Before I go on, let me tell you about the gap. It’s this thing that happens to guys like me over time, sort of like the movement of tectonic plates. First, you’re like everyone. You crush on a girl when you’re in fourth grade and someone tells you that some day you’ll have a girlfriend. You believe it. At night, as you fall asleep in your twin bed, alternating between holding onto your pet truck and your budding penis, you even imagine her. Her silhouette. You and her, holding hands. Going steady. Sometimes she’s white, sometimes black, Latina, or Asian because in your diverse neighborhood all girls are beautiful in your eyes. But then everything changes. Your black father gets a promotion and you move to a different elementary school where you are mainly around white folks, which at first you don’t think about because your mother is white, but then one day something tilts. You wake up not knowing what you are and you can’t even wave at girls anymore, no matter their race.
That’s when the gap originates: a nearly invisible hairline crack right there in the new elementary school main hallway.
In seventh grade, the crack widens. Your friend, Jack, kisses Maddie Silver on the bus and says that she tastes like mint. In eighth grade, Tony Bertucci gets to second base and talks about fondling Amy Devallo’s left boob for five full seconds. You, by then, have done nothing but put your pet truck on the floor at night and dreamed of French-kissing a dark-eyed girl named Sophie. Just the thought of her little ivory tennis socks induces heart palpitations. But as she struts down the hallway in the middle of the day and tucks a wisp of hair behind her ear, while her friend, Sally, whispers that you have a crush on her, you hear Sophie say, “Ew. Not him. What is he anyway? Puerto Rican?” You halt. New fissures split. In your head the sound is like gunfire popping. Your heart is forever bruised. You drink water from the fountain, and then hide in the science room.
By high school, a chasm is born. White boys are getting blown. A few athletic brothers you know from your old neighborhood are getting some. Even the nerdy drone kids with Teledex DS-638 calculators are hooking up with other nerdy drone kids. You, on the other hand, have silently lusted after a few girls but the angst of not belonging any place has made you incapable of hanging out with anyone.
As you eat lunch outside on the lawn, alone, you see yourself grow old and die a virgin without a soul by your side. Needless to say, all that brings on an acute kind of anxiety. One you’d think would be worth mentioning to your parents but you don’t understand, then, what is happening inside of you, how a strange whirlpool of gook is sucking you down. You believe that all teens with a heritage like yours must feel this way. You don’t see the difference between lonesome and depressed. You just feel awful all the time. You say no to attending the New Mexico science fair to which you have been accepted because you have won a prize on your research of semi-precious stones. You are afraid to fly with a bunch of strangers in what you call a tin can. When your mom is out and about, you take a rough piece of jasper and slice the top of your biceps because that kind of pain is tangible.
Senior year, you are known as The Loner. Your mom still tells you that you are handsome. You never wear tank tops but when you look in the mirror behind locked doors, all you see is a skinny, tan guy with jagged scars, a blond fro, and the Grand Canyon—277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and 1 mile deep—forming at your feet with hundreds or maybe thousands of girls frolicking around on the other side of the bank. You only make out the general shape of them because by then, they are too far away to see.