Bobby and Brian
I confess that I am writing this while Bobby is still in hospice care, while we’re all waiting for him to die. I’m writing now because I’m not sure if I’ll be capable of writing later, when I hear that he’s gone. And of course, like Bobby, I have a flair for the dramatic.
A world without Bobby is still unfathomable to me. Maybe always will be. I’ve never been so good at accepting the unacceptable.
Bobby was my best friend here in Atlanta, although I don’t believe he felt the same way about me. In fact, I don’t believe I was in his “inner circle” at all, although I sure wanted to be. That’s what happens when you make friends with someone so funny, so kind, and so clever. You have to stand in line. And I was happy for the privilege, just to get to know him better. I mean, who else knows the entire screenplay of Mommie Dearest by heart, can rattle off the name of every member of British Royal Family, and is willing to screen your ex-husband’s voicemails, like a protective big brother, to shield you from all that rage?
Bobby was an incredibly important part of my sobriety. He was leading the discussion at the first gay meeting I shared in, when I was beginning the coming-out process. I raised my hand and said I thought I was bisexual and since the club's literature didn’t mention bisexuals I wasn’t sure if I belonged here or not.
I have no idea what Bobby said, but I remember very clearly the message he conveyed: I belonged. That simple response changed my life forever.
A few years later he changed me again with this email, which he sent as he watched me sinking into the quicksand of mental illness:
I have been keeping my distance because, quite frankly, there is an air of chaos and distress around you that is hard for me to be around. God knows, I have my problems, but it seems that your life has gotten progressively more and more out of control over the past 2 or 3 years. You've repeatedly made promise after promise to do something about it, but you don't follow through and it just gets worse.
Quite frankly, you're living the life of an active alcoholic without the liquor, and I think it's time you did something about it before it swallows you up completely.
This is not easy stuff to write. I'm not comfortable doing it because I'm definitely taking your inventory, but dammit, Lynne, I do love you and you've got to stop this downward spiral! You are smart enough to learn to manage your life, and it's time for school to begin.
He was right, of course, and I loved him for his honesty. I kept spiraling for three more years after that, but his words eventually took root somewhere deep down and gave me the strength to start climbing out of that massive crevasse.
One of the gravest inequities of life is this: that when someone like Bobby dies, the earth continues to turn, the sun rises and sets just like always, and people continue to go about their business, completely oblivious to the fact that the world has just diminished to nothing.
But then again, if the world looked the way I think it should right now, it would be too dark to ever find my way back into the light again.
I don’t believe for a minute that God caused Bobby’s death or made him suffer out of some grand element of design. A virus caused Bobby’s death. But I do believe that God – whatever he/she/it is – can help us through.
Not too long before he got sick, Bobby and I got interested in a film called What the Bleep?! It’s basically a semi-documentary film about physics, and about how the material world isn’t nearly as real as we’ve been taught to believe. Instead, perception and spirit and thoughts and ideas are the real substance of the universe. Bobby was a closet intellectual (whereas I’m more of an intellectual wannabe) and I loved talking to him about stuff like this.
If the film was correct, and I believe in essence that it was, then Bobby has not been diminished at all. Maybe that’s why the world doesn’t look any different. Bobby is just as much here as he ever was, not just symbolically in our hearts and memories, but really and truly here. I like that idea and it’s pretty much the only way I can continue to function.
Wherever Bobby is, he knows how it all turns out. It’s damned inconvenient that he can’t tell us. And I plan to tell him that when I see him again. Until then, God’s got his hands full.
I miss you, Bobby.
(Brian, thanks for the picture. I love you too.)