How I’ve Loved Him

Sometimes our bodies didn’t know what to do with each other
-this is how it started:
my hand reaching for yours;
your entire body flinching
because they saw us.
Torn between loving each other
and thinking that we could die.
Believe me,
my heart also stopped beating
until I felt your fingers
bending inward,
lacing through mine.
Sometimes your fingers feel like oxygen
entering every single one of my cells
all at once.

I said, “I don’t know how to do this
… but we can figure it out.”
The way we figured it out that first time I kissed your knuckles;
our bodies understood something
our minds had never felt permission to give in to.
The way our bodies found each other’s mouths.
I’ve lost count of the times you’ve breathed me in.
I swear, there must be pieces of me lodged inside your lungs.

You loved me
before I even had a language for how to love myself;
lost in my own misplaced accent marks;
my process of learning how to say my own name
without smearing my lipstick,
without losing the taste of you
from the tip of my tongue.
We learned ourselves as we learned each other.
Every time our bodies met
I never knew who would do what
or where
I only knew I would be safe there.

Our bodies had to learn how not to let go
-to keep the warmth of clenched palms
on the sidewalks
where they greeted us with fists.
How we turned a pile of sheets and pillows into a bed
that bed into the nest
that became our home
every place we went together
every sleeping bag
every church floor
every gym
every air mattress.
My home became the nape of your neck
The space behind your kneecap that that I curl myself into
Ribcages pressed so tightly,
I couldn’t tell which heartbeat was mine
Which one yours.

I haven’t always known what I was doing
Sometimes I still don’t
But I find the answer to every question
in that scent when our chests touch
the way your kisses feel against my shoulder blades
the ways we break the silence
at the same time
falling into each other
I could cry, or laugh, or gasp for breath
Instead, I cling to you
Knowing that through the jumble of motions
we’ll find each other;
Relearn the meaning of love
The meaning of being
here
still
alive
still
and absolutely
breathlessly
in love with you,
whether or not
they ever understand it.

Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez is a Doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Isabel conducts qualitative and ethnographic research on the identity struggles of undocumented youth in their transition to adulthood and of the impacts of legal status on mothering strategies. Isabel's research is rooted in their own experience as a formerly undocumented immigrant that fled Colombia seeking, and being denied, political asylum in the U.S. They are gender non-conforming, national recipient of the Freedom From Fear Award and currently serves on the national selection committee for the DREAM.US Undocumented Youth Scholarship Fund.

Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez is a Doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Isabel conducts qualitative and ethnographic research on the identity struggles of undocumented youth in their transition to adulthood and of the impacts of legal status on mothering strategies. Isabel’s research is rooted in their own experience as a formerly undocumented immigrant that fled Colombia seeking, and being denied, political asylum in the U.S. They are gender non-conforming, national recipient of the Freedom From Fear Award and currently serves on the national selection committee for the DREAM.US Undocumented Youth Scholarship Fund.

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