As she dozed on the crowded city bus, draped on the bench atop her plastic bags, mismatched luggage - all of her belongings - I snapped her picture. Trying not to stare her awake, I looked away. Her imprint in my mind morphed into a PIETA - a bag-lady-crucified-Christ, the blue vinyl of the bus seat the Holy Mother holding her. Something about her made me think of peace.
She must have been a "regular" on the route, for when the driver braked, he indicated it was her stop and asked that her fellow passengers awaken her. No one moved, though everyone heard, and since I knew their paralysis was unique to Minnesota and incurable, I stepped up. Shaking her shoulder gently and saying, "Excuse me, Ma'am?" in a clear loud voice, I tried to rouse her. The skin of her face was paper thin and paper white - complicated lines of weather and time flashed a sweet smile as her dream ended and her eyes opened. I explained we had arrived at her stop and helped her gather her life's luggage and disembark.
She haunts me still. Did I do a good thing by helping her get where she was going? Or was my action an assault? An interruption of the temporary peace that her passing dream-time had provided; a minute's paradise in a life I doubt she'd ever dreamed would be hers.
Creepy Little Left-hand Stigmata Wound sat slouched in the towel I'd wrapped it in making soft sucking sounds to itself - rhythmic, almost musical. It continued, the only sound in the room, until my curiosity overcame me, "Tell me, " I ventured, "do tell me, Creepy Little Left-hand Stigmata Wound, how I can ring me up some Jesus to rain down on my head? My spark is stuck in the flesh-web in my brain. I need me some Jesus to rain down on my head."
Silence broken by the sucking sound the wound made - rhythmic almost musical. The next voice was not my own.
"You are SO human!" my kitty cat uncurled in the space beneath my chin and giggled, "Oh SO human and SO all alone! Calling out for the one thing that's never left you. Pity Man, so sure of himself and yet suspended over the gulf of Eternity - his Forever teeters first one way then another."
As usual my kitty cat made more sense than a kitty cat should but her wise words were instantly lost on my slippery soul so again I ventured, "Tell me please, Creepy Little Left-hand Stigmata Wound, tell me HOW I can ring me some Jesus to rain down on my poor head?"
It made a smack, its red-ringed mouth slippery as I bled, then silent a second it seemed to think.
"Listen to itself it must!" Its voice a moist, hoarse whisper, "The jug of wine calls out it thirsts! The dinner dies of hunger!"
The "h" in "hunger" bubbled blood, so absently I wiped it clean. My kitten laughed her meowing laugh to fill the awkward moment.
"From Paradise it banished its silly Self! (said banish-shed, Shakespearean)." Smack smack - it giggled? - then it fell mute, its riddle slowly forming like the scab that dried on my forearm. It had drizzled blood since early morning.
For an instant I might have understood, epiphany triumphant. Then Fear, my favorite feeling, Father of all the Others, overcame my clarity. It was too easy, a trick - might I be the source of my own Eternity? In my horror I cried, "Too simple! It must be Complex, a snarl of rules, a list of Steps!" I shook my arm in anger and the Creepy Little Left-hand Stigmata Wound seemed to cough, the blood flow increasing,"I have been taught to believe in a Chosen few, no Infidels allowed! The Diverse made Same Forever and Ever, Amen."
"Man's Rules, not God's!" It raised its voice. I blinked back tears.
"If true," I whispered,"then all I've learned of Grace and God must be replaced. All my Doing wasted. My frantic quest to be redeemed. My spark alone enough for Heaven's gate - not earned but given - a Loving Fate."
"Mm Hm, " it hummed, my Kitten purred. The Universe buzzed around me.
The Fool, in tears I spoke again,"Please tell me, Creepy Little Left-hand Stigmata Wound, tell me HOW I can ring me some Jesus to rain down on my poor head?"
My Lesson lost, I begged a task, assignment, cost, some work to do to earn it. My Kitten ceased her purring, spun a circle curling up with her ass dismissively in my face. Among the three of us I was the least enlightened.
Suck-suck, suck-suck - rhythmic almost musical. Creepy Little Left-hand Stigmata Wound sat slouched in the towel I'd wrapped it in making soft sucking sounds to itself. The only sound in the room...
Homophobia is still killing men all over the world. Intolerance and "fundamentalist" versions of the World's Religions greatly contribute to the idea that homosexuals are somehow an "abomination."
In 86 nations, homosexual sex is considered a crime, and in 7 countries it is punishable by death, according to the Foundation for AIDS Research, known as Amfar.
In 2003, Mexico (yep, that's right - Mexico. NOTthe LandoftheFreeandtheHomeoftheBrave) banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, and it has opened what it calls homophobic-free health clinics. The government has a national campaign that includes radio spots with mothers accepting their gay sons.
Worldwide, few developing nations check the rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men, but researchers who have surveyed some of these countries say they are finding the rates are nearly twice that of the general adult population.
More tolerant, modern nations still see protests born of homophobia and hate. It is the responsibility of everyone who has a homosexualchild,brother, sister, cousin or co-worker to spread the spirit of tolerance by openly sharing their experience with others.