I ended up needing to re-read the ending paragraph of my last post sooner than I expected.
I had already made plans with a friend in Los Angeles prior to the decision, so I headed up there on the Saturday afterwards in happy spirits. We had decided to go to the Abbey, a famous gay bar in West Hollywood. Belle has been my close friend for over four years now, and though she is straight, she is a devoted ally. She was excited to wingman me on whoever struck my fancy, and was delighted to spend the night with me celebrating a victory in a cause so close to my heart.
When we arrive, the bar had just begun to fill up. Patrons milled about finishing their dinners and chatting demurely. We strode across the empty dance floor to order a drink at the bar. The entire wall behind the counter was a screen alight with an undulating rainbow flag that made my heart leap. I ordered a drink awash in the rainbow light, feeling its warm acceptance. I fiddled my rainbow pride bracelet as I waited for the bartender. The rubber rainbow band was not my usual style, but I did not want to be mistaken as straight tonight. I wanted everyone to know that I belonged here as one of the community.
Belle and I gathered up our drinks and made our way to the patio dining area, where people were congregating to enjoy the slight breeze in the fading twilight air. Before long, we were approached by a young man about our age. He sported artfully gelled brown hair and a tank top that dipped low enough to show the tattoo arcing under his collar bone.
“Hello ladies. May I say you are both looking beautiful tonight?”
We smiled and genuinely thanked his compliment. He stuck out a hand and introduced himself as Ty, and we gave him our names. After a couple minutes of chatter, Ty asked us our sexualities.
“She is straight,” I said matter-of-factly, “and I am bi.”
His face lit up. “I’m bi too!”
To be fair, I don’t get the chance to hang out in LGBT+ spaces that often, though I have been making an effort lately. This interaction marked the very first time I have ever met a bisexual person organically. By that I mean, not on an Internet dating site or forum. I mirrored his appreciation of finding another of our own kind.
“Bi-five,” I said, holding up my hand. He gleefully slapped his against mine.
At about that time, Ty’s straight friend Glenn wandered into our group. I know he was straight because Ty helpfully introduced him as such. Glenn seemed ill at ease in the bar, but a little too interested in talking to us girls. It became clear that Ty had just met Glenn earlier that night, and that Ty’s friendliness extended to trying to make us all friends as well. Belle and I in turn politely rebuffed Glenn’s advances by making it clear that we did not come to a well known gay bar in a well known gay neighborhood to seek heterosexual connections. He was not the first man we had met with this m.o.
As we’d been talking, the floor inside the venue had been filling, and soon the bar was packed with people. The crowd was mostly men, but I spotted a few lesbian couples in the corner and scattered women who came in attached to groups of men.
“Let’s go dance!” Belle exclaimed. She grabbed my hand and we waved our temporary goodbyes to Ty.
The floor was a mass of sweaty, undulating humanity. There were barely clad go-go dancers of male and female persuasion shaking and grooving on stages throughout the club space. Belle and I slid into a space in the middle of the crowd that was slightly less crowded to join the dancing. Before long, we were hopping up and down with strangers, not trying to speak over the pounding music, but enjoying each others’ company. I tightly held my small purse to keep it from hitting anyone in the chaos.
A drunk, sweaty man infiltrated our group by unceremoniously humping against me. I reacted by moving my body away from him to allow more room for him to move his hips without them painfully banging against my own. He leaned down to shout into my ear.
“I’M GAY, DON’T WORRY.”
Uh, okay. “I’M BI, NICE TO MEET YOU.”
“OKAY, COOL, LET’S DANCE.”
The man stayed with our group for about ten minutes, making it around to almost every person with his bizarre, too-close gyrating. He seemed harmless enough to me, so I indulged his crazy dance moves until he stopped, grabbed my face, and kissed me squarely and openly. I had even decided to patiently wait that one out until he pushed his tongue into my mouth. I pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest.
“WHAT?” He seemed confused. “I’M GAY!”
I took him at his word, but that didn’t mean I wanted to make out with him.
The music was too loud for a conversation about consent, so I gave him an exaggerated shrug.
He leaned in close again. “I’M GOING TO GO GET SOME AIR.” He pointed to the patio of the bar.
I gave him a thumbs up and accepted his hug before he stumbled off. As I tried to collect myself, I grabbed my purse to compulsively check that I hadn’t dropped anything. The moment my hand clutched my bag, I knew.
My phone and my wallet were gone.
The top flap of my purse was hanging open, with only my lipstick and exterior battery charger left inside. I halfheartedly gave a quick scan of the floor around me, but I knew what had happened. I grabbed Belle by the arm and pulled her out of the dance floor while using a series of yelled fragments and gesticulations to update her on my situation. I heavily suspected the drunk kisser, but I couldn’t see him anywhere on the patio. We marched up to the security stationed by the exit, and I filled out a report while Belle tried to track my phone using iCloud.
“It’s shut down. They turned it off already.”
