Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dear Brother


Dear Brother,

We’ve never met and we never will, because last night you were murdered.

You were out at a gay bar called Pulse in Orlando, Florida when someone walked in and ended your life, along with the lives of 49 [or more] others. In his eyes, you were less than human and you deserved a gruesome, organized massacre. And while he was putting you down with bullets, I was more than 600 miles away — waking up from a sound sleep to use the bathroom. It was just after three in the morning when I came back to bed, where my boyfriend Andy was also awake. His eyes were closed, but his breathing was quick and uneven. “I just saw on Facebook there was a shooting at a gay bar in Orlando,” I whispered into the darkness. “Oh no, that’s terrible,” he said without opening his eyes. “Yeah it’s fucking terrible,” I said absently. We laid there silently until we drifted back to sleep.

I feel guilty for not being more invested in your story, sooner. But I wouldn’t know how bad the scene of the crime was until I woke again at a reasonable hour. The body count was 20, at first. Then it quickly jumped to 50, with 53 injured. It was labeled the worst mass shooting in American history. And you were there. You were somewhere safe; in a sanctuary you might’ve loved and valued.

My boyfriend doesn’t really like going out, but I do. I seek out gay bars when I visit new cities and keep my go-to locals right here in New Orleans. No matter where I am in the world, I can find comfort in the neighborhood gay bar. It’s a safe haven for people like me, from proud Glee Era millennials to veteran activists who remember the Stonewall Riots in vivid memory.

Did you go to Pulse often? Did you know the bartenders by name? Did you ever hit it off with someone you met on the dance floor? I bet the cover charge was always worth it, right?

I spent hours in bed this morning, scrolling through Facebook and watching every news clip I came across, from NBC to BBC. At Andy’s urging, I finally got up and decided we should have breakfast at The Country Club, a restaurant that caters to its Bywater neighborhood and the gay community of New Orleans. I pictured tables full of sullen, grieving gays and lesbians, dressed in black and commiserating among friends. So I put on a black T-shirt and black jeans and black sunglasses and headed out.

When we arrived, the restaurant looked and felt like a normal Sunday morning — buzzing with lively wait staff and warm, inviting scents from the kitchen. We were seated next to a table of four heterosexual couples who were clearly visiting from out of town. They laughed loudly and obnoxiously talked over one another. Typically, these people would annoy the fuck out of me, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel frustrated with them. Why shouldn't they carry on? I wondered. I'm happy for them. No one should feel the way I do. So go ahead, tell stories about last night. Make a case for sharing entrees. Order dessert. At one point, a gnat landed on the edge of my plate and couldn't even bring myself to swat it away.

When you were alive, did you ever visit New Orleans? It’s great here. The food’s delicious and the people are generally pleasant. Did you travel a lot? I bet you wish you would’ve traveled more. I feel like that’s a universal regret, but I wish you would’ve traveled more. I know that's a strange thing to wish for a stranger, but I think you'd understand.

I spent the rest of the day watching people debate the circumstances of your death on the internet. Was it in the name of God? An act of domestic terrorism? Another catalyst for the immovable gun control movement? I will not write the name of your killer here, because I don’t want him to live beyond where he ended. But sadly, he will be remembered as the face of your death and not your own. You don’t deserve that either. You deserve to be immortalized for being out on a Saturday night at an establishment that celebrates your uniqueness. And you deserve to live on in the actions of present and future gay Americans. You will be remembered when we, the living, show solidarity at our local gay bars tonight. You will be remembered when I kiss my boyfriend in public, as an act of love and an act of defiance.

Before I sat down to write this letter to you, I went for a run. I was two miles in when I started thinking about you and began to cry. I imagined what it was like for you, in the moments right before someone walked in and recklessly sprayed bullets into your body.

You might have been hammered — crying and bitching and talking incessantly the way drunk gays do after a long night of partying.

Maybe you were frustrated; on the precipice of going home alone. You had such high hopes for the night and then, in the early morning hours, your odds weren't looking too favorably.

But I hope you were happy. I hope you were dancing your ass off. I hope you didn’t know anything was wrong — complacent and maybe even a little bored. I hope you felt confident.

You might not have known it before you died, but you were among the only other people in the world who understand what it’s like to be gay.

When we talk about death, we wish to be surrounded by family in our final hours. And you were.

And now, you will never be the object of someone’s hate.

And you will never be labeled with a slur again.

You are someone.

You are all of us.

12 comments:

  1. I was blocked from Facebook for 3 days for sharing your original post of this letter. Thanks for making this one so that I can post it again.

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  2. Drowningwoman: Same. Blocked after re-sharing. This version has less impact understandably, but I'm sharing it because it's still awesome and including a recommendation to read the blog for the original.

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