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Regner Ramos

@dining room table, a high floor, apartment, San Juan, Puerto Rico

I was somewhere between six and eight years old (back in the early 90s), when I, right  next to the fence that outlined my elementary's school square (or was it a yard), reached over and affectionately pinched Michael's cheeks.

–"You're so cute!"

–"Regner. No," one of my teachers said in a tone that I perceived to be more out of concern than judgment, "you can't say that to other boys."

I must have already known it wasn't acceptable to say those kinds of things, which is why I  tried to conceal my crush on Michael—who, to be fair, was one of the cutest boys in my class—in patronization: I'd learned it was okay for adult men to say that to little boys, so I thought I'd follow suit. It didn't work.