Hurt People, Hurt People
I listened to a recording that you and I made back in 2015. We were on the Avenue and a guy was strumming an acoustic in the background of our conversation. I didn’t notice it then but I heard it this morning. We talked about transitioning and the process of becoming butterflies. We talked about white guilt, which I still didn’t completely have a full understanding of yet. We talked about peace and Shakespeare, and mindfulness. You shared how you can always see your students’ feelings escalating before they explode. And you gently put your hand on theirs to calm them down. You tell them to listen to their heartbeat and they say, “It’s going really fast.” And they forget they are upset because they are too busy focusing on their breaths. It was beautiful. You were teaching kindergarteners, in the middle of one of the most crime-infested ‘hoods in the country, how to develop a sense of oneness. You were the future. You still are.
So many quotables… You said, “So much of this world is not built on love. We have an opportunity here in Baltimore to build it on love.” There was a silence between us then. We talked and breathed in an unroofed fortress of ideas for hours. The stillness that moved between your words and my soul kept me stuck. I hadn’t decided on moving to New York, yet. Cuba was not even in my brain. I was in limbo. But I was becoming clear. We talked about how being hurt builds a person’s capacity to forgive. We talked about acceptance. We talked about my book and I asked if you thought people would read it and you said you would and I said that was an honor because you read real shit... the greats, the classics and shit.
We talked about over-thinking and therapy. We talked about love and how it can’t work with someone else if you don’t know how to pick yourself up from your own lows.
And I wish I could let the world, or at least the people that knew and loved you hear your voice again… hear our conversation… I know other people who battle with the darkness like we did would get so many gems from it, so much hope from the affirmation of “you’re not alone.” You told me that. But I am afraid people may take it out of context. I woke up to a text this morning… briefly paraphrased: the person was disappointed in the letter I posted about you on the day of your funeral.
Said that this wasn’t the right time to post my sentiments. That my personal blog is not the “place for declarations of being star crossed lovers.” That they know there’s a piece of me that longs for the “what-if?" but that your girlfriend is the “what-is.”
This was wrong.
On many levels.
I do not long for the what-ifs in a romantic way, at all. My what-ifs lie in: what if I would've been a better friend? What if you knew I was back in Baltimore this summer and could have to listened to you? Our last conversation was literally 30 days before you transitioned like those butterflies. July 14. All of the memories I have of you were from almost 3 years ago… All but the heart-wrenching memory of us walking by one another so many times this school year and not speaking. And shamefully, I didn’t even notice that you were out of the building when you took leave. What if I would’ve been there? I was mad at you for nothing. You didn’t need me to be young angry and black at you, you needed me to listen to you, just like you listened to me when I was going to kill myself. And look where we are now…
What if I would have been a better listener, when you needed a better ear?
In one of our text messages from when you were out this year, right before I moved back down here, you told me what you were going through and said you remember when I went through this and simply said, “You are not alone.” I gave you a mouthful and you responded with, “You get it. All I have been wanting is for people to understand.” And I told you not to expect anyone to ever understand. That expectation will always let you down.
You were in total approval of my return to Baltimore, called it, “cathartic.” You asked me to make time for you. You said, “I want to tell you my life story…” But I never got the chance to hear it. I never made the time. What if I did?
On July 14th, we spoke of Instagram and travels but I didn’t even respond to your last text. You sent me an Amazon link of a book to read. I was in LA and I don’t know what I was doing, why I didn’t respond, but all I can think of is, what if I did?
I was so caught up in my own sh't.
So fuck that love sh’t. Fuck romance. This ain’t about us. I wrote you that letter because I wanted you to know how I felt. It was not posted for the person who texted me, it was not for your girl or anyone else, it was for you.
Frankly. Fuck who ever sent it to her. That letter only has a few views. It did not go viral. I did not publicize or promote it. I cannot imagine her reading my blog on her own. I know she did not find that herself. Someone sent it to her and who ever did, that is the person whose heart needs to be examined. That person is not her friend. That person is conniving and disgustingly selfish. For them to use my pain as an evil device against her is wrong. Wrong.
The saying is so true: hurt people, hurt people.
But I gathered myself this morning. As I played our recording, I found solace in how much I listened to you. I didn’t talk as much as you that evening. I let you teach me… Years later, you are still teaching me. I feel better. One of the last things you said on that recording was, “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.” I promise, I won’t. And I won’t allow anyone else too, either. You said, “Every time you’ve fallen, you’re really good at picking yourself up.” So I am not going to beat myself up for ignoring you. You would not approve of that. You knew my heart. You wanted me to dwell in peace. That is what I will continue to do.
I am free from the judgements and critiques of my art, my life, my pain, my love, my joy, my expression. Just like you, my dear friend, I am free.
See you in nature.