When I started studying my undergraduate degree in theater at the University of Puerto Rico, I fell in love with a sad character from 17th century France. I ran into my first “Pierrot,” one day taking a leisurely walk on the historic Old San Juan. Jewelry has always fascinated me, as a child I remember playing with my parent’s rings.
It was a lazy balmy afternoon in 1980, when I decided to take the bus to the historic Old San Juan area. Once there, I went into a very pretty jewelry/ antiques store. It was located near an old chapel called La Capilla del Cristo. This chapel was built in 1753 and has been a place where generations of Puerto Ricans have gone to pray for miracles.
I was looking around the store when I saw in a glass case, at the back of the store a Pierrot necklace. It looked old, made out of brass and decorated with black glass accents. It caught my attention but my college budget did not include jewelry expenses. I left the store trying to convince myself that the necklace was an unnecessary purchase. On my way home to the student’s dorm, I couldn’t get the necklace out of my mind. It was a beautiful piece of jewelry but there was something about this Pierrot necklace that really was very close to home. The day after, I decided to return to the store and buy the necklace.
The Pierrot necklace became a favorite piece of jewelry to wear. After I bought the necklace, I started collecting Pierrots. By 1981, my first year in college, my dorm room had Pierrots everywhere. The Pierrot necklace, was with me on stage when I worked as an actor in the early 80s and it was on my neck when I had to abruptly stop my then promising acting career due to a severe and chronic Ulcerative Colitis. The necklace remained with me through my years with Ulcerative Colitis. Pierrot accompanied me in all my glory getting applauded after a performance and comforted me when I was struggling with the intense pain of my illness.
After a long and difficult recuperation from my illness, I returned to the University of Puerto Rico and finished my Bachelor of Arts degree in theater education. After finishing my degree, I wanted to remain in San Juan but after searching for a job for a months and months with no luck, I had to return to my hometown of Ponce where I was offered my first job as a drama teacher. I tried to be happy in Ponce but my dreams were bigger than Ponce. I wanted to live in a place where I could be OUT and PROUD of being gay and it was becoming increasingly clear that Puerto Rico was not the best place for that.
In 1988, scared but determined, I left my homeland of Puerto Rico and headed to New York City to pursue my Master’s Degree at the prestigious New York University. The fact that New York University happened to be located in the heart of gay life in New York City pretty much confirmed my decision to go there. Of course, my Pierrot necklace came with me to New York, safely nestled in a wooden box in my desk drawer. Recently, my husband Denis stumbled across the box and handed it to me asking me, “what do you suppose this is?”. I immediately recognized my old, dear and precious artifact of my past. Over 20 years had passed since I had seen or touched it.
I gently lifted it from the box and instantly my heart and mind were flooded with emotion. It is now 2018. I am still living in Manhattan and the Pierrot necklace resurfaced in a very special moment. These days it’s missing a small stone, it is tarnished and older looking. After all these years, I am still fascinated and comforted by this piece of jewelry. This necklace has been with me through my brightest and darkest moments. Somehow, I feel this special object, which now hangs from my desk lamp, has been a symbol of resilience, strength and perseverance.
My husband decided to clean it today. After he cleaned it he read an engraving on a small tag hanging from the clasp. To my surprise the necklace’s engraved tag read, “Kingston, New York.” My jaw dropped. After decades, I found out that my necklace was made in New York. The same New York that lured and coaxed me to the place where I found myself and became the man I am today. I am so grateful to be reunited with my old friend Pierrot.
Thanks to Pierrot, I am reminded that there are STILL beauty and blessings in my life, here in this wonderful and magical place called New York City.