II. THE FIRST TRIAL
It’s almost 6 PM and I'm wearing my school uniform in an overcrowded bus where I've been stuck in for twenty minutes. Rush hour in Bogotá is rather predictable. Gray, rainy skies paint the still highway cold, taillight reflections adorn the pavement cracks and road rage honking finds a way through my headphones.
I’m thankful for the stillness hysteria as it gives me time to elaborate what I’ll say. I want to be angry but shock value prevails. I recall my mother’s unexpected phone call, “Where are you? I came to your school to pay for your tuition and they don't know where you are. You said you'd be in school rehearsing for the play... WHERE are you?”
I look out the window, the sky is still obscure, raindrops fall and fly away, merging with the dust sitting in the heavily polluted windows. I realize the bus is now moving at a confident speed. It’s only a matter of minutes before getting to my stop. 
“I should be watching a movie with Nicholas and kissing him before the credits kicked in,” I think. But instead I’m sitting on a grimy metropolitan bus, constantly pulling out my phone, turning the screen on, and turning it back off as it goes back into my school uniform’s oversized pocket once again.
I suddenly feel ill. I'm thinking I should’ve just told her about my plans to see a movie with friends. She’d been supportive of my extroverted ways, after all.
Or - probably not. I’m 15 years old, it’s a school night, I’m doing horribly in math, physics, chemistry... fuck. Even I understand those could be valid arguments to keep a teenager home. 
While I exhaust what I’m about to say, a feeling of discomfort unknown to me takes over; I can’t decipher why being caught this time feels so mortal. I get myself back in the moment, only to notice a catholic pendant hanging from the bus driver's rear view mirror,  I’m now fixated on it as it swings violently in every direction.
I suddenly wish I paid more attention to understand my mother’s interpretation of catholicism. Her immense, sometimes asphyxiating love, is evident to me. Her morals are not.
Could she be selfless enough to understand I met with Nicholas, my first gay friend, to better understand myself? Would I have to lie every time I wanted to see my new friends as I grew older? I was tired of hanging out with people who couldn’t appreciate who Audrey Hepburn was or try to understand arthouse movies. Nicholas understood my teenage fascinations and my appreciations for foreign cultures beyond my own knowledge.
The bus stops abruptly, I’m here. Using my arm as an umbrella, I run towards the shopping mall's arch door. It’s only been a minute out yet I’m soaking wet and miserable already. 
With no excuses yet in mind, I rush myself towards the coffee shop we decided to meet at. As I approach her, I notice she’s distracted on her Facebook addiction. I admire her innocent beauty one last time before greeting her. 
“Where were you? What’s going on?” - she righteously asks as we look into each others worried eyes. I immediately realize I’m done with feeling guilt and carrying dead weight. I give her no time to ask more questions. 
“Mom, I have to be honest. I was with my friend Nicholas. He’s gay” -  my half-baked statement comes out. I await to respond to her follow-up question. But there is silence only.
“What are you saying? Are you gay? But you’ve had girlfriends before” -  She proposes in shock and disbelief. 
I'm paralyzed. I really want to say “no mom, I’m not gay. Or bi. Or straight. I’m just myself. The son you've always known, passionate about the arts and proudly sensible. Slightly annoyed at how everyone likes soccer except for me.”
I keep this revelation hidden in my thoughts. The idea of adopting a label for the rest of my life at 15 haunts me. As my brain processes a thousand possible scenarios at lightning speed, I can only conclude I don’t want to hurt her. 
She is silent, but her tender facial gestures demand for answers.  Time is running out.
“I’m bi……curious?” I slip effortlessly, lying under oath. ​​​​​​​
I know that will at least buy us some more time to figure things out...
You can follow my photography projects on Instagram at @lucid.strangers​​​ and be notified of any new stories by joining our newsletter here.