For me, discovering that there were other gay people out there did help. I found a progressive bookstore, not too far from where we lived, and I’d covertly journey there as often as I could, just to lose myself in reading about a world which I knew I’d someday enter.
And even if a friendship between us wasn’t possible, given our differing social status, imagine how less torturous you could have made another’s life, simply by being kind.
While in school, my hatred was based solely about how mean you were to me, now my anger is reserved for the lack of value you placed upon yourself. Clearly, you didn’t think you were worth loving. Where did you get such a message? You were smart, personable, an exceptional athlete, and beyond handsome. Even with all of the venom you sent my way, I still admired your more affirming qualities. Regardless, despite all these many gifts, somewhere along the way, you were taught that instead of acting on your love of other men, you’d be better off dead.
I hate that you hurt so, Dirk, and hate just as much that you listened to those who filled your head with such thoughts.
I also hate that I was so absorbed in and blinded by my own situation that I couldn’t see your venom for what it really was. What if, one day, instead of running the other way when I saw you, I had instead offered you a smile?
Article continues belowDirk, you might be surprised to know who I ran into at our high school reunion — your old pal, Mike Baker. Imagine my shock, spotting him across the room, when we suddenly locked eyes. I immediately went to that same place of fear and panic, but that only lasted a moment, until I saw him break out into a big grin and make a beeline toward me.
I was shocked when he warmly clasped my hand in his, as if we were longtime friends. “I’ve been looking all over for you,” he said, intently. “I’ve really been wanting to say ‘hello.’” While he never brought up our shared past, it was clear to me that he was making amends.
Did you know, Dirk, that Mike’s younger brother has come out as gay? Would it surprise you to know that Mike is totally okay with it? If you had known back then that your best friend might have been accepting of you, could that have possibly altered your decision?
People loved you, Dirk — then and now.
I wish I could have held you, Dirk, comforted you, and told you that everything would be alright. Our individual uniqueness’s are a gift, given by our maker, which we then get to share with the world. Your void is noticeable, even 20-odd years later.
You could’ve done so much, Dirk, if only you’d realized that each one of us is deserving of love and respect.
Wishing you peace,