I watched from a distance. Fidel was crying. His tears were silent but he was still crying. I stood in the back. I felt like it wasn't my place to really say anything about this.
They were lowering the body into the ground. The funeral was really touching actually. My mother had decided to accompany me to the funeral for moral support after I told her what happened. It meant everything that she was there. Seeing the turn out for the death was even more dramatic.
A young person...dead to an act of selfless violence.
"The service was beautiful," my mother stated.
I nodded, "Yeah."
"Are you going to be ok?" my mother asked me.
I just stood there shaking at that moment. I still hadn't gotten over it. I still remembered the sounds of the gunshots breaking out. I still remembered everyone running. The police hadn't caught the men who had done the shooting. I had a feeling they weren't even trying. How does a hate crime take place on a grand scale like that in natural day and barely make it to local news. No one cared. Gays were being targeted and they were being exposed of.
I couldn't take it.
"He was so young," I replied.
Fidel was crying at the front as the casket was lowered. There were other tears as well. Everyone was pretty upset. I had to admit I felt like crying too. I felt like screaming. I just felt like going and hiding under a rock.
Gay lives didn't matter.
"You see why your dad was telling you to be careful?" my mother asked, "You shouldn't have gone to something like that Shay. You shouldn't have put yourself in harms way. Stuff like this is happening more and more often. It's not safe to be a gay man in America anymore. You should know that..."
"Mom. I didn't bring you here to be lectured," I replied.
"I'll be back. I actually am going to mourn. Which is what this is for."
I walked away from my mother. I knew she meant well. I knew she was worried about me. All that meant the world to me but at the same time I felt angry. I felt upset. I felt like there wasn't anything that my mother could really say to me that would make this better.
I stood behind Fidel. The pastor was said a few words. A hymn was sung and then everyone started to disperse.
"I can't believe Lamont is dead," a voice said from behind me.
A hand came on my shoulder. I turned to see that it was Miguel. Lamont had died instantly that day. Lamont was the one in the casket. Lamont was being lowered and all of us were just looking in awe that something like this could happen.
I looked over at Miguel, "Are you ok?"
"We are all kind of torn up about it," Miguel replied, "Fidel and Rashad were a lot closer to Lamont than I was clearly, but I still made friends with him. This is fuckin' crazy..."
Rashad was on the other side of the grave. He was crying in a much more dramatic way than Fidel was. He was wailing something fierce. Some people who I figured had to be his family were around him. They were trying to calm him down but Rashad wasn't having any parts of it. He pulled away from them and let out a eerie scream that filled my heart with the deepest mourn possible. At that moment I felt so bad for him. I knew Rashad and Lamont were more than just friends. I wondered how close they had actually become. I couldn't relate to the kind of emotion that he was going through and at that moment Lamont's infidelity was the furthest thing from my mind. All I could see was pain.
"Are you coming to reception?" Miguel asked.
"Yeah. I'll meet you there. I just want to...have a word...with Fidel if that's ok."
Miguel nodded and walked away.
I looked over at Fidel. Everyone had started to walk back but Fidel was still there. He was just staring as the grave was piled over with dirt. He had been crying. He wasn't anywhere near Rashad's frantic nature but he was crying these slow silent tears that seemed to have the same sort of grievous impact.
I put my hand on Fidel's shoulder and he jerked his shoulder away from me. He gave me a look when he noticed it was me. He didn't warm up however.
"Sorry about that," he apologized.
By this moment almost everyone was gone from around the grave. Rashad had been literally dragged away. Only Fidel remained standing at the grave crying over the tombstone.
He said that he was sorry but his face looked like he had actually meant to jerk away. I could understand it really. His husband had just died. This was something that I couldn't relate to in anyway. Lamont was cheating on him. That was clear but I don't think it mattered. Fidel had clearly loved Lamont enough to marry him. Lamont's death was hitting home for all of us.
"Listen, I'm know you've gotten it all day...but I want to say I'm sorry for your loss," I stated before shaking my head, "And I got you something."
He turned to me and I handed him a box. He opened the box to see a poem. I had it plated in gold.
