…since he took their lives away.
I was texting with The Silver Fox when it happened. We were removed from the tragedy by 3000 miles and three time zones, but here we were texting as dawn broke in Portland, Oregon.
It turns out neither of us could sleep. Situational for him, hardly surprising for me.
I had gotten home from work a few hours earlier.
Hung out and detoxed for a bit.
A few episodes of 30Rock.
Quite a life I’ve carved out for myself: all Netflix, no chill.
That’s not completely true…I do ok.
Anyway, I texted the Fox preemptively, knowing his doggy daddy routine had him up an hour later. I was giving him a hard time about not texting me too early, since it was 5:00 am and I was just turning in. Normally, he waits until 8 to text regarding our coffee plans. Sometimes I’ll restrict him til 9…this was looking like at least a 10.
Occasionally, I’ll watch the final minutes run out and await his morning salutation. Other times, I’ll text him at 7:57.
Because I can.
Also, I’m a dick.
With a friend as good and true as the Fox – and many others like him – I realize that I do have quite a life.
Much as I like to downplay that awesome reality.
To my surprise, he replied almost immediately. Apparently, he couldn’t sleep.
So, we texted a bit. He suggested that maybe I’d gotten lucky after work…but, no. I wasn’t yet in the mindset for playful frivolity, having just recently pulled the plug on my most recent attempt at dating.
This was all harmlessly taking place as a man walked into Pulse with an assault rifle and opened fire.
As people lost their lives in moments of terror, I complained of a killer day at work.
While scared people cowered in bathrooms hoping to escape a madman’s detection and attention, I empathized with my friend’s inability to successfully achieve unconsciousness.
Wounded people fled down public streets, injuries be damned, in an attempt to find care and survive their injuries and we revised our caffeine plan.
Because we couldn’t sleep.
When I woke hours later to the tragic news, my sense of horror was replaced with a suspicion that our actual restlessness was caused by – well, I’m just gonna say it – a sort of disturbance in the force, if you will. That’s what’s been tickling the corners of my mind each day since. I frequently wake up at night, courtesy of a middle-aged bladder, but there are also times I wake up and feel a preternatural silence that is so loud in its deafening.
This particular morning was an example to me of how interconnected all of us are, whether that connection be a positive or negative one.
I believe that night what kept me too wound up to sleep wasn’t work, it was Orlando.
I believe what kept His Royal Foxiness from sleeping was that same thing.
A ripple in the pond that is the shared existence of humanity.
We try and force that connection with religions and churches but that good gesture really only ends up amplifying the discord amongst us.
Cheesy Pete, this gunman was a self-proclaimed supporter of the Islamic State…a group that pretty much doesn’t adore America.
Gays specifically included.
But here we were – or here I was, no need to drag The Fox into my Derp Thoughts – in tune to the disruption in the larger community of our species that transcends ethnicity, religion, occupation, class and orientation as 50 (49 bystanders + 1 casualty of the separated melting pot that America has become) souls are violently ripped from it and over 50 more were dangerously close to being sidelined.
Facebook profile pics and memes don’t capture it, this tapestry of humanity. Limited by the lack of physical presence (or whatever that intangible-ness that is the human spirit) needed to create a real connection that our increasingly virtual realities fail to achieve.
I had intended to pretty much end there, but later that day I went for a walk to process those pesky Derp Thoughts.
I crossed a river.
Wandered through neighborhoods that I’ve lived in as I was raised and those I had lived in as a man.
Hopping on trains or buses as the heat beat me.
Dropping into old watering holes.
Observing the reality of time versus my memory of places and the people that occur randomly around them.
Unrelated case in point, I revisited last year the neighborhood my grandfather lives in. The street that had been a galaxy of its own when I was a kid was one that barely seemed big enough to handle two cars passing side by side. Had it shrunk over time or had my perspective of the world changed as I aged?
For you slow folk, the street hadn’t shrunk.
Similar – slightly – things occurred the day of my memorial walkabout. But, again, my worldview was changed. I noticed the differences but was attenuated to the similarities.
I had to return home to do some work.
While I was there, I got a text from my mom about the vigil that had been insta-organized at one of the local gay bars. She mentioned that she assumed I was there and I presumed she had seen it on the news. She said she and dad didn’t have words for what they thought I must be experiencing, but they were thinking of me and loved me.
Mist Break: I really do have the most awesome of parents.
I had been to the vigil.
I’ll admit that – me being me – I can’t call what I did “participating”. “Attending” even seems to be a stretch.
Over 100 people had been killed or injured a half a day earlier simply for congregating to celebrate their them-ness. Here was a group of people celebrating their own them-ness while honoring those in our community who had ripped from existence earlier that very day.
I was admittedly overwhelmed by the target these people were putting on themselves.
Then again, I live with Mistress Myrtle – who always seems to be plotting her next opportunity for my untimely demise.
At the same time, how long can we celebrate our strength using the September 11th mantra of not letting the terrorists win before they turn it around on us and use it as a trap?
