Darlene P. Campos is an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Creative Writing Program. In 2013, she won the Glass Mountain...read more magazine contest for prose and was awarded the Sylvan N. Karchmer Fiction Prize. Her work appears in Prism Review, Cleaver, Gravel, Bartleby Snopes, Elohi Gadugi, The Writing Disorder, Connotation Press, Word Riot, Plain China, and many others. She is from Guayaquil, Ecuador, but has lived in Houston all her life.
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.
The downside about a hurricane is the flooding. All the streets were rivers and there was no way to use the subways either. But the worst part was the wedding venue. John David played in the Great Lawn at Central Park when he was a little kid, before he moved to Pine Ridge. So, Ignacio booked the same area of the Great Lawn John David played in, but the whole place was in shambles. It was more like the Great Swamp.
“What is the damn problem?” John David said to me as we watched weather reports on TV. “I’m just trying to get married and the Creator is destroying the world.”
“It’ll be fine soon,” I said, but I wasn’t even sure. The wedding had been postponed indefinitely and my parents were still in Pine Ridge until travel conditions weren’t apocalyptic.
“Nimo’s right, honey,” Ignacio said and hugged John David. “Hurricanes happen every year. Don’t dwell on it too much.”
“Okay,” John David sighed. “I waited two years to see you again, I guess I can wait a couple more days to call you my husband.”
Mr. Gutierrez was off from work. He owns a Costa Rican deli called Tico’s in Bensonhurst. He closed Tico’s until the coast was clear. He was going to be catering at the wedding, even though he was having trouble accepting it. Mr. Gutierrez has two sons from his first marriage, but he’s very close to John David. He freaked when John David came out and swore it was only a phase up until the engagement to Ignacio happened.
“How’s the deli doing, Dad?” John David asked during our fancy dinner of cold sandwiches for the fifth day in a row.
“No power,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “No hot water. Spoiled food. But, no matter what happens, you’re gonna get plates of casado at your wedding.” Casado is Spanish for married. It’s a dish with rice, beans, and a kind of meat, way better than a cold sandwich.
“You mean it?” John David asked.
“Oh yeah,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “When I met your mom, she had never eaten Costa Rican food before, being Sioux and all. So I made her a plate of casado on our first date and then again on our wedding night.”
The hurricane was officially gone, but damage was everywhere. The Great Lawn changed to the Great Swamp from Hell. Ina and Ate finally arrived with Miss Running Bear to Mr. Gutierrez’s house. Now the wedding was set for November 10th, ‘Normal Day or Armageddon,’ according to John David.
“Are your parents coming?” I asked Ignacio the night before the wedding. We were sitting on the porch, people watching.
“They haven’t answered my calls,” he said. “Getting married is a pain in the ass.”
“They’ll get over it,” I said. “They can’t ditch you forever.”
“Nimo, when they found out about me and JD, they said it was unnatural,” Ignacio said. “We were only kissing in my room and then they walked in and called us disgusting, freaks, and unnatural. But I love JD. Nothing this strong can be unnatural.”
In the morning, my parents and me were struggling to get our clothes right. No matter how many times I fixed my ponytail, I still looked like a bum. Ate went ahead and styled my ponytail in the same way he does his, but it turned out crooked.
“The hell with it, you’re not even going to a straight wedding,” he said.
“Jay Eagle, you still haven’t put on your good shoes,” Ina said from the bathroom.
“This wedding’s part Lakota, Josie, I’m going in my moccasins,” he said. His ‘moccasins’ are actually knock off Adidas slippers.
“Nimo, you look so handsome,” Ina said when she saw me. She pinched my cheeks and adjusted my tie. “I can’t wait to go to your wedding someday.”
“Ina,” I whined. “I told you I don’t wanna get married.”
“Who is this pretty lady here?” Ate said to Ina. He gave Ina a long kiss on her forehead and I caught her blushing. They made their 27th anniversary the previous June.
The Great Lawn was still a wreck. Trees were toppled over, leaves were piled up, and benches were crushed. The minister was at Turtle Pond, standing under the altar by the brown water. I sat down with my parents on a tangled bench. Mr. Gutierrez and Miss Running Bear were in lawn chairs, chatting.
“This place looks like absolute crap,” John David said as he walked to the altar with Ignacio, hand in hand. “Why do I have to get married at a dump?”
“It’s not so bad,” Ignacio said. “It looks better now that you’re here.”
The minister started the ceremony off by introducing Ignacio and John David to me, my parents, and John David’s parents, as if we didn’t know them. People in the park who were walking by eavesdropped and while some of them looked uneasy, I saw a pretty girl’s face light up. She looked younger than me, maybe late teens or early 20s. Please be single, please be single, please be single.
“Ignacio Antonio Puente and John David Gutierrez met at Red Cloud High School in 2004,” the minister went on.
“They know who we are, it’s 20 degrees, that tree over there is about to fall over, and the pond stinks, marry us already,” John David said to the minister.
“Certainly,” the minister nodded. “You and Ignacio may exchange your vows.”
Since he was freezing to death, John David said the fastest wedding vows I’ve ever heard. I missed what he said, but I was sure they were good because Ignacio looked satisfied. My cell phone rang as Ignacio started his vows.
“Sorry guys,” I said and walked away. It was Mr. Puente, asking if the wedding was on. When I said yes, he yelled at light speed, so I hung up and went back to my seat.
“Keep going, it was just a telemarketer,” I said to Ignacio.
“Thanks Nimo,” he said. “Anyway, JD, I never told you this but I knew I was leaving for California and I didn’t want to tell you. I figured you’d take it better if you didn’t know. But during the time you didn’t hear from me, I thought about you everyday. And even now, whenever you’re not around, I think about you. My parents tried to rip us apart many, many times, but I want to be with you for good. I love you, John David.”
“I love you too, Ignacio,” John David said and hugged him.
“Jay Eagle, it’s amazing,” Ina sniffled and wiped her tears on Ate’s shoulder.
“Yeah, it is,” Ate agreed and put his arm around Ina. “When we get to 30 years, we’ll renew our vows again. I love you, sweetie.”
I looked to my side and saw that the pretty girl was still there, peering over. Then Ignacio got the rings out for them to say their I do’s. They kissed at last and were officially husband and husband. Please be single, please be single, please be single.
“I’m married now!” he said and showed me his ring. It had Ignacio’s full name engraved on it and Ignacio’s ring had John David’s full name. They said we should go celebrate and I told them I was in. As I got up from my seat, I made eye contact with the pretty girl, who was now a little closer to us. She stared at me closely and she mouthed, “It was so beautiful.”