Why I Write: Because Every Quixote Needs to Pick a Damn Windmill and Charge

Jaime Cortez’s Gordo is the California Book Club’s December 2022 selection.

jaime cortez

I write because writing is the best way to explore the delicious, perplexing, maddening frictions that surround me on all sides. Which is to say that writing helps me think like an adult. Which is to say that I can, for minutes at a time, rub together two opposing ideas until they heat up and begin to smoke:

  • People can be savage one moment and tender the next.
  • Events can be both horrible and funny.
  • Transcendence and trauma are entwined like snakes in mid-fuck.

    No, wait—I write because I’m too fat to breakdance, but I crave attention.

    No, wait—I write in tribute to the captivating, hilarious storytellers I grew up listening to around the dinner table.

    No, wait—I write because every Quixote needs to pick a damn windmill and charge.

    This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

    No, wait—I write to give love to immigrants and Latino/a people, who get way too much of the stuff that is not love launched in their direction.

    No, wait—I write because I am a middle-aged gay man who survived that other pandemic and knows that every day, every hour, every exhale is a gift. To write is to say thank you for those extravagant gifts.

    No, wait—I write to send a Molotov valentine to the loving and monstrous tribe I was born into.

    No, wait—I write in the hope that my writing might have a longer life than me, so that I can forestall that future day when my name is uttered for the last time and I evaporate into lumpen obscurity like 99.9999999 percent of humanity.

    No, wait—I write because I never feel optimistic, but writing and imagining that the writing might go somewhere allows me to take optimistic action.

    No, wait—I write because making people laugh is one of my two writerly superpowers, and a good laugh is one of only five things that most everyone wants and welcomes most all the time (the others being gold, orgasms, chocolate, praise, and a little more chocolate).

    No, wait—I write because reading fine writing never saved my life (nor did music, dance, or any other art), but it made me measurably better, smarter, and more human/e. I’m grateful for that and hope that one day I can do that for some reader somewhere.

    No, wait—I write because writing is the forensic tool par excellence for picking through the smoking rubble of what I think happened and unearthing what really happened.

    No, wait—I write because it gives me a reason to claim and defend my solitude, which I love as much as I love people. Maybe more.

    No, wait—I write because while growing up, I almost never encountered someone like me in books, people like my peeps in books. I hope that someone reads my book and finally sees something shaped like them in those stories. When that happens, I hope they feel less alone and take a small comfort in being visible.

    No, wait—I write to undercut my respectability and fag out in public.

    No, wait—I write to conjure my demons, gaze upon them, and hopefully conclude that outside the darkened dungeon in my mind, them bitches ain’t all that impressive.

    No, wait—I write because when I’m writing, I’m like the ancients who stared up into the random pinpricks of light in the night sky and began to connect the dots, to trace meaning and pattern into it.

    Here is a jaguar.

    Here is a scimitar.

    Here is a plumed serpent.

    Here is the tiny boat that cuts through the night, slices clean through all obstacles, and takes you wherever you dare to go.•

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