I sat in the passenger seat. My mother drove. It was one of those moments you know you will remember for the rest of your life, much like losing your virginity or losing your father. She stared straight ahead and I glanced over and saw the tears well up in her eyes. She said “I’m really going to miss you Brad, I love you so, so much.” I tried to comfort her although suddenly I felt like I was the one needing comfort. I played the strong male (I know, a stretch) assuring her that I would visit, that she would visit, that we don’t see each other often now as it is. She said this somehow “seemed different.” My mom knows I am going to love California. My confidence in this move was that strong less than a month ago. I guess I am getting cold feet.
I am moving for all the reasons I have explained before: excitement, opportunity, freedom, peace, beauty, and change. But after the last two weeks I can not help but be overwhelmed with sadness. I have met so many amazing people. People I need in my daily interaction. I am going to miss many people.
My mom continued talking in the car. She rubbed her hand on the back of my neck and said “I still think of when you were a kid and always asked me to rub your head and feet.” I began to cry. I replied “I still love to have my feet rubbed, mom.” I went on “Even on my worst days when I am most upset if someone rubs my feet it all goes away. Instantly I get a smile on my face.”
Until that moment I had never made the connection. I loved to have my feet rubbed because somehow it brought me back to my first love, my mother.
We had been driving home from my father’s mother’s house. My grandmother has been very sick and she seemed very alive and awake mentally when I arrived. Physically she looked weak. Thoughts of two of my best friends losing their grandmothers only weeks prior scared me. My mother said she had seen my grandmother close to death several times and she offered this insight: “She has not died because she still wants to live.”
This week I kissed my twenty-year old brother, who has grown taller than I have and can bench press much more than me, for the first time since I can remember. Writing verses for my family and reading them aloud healed many wounds, broke many silences, and opened many doors. I now consider my three siblings, friends. Barring one’s soul on paper or through a keyboard may be a little easier to do than confessing these secrets to an audience. The effect is the same: Understanding and peace.
I told my eighteen-year old cousin I was gay this week. Writing that book of poetry gave me confidence to not care about my family’s reactions. My immediate family has known for years, but I have never bothered telling my grandparents or cousins. I proudly gave my grandparents their volume containing my admittance to having sex with men, experimenting with drugs, and falling in love. Once again writing healed wounds.
My mom bought me a picture frame with the word “DIVAS” written along the top. She gets me. I happily placed a picture of Denise Garcia, Rahnee Foster, and myself from Gay Pride NYC under the glass. How fitting. For several years in a row Denise and I had done the AIDSWALK Washington. Our team-name: “DIVAS.”
A Bostonian with a big smile and a bigger heart touched me this Christmas. I sat with my gang, the Pink Ladies, exchanging gifts and celebrating life. Jose Henriques pulled us each out a picture frame. Each one held images of 15 young men. Jose, Mattie, Guy, Jay, Derek, Paul A, Paul M, Paul G, Tommy, Joardan, Justin, David H, David R, Jeff, Vinnie, and myself. “Reflect” is what he asked us to do. Little did he know I already had. I was so proud to be a part of this group. Sisters are doing it for themselves.
I held a poetry reading in New York and I read to each of my guests. I held a similar event in Baltimore two days later. The two nights were magical. Surrounded by friends and family I never felt so loved in all my life. In the car my mom would go on to tell me how lucky I am to have that many people love me. I thought the opposite. How lucky I was to have so many people to love. When you love you live. And like my grandmom I intend to stay until I feel ready to go.
Christopher Rice’s “A Destiny of Souls” consumed several hours of my Christmas vacation. I finished the book in two sittings and it complemented many ideas swelling in my head: death, love, anger, loneliness, despair, sickness. Healing is hard, but necessary.
My mother also told me she thought of me as her soulmate. I could not agree more. We can have more than one soulmate in this world. Much like Stephen and Monica in Rice’s book, my mother and I share the death of a husband and father. We took that pain and forged a powerful bond.
This week brought many tears to my eyes, but also many smiles. My college friend and roommate Greg Jacoby gave me the nicest compliment I think I ever received. He wrote that I am brave for externalizing my real self and that I deserve respect for that. Years before reading Tom Coggia’s “Perfect Self Manifesto” I had committed showing the REAL me always. It remains a struggle: to be honest, to not hide behind masks, to free your soul completely. Having someone acknowledge something I silently strive for everyday was awesome. Since that day I decided to peel away all the bullshit in my life, I have been happy. That child inside us all, that perfect self, as Tom would say, has the power to make everything in our lives not just bearable, but also worthy of celebration.
If you are reading these words than you have affected this man. I sit about to leave my mother’s house at her kitchen table. My train departs in one hour. As I place pen to paper and conclude these words, I feel so at peace.
Thank you for letting me love you.
I hope you had a merry Christmas or happy Hanukkah.
Strive to be aware and awake. Feed of the energy of loving as well as being loved. Be real. And whenever you feel overwhelmed by life or its lack of meaning, call up your mother (or someone you love) or have someone rub your feet.
Peace and Big Love