Every so often others would walk by with their injured children, older relatives, brothers, sisters…all would stare into my cubicle, react with subtle shock, then quickly look away. I hadn’t seen myself in the mirror yet, but I was pretty sure I must have been a mess. My left eye was swollen nearly shut, the left side of my face swelling to match. I had nine stitches in my forehead, six in my cheek. Two of my front teeth were cracked, large chunks missing. And the worst part, the most numbing, sobering and painful part, is that I sat in this cubicle for eight hours alone. I had no one to call. Family was thousands of miles away. Friends lived too far, either up in Los Angeles or down in San Diego. No boyfriend. No best friend. No one to sit with me until the doctor returned with my CAT scans and x-rays. No one to drive me home and make sure I got to bed okay.
That hurt worse than any mangled fingers, head wounds or broken teeth.
Random violence is just that sometimes…random. I was only getting cash out of an ATM after a night out when a young man of around 18 or 19 jumped in front of me on the way back to my car, wondering “what the fuck (my) problem was,” over and over in my face. As I tried to get him out of my face, I felt something hit my head from behind. After that, it’s sketchy…I remember being on the ground, kicking someone in the face, yelling, screeching tires. The first real memory I have at that point is standing up and seeing a black Ford Explorer tearing away. I looked down and my white shirt was covered in blood that was still streaming from my forehead. I walked calmly to my car, got inside and drove home, thinking I wasn’t hurt too badly. It was after I saw myself in the bathroom mirror and saw my now-deformed fingers in the light that I decided I probably needed to drive myself to the emergency room. Which I did. Alone.
A week after the incident my sister called me. She had told my father what had happened to me, who then told my older brother. My brother’s reaction? “He deserved it.”
Now, I wasn’t there and my father and sisters won’t tell me exactly what else my brother said, only that it was “mean” and “hurtful” and involved words like “faggot”. Meh, big deal. My problem is that as recently as August, I believed my brother and I were cool. I went out of my way to visit him in his house he never leaves, had a nice hour-long conversation, left with a hug, etc. This was after ten years of near silence and polite exchanges after I came out to my family. Everyone else had seemed to accept it over the years, even him. And now this? Huh wha huh?
My cell phone was on fire the rest of that weekend with post-mortems and advice from other family members. “Just ignore him.” “That’s just Keith.” My favorite comment was from my mother. After she told me she didn’t understand what his problem was and why he would say such things, I told her, “Don’t worry. I take what Keith says as seriously as I would take anything from any other 41-year old cement truck driver from Oberlin, Ohio.” My mom’s reaction?
“Well, that’s a mean thing to say!”
And here I was, two months after my mugging and his hateful words, upstairs in my sister’s house, hiding out because he had just arrived with his wife to open Christmas presents with the family and I didn’t know how to react. I could just stare out my sister’s bedroom window at Lake Erie, its storm-driven waters crashing angrily into the rocks on the shore.
I wasn’t upstairs hiding because I was scared. I was hiding because I had no idea how exactly one is supposed to act after he finds out his own brother hates him.
NEXT: The showdown.