The characters and their stories in this work are fictitious. Certain events, places, and times are mentioned, but the characters and their stories are imaginary.
June 11th, 2016
"Spencer, when did you first know you were gay?"
I look at the woman sitting across from me in the grey striped suit. The lids of her eyes are narrowed a bit to my chest and her leg is confidently crossed over her other. Her skin is full of color around her cheeks but wrinkled around the eyes. Christ, mine would be too if I had to ask all these goddamn questions. Her dark brown hair is pulled up into a messy bun held together by a claw clip and I can't help but smirk. Was she going for the "sexy schoolteacher" or the "recently divorced tennis mom trying to hold her shit together" look?
Lord—I need to stop criticizing everyone in my head, I tell myself. Maybe I should say it out loud instead. I blow air through my nose at the thought. Lorraine, my therapist, has no 'over the top' characteristics, but yet there is something about her that makes me wonder if she was a model before she jumped into this great career of hers.
Ten seconds of silence goes by because I really don't know what to say. It's something I haven't put much thought into lately. I look around. Despite the loud, fluorescent lights buzzing overhead, she has really turned this room into a relaxing space for people to bitch about their problems.
"When did I first know that I was gay?" I ask her, because I need time to actually think of a response.
She nods her head without saying a word and meets my gaze; she can tell I'm thinking. I look out her window that gleams over the city from 14 floors above the crowded street, and I bite my lower lip with my top teeth, a little habit that developed when I was a kid.
"I think I knew when I was in high school." I look back at her and she does a slow, encouraging nod, obviously digging for more. I continue, "I was the only boy in that damn school to do theatre every year, I guess that should have been the red flag, right?" I grin; she does too. "I was the lead male for every show, my mom was so proud she would practically sob at the end of every show. She worked as a florist and she would close up the shop early on performance nights, never failing to bring the most extravagant bouquet of flowers." I take a brief pause and smirk. "I had a crush on this senior boy named Dylan, he was the costume director for almost every show. One-night after a performance he told me that he thought I was cute; said he wanted to tell me for a while. I was a junior at the time and still trying to figure some things out myself. But before I knew it, his lips were already pressed against mine." I laugh, "It was the worst kiss I ever had, but at the time it was everything. I remember my heart beating so hard that I was confident he could hear it. But that was the moment I knew. I felt something in my chest. It just felt…right."
Lorraine scribbles something on her pad, purses her lips, and turns her head to the back wall where the clock is. "Well thank you for sharing with me today Spencer, unfortunately we are out of time for this session." She stands up and I do too. "Next time, I want to start talking about your father and your relationship with him."
Dead. Well…not exactly. But it sure felt that way after he decided that screwing the nurse practitioner was more important than the 14-year marriage with his wife. "Yeah. For sure, that sounds… spectacular." I attempt a smile, nod my head once, and head for the door. No way in hell am I coming back now.
June 11th, 2016
The towel that I wrap around my waist is soft and the bathmat is comforting between my toes as I step out of the shower. I walk up to the fogged mirror and wipe it down with the shirt I left by the sink and throw it aside. When did you first know that you were gay? What kind of question is that? I shake my head and look at myself. Lord I've gotten so scrawny. I stopped worrying about my physical health so long ago that I'm sure running a mile would be nearly impossible. I comb my fingers through my damp, brown hair and I look at the green eyes staring back at me. My mom had green eyes. She always told me that I had the most beautiful eyes… it is difficult for me to talk about her sometimes, and I tried not to mention her too much today. Trying to forget about her is hard, especially since it'll be two years next week.
I jump a little when my phone vibrates. I glance down to see a message from Gabriel. "I'm thinking of coming out tonight, are you working the bar? How'd the thing go with the devil-lady?" Gabriel is a friend that I met in community college a while back. He is never afraid to say what is on his mind and I think that is what I enjoy about him most.
I dry off my hands and pick up my phone, "It's Saturday at a gay club, of course I'm working. Stop on by and give me some love. Devil-lady was okay, you'd like her."
