Dedicated to Michelle
Nobody expected it, least of all me.
I was a freshman scholarship student at a university with an excellent music program and, to my misfortune, a nationally ranked football program. One of my professors, Dr. Smith, sweat blood to get me the scholarship money over an athlete or academic wunder-kid. She was the older sister of my first guitar teacher, and had followed my musical growth with interest.
To stop her nagging, I agreed to perform at the Winter Recital, a quasi-talent show that the Music Department put on every fall semester. I also wanted feel what it was like to be alone in the spotlight. It was the future I had chosen and getting used to the glare seemed a necessary step.
The Recital was a social event at the university. The schedule of performances was printed a month before, and I was the only soloist with freshman in front of their name. Nobody asked why I was awarded the spot; they formed the opinion that best fit their collegiate religion. I guess I was a heretic of the established order to most of my peers; students worked hard for those performance slots, and it must have seemed like I was being given mine.
Walking in the arrogance of a destined future, I made it worse.
I touched my first guitar strings before "Ma-Ma" came out of my mouth. My mother could lay a guitar on the floor and forget me for a morning or afternoon. I looked at the other Recital performers with the arrogance that if our individual practice hours were summed up and compared they would be years in deficit. They cried for toys when they were children; my punishments always involved taking away the guitar.
Puking twice in the half-hour before I performed was not a favorable omen. Professor Smith tried to make light of my clammy, pale skin.
"I cannot believe that you've never performed in public," she said brushing imagined lint off my shoulder.
"It never seemed important," I replied.
"Not to you!" she said. "Nothing is as important to you as the guitar, but those idiot instructors should have known better."
"One those idiot instructors is your sister," I reminded her.
"Then there's no one that can judge her capacity for being an idiot with more authority!" she said, putting the guitar in my arms.
I felt grounded again and must have looked it because she nodded with confidence. I performed near the beginning of the Recital; Professor Smith wanted me to close the show but was shouted down. I was singing in Spanish to a predominantly Caucasian audience went the argument. I laughed when she cursed about the prejudice of that stupidity since the final soloist was singing from an Italian opera.
They announced my name and even the guitar could not stave off the return of stage fright. I walked towards my fate and nodded to the audience as soon as I was out of the curtain's protective cover. I moved to where the stagehands had placed the bar stool in front of the microphone.
The lights were painfully bright, and I could barely make anyone out. I crooked my neck to the side trying to release the tension. The microphone was too high so I adjusted it with trembling hands. There was a snicker as the silence extended past what an experienced performer would have allowed. I looked behind me at the people who would be accompanying me. They looked bored, which did not bode well. I turned back and squinted my eyes to see if I could make out anyone. One of the lighting technicians took mercy and pulled his light away so it did not shine on me directly.
The silence was broken by feedback when I tried to say hello. There were a couple of laughs, increasing my nervousness. The sound of those laughs nearly cramped my stomach. A line of sweat broke out on my brow, and I cleared my throat nervously.
She saved me that day.
The technician moving the light let me see the audience. Directly in front of me, a few rows back was Samantha Jones, or 'Miss Samantha Jones' as the unprivileged called the captain of the dance squad and Undisputed Campus Goddess. I thought guys would have left behind the concept of an Unattainable Dream in high school, but they talked about her around campus like she was the Hope Diamond.
Knowing who had to be sitting next to her, Samantha Jones centered me. I turned my eyes to her left to look at Michelle Debreau: junior, member of the dance squad, and MY Unattainable.
She was popular with the guys because she liked sports and could laugh about guy things. Unlike Samantha, Michelle looked at people and smiled when they walked by her around campus. I got a dose of that smile everyday of the week because I made sure to be in the dining hall at the same time that she ate.
I looked at Samantha, and then at Michelle.
I had to smile. I always had to smile when I saw 'Miss Michelle Debreau'. I could not see her brown-green eyes, but I knew they would be shining with sympathy. I turned around, looked at the musicians behind me, and waved them off. I didn't need them to accompany for this.
