I found out about the shooting in Orlando today on Facebook.
I immediately thought of you, buddy.
I think about you everyday, if not multiple times per day. Most days I think about how great it was to hear your voice, and how even while you were alive I felt awful for not letting myself hear it more often. I’ll never get to hear you again, buddy.
I found out you’d passed while I was on a work break, by text.
I’ve never felt more exposed than I did in the moment I got the text explaining what was going on–why your fiancé had called my work in the middle of the day, unwilling to tell me what was going on.
I tried to be a good employee. I tried to count my till through tears, and put it away. I tried to avoid as many people as possible. I tried to call my mom to pick me up.
It didn’t really work out, though, buddy. Everyone saw me crying. I couldn’t explain to my mum what had happened, and ended up taking the bus home to my parent’s house. I had to see my brother, buddy. I had to know that my family was okay.
I’m forever thankful that my nieces were in the back yard. The minute I saw my brother I started screaming, buddy. I don’t know that I’d ever screamed like that. I hope I never do again. My brother tried to calm me down but I ended up collapsed, on the stairs, with him just telling me that it was okay. He had no idea what had happened.
You deserved so much, buddy.
After I found out about what had happened in Orlando my mum and I went to a farmer’s market, and I bought banana bread and smiled at people. I know that there is still happiness in the world. I do. It still felt disingenuous for me to not be screaming myself bloody at every person who passed by.
There are a lot of smart people with smart responses to today’s shooting, buddy, and I don’t think I’m one of them. Just keeping myself in moments where I’m not entirely numb is hard enough.
I wish I could think about gun violence really at all. Having worked university jobs for the last couple of years the thought of a campus shooter has been terrifying to me. It’s something I know we spoke about more than once while we worked together. It’s something I can’t even wrap my head around today, despite the fact that it should be one of the only things I should be wrapping my head around. Maybe if guns weren’t so readily available I wouldn’t be thinking about you like this today.
I remember how blood donation was so important to you, buddy. I hope that everyone who gets to walk with your blood in their veins somehow knows that they have the blood of a Great Human Being (your proper name, to be sure). I always told you that I couldn’t donate blood because I’m so frail from my illnesses, which is definitely true. It’s not the whole truth, though, buddy. So many of my partners are MSM, and even if I wanted to donate blood in the wake of something like today I can’t.
It’s incredible to me that the only alternative to love, for many people, is death. And not to simply passively wait for death, but to push and push until the “source” of their ire is dead. I wish that you had the opportunity to live your life without every knowing that pain. I can only hope that you, and every other person killed by ignorance, is resting peacefully. I can only hope that you’re no longer in pain.
I’m gonna try to mourn the absolutely staggering number of people we lost today.
I’m gonna give thanks for all our friends and family who are alive today.
I’m gonna eat some banana bread, and try to remember how good your pancakes tasted.
Love you lots, buddy. Miss you.
“Take the time to count to 50. Now add family. Add wounded. Acknowledge the shooting took place at a gay bar. Acknowledge that the nightclub was most likely filled with predominantly queer people of color. Recognize those who knew the shooter in Orlando report that he was heavily homophobic and hardly practiced his faith. Allow the condemnation of this violence and this broken person without anti-Muslim ideology. Acknowledge that the shooter was, in fact, an American and a licensed gun owner who used a weapon meant for war. Recognize our lawmakers are willing to pass legislations about where people can or cannot piss and shit and yet, do nothing but offer up prayers for victims of gun violence. Acknowledge that this is the worst mass shooting in US history but also the 134th (with four or more victims) this year. Recognize that this has always been America; that technically, the worst mass shooting in our history was at Wounded Knee with an estimated three hundred Lakota murdered. Know this was 126 years ago. Do the math. Count how few generations separate us from this. Admit that this sort of violence is not new, that it is not a product of Islam or radicalism but of us. It is in our blood, our history–the centuries of oppression and violence and exploitation that have gone unhealed. Now, count to 50. Count to 300. Mourn but do not look away.”
Note: I find myself shocked by how much hearing about Orlando reminded me of a friend I lost to mental illness+suicide in December. I wish I could be more regulated and political in my response to today’s events, but being reminded of her death is too difficult to move past just yet.
Despite the personal note that this ended up taking, I stand in solidarity with those directly effected by today’s shooting.