June 11th, 2016
The club is packed tonight with all walks of life. There are sons and daughters, and even their moms and dads. It is Latin Night tonight and everyone has come out to drink and celebrate life. The air smells of alcohol and sweat and honestly, it's just the way I like it. There is something about loud music and strobe lights that I love, and it's the reason I keep coming back to this job. It's empowering supplying people with happiness, no matter how unreasonable their actions afterwards might be.
I set down a whiskey on the rocks on the mahogany surface and push it towards the guy who ordered it. I try not to seem too obvious, but I can't help but stare at him while I start to make other drinks. He has long, black hair, a perfect smile, and an air of confidence in the way he positions himself on the barstool. I can't take my eyes off him.
I feel he is about to say something to me when I hear, "Hey queen, your prince has arrived!" I look down to where the voice came from. Standing at the very end of the bar is Gabriel, wearing nothing but a white, unbuttoned shirt, tight pants, and a black necklace. He is shorter and skinny, but still fit and strong. The night that I learned that my mom passed, Gabriel was the first person to reach out to me and he came over to make sure I took care of myself. I laid in bed all day the next day and just stared at the ceiling while he laid there next to me. He never said anything, but just his presence helped me from breaking down.
I throw the last mix into my shaker and take a few steps to the end of the bar to give him a hug while shaking the drink.
"How are ya'? You look great tonight!" I shout over the loud music.
"Boy, don't worry about me! Who in the hell is that tall glass of water you keep gawking at in the middle of your bar? What's his name?"
"I don't know! Why don't you go find out for me?" I give him a wink and step away because I have to get back to work. It's that time of night where everyone is ready to get another round.
June 12th, 2016
I'm cleaning up around the bar to get ready to close it down, but the club is still packed with people. Although I was incredibly busy tonight, it was great seeing so many people that I know, some from just working here for so long. I make my way to the back room to empty the trash that has overflown under the bar. I wonder if that guy at the bar is still here, I never got his name. I am bending down to pick up a beer bottle when this thought crosses my mind. Suddenly, I hear something that sends chills down the back of my neck. Multiple loud bangs go ringing through the back room. I stand straight up. My head starts to spin, and I feel dizzy. Bangs don't surprise me; the music bass is so loud that shouting is always necessary. But this was different. Much different. These bangs ripped through the air and filled any silence that was left in the club.
Despite my legs going numb, I somehow manage to move to the swinging door leading to the bar and look out the cheap window, and I am horrified. Bodies. Motionless bodies, like marionets that got their strings cut are scattered on the floor. I feel sick to my stomach and feel my chest pulsating. Move your fucking feet, Spencer! But I can't. My legs refuse to respond to my thought's plea. The strobe lights are still going off, and the next thing I see is the shooter near the entrance of the club sending bullets into the crowd. He is a mere shadow in the outline of running figures. MOVE, SPENCER! This thought succeeds in overriding my nerves. It jolts down my spine and hits my fingers and toes with a commanding force.
I blink to regain my focus. I look down to see the man with the long black hair crouching behind the bar visibly shaking. I quickly glance back up to the shooter who is reloading his gun, and I swiftly open the door. Screams surround every corner of the club as I usher him to crawl into the back room with me. He does so, and I return the door to its motionless state using two fingers to stop it from swinging. We get up into a crouched position and I put my shaky hand on his back that is now covered in sweat.
I take the lead and race to the back door where we take out the trash. My foot hits an empty keg and the cold metal scraps loudly against the concrete floor. Shit! Without looking back, we push the door open with a shoving ferocity. We burst into the humid air where people are running away from the building, screaming. The air smells of cigarette smoke and cheap lube. All I can hear is a faint pounding of the music inside covering up the screams. I grab his hand and we bolt towards the end of the street where we can see police lights in the far distance. The two of us run so fast that I can't even feel my feet hit the pavement after each stride. Wait! Gabriel! I have a sudden urge to find him, but I know that it is too late to go back.
We reach a larger group of people where there are multiple policeman making calls and barking out orders to the crowd. We stop and I instantly break into tears. What the hell just happened? Is this real? Where's Gabriel!? People around us are crying and frantically talking on the phone. A man runs up to a police officer in a panic, "You've got to help me! My husband got shot… he fell and…" Distraught, the man falls to his knees and starts to keen at the officer's feet. The black-haired man and I look at each other and hug. His embrace is powerful, and I feel his arms tightly wrap around me; I can feel his heart racing.
