Jan 10, 2014

Fall 1986: My Latino Houseboy

During the fall of 1986, I was dating Raul from East L.A., a cook in a Filipino restaurant.  To this day, I am haunted by the memory of his chicken adobo, arroz caldo, and bibingka (a coconut-rice pudding).

Many days I would go to the restaurant, wait until his shift was over, and take him home with me.  We went to dinners and movies, to the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard, dancing at the Rage, to church, to the gym.  I met his conservative Pentecostal parents.  I told my parents and my friend Viju about him.  I thought, "This may be the one!"

There were three problems:

1. My friends kept asking for an invitation into our bed.  "Come on, don't be stingy!  It's only polite to share the wealth!"

In West Hollywood in the 1980s, it was perfectly acceptable, even expected, for gay couples to occasionally bring in a third person.  And rejecting a close friend who expressed an interest was borderline rude.  But I always wanted monogamy.

My roommate Alan was more aggressive, openly trying to steal Raul away.  When flashing his smile and bulge didn't work, he arranged for us to star in a gay adult video, so he could have some scenes with Raul.

But that's not what caused our breakup.

2. Whenever we went: the bars, the Different Light Bookstore, even the Safeway Supermarket, guys would hit on Raul right in front of me.

He never understood how to Give Attitude, pretend not to see the men who are cruising you.  He would make eye contact, smile, joke, touch arms and shoulders as if he was interested, then say: "We were just playing around.  It didn't mean anything."

I stopped taking him to the bars.

But that's not what caused our breakup.

3. Although we had only been dating for two months, I wanted to bring Raul home to Rock Island for Christmas, to meet my friends and relatives and show him where I grew up. We could also visit Des Moines, so he could meet Thomas, the priest with three boyfriends, or maybe Chicago, the "city of big shoulders," to go sightseeing and hear the Gay Men's Chorus.

I planned out the whole trip.  Without telling Raul about it.

In mid December, 1986, we had dinner at the French Quarter, my favorite West Hollywood restaurant, and I gave him the two airplane tickets.

"To the Quad Cities, December 23rd to January 6th." he read, ominously slowly.  "You want me to stay with your padres for two whole weeks?  What if they don't like me?"

"I want them to meet you.  I met your parents."

"That was one dinner, two hours!"  His voice started to rise.  "I can't be all nice and smile, and pretend we're just friends, for two whole weeks!"

"I'm out to my parents, don't worry."

That didn't help.  "What we're going to do in Rock Island all that time? Look at the cornfields?"

Now I was starting to get angry.  "It's a major city. There's theater, live music, gay bars.  Besides, I grew up there. You should want to see where I grew up."

"You want to take me on a vacation, man, how about Cancun?  We lay on the beach, get some sun, look at the cute guys.  Or just talk to me before making a big decision!"

"I wanted to surprise you."

"Control me, you mean.  I'm your little Latino houseboy, got to do what you say.  Just like when we go to the Rage: 'Oh, don't talk to that guy.  Pay attention to me, me, me!'"

"That's not true, and you know it!"

After a few more things were said, Raul yelled "Don't call me anymore!" and stormed out of the restaurant.

 I ended up taking my friend Tom back to Rock Island for Christmas.

When I returned to L.A., my roommate Alan said that Raul stopped by with some things I left at his apartment.

And an envelop containing two plane tickets.  December 23rd, from LAX to Cancun.

Apparently he had been planning to surprise me.

The story of Raul continues here: My Celebrity Boyfriend.