‘I presented your story in a kinder light. I was a new person in that moment.’
We start the series with Andrés N Ordorica, a queer Latinx writer and educator based in Edinburgh. He creates worlds with characters who are from neither here nor there (ni de aquí, ni de allá). His fiction and poetry has been featured in Confluence Medway, The Acentos Review, Gutter, and 404 ink Magazine. His work has been anthologised in Ceremony (Tapsalteerie Press), We Were Always Here (404 ink), and The Colour of Madness (Stirling Publishing). His non-fiction has been published by The Skinny, Bella Caledonia, and Somewhere: For Us. Currently, he is working on a novel that explores love, same-sex desire, and the intense search for belonging through the eyes of two young men from the same Mexican immigrant family at two distinct points in their family history.
I was walking into Princess Street Gardens on a sunny day. In the middle of a conversation with my friends. You were waiting there like a split infinitive ready to quickly interject at any given moment. I don’t remember what I was trying to say to them, but I remember I never finished the thought.
You were exactly how I imagined you would be if ever this moment happened. Your stance, that aloofness, the golden hair on your sun kissed legs. All exactly how I knew it would be. Some white patches and fine lines may have appeared, but we are who we were seven years ago at the end of the day. You stood there looking at your phone dressed in a linen shirt and shorts, vintage sunglasses, and loafers. Looking ever the part of the posh boy abroad. The cadence of your voice and how you punctuate moments with your hands were exactly the same. How you use your deeper register when you feel uncomfortable had not changed. You were always serious when you let your voice go deeper. You were always drunk when you camped up. But, who’s to say what was the real version of you? I never quite knew back then. Went with whatever I was given on any given day.
The sun was hot, and we were surrounded by throngs of tourists, my friends went on without me. It was I who made the first move. It was I who went up to you. Even though it felt like you were waiting there ready to pounce. I don’t know why I did because you did not deserve such generosity. You did not deserve me mending the years that went by without you apologising. But I was able to forgive you in that moment because I wanted to win. I wanted to have the upper hand. I wanted to tell myself that I had indeed forgiven you. So up to you I went to put an end to the previous seven years of not speaking:
You slowly took in my presence as it started to dawn on you what was happening. As you started to realise who I was. You straightened up, combed your hands through your hair and said:
—Oh my God!
—What an unexpected surprise.
It was true. I did not expect that I would be attempting to resolve our past while out at lunch on a Tuesday afternoon. In a city, in a country, so far from where we first met. In all honesty, I never thought we’d share the same air ever again. But here we were.
I removed my sunglasses to force you to look into my eyes and take all of me in. I wanted you to remember me in this moment as having power, being calm and in control. I wanted you to remember my civility and maturity. Two things you did not have even though you were the older of us two. I wanted you to see me as I was seven years onward. Seven years of evolution and happiness.
Eleven thousand miles divided us. But in an instant, I traversed that distance by noticing you, taking in the moment, and going over and saying hello. Easily I could have disappeared into the masses of foreign voices and never would you have known we shared such close proximity. This boldness was not like me. I had never felt more powerful than I did in that moment. I was able to be both. I was able to be both the young man you had erased from your life seven years prior, and the older man who was willing to say hello and let bygones be bygones. I was all the things you never were.
I was kind and asked you questions about your life. Things I knew from friends and the occasional stalk on social media. With interest I asked about your work, your family, your years sans our friendship. All the while I remembered the happy times we had together, and of course the fallout. I remembered the night we decided to drunkenly take the friendship to the next level. I remembered you throwing me in the air on a dance floor as a jazz quartet played big band songs. We downed whisky from crystal tumblers and set about making poor life choices. I remembered the soft whispers back at our flat, tiptoeing from my room to yours and attempting to not wake the others. I remembered the smell of musk that you wore; stored in a pretty glass bottle that came from Morocco. I remember your wardrobe of Victorian military uniforms and pinstripe dinner jackets. Your great grandfather’s smoking pipe that rested on your bookshelf. Its smell of leather and vanilla tobacco hanging in the air. A room of curiosities curated with such specificity. Why did I think all of this was so interesting back then? How did I not see it was all a set? You were always acting, never willing to give anyone a true sense of yourself. You were always waiting to be written about.
You asked about me, but not about him (which felt purposeful). Your eyes were fixed on my wedding band. You took in the surroundings and realised he must be the reason I was there in that moment. In the seven years, that we did not speak I had made a life. I moved forward with myself and continued my story without you as a character. With enthusiasm I mentioned his name, told you about our flat, laughed about adulthood and responsibilities. My wedding ring gave me power in that moment. It meant that great things had happened for me while you were gone. Things that could have been yours to know had you not vanished from my life. But there was no bitterness in me anymore. Speaking to you removed any venom that might have remained. I was able to let go of all of that when I walked over to you.
Our catchup had reached a natural conclusion and I said goodbye to you. Put my sunglasses back on and disappeared into the throng. In that moment, I was both. I was the old me that held anger for how you treated me in our last few months together and I was the new me who would go on the rest of his life knowing life had happened exactly as it should have. I was both things you could never be. I was forgiven and I had forgiven.
The morning after we spent the night together, you had to leave. You were going on a two-week journey across north Africa. You hurriedly filled your vintage suitcase with odds and ends. We were both hungover, I brought you coffee. I sat on your bed and played through the night before. The heat of your mouth on my navel, the way you devoured my body, the way it felt to come with you. Your hands as they explored me, the whispers of things that we shouldn’t have said but did. I remember walking you to the front door. Your cab was waiting and in the morning glow of summer light, you looked ever the angel. I kissed you on the cheek and told you that I hoped your trip goes well. When you came back, you would be different, but I did not know that then. Did not know how you would stop speaking to me and gaslight all my recollections. Would erase the glass tumblers, the big band, the all-night dancing, the many mistakes. You’d choose to forget it, but I would not.
When I finally found my friends, they handed me an iced cold beer and I happily took it. Popped the tab and greedily gulped some. The sun was shining over Princes Street Gardens. The castle stood tall in the foreground. They asked about you, and I quickly summarised your time in my life, leaving out the unhappy memories. I presented your story in a kinder light. I was a new person in that moment. I was more powerful than I had ever been. After seven years chained to the memory of what went wrong, I had learned to let go. I sipped my beer and let the scenery anchor me to my new life. The fountain sparkled in the summer light and a rainbow shone in its mist and I was finally at peace.
You can find out more about Andrés N. Ordorica at andresordorica.com and on Twitter @AndresNOrdorica.