“I am not in love. I am not in love. I am not in love,” I chant to myself while I ride the elevator back to my hotel room with Jahmar holding my hand. We had stepped out to get a New York slice of pizza in Midtown and ended up spending the last hour slowly walking back to my lodging. “I am not in love. I am not in love.” But a full stomach and the warm hallway try to convince me otherwise. Jahmar is a very tall man. So tall that I have to stand on the tips of my toes and ask him to lower his face so that I can kiss it. So tall that my neck hurts from looking up at him and that beautiful smile he’s framed with an even more beautiful beard. We step into my room, he kicks off his Timbs – he is a Bronx man after all – and flops himself into my bed. I take a deep breath and dive in.

He and I met a couple of years ago somewhere online. We had spent many nights exchanging lascivious Snapchat videos and complaining about our sexual frustration. After a while, the novelty wore off and we stopped communicating. Then, during my trip to New York this fall, he was in my inbox and, suddenly, in my bed. I won’t go into too many details about our sexual rendezvous, but I will tell you if this is what men in New York have to offer, I might have to trade in my sunshine and palm trees for multiple orgasms.

At about 7 a.m., Jahmar stood up, walked over to a large window facing the East River and pulled back the curtains. He said he wanted to watch the sunrise while he was inside of me. It took everything in me to not jump out of bed and start typing love poems. I wanted to call all of my homegirls and give them a play-by-play of everything that was happening. I needed someone to witness the fact that I had a fine ass man saying all the right things and that I hadn’t once rolled my eyes in annoyance or had to offer oral sex just to get him to shut up before ruining the night. I felt like I was falling in love, and I was moving through a movie sequence while the Goo Goo Dolls sang in the background. Jahmar finally headed home after spending 10 blissful hours with me. I took the elevator to the rooftop of my hotel to get a better look at the river and savor what was left of my noche de amor.

Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla

As a young girl, I was in love with the idea of love. I’d spend hours in my bedroom listening to love songs and daydreaming about my Principe Azul. I was an expert at finding love scenes in movies and books. I rehearsed big moments of declaring my love to some unknown man, I memorized entire monologues and, most importantly, I wrote poems. This obsession with love got me in trouble many times. I’d fall for all the wrong people, but it didn’t matter because in my head I had a plan. The love I had was enough. The boys were only stand-ins. So, of course, watching the sunrise while a man murmured compliments into my ear was enough for me to plan a happily ever after.

I often wonder if being lovesick is hereditary. Did Mami hand me this illness? Did we both get it while sitting in front of our TV screen watching María Mercedes give up her family and all she knew for the rich guy with a sour face? Am I romantic because I am Catholic? The most tender ritual I have ever known is the washing of the feet during Semana Santa. I’d volunteer to kneel and take parishioners’ feet into my hands just so I could spend an hour pouring tenderness over people I’d see all year. Or is Papi to blame for his love-struck daughter? He was the first man to ever call me “Corazón.” I have spent my whole life chasing the feeling I’d get when I’d come home, and he would look up from his newspaper and say, “Ya llegaste, Corazón?”

My New York trip ended, and I came home. I called Jahmar, and we promised to see each other when I return in the spring. He sends me videos and pictures almost daily, but the magic has worn off. It’s the holiday season, and I love Los Angeles the most during this time. I love seeing my palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights and artificial ice skating rinks pop up throughout the city. My three-year-old nephew comes over daily. He is speaking in full sentences now but has shortened my name from Yesika to Yesi, and it makes me want to cry. He climbs over me whenever I sit still. He loves me in a way that I didn’t know existed. I can’t get enough.

Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla

Thanksgiving happened a couple of weeks ago. Mami hosted, as usual. It rained all day, and so my cousin, Arturo, brought a canopy with walls, a heater and folding tables. Twenty of us sat together and ate turkey, ham, tamales and chile rellenos. We sang karaoke, laughed, ate and every so often one of us would look around and say, “This is really nice. Que bonito estar asi.”

This is who I want to be, someone who takes love as it comes – may it be a man that is more a stranger than anything else or a situationship I have spent seven long years unraveling. Sometimes it is long phone calls or a slice of pizza, the East River or the Disneyland fireworks. Other times, it’s a toddler bouncing on my knee during dinner, Mami squeezing my hand and someone saying, “This is really nice” over and over.

This last year has been a whirlwind, and it has been an honor to document a large part of it through this column, a new love. I hope that 2019 surprised you with beautiful sunrises and unexpected orgasms. I hope that you loved and made a mess of it. I pray that you made mistakes, relished and grew from them. Mostly, I hope someone held your hand, shared a meal with you and, when you were home in bed, all alone, you thought to yourself, “Que bonito es estar asi.”

See you in the new year, where we will be even freer than we are now, mis sueltas.