know him I’ve never seen anything beyond a smile on his face. I tried to seem less excited by trying hard to focus on the task in front of me. I didn’t want to seem as overly eager as some of the other people at camp even though I was probably more enthused than they were by far.
He and I used to sit on the back porch of the Trading post or down by Lake Marge and sing the lyrics to his name sake song Alejandro by Lady Gaga. He was obsessed with it. He would sing it to me every single day and even attempted to sing other songs to me and I never discouraged him even though his singing voice was awful, it was so bad, I though the gesture and attention was nice. I was so enthralled I would join in singing sounding almost as bad as he did, but he was always worse, his singing voice was god awful.
“You know that I love you boy hot like Mexico, rejoice, at this point I’ve gotta chose nothing to lose don’t call my name don’t call my name Alejandro” at the top of his lungs he was never shy about people hearing him.
I remember he would always say “She’s got both hands in a bucket” and he was so confused when I corrected him and told in the correct lyric was “in her pockets” he told me he liked “buckets” better.
His family was always really weird about our interactions they smiled and grinned in my face but I knew they were playing it up. They were a family from Kentucky and the father of the family was a pastor and well they were white, so a religious, white, conservative family placed with a seemingly gay flamboyant black boy was a recipe for disaster my youthful mind didn’t have knowledge to grasp. And they were weirdly possessive/ protective, often blurring those lines. I understood they wanted to protect him because he wasn’t familiar with America let alone the camp but at every free moment they wanted to spend it with him and whenever he was with someone else they were often close behind. And the times we were able to sneak away or mange to be left alone he’d tell me about life in Madrid and how he loved being in the states and he planned to move to Florida and live with his grandmother while he attended college.
I felt relevant I felt like I’d found “the one” at seventeen. I thought I would be one of those white women you see in romantic comedies who is swept off of her feet by a handsome unsuspecting foreign guy and walk off into the sunset holding hands. Even though I’d had a glimpse at the reality of what people who looked like me and identified the way I did I truly thought I could and would be the exception because I was special and Alejandro supported that in me. To this day my moments with him are the ones that felt the most like a dream compared to any other man. Perhaps my youth played a part in this dreamy feeling in addition to all of the time we shared. The midnight walks around the lake, our secret one on one conversations in the stock room where he’d put my hand on his bare stomach and complain about how he needed to work out, and our routine hangout sessions at every meal time.
I will never forget the day I was fired, it was Monday July 5th when I was called into the office of the camp director and fired. She’d heard around camp from my coworker and her mom that I liked Alejandro and I‘d been spending too much one on one time with him. The rules of being a Boy Scout were very clear; “homosexuality” is not accepted from anyone who holds a leadership position in scouts, parent leaders, troop leaders, eagle scouts or employees. And again gender identity at the time would’ve been far removed from anything they would’ve been able to comprehend. I was fired, and dismissed, asked to pack my things and leave for home within 24 hours. I just wanted to see him and breathe the same air one final time and say goodbye, but in that final 24 hours they actively hid him from me. I was told he was forced to stay in the cabin until I left the camp grounds.
How could an organization that was created to help and service the community doing good deeds so okay with alienating a 17 year old kid. This was the first very clear sign of hatred I saw thrown my way simply because of an identity I held. It was the first but far from the last and as I grow older and wiser in my truth and learning the world around me it is easier to spot these inequities even when they are subtle. It didn’t start when I was 17 it started at birth, but at 17 was when I was awakened from my foolish and oblivious state of sleep to the very subtle as well as overt signs of racism, sexism, class, and homophobia.
For the first for days after being home I didn’t eat at all and I cried for months. Spending five to six hours a day with streaming tears and a box of tissues and I am not exaggerating, I never even knew it was possible to cry so much. I reached the point of when I wasn’t crying my eyes were bright red and matching my tried out bright red nose. I promised I’d never forget him and even now when I think of him I will still call out his name “Alejandro, Alejandro, Ale Ale jandro” as a longing for the past. I listened to Lady Gaga’s Alejandro every day for over a year straight. I never had the closure I needed or wanted. I’ve never been the same since then.
It burned like someone dropping hot coals in my stomach. How fucked up is that? I know most could only imagine what it would feel like to be fired because you liked someone you weren’t supposed to and people knew. And going through this at seventeen I still try to reflect back on how I made it with no support. Maybe it was the nights of trying to convince myself I was something other than just human, maybe I was bionic like Christina Aguilera’s album; half my face made up to be perfect and flawlessly poised with makeup and airbrushing and the other half a machine, something unordinary and exceptional (the idea of internalized hate and prejudice infused into the way I thought and still think about myself occasionally based in societal norms). My soul slowly hardening and blackening. Working harder and longer than I’ve ever worked before thinking if I just work hard enough I may not ever have love but I can have success, class, and notoriety, “I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress” turning into the connotation of a matriarch who needs no one but herself. This in addition to many of my experiences after him make me the woman I am today. This is why I am afraid of people, afraid of love.
Sometimes I still secretly pray from time to time I can be face to face with him once again, Alejandro.