I smiled at Michelle again. She reflected it with a wide one of her own. Our smiles reduced the world to the two of us, at least for me.
I didn't have my own words, but hours of Alejandro had put his inside me.
Alejandro Sanz was Spanish singer-songwriter, who had captivated me with 'Amiga Mía'. The subject matter was the most original I'd ever heard. I bought every one of his albums, and learned every song by soul.
He gave voice to what I wanted. He gave voice to what I wanted to say to the Dream's handmaiden.
"Y solo se me occurre amarte" (And it only occurs to me to love you)
It began with my guitar. I watched as Michelle leaned forward in the way she did when something captured her attention. I touched the guitar strings lovingly, drawing the music I wanted to give her.
"Yo quiero darte mi alegría, mi guitarra, y mis poesias" (I want to give you my happiness, my guitar, and my lyrics.)
I sang the words to her, for her. She didn't understand a single one, but that was okay. I did not understand all of Alejandro's words either. I hadn't done enough to know what they meant. I felt each word when I was near Michelle though, and that night I found a way to make one part of the song true.
I showed Michelle my soul. It ended with the guitar.
Everyone's silence came into focus. I nodded at the audience and gave Michelle a last smile before I walked off stage. Professor Smith hugged me tightly and kissed my cheeks hard.
"God! You are so fucking beautiful!" she whispered into my ear.
I knew it wasn't me though. I couldn't help smile, when I was near Michelle.
The details don't matter, not to me.
Samantha Jones was envious of the few minutes that I raised Michelle above her, and even worse because the Winter Recital was such a major social event that I had done it in front of all her friends, so what?
Michelle's ex-boyfriend was a junior and a hulking brute of a football lineman with jealousy running through his veins like acid, so what?
The ex had two sycophants who would follow him into hell not realizing that was searing heat they felt, so what?
The important thing was the second night that Michelle and I came together, and fell apart.
She and I became friends. Not friends in public, but friends in the privacy outside the doors of the rest of our lives. She was waiting in her car when I came out of Professor Smith's class a week after the Recital. She smiled and waved me in. I enjoyed the walk through campus, but the invitation was not something I could turn down. She drove to her dorm and led me into her room.
Michelle liked to talk, and I liked to listen to her. She said even if I did not talk back, she felt like I heard what she wanted to say. Those visits to her room ended the same way for two months: my guitar and Alejandro's words.
Our last night, it did not end like that. She was on the floor, and I was sitting on her bed. She took the guitar out of my hands and placed her face close to me. She kissed me, but I was too overwhelmed to kiss her back.
"Kiss me," she encouraged.
She put her lips on mine and I gave her what felt like my first kiss, or what everyone's first kiss should be. She placed her hands on my hips and moved them underneath my t-shirt. She separated our lips and took my t-shirt off.
I was afraid, not stage fright but virgin discomfort. The words Michelle knew me by weren't mine. I could not live up to them skin to skin. I was a boy, too much in love with the guitar to have cared about girls until Michelle. She deserved a man, and that thought almost made me flee.
She stopped me with another kiss. I drowned in the lavender smell of her perfume. I was going to fail, but I had to stay, like I had to smile when I was near her.
I had to be inside her even if just once.
She popped the buttons of my jeans and tugged on their waistline. I pushed myself up with my arms. She pulled my pants and underwear past my hips. She took my shoes off and finished stripping me. Michelle put her hands on the inside of my thighs and created a space between them for her body. She winked at me and took my hard dick in a gentle grip. She kissed and stroked me slowly.
I could not have held out against the first touch of a foreign hand; the hand I wanted touching me. I groaned, and my eyes felt hot as I failed her.
"It's okay, Miguel," she whispered, and I believed her. "This is exactly what I want."
She tightened her grip and milked the last of the seed from my body. She pulled away and looked at me. She stroked my face with her other hand and touched my lips with hers. Michelle moved downwards, and I thought I was going die.
