I didn’t want to go back.
I spent Saturday night with my sister and her friend in West Hollywood, celebrating Pride with the rest of Los Angeles.
We went to the Abbey, a popular gay/lesbian nightclub off Santa Monica Blvd. It was packed. I complained about the twenty dollar cover charge. We danced. We met new people. We made friends.
It wasn’t until I woke up the following morning that I heard the news. Forty-nine people in Orlando had gone into a gay nightclub the night before, just like I had, but the difference was that I left in a cab, and they left in body bags. The cover charge didn’t seem like too big a price now.
I don’t want to talk about the shooter. Giving him attention is what he would have wanted. The least we can do is make sure he doesn’t get any. I want to talk about fear. Because when it is used methodically and tactically as it was in Orlando on Saturday night, fear is the most dangerous weapon of them all.
As we were getting ready to head to the parade on Sunday morning, I told my sister I didn’t want to go back. She had driven up with her friend from San Diego the day before to go to the parade. I told her that I had a lingering hangover and was feeling a bit of a cold coming on. I told her that I had been burning a hole in my wallet, and needed to stay home and spend as little money as possible. I told her that I wanted to spend the day writing. While those were all true, I was using those truths to cover the biggest truth of all.
I was scared.
It was reported Sunday morning that a man had been arrested in Santa Monica with weapons and explosives in his car, and he told authorities that he was planning on going to the Pride Parade the next day. Between that, and a fear of copycat killers instilled in me from TV, I was convinced that going to Pride was not worth it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When we pulled up to the parade, my first sight was a squadron of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, armed to the teeth, ready for anyone who tried to pull some shit. The streets were packed, but the crowd was still a little lighter than expected. Some people had succumbed to their fears. Who could blame them for that?
The only way I could describe the mood for the first hour of the parade was celebratory numbness. Everyone knew what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to drive floats down Santa Monica Blvd., unfurl banners and proclaim that love would always win no matter what. But we weren’t sure if it was too soon. If we could smile in the face of such hatred. Then something happened.
We all started to dance. At that moment, we collectively realized that it’s never too soon to celebrate each other and our humanity in the face of tragedy.
The floats were loud, bombastic, and fabulous as always. There was a float that resembled “Charlie the Unicorn,” a float representing the phenomenal Amazon show Transparent, and a float for the LAPD. The last one got the loudest applause.
After the parade was over, we went back to the Abbey. As the nightclub grew more crowded, I made sure that I knew where the nearest exit was at all times, in case things took a turn for the worst. While I was doing this, I caught the eye of a large man wearing a black polo with the letters “FBI” across the back in bright yellow. He was holding a handgun, and he was talking to one of the male dancers. They were laughing.
All of my fear started to melt away. Here was a man who worked for the federal police force, charged with defending the constitution and the citizens of this country. He was holding a gun, wearing a badge, and talking to an oiled up muscly Latin dancer wearing a pink thong. It made me realize that in the face of terror, and Trump, and rhetoric from our leaders that only seeks to divide us, we still stand for something in this country. The unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that FBI agent knew that if someone’s pursuit of happiness involves him shaking his ass on a platform in a speedo to Ariana Grande’s “Into You,” then goddammit, he will protect that. That’s probably why he joined the Bureau in the first place.
Fear is the most dangerous weapon there is. But it’s not the strongest. That would be love. And so long as scissors cuts paper, and paper covers rock, love will always squash fear.