In the summer of 1999, when I was 27, I was visiting a friend in Mexicali, Mexico. One day while I was there, he suggested we go to Sanborn's Restaurant and store, known as a popular cruising spot for gay and married men looking to have sex. I'd just gotten out of a relationship and was horny, so I said "Why not?". When we arrived, we began looking at the store's selection of magazines, CDs, and DVDs. But then, my friend disappeared upstairs to the restrooms to look for some action.
I decided to go outside where I noticed a handsome man walking into the store. He was about 6’1, thin, with combed-back black hair, and seemed about ten years older. I followed him inside to see if he was heading upstairs, but he merely bought a magazine and left. A short while I later, I saw him in his car in the parking lot and walked by him. He looked at me but gave no clear sign of interest. I decided to be bold, walked right up to him, and said hello.
He invited me to sit with him and we talked about music, movies, our lives, etc. His name was Gabriel. He told me he was married to a woman, and I told him I was gay. Before I knew what was happening, we were kissing and fooling around. When we were done, I suggested we meet up again, thinking inwardly that was not going to happen. But he said okay and two days later we met up.
From then on, we met every day, either at Sanborn’s or in the parking lot where he worked. We sat in his car and listen to music and, whenever possible, we messed around.
Gabriel told me his wife was studying in another city and he was only able to see her once a month until she finished her program. They had three kids, a girl and two boys. The girl was the oldest at 13, one boy was 12, and the other was 9. The kids stayed with his sister while his wife was away because of his working hours.
Our connection grew stronger every time we met. We took trips to San Diego to go dancing, since he wasn't comfortable going into gay clubs in Mexicali where he might have been recognized. He told me he loved me, and I said the same to him. I did love him with all my heart. By the end of the summer, his wife had finished her studies and returned to Mexicali. Naturally, that made it harder for us to have time together.
I ended up moving to Mexicali into a little house only three blocks from where he and his wife lived, so that it would be easier for us to see each other. We often went to my place after he got off work and hung out there. On weekends, he told his wife he was with friends, but spent time with me. We went to basketball games, movies, shopping, and meals together. He was also an artist and painted many pictures for me which I still possess.
After nine months, I had to move back home to the San Diego area, because my father and sister were both ill and needed my help. This relocation made our relationship a little tougher to maintain, since we couldn't see each other as often.
By the third year of our relationship, he told me he wanted to leave his wife for me. I was not prepared for this. I never contemplated he'd make such a sacrifice. In response, I told him if he wanted to leave his wife, it had to be because he was tired of living a double life and not just for me.
Gabriel was a bit taken back by my response. After several days of contemplation, he changed his mind and decided to stay with his wife. We continued to see each other, but our meetings grew less and less frequent as his kids had reached the age where they needed their father's attention and guidance.
So, I ended our relationship, not because I didn’t love Gabriel, but because I knew he would have little time for me. We remained friends, mostly just talking on the phone and having an occasional meal when I was in Mexicali. Even now, we still talk and share the same connection we had when we first met 22 years ago.