Sunday, July 03, 2011
The Dangers of Strangers
I had just bought a rainbow disco ball, a fairly large one, that will hang off the controls of my wheelchair. I was feeling mighty fine with the purchase as it would add a touch of needed glamor for the Pride parade. I was also in a fairly good mood as a lovely young woman had recognized me on the street as someone who had done a training she had attended. She wanted me to know that now, even months later, she's still thinking about what I had to say. How nice is that?! That is the up side of being recognized.
One of the down sides is that I figure that I'm kind of under a constant invisible supervision. Thus, I've got this natural control for my temper. I don't know who's watching, who may have seen me speak about treating people with dignity - it doesn't do well to then set out and be an asshole in interactions with others. So even though sometimes I'm nice for a reason that's not so nice, at least I'm being nice.
Another down side is the presumption of intimacy that some have. And with that intimacy comes the right to insert themselves into my life, my decisions, to believe they have the right, earned through friendship, to advise and correct me. Just after, or soon after, the woman complimented my lecture, I ran into another woman, only a few years my junior. She noticed the disco ball, hanging experimentally where I think it will go. She introduced herself as a regular reader of this blog. Nice. She asked if I was going to the 'Gay Pride' celebration on Sunday (today as you read this). I said that I was. She pursed her lips. She looked disapproving. She waited for me to ask. I did. 'Is there something wrong with me participating in Gay Pride.' Questions give people permission, in an odd way, and she took it.
Two of my friends had just died. Isn't it unseemly (she said 'unseemly') for me to be out in a riotous celebration? Then she went on to say that if I cared (she said 'IF') I should spend at least some time in mourning for their loss.
I asked her if she knew Manuela. She did not.
I asked her if she knew Tessa. She did not.
I asked her, and this is the most important question, if she knew me. She said that she knew me through my blog.
'But do you know me?' I admit there was anger in my voice and she backed down by saying, 'No, not really.'
I explained to her, she wanted to leave but I asked her to hear what I had to say, that Manuela was incredibly proud of Vita's participation in Gay Pride, she mentioned it on her list of accomplishments at the retreat. The picture of us marching together is on the cover of our annual report. Tessa, on the other hand, spoke often about marching last year, about how big a deal it was for her. About having never been in a parade. About celebrating the victories, all the victories, that lead to freedom for men, for women, for the LGBT community.
Is it 'mourning' to sit in a dark room wearing black, or is that a show of mourning?
Is it 'mourning' to walk around under a dark cloud, or is that a performance of mourning?
Oh, I assured her, I mourn my friends. Every single time, several times a day, that I want to pick up the phone to call Manuela. Every single time I think of work her face visits me in memory, I miss her. Every time, every single time, I get a wave of pure unadulterated sadness. Mourning doesn't show as a constant, it visits, it steals moments of joy, it inflicts pain by memories of joy, it strikes and disappears. I wake not remembering, then the realization comes.
Oh, I assured her, I could be in the parade and feel their loss while I celebrate their memory. I can be there with sound around me and hear Manuela's voice. I can be there with activity surrounding me and remember Tessa's red scooter as it rode beside me last year. I can do these things. I can because humans are complex creatures. We can smile at the world while we grieve in our hearts.
Manuela's death devastated me. I will not be over it for a long time. It was sudden. Unexpected. And I'm still in shock.
Tessa was in palliative care, she was weakening and had given the invitation to death to come and cart her away. But the call still brought with it a stunned reality of a world changed forever.
But I will march because they would want me too. I will celebrate because they celebrate with me. And even as the street is full of 'others' the world will still feel empty.
"Well, I still think ..." she said.
"I'll stop you there ..." I said, "I teach others not to talk to strangers, now I know why."