I did die, more than once, as she licked, kissed, and then took me into her mouth. I wanted to live when she kissed my testicles.
She stood up and looked down at me. I was on my back with my legs off the bed.
"Stay right there," she said.
Oh yeah... like I had somewhere else I wanted to be!
She stepped backwards with a smile on her face that I would have killed to make mine forever. Michelle had a single with its own bathroom; she stepped inside and closed the door.
I wished I could have watched her. I didn't want Michelle to leave my sight.
I lay my head back and stared at the ceiling. I heard the bathroom door open and looked towards it. Michelle walked to me naked. I got hard and bit my teeth down on each other. I lost focus for a minute as tears formed. I blinked them away and looked at her again. She stood between my legs and touched her nails to my thighs.
"Professor Smith told me what song you sang at the Recital," she said. "I tried to do a word for word translation, and ended up paying to have it translated right. I bought every Alejandro Sanz album so I knew each song you sang to me in the last two months. I paid to have each one that you've sung translated too."
"Are you ready for your first time?" she asked me.
I wondered how she knew, but there was no shame in the fact that she did.
"Good," she said and climbed on the bed, then past me.
She lay down on her back and looked at me. I scrambled up and got between her open legs. She kissed me and took me in her hand. She guided me to her center, and I thrust. She must have winced as I penetrated into dryness. I did not know it wasn't supposed to be like that so I pulled back and thrust harder. I was fully seated inside her before I looked at her again.
Her eyes stopped me. Michelle wasn't feeling what I did, and the desire to flee returned.
"It's okay," she whispered. "There'll be more times. This is for you."
But that wasn't the dream so my body and heart fought over which would control the rest of my life.
"Tan pura la vida y tu" (So pure life and you)
In whispered lyrics, my voice was not deep or dark. It sounded as heartfelt as my heart felt living Alejandro's words for the first time. Michelle opened her legs wider and gripped higher up my body.
Gracias Alejandro, por esa noche. (Thank you Alejandro, for that night.)
It was the unattainable as I sang for us. She pulled me down and I gave her the song with my lips beside her ear. She moaned softly as I finished the first chorus. She moved her hips beneath me. She was wet and warm. I put my forehead on hers and pulled my hips back. She squeezed me hard with her arms as I moved into her.
The song kept me in place. I could not move and sing, so I sang and she moved. She danced beneath me and as the last amarte (to love you) left my lips, I kissed her. She came and I knew... knew it was the first time she had done that with a male inside her. It was in her eyes, the tears and a small part of what I felt when I looked at her around campus.
It didn't make me a man, but it felt like it.
"Your turn," she whispered.
I was lost for a second, my turn for what?
She stroked my hips with her hands, and my sex answered the question. I pulled back and thrust hard into her. There was no dryness, only invitation.
I came inside Michelle.
I guess the tears that touched both our eyes at one time while we made love meant we cried. We definitely loved, even if not completely. We also laughed afterwards, with each other, about nothing.
I walked out of her dorm feeling alive. I could smell the night air. I'll remember the clean smell of it for the rest of my life.
They jumped me behind the freshman dorm. They pulled me in between the garbage dumpsters, and the two sycophants held my arms as Michelle's ex opened my guitar case. I knew my life was over when he smashed the guitar against one of the dumpsters. It wasn't jealousy in his eyes, but raw hatred. He pulled out a hammer and stroked the head.
"Samantha says you should have sang for her," he told me.
They never proved that Samantha knew exactly what the three were going to do. She admitted egging them on when they told her they wanted to get even for my stealing the football star's girl.
I struggled as they lay my hand down on a garbage can.
"Let's see you play now, asshole!" the ex taunted gleefully as he raised the hammer.
It came down in slow motion. Inch by inch, I watched its path until the pain lanced through my heart.
They shattered my hands.
'Not Guilty' was my second death at their hands months later.