"Where is this from?"
"Maya Angelous. When Great Trees Die. It's a poem about loss. Read the last stanza..."
He looked at the plaque and held it up to the sun,
"And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed."
I nodded at that moment, "I can't begin to understand what you're going through but I feel like that poem helped me out a lot when my grandmother died a few years ago. Look I know we haven't known each other for that long but I want to be there for you through this hardship."
Fidel looked at the golden plaque for a moment.
Then he just handed it back to me. He just gave it back.
"I can't take that."
"You are right with what you said. We haven't known each other that long. I can't accept that."
I felt stupid. I had really gone out of my way to get this thing made. I honestly felt like it would have been a kind special gesture to him. The fact that he was acting like this seemed off for Fidel. Ever since I met him he was nothing but cool with me. Maybe it was the emotion. I tried to patient with him.
I eased into a smile, "Listen, I was just trying to be there for you. I think we all need someone."
"I had someone!"
Fidel was crying. Tears were rolling down his eyes. Shit. I felt like a mess. I should have waited before I approached him. He was clearly too emotional to talk to. I understood everything. I understood why he was responding to me like this. I understood that he was upset. I should have been more understanding and waited until he calmed down to show my remorse for his situation.
"Fidel I'm sorry."
"No. I am the one whose sorry. It's my fault he died," Fidel stated at that moment, "I'm sorry. I'm one sorry ass motherfucker. He pushed me out of the way. He did that to save my life. You know why? Cause Lamont was loyal. All through the arguments and all that bullshit, he was 100% loyal to me. He rode for me and no one else. He did that while I was out thinking about..."
Fidel stopped mid sentence. He just stared at me blankly.
"Thinking about what?" I asked him.
Finish. What were you thinking about? I swallowed my spit at that moment. I felt like this was getting too serious. He was getting too emotional. Maybe I should have walked away now. I didn't though. I couldn't walk away from Fidel for some reason. I just stood there blindly.
Fidel wouldn't finish though, "I'll catch you at the reception."
He walked away at that moment. I thought about calling him back. I thought about chasing behind him. I thought about trying to understand where he was coming from. Truth was though I didn't know how to relate to him. My grandmother dying wasn't the same as his husband dying. I didn't know what to say to him to make things better. For some reason though he seemed to have this sense of resentment when he denied me. Maybe I was just overreacting though.
I stood over Lamont's grave at that moment. There was still a picture of him. He had died so young. He had died just because he was gay. He wasn't the only one either. Hate crimes were at an all time high especially in Miami. Lamont wasn't the first and he wouldn't be the last.
Something had to change. I placed the plaque at his grave.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
The reception was short. Rashad hadn't shown up at all and Fidel was going out of his way to stay away from me and everyone else for that matter. He wouldn't let anyone near him. I could feel him shutting down. Miguel was around to keep me company though. I decided to ride home with him instead of my mother and by the time I got back to the house Miguel invited me in.
"How about some coffee. I make a mean ass coffee..."
"I'm not sure if Fidel would actually want me in there."
Miguel seemed confused, "Why not?"
"I'm not sure to be honest," I replied shaking my head, "He seemed to be really cold to me at the funeral when I was trying to offer my condolences. I was actually really shocked by it."
"He's just in his feelings. The love of his life just died."
Love of his life?
I nodded, "You know what. I am being a little selfish. This has nothing to do with me. Either way though, I don't think he would want me around right now."
Miguel shook his head, "It doesn't matter. Because I want you around."
Miguel smiled at me. He had to have been flirting. To be honest Miguel was actually very attractive. He had that Rico Suave swag like he just walked around Miami with his shirt off picking up bikini models all day. He was very handsome in the face. He had defined jawline and white perfect teeth. When he smiled there were dimples on his baby face and he knew he had a beautiful smile because he tended to do it a lot.
For some reason every time I looked at him though all I thought about was Fidel.
I was still worried about Fidel. To tell the truth I felt like I had to at least check on him to make sure he was OK.
"Ok, I'll come in. Just for a little while though," I replied.
