My Worst Enemy Was Myself “Just stop talking to me! What is wrong with you?! I can’t stand you anymore, don’t you get it?! I HATE YOU!” My words were daggers to his already wounded spirit, and I knew that, yet I didn’t stop. I continued to bombard him with invectives until my throat was sore from overuse, and his expression was a painted picture that could only convey a single emotion: pain. It was all wrong, it wasn’t supposed to be like that; the stories and the fairy tales said so. The prince was supposed to fall in love with the princess and vice versa, but there it so happened to be a prince falling for another prince, and it didn’t make any sense. I hated him…because I liked him. The him being Cesar Cardozo, my best friend.
Fifth-grade was the year I met Cesar, the boy who would come to steer my life in a very confusing direction. The week before the beginning of that school year, a bunch of children, along with their parents, crowded around the main entrance of Centerville Elementary so they could see which classroom and teacher they were being assigned to. Excited chatter filled the warm, almost-autumn air, and the ambiance of the whole place was very lively as I waited eagerly to see which classroom I would get. When there was enough room for me to squeeze by, I wiggled my way through a few sweaty arms and ankles and was soon face-to-paper with the fifth-grade classroom’s student list. I scanned the laminated sheet of paper and found my ID number under Mrs. Horne’s portable 3 classroom. I smiled with content. The last thing left to do was to go and meet my teacher, and so I turned to call for my mother, but was cut short by my very close friend at the time, Natalie Delcid.
“Hey! What class do ya have?” she chirped.
“Ms. Horne, portable 3, and you?”
Her eyebrows knit together a scowl and her shoulders drooped, “Aw crap! I’ve got Mrs. Berryhill, portable 4,” she said. My heart sank. Natalie and I had been together in the same classroom for both third and fourth-grade, and we hadn’t expected to be separated. I had developed a huge crush on Natalie; her personality was extremely easy to get along with and was very compatible with mine, and not to mention that her hair seemed to have been pulled straight out of a Pantene commercial; it literally cascaded down her shoulders in a smooth, brown swirl of motion. She of course had no idea of my feelings, and I intended to keep it that way. I wonder if I had confessed my feelings earlier; would I be different today? I huffed, “That totally sucks! What are we going to do now?” She shrugged, wearing a sorrowful expression, and then she
sighed a we-are-too-young-to-do-anything sigh. She then plastered on a half-hearted smile, “Well, it’s just a classroom away! Anyway, we’ll definitely see each other at recess right?” I just nodded because I couldn’t manage any actual words. Her mom called her over and she waved goodbye to me, the whole crown started to clear out as they went all went to meet their teachers. I decided I should also get going. I made my way to my mother who was talking to some lady; both of them were standing next to one of the many multicolored benches that were scattered around the front of the school.
My mother clapped her hands together as I approached with dragging footsteps, “Oh! Here he is!” she sang happily, “Sweetie, meet my friend Alma! She used to babysit you, along with her son Cesar, when you were both little! That’s him, behind her. Say hi!” I pouted. “Say Hi,” she repeated. I mumbled a hello. That’s when he came into view; there was nothing fancy about him as far as I can remember. He was tall, lanky, and he was practically bald. I didn’t see anything special about him, as he looked like most other boys at the time. Bald Cesar; that was a Cesar without his long, jet-black hair, and that Cesar was what I now refer to as ‘Before Glory Cesar,’ because he lacked what made him glorious: his silky hair. I began being friends with him out of force, since our mothers practically shoved us in eachother’s direction, so yes; I was friends with ‘Before Glory Cesar.’ Not many people paid attention to him then, before his glory that is, so I was able to grow close to him and have him to myself for a time; I was able to get attached. Most of my friends back then were girls, I just naturally felt more comfortable around them because boys were just way too rough, and they made me nervous. However, I was ok with Cesar, surprisingly, and he ended up being one of the closest friends I’ve had to date. He was very kind and generous, and he seemed to be willing to do most anything if it would benefit me in some way. He had a very boyish touch to him, not so much as the other boys, but just enough to make him charming; he was more of an in-betweener. He was something I had never been exposed to. I liked him, of course I did, he was really nice and all, but I didn’t ever think about ‘how’ or ‘in what way’ I liked him, surely not in the way that I liked Natalie, no…of course not. Then came the time that Cesar’s hair started to grow, and grow, and boy did his appearance change. His hair was long and soft, and it swayed to the side whenever the wind blew. Seeing him like that made something inside me sort of click. I didn’t really understand; all I knew was that being around him then gave me a very confused feeling, with some confused thoughts on the side. I understand what it was now: Cesar’s hair made him look, shall we say, appealing. Understand that the concept of another boy being cute was not something my brain could comprehend at the time. That’s when he transformed, not in personality, no way, he was just as nice as he ever was, but his overall appearance and popularity transformed. That was the end of ‘Before Glory Cesar’ and the beginning of ‘Glorified Cesar’. The girls started taking interest in what I had started to consider mine, and my heart didn’t know where to go or what to do. If only Natalie was in my class.