One Star Wars meme per blog post seems to be enough, sorry Admiral Akbar.
I’m skirting the fringe of this vigil – impressed by the ability of my hometown and people to shut down six to eight blocks in the heart of downtown for this vigil. The cooperation is impressive. The sheer police presence is similarly impressive…and simultaneously daunting.
But that’s kind of my way. I like “my people” but as I get older…well, let’s say there is an inverse relationship between my age and my ability to just talk to randos on the street.
Maybe that’s unfair to me.
Perhaps the inverse nature of the equation had more to do with my desire to avoid labels and boxes. So many LBGT people and their supporters in one space not only paints a target on the group, it also highlights the moot nature of labels overall. There were a bunch of people who identified with this LBGT label who were animatedly involved with the individual groups of people they came with. When confronted with someone outside that group…well, they weren’t. They were all together and yet, still alone.
Had an outsider breached their group? I’m sure that panic buttons would be pushed.
As I mingled the perimeter – no doubt a person of interest for the four dozen cops working the event – I considered the state of community in America.
We talk about it.
Sometimes even celebrate it.
As long as we are insulated from confronting it face to face.
While oversimplifying the tragedy that stole the futures of these 49 victims and their murderer is not my goal, and trust me, two weeks later, I still cry about it if I think about it too long.
Frequently, I think about it too long. I spend too much time on this Facebook feed but can’t stop looking…
Because I worry that two weeks later they are already being forgotten.
Often times when I reference that last hyperlink, I find myself educating my audience about gay history and hate in America. I worry that had the vigil I lurked taken place in the same city as the massacre that the crowd of cliques I lent my spiritual energy to would already be forgetting their slain friends and acquaintances.
And it makes me sad.
Even within our own subcultures, we have no real bond. Nothing significant, that I’ve observed, anyway. I’m no poster child for deep connections, so I can’t really do anything but recuse myself as part of the problem here. But a cognizant part of the problem, which has to be somewhere on the road to being part of the solution, right? At least I beat myself up regularly for not being a better friend to my great friends.
So, I try. That would be a high passing grade in Montessori School.
And maybe I’m just that grumpy old guy I proclaim myself to be. Maybe I don’t give us enough credit as Americans.
Oh, god…what if I’m only projecting my flaws on to our people as a whole?!?
And that’s why I can’t get my mind and soul moving past this.
Because I can’t separate myself not from the victims, but from the survivors. I don’t feel worthy as a survivor. As much as I talk about being a part of the solution versus part of the problem, I feel a pressure to be a better representative of humanity for not having been removed from the equation.
And it’s overwhelming me.
I wallowed in these feelings of inadequacy for a week. It was a diversion from my normal wallowing. Well, a target on which to pin my normal neurotic ramblings.
Then I went to Pride here in Portland.
I was terrified. Scared that here I was again, in the midst of a potentially targeted event. I had a blast, despite my resulting unfortunate sunburn. I was brave for a day.
But, still…it overwhelmed me, this whole Orlando shituation.
I kept coming back to this blog entry. To Gavin Newsom’s Facebook feed. To what my thoughts were. I kept passing bars that I would allow my liver to ritually and habitually guide me into.
This past weekend was Seattle Pride and Portland Pride Light – aka: Peacock in the Park. I love Peacock. (No truncating, Diezel.) But I found yesterday as I pondered my options – go/don’t go – that I couldn’t go just to go again. It would be lather/rinse/repeat-ing the same fruitless actions as I had the prior week.
My life was phasing out of routine and knee-jerk actions. Which is good, because any of my familiars will tell you that I often bemumble the lemming mentality that is our American habit. I’m not going just because someone says that it’s the right thing to do or because everyone else is doing it.
I loathe that rationale.
EOG shit right there…
So, I made my decision.
I went for a bike ride.
My first of the season. One that was desperately needed. Physically, for sure, the (sorry, mom) cum gutters of three and a half years ago had become more of a dam, and I was not happy with that at all. My ride was symbolic not of a unity within my community, but of doing something for me to be the best me I could be.
I realized on my ride, that I had been neglecting myself – likely in an unconscious pursuit of something outside of my control – by enabling my inner demons, Sloth and Vice. Namely, or likely, that unconscious pursuit was a boyfriend. That, maybe, lurking through these vigils was just the lonely guy inside me hoping to be recognized and pulled into one of the cliques that gathered to remember the victims.
I fucking hate that guy.
But there he is…always a part of me.
But he doesn’t have to be the part that drives my life.
There I was, out doing something for myself that I enjoy for hopefully the right reasons and not doing something that I enjoy for the wrong reasons.
The final realization of my cathartic bike ride?
That by being the best me that I can be – as a human, both spiritually and physically – that I can honor those who had that chance taken from them. That’s not selfish, it’s being a responsible citizen of our collective humanity.
Well, ok, the actual final realization of my ride was that my ass hurts, but that’s not very inspiring, is it?