The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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My Boyfriend Was a (Latin) King

The first time I saw Carlos, I liked the way he looked: Not too tall, brown eyes, black hair, and a nice dresser. He also had an enchanting personality. He was very friendly and used to joke around with everybody, even though he was sometimes a little annoying.

I started hanging out with Carlos and my friend Katherine in the 9th grade. We used to go out for lunch almost every day. The three of us became best friends and we looked out for each other. If one of us had a problem, we always tried to help in any way we could.

After two years of friendship, Carlos and I started talking about having a closer relationship. In the fall, he asked me to go out. I said yes!

At first I felt really strange, because one day he was my friend and the next day my boyfriend. But I gave myself some time.

Our relationship at that time was pretty good. We had a couple of fights, but nothing big. I always thought that having a serious relationship was easy, and at first it was.

But I kept hearing Carlos make comments about gangs and it surprised me, because our school is pretty tame. He would constantly shout, “A.D.R.” (“amor de rey” or love of the king). Carlos said he didn’t have anything to do with gangs, but that his brother had a high position with the Latin Kings.

I wasn’t fully convinced, though. Once he told me he had been thinking of becoming a Latin King.

I think he was looking for support, because his father was in jail in his native country and his mother drank a lot. Katherine and I convinced him not to join, or so I thought. He agreed with us that gangs weren’t a solution to his problems. He said he was only thinking about joining because of his older brother. They are best friends and Carlos looks up to him.

But then, three months after we began dating, he got into a fight. He didn’t tell me anything. I found out from Katherine.

It was a stupid fight. He just saw a person from another gang, he said. I was very suspicious because it was becoming obvious that Carlos was involved in a gang. But every time I asked him, the answer was, “No.”

Another time, Katherine made a comment about an argument he had with gang members and I started asking her questions about it. She told me that Carlos was indeed part of the Latin Kings, and that he got into another fight because he was trying to leave the Kings. Carlos didn’t want to tell me anything because he knew I didn’t like those kinds of “groups.”

I never liked gangs. I feel that most kids get into them because they feel lonely, with no support from family and friends. They find a bunch of people who supposedly care about them and their problems. But gangs become dangerous when members get to the point where they’re not themselves, and have to follow rules and orders from another person.

Carlos’ plan was to leave the gang without me knowing he ever was part of one. From what I heard from my friends, he didn’t want to be part of the Kings because he really cared about our relationship. He knew there was no way I could accept him being part of a gang.

But even though he was trying to protect me, I was hurt because he wasn’t honest with me. I knew something was going on. But deep inside I wanted to believe him when he said he had nothing to do with gangs.

After I found out what he was up to, I didn’t know what to do. I was depressed, worried, and, most of all, disappointed. A couple of weeks passed and I didn’t tell him what I had found out. I just didn’t know what to do or say.

I couldn’t end the relationship because I really cared for him and it’s not like he was a bad person. He treated me great and was always a gentleman.

But I also had this anger toward him that didn’t let me breathe. His dishonesty really hurt me because it showed that I didn’t have the right to know what was happening with him. The secret part of him wasn’t his bright side, but it was part of his life.

If he had trouble getting out of the gang, at least I could have been there supporting him. It’s always easier to go through a hard time with a friend or a loved one.

image by Amaury Almonte

As I was trying to figure out how I felt, things got worse. A week after Katherine told me Carlos was in a gang, somebody told my mother that he was part of the Kings.

After my mother found out, she forbade me to see Carlos anymore. She thought that being with a “street boy” could get me in trouble.

After my mother found out, I told Carlos that I knew he was in a gang. He told me that it’s very difficult to get out of one because they share information that only members are allowed to know. Once you’re in, you’re supposed to be a member for life.

I told him that we couldn’t see each other for a while. We didn’t argue about the situation with my mother. He understood that she was concerned about me.

Even though I was really mad, I understood his situation and how bad he was feeling. I couldn’t hate him for not being honest, but I needed time to forgive. I was very upset, and I didn’t want to have a relationship with a person who didn’t trust me to share his bad times as well as good times.

It was hard to tell him, but I needed time to figure things out. And Carlos needed time to decide what he wanted and to solve his problems. He respected my decision, but he was very angry.

At first, he didn’t want to talk to me at all, which again made me feel disappointed that he was acting so immature. Then a week passed and he started saying “Hi.” We started being friends again.

I wasn’t allowed to talk to Carlos or even see him, but we were in the same school so it was impossible not to. And besides, we still liked each other. I knew he made a mistake by getting involved in a gang, but I couldn’t just walk away from him.

Then one day, a month after we split up, he was officially out. The Kings stopped bothering him because his brother was one of the leaders.

Even though I had broken up with Carlos, my feelings changed. I really liked this guy. He was not a bad person, although he had lived a pretty ugly life. But he learned from his mistakes and was trying to organize things in his life.

Carlos and I started dating again after Valentine’s Day. It took a couple of hours of talking and listening to each other to finally get back together.

He told me that he still really liked me, which was part of the reason he got out of the gang. I had thought we would be together again, but I wanted to give myself time to think.

I know he won’t make the same mistakes as before because I believe in his words. Even if he lied to me before, I believe him now because he has changed so much.

During this last month, Carlos has learned to be a more open person. He doesn’t look for trouble and he goes straight to his house after school. Best of all, he isn’t hanging out with the wrong crowd. Even his family is doing better. His mother is getting professional help for her drinking problem.

My mother still doesn’t want me to see him, so I haven’t told her that we got back together.

It’s not easy to hide a relationship. Sometimes I’m exhausted and wonder if I made the right decision. It’s hard, because if I want to go out I need to make up a story at home. I need to be very careful about what I say when mom asks, “Who gave you that?” If I’m talking to him on the phone, I have to speak as low as possible.

Hopefully, all this sacrifice won’t be for nothing. When I look back at the past few months, it’s hard not to think of the pain I experienced. But I believe that everything happens for a reason.

I learned to stand up for myself with my boyfriend, and became wiser and stronger emotionally. Maybe what I feel for him now is not love, but maybe it is. Whatever I’m feeling, it’s not something that happens every day. That’s why I’m sticking like glue to it.

If at some point we have to break up, I just hope it’s not for being dishonest. I forgave once, but I’m not going to do it twice. Even if I’m in love with Carlos, it won’t matter. There is no reason to make the same mistake twice.

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