I was trying to be casual. I was trying to act like I wasn't hurt by how Fidel had shut me down at the funeral. Truth be told I was hurt. It had hurt my fucking feelings really.
"Why you so nervous?" Miguel stated, "Don't worry papi...I got you..."
Miguel put his arm around me and pulled me close. He smelled good actually. He had that masculine, but pretty boy vibe to him that would probably make a teen girl go absolutely crazy at her Quinceanera. By how close he was holding me I could tell he was flirting hard. I probably wouldn't have minded except that I was still so fucking attracted to Fidel. Still Fidel was off limits. Even as a widower now he seemed to be shutting down completely.
When we walked into the house I noticed that Rashad was already in the house.
"You didn't waste any time," Rashad stated.
Rashad was talking about me.
Miguel shook his head at Rashad, "I live here brotha. You don't. Remember that."
"We should be mourning Lamont now. Not looking for dates."
"Shay is a friend..."
Rashad shot me over a look. I would have argued with him but the fact they were all mourning Lamont made it clear that they were speaking out of emotion before anything else. Rashad wasn't alone. Venus was there and so were a few other gay boys. They were chatting in the living room.
Venus looked over at me from his wheelchair, "Did you see it happen Shay? Did you see Lamont get shot?"
I nodded, "I wasn't too far away."
"They say he pushed Fidel out of the way. Is that true?"
I was there when it happened. That was completely false. I didn't know where they got that information. Lamont tripped and fell into Fidel. It was a fucking accident. I had watched him stumbling around crazy pushing people out of his way. He had pushed me on the floor first. I had fallen down. From the floor I watched as Lamont pushed someone else. The person wasn't taking it though and pushed Lamont off of him. Lamont fell backwards into Fidel and the bullet that was aimed for Fidel actually ended up killing Lamont.
I wondered if I should tell them. Did it matter? Would it make a difference? Would anyone fucking care at all?
They wanted to make Lamont into some sort of hero.
Maybe I should just let them.
"He saved me," a voice stated.
It was Fidel. He had come downstairs. Fidel had something in his hand. I was shocked when I saw what Fidel had in his hand. It was a pistol. Fidel was holding a fucking gun.
Miguel looked at him like he was crazy, "Cous...what the fuck did you have with that gun from?"
I looked over at Miguel. He looked like he was freaking out. Fidel was clutching onto the gun hard.
"Don't worry about it, " Fidel stated, "Just worry about the fact that I can get more..."
We all looked at one another. Fidel was talking crazy. He had this crazy look in his eyes. He was a bulldog at that moment. No. He wasn't a bulldog. He was a BULL! Fidel looked mad as hell. He was seeing red. He had this gun in his hand and to be honest I think everyone was feeling a little upset.
"So what's the gun for?" I asked.
"What you think Shay?" he asked me back, "Rashad was right. It's time we stop being the victims. It's time we start something just for us. It's time we go to war."
"A gang?" Rashad asked.
Fidel nodded, "A gay gang. If the cops don't want to make these streets safe for our people, we'll make them safe by force. We'll bring this war to them."
Miguel and I exchanged looks. Everyone else in the room seemed really emotional at this moment. I felt like I was a little removed from this so maybe I was the only one thinking completely clear. Luckily Miguel seemed to think this was somewhat of a crazy idea as well.
"¡Qué cojones!" Miguel rolled his eyes, "Who you Tony Montana now? You a Puerto Rican Gangsta? That WAF shit is not a joke Fidel. We not bout that life."
"Speak for yourself cous," Fidel shook his head, "I'm not scared. Lamont wanted us to take the fight to them. If I had listened to him, he probably would have been alive now."
"Fidel it's not your fault he's dead---" I had to add in.
"Then whose fault is it?" Fidel asked before quickly adding in a loud stern voice, "HUH! Whose fault?"
Fidel was literally screaming in my face.
It was Miguel who actually pulled me back to separate us. I didn't think Fidel was going to hit me or anything like that but he did get in my face. It was clear the emotion was really getting to him. I was lucky Miguel was around to at least make some sort of attempt to calm this down.
