WHEN JOHN DAVID GUTIERREZ told me he met the love of his life, I thought he was on drugs since he hated almost everyone on the rez. We were juniors at Red Cloud High School and one day during lunch, I caught him staring at the new kid, Ignacio Puente. Ignacio’s parents were missionaries from a Pentecostal Church in California, but they liked Pine Ridge so much that they ended up staying for good.
“Are you all right?” I asked John David. He didn’t answer me, but I heard him whisper “Please be gay,” over and over. He always made fun of me for saying “Please be single” whenever I saw a cute girl.
As the days went by, we saw Ignacio a lot – at school, Big Bat’s Convenience Store, Sioux Nation Supermarket, or in the street. Then Ignacio tried out for the Crusaders, the Red Cloud High School football team, and made it. He was the nose guard, I was the quarterback, and John David was the towel manager. Whenever Ignacio changed clothes in the middle of the locker room, John David looked at me and winked.
“I can’t hold it in anymore,” John David said after the last game of the season, so he walked over to a bare chested Ignacio in the locker room and popped the gay question. I closed my eyes, thinking Ignacio would punch John David in the face, but he laughed and said he’d answer the question later.
“Dammit Nimo, does everyone around here have to be straight?” John David said during our drive to Big Bat’s for dinner after the game.
“You’re not,” I said.
“Real original, Nimo,” he sighed. “I’m the only gay person on this whole rez.” He reached into his backpack for his comb and he saw a note sticking out of his binder.
Yes. And I think you’re really cute, the note said. John David told me to stop the car, so I pulled over. He got out of my car and did somersaults along the road.
John David wanted to go to Jimmy’s over in Sioux Plains, his favorite restaurant, for his 24th birthday. While we waited for a table, John David hugged Ignacio and gave him a kiss, despite the stares he got from the other customers. The waitress came and said our table was ready, so we all went to the very back, away from everyone else.
“Happy Birthday honey,” Ignacio told John David, which made him blush. John David is a 200 pound bodybuilder but any pet name from Ignacio softens him.
After dinner, we planned to see a movie at the Showtime Center. Ignacio drove slower than usual and took a wrong turn twice. Then, Ignacio pulled over to a gas station to use the bathroom for a good fifteen minutes.
“That idiot knows where Showtime is, why the hell are we going on a tour of Sioux Plains?” John David said as we waited for Ignacio in the truck.
“Why aren’t you driving? This is your truck.”
“Because,” he said. “Because, I have no idea.”
John David was sitting in the driver’s seat when Ignacio came back. Ignacio offered to drive, but John David told him he wanted to see a movie before the world ended. We went down East 11th Street and made a left onto Little Bighorn Drive, right in front of Showtime Center. We walked to the box office to buy our tickets and then John David collapsed on the ground.
“Well?” Ignacio said. I looked up at the theater’s marquee sign: JOHN DAVID GUTIERREZ, WILL YOU MARRY ME?
“You idiot, why were you stalling me?” John David shouted.
“I had to, the theater said they wouldn’t have the sign ready until 8,” Ignacio said. I’d say about 300 people stared at the marquee sign in total confusion with me. John David always said he’d get married when it didn’t snow in South Dakota. Ignacio got on one knee and proposed to John David. Half of the crowd cheered and the other half pretended it wasn’t happening.
“Yes,” John David sniffled as he hugged Ignacio. “Hell yes.”
“Geez Nimo, we’re only gonna be gone for five days,” John David said as he put my suitcase into his truck. “What did you put in here? An anvil?”
“No, just a ton of books,” I said and slid into the passenger seat. John David and Ignacio picked New York City for their wedding because it was legal and Mr. Gutierrez, John David’s dad, lived there. They had been engaged for the last two years and saved every penny for their big day. My parents would be leaving for New York City three days later with John David’s mom, Miss Running Bear. Ignacio’s parents were still undecided.
“You think the Puentes will show up?” I asked John David as we pulled up to the Rapid City Regional Airport.
