If I had to leave Karma a message, this is the story I’d tell.
I spent my entire youth in a small town dreaming of a life in a brightly lit city. With my bedroom windows open I would lie in my bed listening to the dogs bark in the thick quiet of night and plan my escape to another world. A place where no one cared that I was different.
Main Street ran alongside a brown bayou that was choked over with mosquitoes and never seemed to move. On the side of this waterway was a building, painted black, with an unlit side lot where people parked their cars before running into the safety of the single gay bar in town.
But it was only a refuge once you made it inside, because on Saturday nights there were always carloads of mean people driving by, ready to throw half drunk bottles of warm beer at anyone caught between their vehicle and the front door. I did it a few times, but never hit anybody. I always claimed a bad aim, but maybe my heart just wasn’t filled with the hate of those who were able to strike their targets.
It’s funny how life is like a snake that twists and turns while trying to consume its own tail.
Years later after making it to the city of my dreams I was standing outside one of the many bars we had to choose from and never had to hide in. A car filled with angry voices drove by calling us names that we now proudly accepted and did not fear. We yelled back and threw our own beer bottles through the back window, laughing hysterically that our limp wrists could be so accurate.
In the novel I’m writing my character Rene receives a piece of life changing advice from a notorious transvestite in the French Quarter. She tells him that life is a parade. Some people watch it, and others climb aboard, grab their beads and start throwing.
I stopped marching in parades a long time ago.
1993. Dupont Circle in our nation’s capitol. A magical night with shirtless lesbians sitting in trees, naked men dancing in fountains, a rave in the back of an eighteen wheeler, drums, fireworks and every type of person you could imagine bound together only by their uniqueness and desire to love who they choose.
We sat around after a day of marching and discussed what the most radical thing was that our movement could do next. The answer we arrived at was plain and simple.
To leave the gay ghettos behind. To move into the neighborhoods and suburbs of this great country and show everyone that despite appearances, there was not much difference between us and anyone else.
I had forgotten this conversation until the following year when we were in Manhattan to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Standing outside a massive dance party on the Christopher Street Pier I overheard a voice from a boy, too young to attend the festivities, say to his friend:
“If this is what it’s all about, then I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”
That struck me harder than any beer bottle or remark ever thrown at me. It’s great to be able to drink and party and dance in your underwear all night long, but eventually the sun rises, the music stops and what then?
So I packed up my rainbow flag, moved out of the city and have been in a relationship in the great unknown for the past twelve years. It’s turned out to be less of a political statement and more an adventure in self awareness. I have gone from accepting that I am gay to believing that I am more than just who I sleep with. I hope that somewhere that young kid got the chance to see another side of life just like I have.
This weekend I am most proud of my decision to leave the sparkle of the disco behind, to move into a neighborhood and be surrounded by friends and family who view me as a guy who just happens to be in love with another guy.