There are some days where I don’t care about eating. I don’t drink water, I just drink enough coffee to get through the day. There are some nights, when I get home, I take care of Lucy, I take care of Ella; I don’t feel like taking care of myself.
Tonight I sit on the back steps, letting the tears roll slowly down my cheeks. I want to lay down in the cool grass like Lucy in her crib; face pressed down, knees tucked up tight underneath me. Child pose. I want to find comfort in the grounding of my body to the earth.
But some nights, there is no comfort to be found.
It’s not enough or correct to say I am lonely tonight.
The open windows of passing cars send me snippets of songs, memories that fade in and out in rapid cadence; the traffic is my radio set to scan. The images it brings are washed out, color leaching away slowly. I can’t remember what we did to celebrate our last anniversary. Of course, we didn’t know it was going to be our last. What would we have done differently?
We were married on Flag Day during Pride month. We had most of our closest friends and family around, and an art festival outside the walls. Music from our reception and from the festival comingled in the street, the soundtrack for the smokers in the group. It was an amazing day, worth every moment of stress in the planning, and every penny we spent.
As I ignore the heartbreak hell of July bearing down on me, I take the time to slow down and appreciate June. I love Pride. I let myself enjoy the rainbows hanging from banks and businesses, even as they are crammed into logos and shared as swag to support this product, buy this commodity. Are corporations capitalizing on Pride to draw in more money? Absolutely. And still, a rainbow is a happy thing to see.
I had a friend tell me that Pride me is their favorite season of me, not just this year, but always. And I can see that. Not that I’m a different person, but June just calls me to celebration the way Christmas does for some. This is definitely the most wonderful time of the year. The weather is better, especially here in New England. The Earth is in her summer glory, colors spilling over green like spilled pots of finger paint. I feel myself bloom; there is no point in the year where I feel the need to hide myself, but Pride is a call to indulge in being relentlessly gay. I’m the one yelling “Happy Pride!” first thing in the morning on June 1st, and from my porch at midnight on June 30th.
It is aptly named. I feel a tremendous swell of pride when I think about the origins of the gay rights movement, fifty-two years ago on the streets of New York. The Stonewall Inn wasn’t the first bar, full of black and brown and white drag queens and queer folk, to be raided, and certainly wasn’t the last; but it was the night that the community decided that this would no longer be tolerated. When Storme DeLarverie fought back against the handcuffs and the cops and demanded to know if the onlookers, “Why don’t you guys do something?,” when Marsha P. Johnson made weapons out of bricks, it sparked a revolution. That inaugural blaze lit from within one of the few safe places (safe being a relative term) burned for three days, lighting the way forward. Pride itself was forged in fire; we carry that torch, lit fifty-two years ago, today.
This pandemic wreaking havoc the world over has brought memories of the AIDS onslaught bubbling up from the traumatic mire. A conservative (and ill-equipped) government who blamed a specific classification of people out of one side of their mouth, and failed to take the threat seriously and maligned those who did out of the other. Fear and misinformation spreading like wildfire, suspicion and conspiracy theory planted like seeds in the ashes. Whole communities under siege for circumstances beyond their control, fighting off two enemies at once; the disease, and the hatred. One tiny light shines in this mirrored dark: Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Pride is a time not just for parades and floats, for glitter and club music. It’s a time to remember our roots, our history; like so many other movements, one borne from the blood shed by black bodies in the streets at the hands of police, “sworn to protect.” It’s a time to remember those who have died, simply for living their truth. Five years ago, more blood spilled; not by police this time, but terrorism. The massacre at Pulse took 49 lives, mostly Latinx and people of color. They were just living, just dancing and drinking and talking and flirting.
For me, Pride is also a time to remember, and to celebrate, my own. My wife, my beloved, my Hawthorne. They kept the paper signs that were ziptied to the parking meters for the dyke marches in Buffalo, as far back as 2007. We joined the march ourselves as an integral part of our bachelor/bachelorette celebration. We had swag tucked everywhere; a pen, a tiny flag, a stress ball. Every time we moved, each would be rediscovered, memories revisited. We went to Pride in Boston, Buffalo, Northampton, and even the driving pride in Rutland during Covid. They were incredibly proud to be queer and butch and, later, queer and genderqueer and masculine presenting. They were growing a beard when they died; they couldn’t wait for it to come in thick like it did for the other men in the family – so they could glitter it. They couldn’t wait to smoke their pipe underneath a handlebar mustache. They had suffered so much intolerance, bullying, and ostracization because of who they were. I am grateful, every single day, that they had a chance to live as shirtlessly and authentically as they did in their last year.
June was and is a time of unbridled celebration, of throwing glitter bombs in the face of all those who have wounded our community. The flowers we threw grew from sacred ground, soaked in blood, raised with hope. Pride was, and is, defiant in the name of injustice and intolerance. This year, by day, I see that rainbow, I spread that love, I live my truth. Come nightfall, I am weighed down by the collective grief – of a movement sparked at Stonewall, devastated by disease, attacked by terrorists, denigrated by neighbors – and my own personal heartbreak.
I will never again get to dance at Pride with my wife; never again get to enjoy the ponies and the good pups together, the drag queens and kings in their finery, cry tears of joy with the sheer amount of young people who are living their lives out loud, gripping our hands together so tight they hurt. There will forever be an empty spot beside me on the sidewalk; but then, the crowd is full of ghosts.
And as far as the corporate plot to make money off Pride, well, you can kiss my queer ass.