Not only were girls talking to Cesar, but Cesar was also talking about girls, and since I had the grand luck of being his best friend; Cesar felt he could talk about them to me. The topic of girls never really touched Cesar and I, but when it finally decided to show its ugly face; I realized I preferred not going anywhere near the subject with him. Cesar finally brought up the big elementary, ‘who is your crush?’ topic one day when gym class was almost over.
“Yo,” he jogged up next to me all casual-like, “So- hey! How are you not sweating at all?!”
I smiled, “We-yull, I didn’t do crap, so there’s that.” If Cesar and I contrasted in anything, it was our athletic abilities, or rather, our enthusiasm for athletic abilities.
He chuckled lightheartedly, “You’re so lazy! Anyway, what do ya think, um…about the girls in here? Like, well, we never really talk about that kinda stuff, and uh, I think best friends oughta’ do that,” he nudged me.
“What do you mean?”
“Y’now…like…our crushes?” I stared at him as if insulted. My stomach churned and I had that sick, icky feeling people get after they take a big whiff of grape flavored medicine. Our crushes? That seemed impossible in the perfect little world I had in my head where Cesar was mine and mine only. The possibility of Cesar having a crush didn’t even exist in my mind; frankly, I hadn’t even considered the thought of him actually liking somebody.
I twiddled my thumbs and mumbled, “I uh, don’t really like anyone.”
“What, really? C’mon you don’t like anyone?”
“Uhh, no?” He turned away as if thinking carefully. His cheeks were a rosy shade of pink and his chest puffed in and out at a steady pace with his intake of Oxygen. I remember
staring; after gym class, Cesar looked more boyish than usual, and for some reason I always found myself staring. He brushed the hair out of his light- brown eyes and sighed.
“Fine,” turning to me he whispered, “I’ll tell you my crush first so you won’t be embarrassed, cool?”
“It’s Brianna. Berryhill’s class,” he turned away with even redder cheeks. He said it first even though he was embarrassed just so I wouldn’t be embarrassed when I said my crush; how sweet! “Now you tell me yours!” I stared blankly. That’s right! I totally forgot about Natalie! I didn’t speak to her at all after that day I met Cesar. When did she become replaced?
Before I could even process the situation; the words flew out of my mouth, “Natalie. Same class as yours.” I tried to convince myself I still liked Natalie, and just as much as I did before, but for some reason all I could think about was the fact that Cesar liked Brianna, and how depressing it was.
Cesar patted my back and grinned wide, “Awesome! We really did pick some pretty ones!” I remember pondering over how pretty Natalie was, and how I still thought she was rather appealing, but how something wasn’t the same. Over the next few days I thought of all the other girls I had liked, and how pretty they had been, but it was the same thing. Something was off, and I realized; I no longer liked these girls. I couldn’t figure out why; they were the same as always, so what had changed? Had I even liked them in the first place? No, of course not, I just thought I did. All the while, Cesar and I grew even closer; trusting each other enough to talk about ‘our’ crushes. He told me everything he liked about Brianna, and I listened with a plastic smile. Every word he mentioned of her ripped my ears to shreds and puzzled me even more. Why did the mere thought of him liking her fill my mouth with the foulest taste of rotten fish? The names Cesar, Brianna, and Natalie consumed me that year, and all those names in my head at once gave me an immense headache. People with headaches tend to become angry.
