It's been a year since I stared in disbelief at Tom's brief post on Facebook, announcing Talon ps' death.
I was still at work, waiting out the last half hour before the next person came in, to relieve me at the post, so I could crawl onto the bus, catch a nap, and be ready to get all the stuff done that gets put off when I'm on shift. Let's face it, 16 hour days just don't leave much time for anything else.
I'd been satisfied that morning. I'd typed "The End" to a manuscript that was for me an emotional train wreck only a few hours before, oblivious to the fact that literally as I have typed those final words, Talon was leaving this world. Also as Talon passed, a litter of kittens were born to a close friend of mine, that by all logic should also have died earlier that night. I only learned these things later. My mind was only filled with satisfaction and relief that a difficult, painful story had been told, and that they had gotten a happy ending that they had worked hard for. And a small (okay huge,) amount of glee that I had finished it in time to meet the submission deadline.
My friend was driving home in her car, an extremely low to the ground sports car, when she hit the fresh remains of a deer in middle of the interstate. She had nowhere to go but right into the carcass, yet instead of it being flipped up and into the windshield, which would most likely have killed her and her passenger, by some miracle, the car actually went over the carcass. Maybe some mathematical genius can give you the odds against that outcome, but my friend made it home, shaky but okay. Then she had the happier drama just a couple hours later of three newborn kittens joining the family.
I cried all the way home, somehow not lashing out at the people around me who appeared to think it ridiculous for me to be upset over the death of a man I'd never met in person. Maybe I'm the weird one, but it seemed incredibly callous to me. I get that they didn't know Talon in any way shape or form, but they knew ME, and could have at least had enough respect and compassion to accept MY grief as valid.
Then later that day, my boss called, asking me to work a special detail the following two days. He asked if I was okay; I guess I sounded off. A slightly rambling explanation followed along with my concerns for Tom, as Talon's partner, and Prin, as his twin, as well as his niece. My boss, the idiot extraordinaire of the day, made a very prejudiced comment, assuming Talon had died of AIDS. Because of course, what else might a gay man die of, right? By then, someone had posted some information about the disease that ultimately took Talon, and I admit I took a certain amount of pleasure in correcting my boss' bigoted assumption. There was an embarrassed "Oh," and a hurried change of subject, but it was a reaction that still makes me angry.
I'm a little older than the AIDS epidemic. I've spent years listening to how it started, how it's transmitted and to whom. By far the best thing I was taught was how to protect myself, which was so simple: use condoms. Be careful who you sleep with and use condoms. Of course, this was back when real sex education was taught in school, and a week before, you were sent home with a little permission slip your parent had to sign, allowing you to go, or stating specifically that the parent did not want you to attend it. My mother, pregnant with me at 16, made sure I went every year from 4th grade until graduation. But why is it, 30 years later, with everything that has been learned, was my boss' immediate assumption that Talon had died of AIDS? How was that at all logical?
It comes down to prejudice, I believe. The long and the short of it is prejudice. A person who happens to be gay couldn't possibly die of anything else, right? Cancer, heart disease, stroke, environmental poisoning, couldn't possibly be a factor in the death of any gay person. Not even old age claims those who are gay… These things, these ailments, are a curse only the straights bear. AIDS is the gay disease...according to ignorance and prejudice. Ignorance and prejudice that after 30 years can only be deliberately willful, not merely existing through a lack of education.
I can't speak for what anyone else felt that day beyond shock and grief. For me, there was also anger, understanding, and resentment. There may be those who might think I don't have the right to those emotions, because I only knew Talon through Facebook, and only for a short few months. Those people can take a long walk off a short pier. Nobody gets to tell me what I'm allowed to feel.
Grief is obvious. Talon had been unfailing kind to me, accepting of my tendency to just jump into conversations. I was still new to Facebook myself, at least as an author, and Talon had been welcoming and encouraging.