“When those people die, I’m gonna be doing somersaults the whole day,” he said. Just before we started school at Sitting Bull College, Ignacio disappeared from Pine Ridge. After a month, I found out Ignacio’s parents shipped him to college in California. When I broke the news to John David, he collapsed and cried for hours. Ignacio came back to the rez after he graduated, but John David refused to talk to the Puentes again.
“What took you so long, honey?” Ignacio asked John David when we met up at the terminal. “I’ve been here for an hour.”
“Nimo packed a barbell in his suitcase and I threw my back out trying to put it in the truck,” John David said. He sat down next to Ignacio and gave him a kiss on his cheek. An old man walking by gave them a sneer, but they didn’t notice.
“I’m so glad you and your parents are coming, Nimo,” Ignacio said to me. “The wedding would be empty without you and your family.”
“It’d be empty without us,” John David said. “We’re the ones getting married.”
We landed in New York City at 8am. John David’s dad was waiting for us in his old Buick, but he didn’t look too happy. I hadn’t seen Mr. Gutierrez in over seven years and all he said to me was ‘hey.’
“Something wrong, Dad?” John David said as Mr. Gutierrez drove us to his brownstone house in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn through thick rain.
“We might be getting a real bad hurricane this week,” Mr. Gutierrez said.
I took a nap as soon as I got to Mr. Gutierrez’s house. When I woke up, John David and Ignacio were in the kitchen, making sandwiches for lunch. They asked me if I wanted to head over to Coney Island later and I said sure. It was my first time in New York City, so I wanted to have a decent experience.
“So what do you think of my childhood home, Nimo?” John David asked me as he handed me a turkey sandwich.
“It’s not bad,” I said. “Are you thinking about moving back here?”
“No, Nimo, I love Pine Ridge,” he said. “If my parents were still together, I’d still be living here. Brooklyn is huge, but it’s also lonely.”
“If your parents hadn’t split up and my parents weren’t missionaries, we would’ve never met,” Ignacio said and rubbed his cheek against John David’s nose.
Our plan for Coney Island was cut short since the rain grew heavier. We stayed inside, waiting for Mr. Gutierrez to get off work. I was reading one of the books I brought and listening to rain slam on the glass. My ina called me as I finished a chapter.
“Is everything okay, son? The news says a hurricane’s gonna hit New York.”
“It’s fine, just raining a lot,” I said. “It doesn’t look too bad.”
“Flights might be canceled if it gets worse. Oh, I knew me and Ate should’ve gone with you. Do you have enough clean underwear?”
“Cool it, Josie, he’s 25,” I heard Ate say in the background. I assured my parents I’d be all right, but they didn’t sound convinced. Since I’m their only child, they worry about me. I should have a younger sister, but Ina had a miscarriage when I was an infant. Ate said after that happened, they watched me even closer than before.
“Nimo,” Ignacio said from the living room. “That hurricane is gonna hit after all. It should come by tomorrow.”
“This sucks,” John David said. “Mother Earth is a bitch.”
“My parents think we caused the hurricane because we’re getting married,” Ignacio said. All of us laughed so much that our foreheads heated up.
“You tell them I take that as a compliment,” John David said. “Our love is so strong, we caused a natural disaster.”
Since I was born and raised on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, I had no idea what a hurricane was until it hit. So when the power went out and the trees fell down and the streets looked like canals, I reached my arms up and said, “Creator, go easy on me. I’ve been a good boy, right?”
“Contain yourself, Nimo,” John David said. “The hurricane won’t get you.”
“How do you know?” I said.
“Because you’re not a gay guy getting married,” he winked.
Ignacio was playing with flashlights in the guest bedroom. I used to play with flashlights as a kid, but that was because my parents hadn’t paid the light bill.
“Maybe this is a sign,” Ignacio said. “Maybe it’s not right for us to get married.”
“Do you love John David?” I asked.
“Of course I do,” he said. “There’s no one else I wanna spend my life with.”
“Then marry him,” I said. “And I spent 400 bucks on a ticket to get here and now I’m in the middle of a damn hurricane, so if you don’t marry him, I will.” Ignacio laughed and dropped his flashlight on the floor.
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