"Fidel, cool out. You emotional right now," Miguel replied stepping between Fidel and I.
Venus shook his head, "Miguel's right. That shit is a bad idea."
"You all are pussies," Rashad stated at that moment, "I'm down Fidel. It's time to get payback. It's time to make them know just how dangerous a faggot can be."
Rashad stood up at that moment. He flexed his arms. He was trying to look down.
Venus shook his head, "Then I'm out of here. Tony. You coming?"
I looked over at the boy he was talking to. It was another Spanish guy who was a little bit more heavy set. He was handsome though and reminded me a lot of if Lamont had lost a lot of weight. He had a darker complexion like Lamont and had curly Spanish hair.
Tony shook his head, "I think I'm going to hear this out."
"Venus you free to go," Rashad stated, "Miguel and Shay, ya'll can go too if you'd like."
Venus took that as he queue. He left the house at that moment.
When he left Fidel looked at Miguel and I, "Anyone else want to join him?"
"I'm staying. I'm riding...good idea or bad one," Miguel replied, "Shay. I think you should go though. You didn't know Lamont all like that. I wouldn't expect you to want to be a part of this."
They all stared at me. They were all waiting for me to make a decision. Miguel was right. I didn't know Lamont. I had no reason to stay and try to get revenge for him. This gang thing didn't seem like the best idea. All of a sudden though my memories started to flash back.
I had memories of how embarrassed I was when I was attacked. I remembered how I videotaped. It wasn't the WAF that had done it. I wasn't in Miami at the time. Those boys hadn't even killed me though. What if I was in Miami when I was attacked? The WAF would have possibly done worse. They seemed more extreme. They could have killed me.
"I'm staying," I stated.
Fidel looked over at me, "You sure?"
"I said I'm staying didn't I?"
I tried to sound confident. I tried to sound secure in what I was saying. Truth was I was scared as fuck. My heart was racing. My hands were shaking. I stayed because I wanted these homophobic pigs to feel the fear that I felt. I stayed because I wanted to turn the tides.
Rashad was excited. He was probably more excited than anyone else in the room, "Felix you down?"
Felix was the quiet guy. He was a lighter complexion of Spanish. He hadn't said a single word since we walked in the room. He still didn't speak. He just nodded quietly.
"We'll need more people," Fidel stated.
"I'll put the word out. People are scared. People are pissed. They'll come with us," Rashad replied, "We need a name though. We need a name."
"GGG..." Fidel stated.
"What's that mean?"
"Gay Guerilla Gangstas..."
"You don't have to do this?"
A few hours had gone by. Rashad and Fidel were still in the living room planning with the guys but I went outside to catch some air. I was thinking I just needed to really take the load off for a minute.
I didn't know what I was thinking. A part of me was excited about GGG. A part of me was sad about Lamont. I was still upset about the fact that Fidel was being so shady to me. There were so many emotions running through me.
I was half surprised when Miguel actually walked outside with me.
"Do what?" I asked him.
"As convincing as they sound, how can I not?"
"Were you at the same meeting that I was in? Rashad and Fidel sounded like they were just trying to compare their dick sizes. Both of them are trying to take control."
I shook my head, "I noticed that. Maybe this won't be all bad though."
"You don't think?"
I shook my head, "Back in the day gangs were nothing more like clubs. It turned into something about drugs and all that extra but what really is a gang. It's a family. It's a sense of belonging. I feel like you guys can relate to me more than my own family can."
"You want to feel that closeness then?"
I nodded, "Exactly."
Miguel looked over at me, "You know when I saw that video of you, it pissed me off. I was shocked really. I just remember seeing those homophobic dickheads defiling you and feeling like I wish I was there. I was just hoping that I could do something. Maybe this will be my chance to do something."
"We'll stick together."
"I dunno about you being a part of it though."
I raised an eyebrow, "Why not?"
"Cause you the type of dude that I may pull a Lamont for."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You the type of dude that I might jump in front of a bullet for," Miguel replied.