Shock again is obvious, but tied up with it was anger. Anger that I had no idea that Talon had been dying. I'd known from some of his posts that he endured a lot of pain, but never felt it was a good time to ask what was wrong. Understanding, because of course Talon would not want to tell everybody that he's been severely injured, and losing the fight with his illness. No one wants to be the dying guy. Talon just wanted to focus on as much of the positive as he could and even with a few months friendship, I could understand it.
Anger that so many people could be so uncaring in the face of anyone’s grief, and just plain angry that Talon was gone.
Resentment might be a little harder to explain. At first, it was because of little things, like the odd looks I got. "What's wrong with you?" My friend died. "Oh, well how long had you known him?" Only a few months. "Well, why are you crying then?" Not important, I know, in the grand scheme of things.
But as the first days and weeks went by I became very angry and resentful of the behavior of many in Facebookland and their behavior towards Talon and his loved ones and friends. Many were attacked as fake. Some were stalked. I've never witnessed such appalling behavior in the wake of death for any but some scandalous celebrity. Talon was well known, but certainly no Marilyn Monroe or even Anna Nicole Smith, who at least made her living by inviting scandal.
Grief is an odd emotion, and in some ways an oddly unique one. There's no rules to it, really. People react so individually to it. Some retreat within themselves to try to hide from the pain, and others attack the world, gnawing their own limbs off in frustrated fury. Some perceived as weak, stand tall and unbowed, carrying on, taking care of others, and some, perceived as strong, crumple in heaps, lost and bewildered. Some people need things to stay exactly as the person who died left it. Others need to bring things up, talk about it, show other things that loved one would have wanted to show everyone. There is no right or wrong to grief. There’s no way to know how any of us will react until we’re in that moment. Perhaps some of the...misbehavior...is a result of that, but the rest was purely the need of some to enjoy the pain of others, and therefore simply unacceptable.
In the year since, I've watched some people grow apart, when they should have grown closer. I've seen friendships destroyed because of acrimonious jealousy. The nastiness even reached a point wherein a piece of work that Talon had tried so hard to finish before his death had to be removed from availability because one individual threw lawyers into the mix, and those who worked their butts off to finish Feral Dreams withdrew it rather than let that person further defame somebody they love and themselves.
People whom I used to speak with regularly, never speak to me at all anymore. Some have even unfriended me, either because they thought I chose a side, or because I didn't, I don't know. To this day, I don’t understand if there was a fight, or even if there was a right or wrong “side” to choose. To me there was only those grieving Talon and those attacking people in pain, and if that was the fight, then my lot was amoung Talon’s friends. Hell, for all I know, these unfriendings were simply because a person didn’t like my hair color, or a book I wrote. Without having been talked to about the matter, I can’t say. In some cases, it was a case of *shrug* "whatever.” In other cases, it's been rather hurtful. Either way, there's little to do about it. But it all adds to the resentment, resentment that I invested anything in people who invested nothing in me, even if it was “just” online friendship. What, because it’s online, it’s less important? Less valid?
So tonight at work, sitting here, looking pretty, waving to people as they drive by, and left with entirely too much time to think, I thought about this past year. It’s dangerous to give me time to think, I start ranting. There have been a few friendships that have grown in the aftermath. A few misunderstandings that have been resolved, and a few that I fear never will be. Some things Talon would have laughed his little furry black cat ass off about, such as a recent food fight Prin started. Some of it he would have hated, such as the accusations leveled against those he cared about, of fakery and whatever other nonsense. Some of it he would have been so proud of that nobody would hear the end of it for at least six months…okay we would never hear the end of it he’d’ve been so proud.
Maybe I’m not the only thinking of any of this. For me, it still hurts, not so much for me, but because I still see the hole Talon left in so many lives, and some of those lives belong to friends I’ve gotten to know even better. Because I see people who are struggling to carry on, and thinking that they are failing, or doing it wrong, when nothing could be further from the truth. They are still here, celebrating, teasing, grieving and PeaCOCKING about. Sounds like a good time for friends to remember the man who showed us all a thing or two about it.
Warm Winds my friend.