After Orlando, 1,439 Years Of Life Still Echo

After Orlando, 1,439 Years Of Life Still Echo

We can never let them go silent.
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When I was seventeen I held my girlfriends hand the way my grandmother holds her rosary beads- so close. Moments later, three men walked by screaming “faggots" so loud you could hear my shame echo off the hot summer tar. She punched six holes in the wall that night.

I stayed soft, numb. Quick retraction like a child who puts his hand on a stove or gets his mouth washed with soap. My mouth has tasted bitter ever since.

I think heaven is coming down in Orlando. It falls like sweet southern rain and sits on my skin. Candles shed light on dark crime scenes. Everything is quiet. Forty-nine people have died. Some of them look just like me. Each of them love just like me.

After my back became a cutting board for homophobia, my girlfriend’s hand turned sharper. My breath laid still in my chest- a graveyard of what I couldn't say. I closed my lips like a bible.

Held her hand tighter

Walked a bit closer

Watched a bit harder

Loved a bit softer-

so as not to be too heavy for the world’s broken knees.

When shots rained down on Sunday in Orlando, I felt my her hand again- this time around my neck, squeezing the words out.

My mouth became a dulled kitchen knife, afraid of chewing words that would condemn me. Afraid of holding hands that would condemn me. Not knowing that just living could condemn me.

Fear lives in the soles of my shoes. I walk off of high places, wishing to feel the crush of my bones. Wanting to see if I could still hold my heavy shame on top of a broken body- if the world could hold it’s heavy shame on top of a broken body.

I used to think words were a loaded gun until i realized I might actually face one.

The safety on the trigger has replaced actual safety. Warm bed and unpacked suitcase, safety. Don’t have to worry about being shot, safety. I worry my sexuality is sewn into my skin.

If you add the ages of each innocent person killed at the Pulse Night Club, you get 1,439 years. 1,439 years shot down with discrimination and fear-cased bullets.

1,439 years of words, of words, of words.

The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. Built to break brick like bombs cannot. Cut skin like guns cannot. Words can’t be extinguished when the flame goes out- the oven in my throat still burns.

There are 1,439 years living under my tongue. My voice shakes, not from fear, but from gravity. The gravity of bullet wounds caused by words that couldn't heal quickly enough. I couldn't heal quickly enough.

My girlfriend told me to keep walking and not look fear in the eye. I think I have to look at it to know it was really there.

1,439 years of life were really there. They are still speaking to me.

They will never be silenced.

They live in the mouths of everyone who has ever kept quiet, ever made themselves soft, ever feared that their love was too heavy.

We all know how to hide behind who we are not. We hide each time we choose to be silent in the face of something so loud. Hate is something so loud.

We all know how to die and come back to life, we will always come back to life.

One day we will swell and not break. Bend and not buckle. One day the world will hold us up without making us feel small. One day we will sing songs with hope as the chorus.

1,439 years of life still echo the walls of my mouth, begging me to speak. When I scream they enter the world again. I will never stop screaming. We will never stop screaming.

Cover Image Credit: Cowgernation.com

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Don't Ask Me if it's Real or Not

PSA: Don't ask a girl if her hair is real or not, you may get a response you weren't expecting.

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I am a server at a restaurant in Tampa, and last weekend at work I got asked numerous questions about my hair. Normally, getting asked about my hair isn't a huge issue for me, but it was the comments that were said after, as well as the look of disbelief in this person's face when I answered them.

I walked up to greet my table. Two elderly couples were coming in for drinks and dinner. Putting on my best customer service voice and smile, I introduce myself. As soon as I finish, one of the gentlemen looks at me and says, "WOW. Is that all of your natural hair?" I smile nervously and assured him that this was the hair growing out of my scalp. He then proceeds to add a comment saying,

"It's so big. It looks like you stuck your finger in something and got electrocuted."

I had to sit and pause for a second after hearing this. I think my facial expressions could tell how I was feeling, because his wife jumped in and tried to compliment me on the thickness of my hair, envying it because she didn't have as much hair.

After such an experience, I decided to conduct an Instagram poll, to see what other people's opinions were about this incident, and if it's ever happened to them. Based on the results, people with naturally straight hair don't get asked if their hair is real or not, compared to those with naturally curly hair. Out of those with naturally straight hair, about 76% of the people that voted, have not experienced someone question the authenticity of their hair. On the other hand, of those with naturally curly hair, approximately 82% said they do get questioned about the authenticity of their hair. As a result, 66% of that 82% with naturally curly hair, are of African-American decent or mixed races.

So what's the big deal?

Naturally straight-haired people rarely ever get asked if their hair is real, however, once someone comes along with naturally curly hair and happens to be a person of color, originality is questioned. Why does a certain category of people get asked more often if their hair is real or not? Stereotypes? Ignorance? Genuine lack of knowledge?

Whatever the reason may be, it needs to stop. Wigs and extensions are extremely common in this day and age, but they also aren't restricted to one race of people. Even celebrities of fair skin wear wigs and fake hair.

Whenever I get asked about the authenticity of my hair, people look astonished when I tell them it is all mine. Why would anyone think the hair growing out of my scalp is fake? It is a known stereotype that people of color do have more coarse and curly hair textures, but that also isn't the case for everyone. We need to stop putting people in categories based on stereotypes. This applies to more than just hair texture. Especially when interacting with strangers, you cannot assume things based on what you've heard or any prejudgements you may mentally make. Asking someone if their hair is real or not, is just as bad as asking someone if they got a nose job or breast implants. What if you ask them and they say no? It can be more offensive to that person than you think. I understand there are cases where the person genuinely is uneducated about other hair types, but either way, those types of comments or questions should not be vocalized. As a society we need to be more considerate of the things we say, as well as get rid of stereotypes and negative prejudgments. At the end of the day, we are all the same species. We may look completely different than the person next to us, but that's the beauty of it all.

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