San Francisco is the kind of city that seems like almost everyone leaves for the holidays. This, in large part, is due to the fact that a major segment of the population isn't really from here—split between transplants and students returning to wherever they came from to visit their families. The people who remain here during this period are a mishmash of real locals, orphans, and Scrooges. Also, the homeless stick around. Parts of the city can be a lot of fun during this time, because there is a period where you feel as though you have the whole place to yourself. This holiday season in the city wasn't much different than any of the others I’ve spent in years past. However, there were a couple of events that put a damper (to say the least) on my holiday cheer.
The shooting that killed those students and staff at that school in Newtown, Connecticut before Christmas was not the greatest way to ring in the season. I can’t image that many of the little kids fully understood what was happening to them, only standing about three and half feet tall. A few days after the massacre, I read an article written by an emergency room doctor named Christine Rizkalla. In describing her first experience of dealing with a child that was brought into the emergency room who had been shot, she says:
In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre I've heard people arguing loudly about policy and politics, and it seems that what is missing from almost all of these debates is the central, horrific reality of what it looks like when a child is shot. Outside of emergency rooms and ambulances, very few people have any idea what we’re actually talking about when we talk about a bullet ripping into a small body—even once, let alone 11 times.
I still can’t wrap my head around this incident, as I still can’t wrap my head around the rhetoric of the NRA and their most ardent supporters in relation to this incident, or any incident of the same sort for that matter. It is all very disheartening.
The other episode over the holidays that had a profound impact on me was the suicide of a young man on New Year’s Eve here in San Francisco. I knew him casually from a bar in my neighborhood. He was one of those guys in the gay community that turned a lot of heads, beautiful body, beautiful face, and a beautiful smile. Apparently, around midnight on New Year’s Eve, he left work early in a limousine, which drove him to the Golden Gate Bridge. After he got out of the vehicle, he walked along the footpath, scaled the barrier and jumped off of the platform. His body never made it to the water; instead, it hit and landed on the concrete area around one of the supporting structures of the bridge. It was a dramatic (arrogant?) act. A person who takes a limousine to the GGB on NYE with the intent of committing suicide is not doing so to leave this planet meekly, so to speak.
A week earlier I had had dinner with this chap. He was one of a dozen or so people who attended an orphan’s Christmas that was hosted by a mutual friend of ours. He sat next to me on the couch. He and his boyfriend talked about their dogs. We laughed together. I would've never dreamt in a million years that he was going to be dead a week later. I wonder if he knew; I suspect he did. In retrospect, it seems like he planned his suicide, down to every last detail. His smile haunts me.
I've spent my entire holiday trying to capture my thoughts on these two incidents, writing and rewriting so I can be rid of them. I've tried to find something positive to hold a candle to, but I can’t. Sometimes, things that happen to other people you hardly know, or know at all, can affect you in ways you never expected.