"Are…you okay? It'll be okay. It'll…be okay." I can hardly get the words out without completely breaking down. There are so many thoughts whirling around in my head that I cannot focus on one thing for long. We let go of each other and look towards the direction of the club. There are still multiple people running our direction. None of them are Gabriel.
June 14th, 2016
I unfold the paper on the table next to me. The front cover is filled with pictures from two nights ago of people crying, screaming, and hugging each other. It was named the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Major news networks are already filling up their airtime with debates on gun rights, almost like they are trying to overlook the fact that 50 people were just shot and killed. In fact, this T.V. is featuring one of these fantastic debates right now as I sit here next to Gabriel in his hospital room. He was one of the 53 victims that got injured, he was shot in the left arm with no serious damage. As soon as I found out what happened to him, I immediately rushed here, and I haven't left his side since.
Yesterday afternoon, he told me, "Spencer, I appreciate you being here, but you should go home, rest, get cleaned up. I will be okay."
I shook my head. "Gabriel, do you remember when we found out my mom had passed?" He slowly nodded his head without looking at me. "Do you remember what you did while I was grieving?" He licked his lips and looked at me with lowered eyes. "I came over to your place and sat with you to make sure you were okay and didn't need anything."
"Exactly. And that is what I am here to do. I don't care if we both sit here in silence; I want to be here for you like you were there for me. Okay?"
"Okay," he smiled and nodded, "I love you, Spencer. Thank you for being my friend."
There is a knock on the door and jump a little bit. No matter the amount of times that the doctor enters the room, I still get anxious in his presence. The doctor smiles at us when he opens the door and he is holding a clipboard full of medical sheets. We make eye contact.
"Spencer how are you doing today?" he says with interest.
"I'm okay dad, how are you?"
July 11th, 2016
"Spencer, I thank you for visiting me today, I understand what you have experienced is difficult but visiting me can be the first step to acceptance and healing."
"Thanks, it actually feels really good to come back," I glance down to my shaking leg—another nervous habit I've adopted over the years— and look back up at Lorraine. I smile coyly, but it quickly fads. "I'm trying to recreate some sort of stability in my life. That night, that… event changed my life. It showed me just how unpredictable life can be. It showed me that I could be here one minute and gone the next, you know." I feel my heart start to race, so I tell myself to take a deep breath and relax.
Lorraine doesn't break eye contact with me and nods. "Spencer, tell me. What types of things are you doing to recreate that stability you once had before the incident?"
"Well with everything that happened, I've reconnected with my dad. My good friend Gabriel ended up in the hospital that night and my dad just happened to be Gabriel's doctor. We got to talking the day Gabriel was discharged and we agreed to meet for dinner tomorrow night."
Her face stays calm and relaxed; her voice is unwavering. "That's good, Spencer. That's really good. Reconnecting with old friends or family can be an effective way to heal," she looks down at the paper she holds in her hands and asks, "Have you been back to the location of the shooting since that night, Spencer?"
I nod gravely, "I got a chance to walk by the club today on my way here. There is a huge memorial set up in front of the building to remember the lives lost during that night." Tears start to form in my eyes, and I force myself to hold them back. "The memorial is full of family pictures, stuffed animals, and handwritten letters from families and strangers. It is a beautiful thing that people take the time to leave something for us. But while I was walking by, my eye caught sight of something. Near the back of the memorial, hidden behind a few photographs was a sign that read, 'Take Action On Gun Control, United States Is On The Rocks!' I read that sign and thought 'I lost so many people that I knew and loved that night. Maybe it is time to take action on gun control. This should never happen to anyone again.'" I shake my head, lean forward, and put my elbows on the top of my thighs. I feel the tears that I've been holding back start to resurface and fall down my cheek. "Lorraine, it can't possibly get worse from here. It just can't."
On October 1st, 2017 a shooting in Las Vegas at an outdoor country music festival that killed 58 and wounded over 800 was named the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
On November 17th the non-profit Gun Violence Archive (GVA) reported that in 2019 there has been 369 mass shootings in the U.S. alone, twenty-eight of which have been mass murders.
"It can't possibly get worse from here. It just can't."