Make Your Yuletide Gay: A Homoerotic Prequel to the Worst Christmas Movie I've Ever Seen
Mario Lopez made a Lifetime Original Movie called Holiday in Santa Fe a few years ago, which was quite possibly the worst thing I've ever had to see with my own brain. It is ostensibly about a Mario, small town boy, falling for a big city girl (SHOCKING), but all of the character development and sexual tension seems to be between city girl and Mario's sister. I mean I'm always on the hunt for lesbian subtext, but even the straights admitted this is canon!
I made the mistake of telling other friends about it, so then I was about to have to watch it AGAIN. To make this survivable, I wrote a homoerotic prequel that we did a dramatic reading of before the screening, and I thought you might need it too. A drinking/snacking game for during the film is at the bottom. Please enjoy and also: if you do watch it...I'm sorry, but tag me on social media to tell me your thoughts/sorrow/theories!
Prequel To Holiday in Santa Fe
Please note: Feel free to read this out loud with friends. One person can be the narrator, and two can play Belinda and Maggie. You can give them a fun accent if you want—it's your homoerotic prequel! This is not the best thing I've ever written, but I blame the insipid subject matter.
The first time Maggie ever sees Belinda is at the gym, and the last time is at the bus station.
The first time doubles as Maggie’s most embarrassing moment. She was on the treadmill at the campus gym, sweaty and minding her own business, when a beautiful girl with long, dark hair walked into the cardio area. Maggie hadn’t been able to take her eyes off her, which is a little creepy at any time, but especially dangerous when you’ve got the treadmill set to a sprinting pace fit for the Santa Fe High record holder for the 500-meter dash. Maggie had tripped over nothing, and the treadmill belt—with a frankly callous disregard for her gay panic—had sent her careening, smashing her into the machine behind her. The beautiful girl had rushed over, crouching over her crumpled body, asking if she was hurt, her hands hovering over Maggie’s body like she wanted to touch her. In that moment, Maggie realized that, despite the cinderblock closet she’d built for herself these past few years, she desperately wanted this girl to touch her. The girl had been Belinda, of course, who walked her all the way across campus to the student health center, making jokes about how maybe Maggie should stick to the stationary bikes from now on, and that was that. Inseparable.
It was an embarrassing moment, yes, but a happy one. This one, though, here at the bus station, this one’s not at all happy.
* * *
“What the fuck are you doing?”
Maggie winces. She planned this whole thing so that she’d be long gone by the time Belinda noticed, but of course none of the buses are running on time, and this is the one day Belinda’s class got out early, so she’s here. It’s not like Maggie can go anywhere, can walk away or distract Bel with some food or something. All she can do is stand here, wait for her bus, and get broken up with.
“Where are you going?”
Maggie shrugs, choosing to stare at her ratty boots on the disgusting bus station floor instead of at Belinda’s pretty face. “Need to head home for a little.”
Belinda blinks. “It’s a Tuesday, Mags. You’ll miss so much class.”
Maggie shrugs again, not sure how to tell Belinda that missing a few classes doesn’t matter anymore.
Belinda’s face is pinched with that confused look she gets during a hard calculus problem, the one Maggie has always found to be unfairly adorable. “When will you be back?”
Maggie bites her lip, and she can see the moment it clicks for Belinda. All of the color drains from her face and she reaches out to grab the handle of Maggie’s suitcase with both hands, her knuckles white, like she’s going to rip it away from Maggie. Like if Maggie can’t put her suitcase on the bus, then she won’t be able to leave at all. Belinda’s voice shakes as she says, “Maggie, you’re coming back. Tell me you’re coming back.”
Maggie takes a step forward, trying to calm Belinda down like she used to do with her grandfather’s horses. Quiet words, slow hands. “I’m sorry, Bel.”
“I—” Belinda opens and closes her mouth, clearly lost for words, and Maggie can’t blame her. They’ve been together all year, since she’d fallen on her face back during the first month of school, and now it’s April 19th. They’ve survived the entire Chicago winter, getting snowed into their dorms and the ends of their hair freezing so solid that they could snap it off. They made it through fall and winter quarters—the grind, the overwhelming workloads, the grueling finals, Belinda teaching Maggie her family’s empanada recipe in the cramped dorm kitchens, navigating two adult bodies in one tiny twin-sized bed. They survived their first college spring break, and they’re in spitting distance of finishing the year, of no longer being freshmen.
They’re supposed to get an apartment together for the summer, Belinda interning at her dad’s friend’s law firm and Maggie working as a studio assistant for one of her sculpture professors.
They had it all planned out, and now Maggie is standing here at the bus station with her two huge suitcases, watching as all of their plans flit through Belinda’s eyes and then fall to pieces on the dingy ground between them.
Maggie gives what she hopes is a wry smile but worries is actually a grimace. “Just couldn’t hack it. Turns out all the haters were right, I guess.”
“What are you talking about?” One of Belinda’s hands releases its iron grip on Maggie’s suitcase and instead comes to her arm, grabbing tightly through Maggie’s thin spring jacket, a green bomber with patches meticulously sewn on. It’s her favorite. “Mags, I know it’s you’re homesick and shit, but you’ve been doing so well!”
