I've been waiting for words to come all day, and I don't think my emotions have entirely sorted themselves out. I got a message this morning on Facebook. I had to check the news reports to make sure it was real. It still hasn't managed to feel real. You were 25 years old. Your car hit a retaining wall and caught fire, but we know little more than that.
Throughout the day, I've been getting hit with memories that have made me smile more than frown, and the most incredible thing about this experience to me is that just as you had this unique way of bringing together groups of friends from vastly different social circles in life, so you have been able to bring so many of us back together to celebrate the beautiful person you were, even though you have passed from this world.
I know I will never be able to capture in words all of the memories with which I am left. I'm not even sure about the exact day we met. I feel like you grew into a bigger and bigger part of my life as I began to grow into myself and open up to people who had been trying to get close to me for months or even years. You grew into such a big part of my life that I remember spending almost every single day with you and never wanting to be apart. You were the one to help me pick up the pieces when I thought my life had fallen apart, on more than one occasion, during the most difficult summer of my life. You always had this way of turning tragedy on its head. You made me feel much stronger than I thought I ever could be.
I remember how you, James, Joseph, and I were the Golden Girls, and you were Blanche, of course.
I remember finding a box of bagels and cream cheese with you on the corner across the street from the Cathedral, as well as being curled up in pain with you on the floor of the Rainbow office after deciding it was somehow a good idea to eat them.
I remember dancing with you at Kelly and Chance's wedding this summer and how we both laughed because we couldn't figure out who should lead.
I remember the random summer walks, playing board games on your floor in the blazing summer heat when you had no air conditioning.
You loved mugs. You had the best mug collection I've ever seen, and I fondly remember our trips to Goodwill where you'd buy about five or six at a time.
I remember that time where we lived together without actually living together and how we only had that apartment for about a month. It still felt like home. I think that's because we both wanted it to be so badly.
I remember that you didn't own more than one pair of shorts. You insisted on wearing long pants all year round. As Melissa said, this is because you are a hipster. But you always denied it. Proving the point.
Speaking of which, that night we decided to scale a fence and go tagging was one of the best nights of my college life. It felt like we were in Stand By Me. That was way better than studying for finals ever could have been.
I remember walking along the train tracks with you and Kelly in the summer of 2010, taking a ridiculous picture of the two of us biting the same piece of meat on a stick after already having taken so many absurd pictures before heading to Pride in the Street that same year.
I remember how you talked often about how you talked with Paul McCartney when you were in London, and I thought this was the coolest thing ever.
I remember how much you desired to find someone with whom you could start a family and have children. We both agreed you'd make an awesome dad.
You also loved hotels. And now I totally understand why.
I remember the time you carried me out of my house and into your car when I was too sick to even walk.
I remember how you always slept with a fan going because you just couldn't fall asleep otherwise.
I remember the way you used to hold me in just the right way so that the tension just melted away. You made me feel safe and loved. And you were one of the first people in my life to truly see me for the man I am. You were one of the few people whose understanding of gender made me sigh with relief. For this, you were an invaluable asset to the transgender community of Pittsburgh.
I remember how valuable an asset you were to the entire queer community of Pittsburgh. You seemed to know everyone. You've touched the lives of so many people. You always brought people together. Every time I look back at pictures of us out on the town, we are surrounded by at least a dozen loving friends. Even when you were going through your own periods of darkness, you somehow managed to spread light wherever you went. You had this way of making people happy and bringing out their love for life whenever you came near. I wonder if you knew just how important to our community you were. How many people will never be the same because you were a part of their lives.
You helped me discover and grow into the person I am today, and you will always be a part of me. I miss you so much, and as I fight through this sea of conflicting emotions and struggle to grasp the reality of this situation, I think about what you would have wanted your closest friends and family members to do. As much as we must mourn the loss of a truly great and inspirational human being, we must also do you the honor of celebrating your life and continuing to work for the equality you believed we all deserve. It was tattooed on your hand, in plain sight, because you believed something so important should not be hidden. You were unapologetic about what you believed. And that made us all a little more comfortable with ourselves. You helped us learn to carry our spirits like you carried your tattoo. You helped us understand that we were not put on this earth to hide.
I think that is the most difficult part of all for me to handle. We were put here to live. And you embodied the idea of living life to the fullest more than anyone I knew, really. It seems cruel that the world has lost someone with such a zest for life--someone who had so much life left to live and so much more left to give. I haven't gotten all of these feelings sorted out yet, but this is what your memory has helped me learn in just the last half a day or so.
I had no idea that that dance this summer would be the last time I would ever see you. But it is truly one of the most beautiful memories with which you could have left me.
Even though you might have laughed at me in life for saying this, I do believe you are here with me, helping me along the way in this process of grieving. I want to thank your spirit for staying with me, and I want to thank all the friends who have reached out to me with phone calls, messages, and comments just to let me know that they are here. We will help each other through this because we are family. I love you all, and this whole experience--being completely new territory for most of us who have never had to deal with the loss of a peer so early in life--has made a lot of us realize how precious these friendships really are and how valuable our time together can be. <3 p="">