My memoir, the struggle with coming out in a Latino Culture ruled by machismo, religion, and close family ties and then confronting AIDS. Floricanto Press 2003.
Nominated for a Stonewall Award by the American Library Association GLBT Round Table. Nominated for a Publishing Triangle Award Now available in paperback.
This book is mislabeled: Borrowing Time is billed as a Latino sexual odyssey, but it is not. Instead, it is a wonderful story of love and compassion, growth and resolution, mourning and acceptance, and about family - the one you were born in, and the one you make. Carlos T. Mock has written an engaging book about growing up gay in Puerto Rico, and how it affected the life of the protagonist, Juan Subirá-Rexach. Yet, it is a story of a gay "everyman." Anyone self-aware of themselves and their sexuality at an early age has faced many of the same dilemmas, and made choices - some of which were good, some not so much, as Juan describes.
The tone of the book is the studied reflection of a man facing his maker and his making. It begins with a vivid description of a hospital horror. Not the kind of scene involving dismemberments and gore, but the mind-numbing, full-of-excruciating-pain type that seems to be without surcease, a purgatory of pain that does not allow any escape. In that kind of agony, the only resort is inward, to the steps that led to the torture that results from a failing body due to AIDS. Mock's description captures this hopelessness when Juan states that he is defenseless: "not life nor faith, nor any of the structures that surround me, nothing...nothing more than fear. What experiences are left? Death, nothing else."
But do not get the wrong impression. This is not some morbid book about death and dying; it's not the main storyline. Borrowing Time has delightful anecdotes about the first baby steps taken in self-recognition of being "different" from other kids and how this occurred on the Enchanted Isle. Macho in Puerto Rico is not just a mannerism; it is a way of life that is very different from Ozzie and Harriett. Being outside of that machismo mandate is both revealing and staggering to Juan, who knows internally it is okay to be feeling "those" feelings, but sees a very different reaction from those around him - especially his father. Mock addresses this problem with strength and self-worth; it is a joy to behold.
The story also delves into unconditional love, and observations from the lofty angle of painful remorse. Juan is able to see things through the focused lens of time, and thereby finds nuggets of truth: "For the first time in my life I learned the silence that is required to really talk to a loved one.” That "walls are either to protect what is inside, or to hide the fact there is nothing there." Or, that "love is like a clear stream; you don't know it's there till there's an impediment." And a favorite, "a relationship is judged on how well you travel together." Each of these observations comes from a life well lived and the recognition that the gifts and treasures given without end are "borrowed."
Most of the book is in leitmotif, and is an easy, fun read. For anyone who has had time to reflect on and assess where they have been and where they are going, and recognize the bullion of joy to be found, this is a must read.
Bob Hoff is an attorney practicing in Washington, D.C., living in Rehoboth Beach, Del., but reading in Condado Beach, Puerto Rico.
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