He licked his lips. It was cute. I had to admit it was cute as fuck. I couldn't help but smile. I wished I could let him know at that point that Lamont didn't jump in front of a bullet for Fidel. That just wasn't what happened. I didn't tell him though because right at that moment Fidel walked into the backyard.
He opened the screen door.
"Miguel, Rashad wanted to talk to you...see if you can get us some weapons from your job."
Miguel shook his head, "For defense?"
Fidel just shrugged, "For any reason we might need them. Go in and talk to him."
Miguel nodded at that moment and walked over. He left me in the backyard. I looked back over at Fidel. Fidel was about to follow Miguel back into the house but I grabbed him and stopped him.
"Can I talk to you?"
I was nervous. I could hear it in my voice.
Fidel stopped walking at that moment, "What's up?"
"I had a question."
Fidel wasn't even looking me in the eyes. He was avoiding eye contact completely. It was almost as though he was intentionally trying to act like I wasn't around him. I could feel this awkward tension between us. I hated the idea that we had been so cool and now we were beefing.
"Do you somehow blame me for what happened to Lamont?" I asked.
"Why would I blame you?"
"What you said earlier just got me to thinking," I replied, "Do you think it's my fault?"
Fidel seemed impatient, "Look. I'm not fitting to sit here and cater to your ego son. I said it before and I said it again. I blame myself."
"You don't go to be fucking rude about it."
"WELL YOU don't have to look at me like that all the fucking time!"
I stopped. Huh?
"What are you talking about?"
"You looking at me. You looking at me like that. Like...I don't know. Like you want something from me," Fidel stated with this angry tone, "I don't want to connect with you. I don't want to have no deep conversation with you. I did at one point. I fucking...I FUCKING let myself slip and now Lamont is dead because of that shit!"
Fidel walked away.
He slammed the screen door behind him so hard that it shook the house. I was shocked.
At that point I figured it was probably just best to go home. It was clear that Fidel didn't want me around and it seemed like something about me being around was getting him more and more upset.
I made it back to the house. I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about Fidel. Truth was I really liked him before today. I still did. I mean it just didn't go away like that. I honestly thought that me and him had a vibe. Even if he was taken at the time and we couldn't be together, I thought we could still have a friendship.
The way Fidel was acting was almost like he didn't even want a friendship now. He was acting like he didn't even want to be around him. I was really putting all this energy trying to be nice to him when Miguel was actually someone who wanted to get to know me. Why wasn't I giving Miguel a chance? I should have. Miguel was clearly a cool guy. Maybe he was someone I should entertain. Fidel was heartbroken. He had every right to be. He had lost his husband. However he needed to know that his husband wasn't perfect. His husband was far from perfect actually. His husband was a cheater and his husband was NOT a hero.
Why was he so mad at me? What had I done to him?
What did I do to deserve to be treated like that?
It was late at night and I realized that I wouldn't be sleeping. I found myself walking to the bathroom at that moment. It was the middle of the night and I was really sleepy. I heard talking from my brother's room and a part of me just wanted to avoid him.
I started to creep past Donovan's room when I heard a conversation. I wasn't trying to listen but the words stuck out to me immediately and stopped me in my tracks.
"They had a funeral for that faggot you shot," my brother Donovan said, "My sissy ass brother went to it."
I had stopped. My mouth was wide open.
"We should have hit that shit up too...shot up the funeral," another voice said.
Laughter. They were laughing.
That was when I looked in the room. I didn't recognize the other guy at first. He was a Spanish guy who was probably in his mid 20s. He had short hair. I took a closer look at the boy. That was when I noticed who it was. He had covered his mouth with his hand as though he was laughing. That was the shooter! Why the fuck was my brother talking to the guy who shot and killed Lamont!
"You should let me do the next one Pablo," my brother stated, "My brother hangs with a bunch of those faggots. I'll spy on him and find out where they all hang out."
"You ready to do that? You just joined WAF."
Holy shit. My brother was a member of WAF.
My brother's voice got low, sick and sinister, "I was born ready..."
To read the next chapter go to www.crushedcrown.com