Even though my feelings might seem clear-as-day to anyone reading this, to me, everything was a blur, and I didn’t really get the big picture until I received a certain gift from
Cesar on a certain warm day, just before recess. There were a few weeks left until school was over and obviously everyone and their mother was excited for the blissful heat summer would bring. This was of course before summer became completely unbearable, and sitting outside was the equivalent to being baked in a pre-heated oven. Every kid in elementary was a bubble of excitement, while I was a bubble of what-is-going-on-with-my-life. My class was stampeding out to the playground when Cesar tugged on my shirt and beamed at me.
“Hey! I have a surprise for you!” he whispered happily. He held out a napkin and offered it to me; much like an owner offers a dog a new toy.
“What is that?”
“It’s Natalie’s pencil! I went into Berryhill’s class to tell the teacher it was time for recess and I saw Natalie drop this! She has like 3,000 more, so it’s no biggie.”
“You stole Natalie’s pencil?”
“Like I said, It’s no biggie! See, I even wrapped it with a napkin so only her touch would be on it. Here,” he placed it in my sweaty palm and smiled brightly. The whole idea of swiping my crush’s pencil was a bit creepy, but the gesture itself was kind of sweet. He got it for me because he thought it would make me happy, and it did, but not because it was Natalie’s pencil. I was happy because he cared enough to do something as ridiculous as steal a pencil.
“Gee, thanks. I’ve always wanted this pencil. I dreamed of it really.”
“Oh shut up and say thank you.”
I laughed, “Thank you.”
“Oh thanks was totally not necessary! Just glad ya like it,” he said somewhat sarcastically. I held the pencil close as he patted my back and ran along to play whatever sport it is he played. As I examined the violet, polka dotted pencil in my hand,; it finally hit me. The thought raced its way into my head and rand throughout my ears: I like Cesar Cardozo. I turned and stared at him across the playground in sheer horror. He was laughing cheerfully as he kicked a ball around with some other kids. My heart was vibrating inside my chest, and had my friends not beckoned me over to the swings in that moment, I might have burst into flame. If my feelings were chaos before that moment, then they were a complete zombie apocalypse afterwards. The end of the year approached quickly, and every day I would go over my situation with thoughts like ‘I’m not normal”, and “This isn’t right.” Soon the thoughts progressed to “I can’t be this way,” and, “what can I do to fix myself?” Finally, the one conclusion my fifth-grade mind could reach was, “This is all his fault.” I had convinced myself that Cesar was to blame, when in all reality he had done nothing. When sixth-grade rolled around; the one thing I felt I knew for certain was that I despised with every atom of my being. I hated his very presence, and name, and the fact that he was around to breathe air. If looks could kill, my eyes would have ripped Cesar’s limbs apart and bludgeoned him with them. Yet, deep down inside, I knew I still liked him, and I hated even myself for that, because I refused to believe that I could be a ‘freak’ that would like another of the same gender. Sixth-grade year was the beginning of a different person. I become something else, and to this day I can’t believe I was capable of such cruelty. I bet Cesar couldn’t believe it either.
The amount of tolerance and determination Cesar displayed in sixth-grade was appalling. It was definitely appropriate of a student attending the highly esteemed ‘Brandenburg Middle School’ to have such a strong character. The second I started treating Cesar like a piece of worthless garbage; he didn’t turn his back one, and it might have been easier if he had, but he didn’t. He stuck by me every day with an ‘I want my best friend back’ mindset. That mindset annoyed the hell out of me, and every question he asked that pertained to fifth-grade year pissed me off to no end.
“Dude, what happened to you?”
“I grew up, you should try it.”
“Did I do something to make you mad?”
“Yeah, you started breathing.”
“Please, can you jus-“
“Ok, are you going to shut up? Your voice literally kills my will to live.”
