“I’ve got nothing against it, of course,” Rogelio insisted to Julia as he gave her a ride from the ranch back to the house in Comporta she had rented out for the month of September. “I mean, at first it was a little strange to me but I got used to it. And I still can’t look at them when they kiss. Which they always do because they’re always proposing here.” “Here” was the picturesque ranch Rogelio owned after years of saving up all his money and experience as a hired hand on horse farms to at last open something of his own. Something that would draw riders from far and wide, at every level of experience.
And it did. Maybe more than Rogelio bargained for, apparently. For what he did not take into account, as Julia later matter-of-factly explained to him, is that no one has more disposable income than gay men, at least the shrewd ones who know better than to make the attempt at conventional domesticity by adopting. So why shouldn’t they spend all that extra cash that would ordinarily be wasted on a spawn that one deludes himself into thinking will do better at life than he did, thereby making his own useless life somehow more useful, on something more fun–like destination horseback riding?
Rogelio was not prejudice per se, no more than someone from the southern United States was. It was just that he was raised in a certain environment–a simple in its black and whiteness milieu–that never forced him to look at “lifestyles” other than his own. Maybe it was why he maintained such an air of youthfulness–aesthetically–despite his forty-six years. He never had to deal with the stress of the constant arguments that came so naturally in the U.S., where everyone was incessantly fighting to be heard because they were all so different. In part, this was why Julia needed to leave. To get away from all the noise and the clamoring. The petty debates disguised as moral outrage that was somehow all ultimately self-involved. What she needed, in short, was some peace and fucking quiet–the kind that could only be gotten in solitude and in nature. Naturally, she got lonely from time to time, hence her occasional extending a hand to the outside world by means of activities you had to pay for that would force someone running them or participating in them to be social with you. Before horseback riding, it was dolphin-watching, which required Julia to get on a boat with a guide and some primarily German tourists, each coupled. For coupling was still “the thing to do” no matter how the centuries flew by and all were assured that monogamy was no longer necessary, therefore singledom was no longer a sin. But it was. Julia knew that. She was better at ignoring it when sequestered. In fact, it’s why she preferred to be so. Whenever she deigned to come out into the world, she remembered that. She was forced to remember, once more, with Rogelio, his stout build ideal for riding, she thought, as she could feel her own legs stiffen with soreness from being shoved into the stirrups too long. She shouldn’t be doing this, she thought. It was just dipping into her already dwindling savings. And all it really afforded her, apart from a vista, was a conversation with a homophobic Portuguese man. To boot, a homophobic Portuguese man who could not see that he was homophobic.
Rogelio stirred Julia from her reverie as she gazed out at the sea, forgetting to guide her horse, Saramago, with the course of the path, thus, they had veered off slightly. He pulled his own horse, Pessoa, back so that he could grab Saramago by the reins and lead him back on the course at a faster pace. “He’s asleep this morning!” And it was true, Saramago seemed rather disinterested in the business of being a horse. The rigmarole of hauling fat asses through fields that he would have preferred to wander alone was not inspiring poetic or lithe movement. It was bizarre, then, that at that very moment, one of the other riders on the journey, a wealthy Brazilian named Francisco, should choose to say aloud to Julia and with genuine conviction, “You can tell how much the horses really love doing this.” Julia resisted the urge to guffaw and say, “Are you fucking serious?” in all her American crassness. She knew that Francisco’s affluent bubble of delusion couldn’t be burst even if she hadn’t resisted. This much was clear when she made mention of how she wished the pursuit of equestrianism wasn’t so expensive, to which Francisco balked, “It’s not that costly if you have less than twenty horses on a ranch.”
Oh Francisco, so clearly out of touch with what was costly to the common man. Julia didn’t bother with trying to explain to him that most people would consider the effort and money required to sustain the upkeep of even one horse to be too astronomical to entertain as but a pipe dream. She really rather fucking hated people like Francisco, who emanated an air of “everything is possible” superiority despite being objectively inferior save for the circumstance of having been born into a family that could launch him into lifelong richery. Julia, on the other hand, would have to remain contented with lifelong bitchery, a quality characterized by her increasing embitterment and impatience for people. Least of all those of the intolerant, know-it-all bent.
Even if said people were “nice” while they made their imbecilic comments. In many ways, to Julia, it embodied the very notion of being killed with kindness. For kindness is what people like Francisco and Rogelio used, unwittingly, to justify any heinous viewpoints they could express. This much was proven by Rogelio’s ongoing nicety throughout the session, as he felt obliged to ride along next to Julia for the entire journey, even when all the others felt confident enough to go ahead at a gallop.
It was in this way that they got to talking about various non sequitur topics like how he was, evidently, disgusted by gays but not disgusted enough by them to not take their money. Capitalism, it appeared, was somehow more repellent to Julia on this continent than in the U.S., where at least places like Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado were honest about their contempt for “a certain type” to the point of not even wanting to profit from them. But that this horseman against gays could speak so openly of his revulsion and still have the gall to pocket the “homo cash” with a smile was, in Julia’s opinion, more telling of a misconceived American stereotype of greed than anything she had ever actually encountered in America, where the population at least had the courage of conviction to tell whores like Vivian Ward she can’t afford to shop on Rodeo Drive.
When the ride was over and Julia dismounted the horse as Rogelio prepared to give her the lift he had promised to, she caught a glimpse of the next group of riders, among the set of six being two gay men who were cozying up to one another as they waited. Rogelio visibly squirmed, but, in a split second, suppressed his distaste for the display and grinningly approached them to welcome to the ranch. A euro is a euro.