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Regner Ramos

@desk, office #247, second floor, UPR School of Architecture, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The green square at Carib Christian School in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico wasn't all green. There weren't even any trees there. The school's entire site was made up of a mix between rock slabs, patches of grass and red, powdery dust that looked like something you'd find on the surface of Mars. With hundreds of micro feet stomping every day during recess making it impossible for grass to grow, the common areas for us to play (green square included) left us covered in red—a nightmare for our parents to clean off of our gray (for boys) and pink (for girls) uniforms. While some kids' uniforms were dirty from sliding into home, from falling from the monkey bars or from tripping at a race, my knees were dusty red from all the kneeling that went on at the square's frequent games of marbles. 

The green square wasn't actually square. It was rectangular, with its longer sides facing west and east, and its shorter sides facing north and south. Its perimeter was delimited by a wooden fence painted maroon, to match our uniform's pants/trousers/pantalones. A sidewalk bordered the square on the outside of the fence. Its north side faced one of the classroom buildings, west faced the teacher's lounge (formerly the Pre-kinder classrooms), south faced the school's Baptist chapel and the administration offices, while east faced the pickup area's roundabout. 

That square was one of my earliest encounters with the complex dynamics of public spaces, and it's the site where I was first made aware that my queerness needed to be hidden. The square—embedded with the heternormative coding of most Christian locales—was the hierarchical space of the school, one of the most openly visible spaces and—with the roundabout, the restrooms and water fountains adjacent—one of its most highly transited, controlled and policed spaces. Looking back, the irony of being told to hide who I was at that particular site isn't lost on me. At the time though, it added immense pressure that would partially define my early years of boyhood, particularly since even God was there on the south side scrutinizing my every move. And I'm sure even He heard what I said to Michael.