'Not Guilty' means 'It never happened' when the person it happened to hears them. I never woke up in the hospital. I never screamed at Michelle to get out of my room. I never cried in my mother's arms. I never heard the words 'You'll never play the guitar like you did, Miguel' come out of a doctor's mouth. I never dropped the guitar from the pain.
"It's over, Miguel," Professor Smith whispered into my ear as she hugged me when the jury spoke those words. "Let it go, sweetheart, please!"
The jury looked at me with pity in their eyes. Later, one of them called it, a 'youthful indiscretion' that had to be looked at in the context of the situation and what was best for everyone's future. The truth was that the boys were a part of a team with hopes of a national championship the next year. It made the crime forgivable, and even my fault in the eyes of some.
Those two words were worse than 'Not Guilty', but I smiled at the television when I heard them. I was young too, and I did not have anything to live for anymore.
"Hello, Joseph" I said before I threw the bat in the ex-boyfriend's face.
I had been waiting for them inside the weight room by the school stadium. The three of them liked to lift as a group. They did it late enough that there was no one else around so I could watch for Joseph's car from the window.
I counted seconds and opened the door when they were about five feet away. They looked shocked, but Joseph had the reflexes of a star athlete. He caught the bat easily.
He should have been looking low.
My dad looked on my music with masculine distaste and tried to make sure I was not going to turn into a maricon (faggot). He drove me to martial arts classes Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I thought he looked funny sitting among the moms, but never said anything.
The youthfully indiscrete boys had taken me from behind and in numbers, but I had the advantage this time.
The kick was perfect. I had practiced it a thousand times when I decided to be indiscrete. It angled downward and struck at the knee. I hit Joseph with my shin in a kick that would have hurt even if it had struck higher. The human body is so fragile, hands and knees break irreparably with so little pressure.
Joseph went down with a horrendous scream that mirrored the one my throat had produced that night. I took the bat out of his hands and pointed it at the other two. They froze seeing their fate in my hate and rage. I pulled the bat back and hit Joseph with as much of the barrel as I could strike his chest with. His scream died as the air was forced out of his body.
One life for one life: my guitar, a pro-football career. Even Steven, as any kid might say.
The two sycophants turned tail and ran when I looked at them again. I smiled as I threw the bat end over end at the smaller. He tripped and slid a few feet. He tried to get up, but I smashed his jaw with another one of my thousand-times practiced kicks.
He was out.
I looked up and saw the back of the last one. I knew where he was going so I picked up the bat. I walked back to Joseph, who was also out, and took his car keys out of his jacket.
I didn't know how to drive, another unimportant thing compared to my guitar, so Joseph's car was the worst off for my first attempt. Somehow, I made it to the third boy's house before the cops did. I knew he was running to mommy and daddy. They were the ones that paid for the lawyers and the campaign in support of my attackers.
I hit the door at the lock with the bat. It popped open, and I walked inside.
"I've already called the cops!" the father yelled at me. His son was standing behind them.
"Sit down, or I'll kill him instead of just hurting him," I said to the man who had bought his son's innocence.
"Not my baby, please!" his mother pleaded.
I pointed to the sofa and pulled the knife out of my back pocket. The father's eyes showed that at some point he had known right and wrong; he understood they had pushed me too far. I was owed a pair of hands and a guitar, but I was willing to accept a knee, a jaw, and an arm instead. He gathered his wife into his arms and looked away.
"It's time to make a man's decision, Robert," I told the last of my guitar's destroyers.
"I'm going to give you a choice, your head or your arm," I said. "You have to the count of three."
"We didn't mean it!" he begged.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know Joseph would go that far," he whispered, echoing Samantha's words.
"Put your arm out, Robert," his father yelled.
"Dad, help me!" the boy cried. "Mommy, please!"
The arm went out automatically as his mind chose life.
I brought the bat down on his elbow.
"Hello, Miguel" said an instantly recognizable voice as I sat with a cup of tea warming my aching hands at the college coffee shop.
I looked into brown-green eyes.