Your name’s not Jack.
It’s not even Bryant sometimes
Not when mom scribbles it down
next to happy faces and hearts
on her calendarios de panaderia
The ones that hang by thumbtacks on our dining room walls
It’s always ¡brayan!
Tio Rey will never waste an opportunity to give you a nickname
or kiss you on the cheek
not even when you’re old and bearded, he says
and when he says that I wonder if machismo exists in those walls?
I could write poems about them too
los tios que te hacen reir y te quitan las penas
In a way they are tender too
amidst their alcoholism and depression
they love so deeply because they have been hurt deeper
sometimes they don’t know how much their kind of love smothers
how we can’t find clean air to breathe
under their breaths that taste like way too many coronas and budweiser
They were never taught how to love by the man they thought would teach them
Their only source of tenderness was their mother
so they learned tenderness from her
they also learned how to hurt from their father
drunken abuse and tender hands
how else were they supposed to love?
But this isn’t about them
Not about their traumas
Not about the way they sting those around them
with their broken love
No, this is about you.
This is your love letter, hermanito.
I remember when you would cry every night. Remember that? We would all joke and say “Aver cuando le toca la llorada al brayan…” I resented you for that. I wanted you to stop crying. I didn’t understand why you felt so much. You wanted to be held -- you wanted mom to give you corruquitos and you wanted to fall asleep to the sounds of dad’s snores. Why, I will never understand, because his snores could wake up an entire neighborhood and yet somehow you slept like a baby as they rumbled their way through your ear and into your dreams.
All you wanted was for us to love your tenderness.
And I tried so hard to get the soft out of you.
Because I saw what happened to soft boys.
They didn’t stay soft for long.
So I tried to speed up the process
make it hurt less
I cry now because I can’t believe how wrong I was
how thankful I am that I didn’t succeed
You kept your tenderness, yayansito.
That heart of gold that never lost its glow.
Mom and dad let you.
They let you be tender.
They never asked you to leave their worn bed even though you had a brand new one they had bought for you in that house with your own room.
You left their bed when you were ready.
When Delita passed away and we slept together on a tiny twin-sized bed that your legs hung out from because you’re so damn tall now
You asked me to give you corrucos
And I held you all night long hoping I could erase all those times scared, little Cecy told you to grow out of your tenderness
We would fight all the time when we were young. Those six years felt like a lifetime between us.
Confused, teenage Cecy wanted to feel understood but could barely understand herself and how could anyone understand her? Deep down I know I yearned for your softness -- I wondered why I didn’t have it too? I wanted to make you exactly like me -- I knew it was safe to be hard because you didn’t get hurt that way. But you also didn’t get to feel as much.
You felt so much.
Todo el tiempo.
Tears would flow out of you
the way these words spill out of me
You cracked a code I didn’t even know needed to be cracked. You split it right open, let all the insides spill out and it felt like a hug.
I didn’t feel this hug until my senior year of college.
Vulnerability is the name of that hug.
How it breaks us and how it builds us back up.
How it tastes like magic.
How it’s not safe but feels like heaven.
You held yourself in this space of softness long before I even knew I could get there
You asked me to hold you then
I was too afraid to hold all your pieces
But now I’m here, little brother.
My arms feel like they might stretch right out of my body
if I open them up wider for you
All that I once wanted you to lose
I want you to fiercely protect within you
want to fill you up with more of it
Forgive me, little brother.
Forgive me for being naive and broken.
For not knowing how to protect your beauty.
Please always stay soft.
Never let anyone tell you to be harder.
Love deeper instead.
Forever be vulnerable.
Los hermanitos del mundo.
Who have queer older siblings
Who with their tenderness
allowed us the space to feel safe in their presence
our whole selves, not just pieces
This love letter is for y’all.
We will always cry when we tell people about you
Because we can’t believe how much beauty can live inside of you sweet little boys
Can’t believe how lucky we have been to share your softness in this lifetime
Con infinito amor y ternura,
Tu hermanita querida,
Cecy aka Jack