I bought tickets yesterday to see the NYC Gay Men’s Choir holiday performance at Town Hall. A long time ago, James and I saw them at Carnegie Hall, and since then, I’ve felt such a strong connection to this group. It has everything to do with my dad and the fact that he died of AIDS and yet it’s all tangled up in my head in a way I don’t know how to undo, even to offer the simplest of explanations here. My father wasn’t gay, so it’s not that. But his illness tied him to the gay community in ways that might be hard for anyone who hasn’t experienced what we went through to understand. My dad didn’t have a blog or unlimited support from family and friends. He had secrecy and shame and more fear than any of us could ever imagine. But that’s another story for another day. And those were very different times.
I’ve been a little annoyed by all the Starbucks red cup drama and Simon Malls hoopla on social media. I think we have real problems, big serious problems that would benefit from a good social media protest or two. But those problems are not about coffee cups and whether or not there’s a Christmas tree in the mall. I’ve sat around for the last couple of days wondering what’s wrong with people and why things like this become so important, and then I realized that these are not different times at all. Very little has really changed since the days when AIDS was a scarlet letter.
We had dinner with friends we hadn’t seen in many years on Saturday night. As the conversation turned to me and my novel and what my plans are for it, I struggled to put my thoughts into words. Our friend just started a publishing company and he is hoping to get his hands on my manuscript, but I know it’s not ready just as I know he can help me get it ready. But I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of this road. Unsure whether to move forward or go back. I believe I may be writing about the wrong things. Like those people who want to boycott the mall, I need to find a different story to tell.
I’m not the same person I was when I started that novel. I’m not sure I still feel connected to the characters and their struggles. I’ve moved on emotionally and it’s hard to get myself back to that place where the story lived. I think it’s okay to let some things go, to clear a space for something new. Only I haven’t quite figured out the something new yet.
When I pay attention to the news and really read social media posts (as opposed to simply scrolling and clicking “like”), my heart hurts. It’s so much easier to ignore what’s going on, to pretend that we aren’t so entirely fucked up that we think building more walls and debating who among us is worthy of having and having not is the answer. I don’t know how to fix any of it. I only know that deep in the very soul of my being, I am my brother’s keeper. That is what I believe. More than God or heaven or any fabulous afterlife, I believe that right here is where we must do the hard work. And yet, I don’t understand why it’s so hard to simply be kind to one another, to take care of each other, to tear down walls instead of building them.
I don’t want to live the rest of my life tied up in knots. I don’t want to get so frustrated and disillusioned that I can no longer see what matters. It’s not coffee cups and Christmas trees. It’s people.
Somehow, someway, that’s the story I need to tell.