Well, that pretty much solidified what I already knew. Ty found us while I finished up my report. In telling him the story, I began to cry in angry frustration. I kept internally scolding myself for feeling safe and welcome in this space. Of course there are thieves everywhere. Of course you shouldn’t let your guard down in a big city among strangers. Even here.
Ty brought me back a table where his roommates were sitting. Glenn was thankfully absent. He gave me water and let me vent my frustration. After an hour or so more of chatting, we exchanged information to stay in contact. Belle and I called an Uber from her phone and headed back to her Downtown apartment, where I stayed up even later cancelling my credit and debit card, remotely deactivating my phone, and alerting my boyfriend and mother of my situation.
The next day, I awoke to the horrible inconvenience of not having a phone or I.D. Thankfully, I keep an emergency credit card in a separate wallet, so I was not completely destitute as well. Belle received a text message from the bouncer that my wallet had been found. It was returned to me minus my $20 cash and my driver’s license. The thief left my (now cancelled) money cards, old student I.D., membership cards, and even my Target gift card. In my state, a non-renewal replacement license requires a trip to the DMV, so I made an appointment for the soonest one in my vicinity (about a month from that date).
In walking back to our parking space, I received my first sunburn in two years. In my distracted state, I had forgotten to be as vigilant about sunscreen as I usually am. When I reached my car again, I found myself with a $60 parking ticket due to my misunderstanding of one of the three parking signs, a reminder of why I had moved out of L.A.
Belle sold me her old phone at a discount, and I drove the hour to my town to the phone provider store for a SIM. I was tired, sweaty, and sunburned by the time I arrived home. I felt beat down, and I had no one to blame but myself for nearly all of my misfortune. A shower washed away the exterior grime, but did little to help my deeply sullen mood.
My new phone lit up to alert me of a text message from my mother that read, “Hey sweetie, hope you’re doing okay. Call me when you get a chance.”
My mother usually calls when she just wants to talk, or text messages me if she has something quick to tell me. When she text messages me to call her, that usually means bad news. Really bad news. In the past, these phone calls have told me that my grandfather was hospitalized, our veterinarian was found dead, and, a few weeks ago, that a classmate of mine from high school was in a coma from being hit by a drunk driver.
I braced myself as the phone rang. Might as well get it over with.
“It’s about Dan. He’s not going to make it.”
The frustrations of the day melted away to a numbness.
She continued, “They’re not seeing any brain activity. He’s not making any improvements. His family decided to pull him off life support.”
I didn’t know Dan all that well. We had friends in common and shared many school trips, class projects, and friend outings, but we hung in each others’ peripheries. Hearing he had died, my earliest memory of him came to me in a rush. Dan sitting on my bed on our eighth grade trip to D.C. I did not like this boy my roommate had brought into our room. It was against the rules. This laughing, carefree boy had brought us pizza, and now teasingly refused to sit anywhere else in the room. There was no malice in his teasing. He was just trying to get me to lighten up. The more he reasoned with me to just sit next to him, the more frustrated I became, until I smashed my pizza, sauce first, into his face.
Yeah, I didn’t get the whole “boys” thing for quite a while. I remember the smug satisfaction I felt when he looked at me, shocked, with one pepperoni stuck to his cheek. Then he laughed and conceded the bed to me.
Dan never held that against me. He never held much of a grudge towards anyone from what I could tell. He never had any enemies in school, and was known as “Dan the Man” to everyone. When my little sister and his younger brother developed a flirtation that neither of them would acknowledge, we cracked a joke about how in love with each other they must be, since all we’d hear from them is their annoyances with the other.
Dan went to college, and graduated in the spring. The last tagged picture on his social media is him standing proudly in a green cap and gown with his parents and younger brother. Just like me and everyone in our class, he was just living his life, likely just as confused as the rest of us with where post college life was headed. Like many of us, I’m sure Dan assumed he had plenty of time to figure it all out, to become what he was meant to be. And maybe he wouldn’t have been famous for his longboarding hobby, but he would have lived a good and happy life as a truly good and happy person. Instead, he was hit by a car crossing the street midday, and that was it.
At the end of my frustrating weekend, I was fine. Some of my stuff was stolen, but it wasn’t violent, I wasn’t hurt, and it could all be replaced. In my earnest yearning to find a place to belong, I forgot to appreciate how much I truly have – my life, my health, my family, and more. It’s taken me a while to write about this because I didn’t know how to frame this in my mind or in words. But it’s not something you can just put in a nicely packaged box. Life is messy and chaotic and sometimes makes no sense. Dan’s life mattered, and it’s over. Hundreds of people attended his memorial, and many more (including myself) mourn him from afar, knowing the world has lost a genuine soul. A friend told me that Dan’s organs could save the lives of nine other people. As those parts of him live on physically, maybe I can embody those parts of him that I always admired most – his chill, forgiving nature, his quickness to laugh – and he can be remembered and live on in that way as well.