Maggie shakes her head. “I haven’t. My last crit, in sculpture…it was bad, Bel. Bronson said I’m ‘technically proficient but lack the fundamental creativity required to be an artist.’” She uses air quotes and rolls her eyes like it wasn’t the most hurtful thing that’s ever happened to her.
“Fuck Bronson,” Belinda says, fire in her eyes as she takes another step forward, only centimeters between them now. “He doesn’t know shit. You can’t—Mags, you can’t give up because of one asshole who doesn’t even know you!”
“I’m here to become an artist,” Maggie says, hating how shrill and high her voice is now. “Which apparently I’ll never be.”
“Come on. That’s not true.”
“I’m not going to keep paying fifty grand a year for the privilege of being told that I’ll never live up to my mother’s artistic legacy, that I’m going let the entire family down.”
“Maggie,” Belinda says, slow and pitying like Maggie is now the one who’s a skittish horse, but Maggie shakes her head.
“Every woman in my family has been a brilliant artist, Bel. Every single one. That’s why we have the store in Santa Fe, that’s the legacy of the Ortega family. Okay? Creative, artistic brilliance that keeps the whole family fed. We’re all supposed to have the magic. I’m nothing without it.”
“There’s other magic. There are other careers,” Belinda tries, but she’s wrong. There aren’t. Not for Ortega women. Not when they have to keep Casa de Milagro running. Her older brother Tony was trained to do the business side of the family’s year-round Christmas store, “freeing up” Maggie to handle the artistic side whenever her mom steps back. One small problem, though: apparently Maggie’s absolutely shit.
“You don’t understand the pressure I’m under from my family,” Maggie says, and Belinda’s face closes up.
Her voice is harder now, almost snappish. “When are you going to stop letting them control every single thing in your life?”
“That’s not fair,” Maggie starts, but this time it’s Belinda who shakes her head, who interrupts.
“You’re right, babe, it’s not fair. It’s not fair that I can’t post pictures of us on my own fucking facebook in case one of your cousins happens to see it. It’s not fair that we couldn’t spend any of our breaks together in case your parents got suspicious. It’s not fair that you can’t promise any kind of future with me because you never plan to come out to them. It’s not fair that my choice is to lose you now or lose you after graduation when you run back into their closet, give them grandchildren with some man who you hope won’t stick around.”
Belinda’s shaking now, and Maggie’s heart is pounding, her fight or flight activated. “You knew all of that when we started dating,” she says, pointing an accusatory finger at Belinda.
Belinda raises both her hands in surrender, somehow looking both furious and heartbroken. “Sorry for hoping that you’d love me enough to make me worth it,” she spits. “Sorry for believing in us.”
All of the fight leaves Maggie’s chest at the pain in Belinda’s voice, the sorrow in her eyes. Maggie never wanted it to end like this. She never wanted it to end at all, but Belinda’s right. This was never going to work out.
Maggie’s already a failure as an artist, a failure at thriving outside of New Mexico, a failure at being the first in the family to go to college out of state, a failure at being the future creative mind of Casa de Milagro. She can’t be gay on top of that, can’t give her parents another reason that she’s a failure as an Ortega woman.
She reaches out, cupping Belinda’s beautiful face in her hands. Her fingers slide over Belinda’s cheeks, and she belatedly realizes that Belinda’s crying. It’ll be a few hours before she realizes that she’s crying too, that she has been the whole time, that maybe her tears are the reason no one sat next to her on the bus even when it started getting crowded. There’s always one weirdo on the bus, and if you can’t find them, that means it’s you.
“I’m sorry that I’m disappointing everyone,” Maggie says. “I’m sorry I’m disappointing you.”
“I don’t care if you’re an artist, and if your family really loves you, they won’t either. Sometimes things don’t work out. That’s life, Mags. But we…we could still be good. Together.” Belinda’s interrupted by the loud, almost incomprehensible announcement that Maggie’s bus is finally here. “Please,” Belinda says, suddenly urgent, gripping onto both of Maggie’s arms now. “I believe in you, Maggie. Please. Stay.”
Maggie kisses her—snotty and salty and final—and then she takes hold of both of her suitcases. “I’m sorry, Bel,” she says. “I’m so sorry.”
She turns and walks out the doors to her bus, and Belinda doesn’t follow her.
* * *
They don’t text, don’t send so much as a facebook poke. That’s it. As quickly and painfully as it began, it ends.
* * *
Drinking/Snacking Game for Holiday in Santa Fe When one of these occurs, take a hit of your beer, french fry, popcorn, brownie, or water if you’re trying to hydrate. PACE YOURSELF.
The Drury Hotel (hashtag ad)
New Mexico inaccuracies (WE DO NOT MAKE EMPANADAS AT CHRISTMAS, OH MY GOD, and what is this HAM???)
Heterosexual tension is missing
Character development in the context of the homo relationship
Background shot that makes it clear it’s not winter
Callbacks to prequel
Giant present sighting (you’ll know it when you see it)
BONUS: You have lost the will to live