Most conversations veered in that direction, along with various ‘naughty’ language that I’m not allowed to write. I had Cesar for gym and theatre class, which didn’t help, especially gym since it had locker rooms. Locker Rooms. There, I had the option to see Cesar shirtless and sweaty, along with various other young boys, but I mostly chose to take interest in the bright red locker in front of me. Anyone would think that I was infatuated with that locker by the way I stared so intently at it. Brandenburg was a battle field between Cesar and I, and neither of us seemed to be winning the war. One day Cesar sat across me in Theater class, only to get the point across to me that he wasn’t giving up on me. I tried kicking him in the shins to get him to leave, but he sat there the whole time, taking every kick with a pained expression. I wasn’t kicking soft either; I wasn’t restraining myself in the slightest. I kicked him with everything I had in me, if only to release a bit of the hatred I had. Even with bright, purple bruises adorning his legs; Cesar lived by the words ‘I’m not giving up on you.’ He simply would not leave me alone, and the fact that part of me was happy because of that made me angry. Sometimes I would slip up and give him a smile, which would have him in cheerful spirits for the rest of the day, while I was in super-extra-pissy spirits because of it. Happiness can spread and last a little while, but Anger can go viral and stick like glue. That’s how most of sixth grade was; some people would share their cheer with me and I’d be happy for a while, but seeing Cesar would just reawaken the anger inside of me and it would last for hours. I was a mess. That year, I bit my nails, and peeled the skin off my lips, and pulled my hair out. That year, I spit out insults, and gave nasty looks, and hated those who cared for me. That year, I denied everything I was, and pretended I was something else, and was miserable. If an artist were to paint a picture of my inner self at that time; he would just have to destroy his canvas, tear it to pieces, and splatter different colored paints all over the remains. That’s what I was: A complete mess. I harassed Cesar to the best of my ability, and rejoiced in his sad looks until I decided to leave him in the dust and change schools. I went to O’banion for my seventh and eighth-grade years to try and black out the past two years. The weight on my shoulders was slightly lifted there, and I was able to relax a little more, but I still didn’t like myself. My life went at a steady pace, and I put on a joyful front, pretending not to notice certain guys that passed me by in the crowded halls. Then, I entered high school and learned something special.
Entering the doors of South Garland High was definitely a step in the right direction, because there I would reunite with someone who would open my eyes to something very important. Now, I’m not sure if this person would like me to put them out there, so I’ll just label them as ‘Bi-Fi’. I met Bi-Fi back in O’banion in my eight-grade year, and she was the most likeable person in the history of ever. We could talk about any subject, and seemed to really work off each other when it came to conversations. Bi-Fi was responsible and I think anyone could look up to her and bask in her glory, truly! At South Garland, the Gods of Inner Peace smiled upon me and conveniently placed Bi-Fi in my third period for both A’s and B days. With all our time together; Bi-Fi was able to use her ultra-sensitive radars to pick up on my feelings for the male gender. And so, lunch with her sometimes turned into counseling sessions in a crowded cafeteria that, on most days, smelled like under-cooked hamburger patties. She tried to get me to accept my sexuality, and I would not have any of it, after all, I was somewhat traumatized by the image of ‘Glorified Cesar.’ Then one day Bi-Fi herself told me she was bisexual, and that somehow opened my eyes quite a bit. I thought of Bi-Fi as normal, as human, as an overall likable person, and the fact that she of all people could possibly like the same gender told me something; it was acceptable. She was okay, and so was I. I was introduced to more ‘different’ people than I had ever been before, and they were all just fine, if anything they were all special. That in turn meant that I was special, which now seems completely obvious I mean c’mon I’m awesome. Suddenly, my sexual orientation was no longer a flaw; it was something that made me who I was, and I decided I was okay with that. Then the whole world, everything, was lifted off my shoulders and I sighed with more relief than ever. Life was nice and dandy, sweet-as-candy, and I was myself. There is still, and probably always will be, a twinge of guilt inside of me about how horribly I treated Cesar. I can’t really imagine what it’s like to have someone so close to you suddenly turn into a spawn of Satan. I walked away with a valuable lesson, but what did Cesar walk away with? Bruises, both emotional and physical. There is only one thing that I regret about discovering my sexual preference, and that is that I had to hurt a very dear friend of mine because I could not sort my emotions out and keep them in order. I carry my mistakes around with me everyday, literally. The backpack I carry to school today is the very same backpack I used back in fifth-grade, and it reminds me of Cesar to no end. I even see some of the people that were in my class back in fifth-grade that knew Cesar as well, and Cesar’s crush even attends two of my classes. I hold this experience close and let it remind me not to doubt myself, and accept who I am, because life is so much sweeter with acceptance. One must be happy with themselves, and not be ashamed of what is truly inside of them. Denying myself caused me to become bitter and angry, and hurt those who cared about me. The worst enemy anyone can ever possibly have is themselves, and so I will never in my life be my own enemy again. I love what I am, and always will.