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He Taught Me How To Live

For the last few weeks, I have been writing about ‘now’ – my experiences in this day and age – but sometimes it makes perfect sense to reflect on some of the things that has happened in the past, only hoping that they never have to repeat themselves. It is really beneficial as a way for me to map out how far I have come and how further I may have to go.

Reminders. Life lessons. Growth strategies.

It just make sense because, from my perspective, life inside the universe is just a classroom. Thoughts. Experiences. Problems. Solutions. Lessons.

So going back about four years ago, I remember traveling to work… picked up the daily newspaper and I remember the shocking image on the front page. I remember the ‘bold letters’. I quickly skipped to another page. My heart was throbbing.

It was an unbelievable story that my former manager had been killed.

I wasn’t sure exactly why, but the way in which he died was horrific. My co-workers had read the story. They showed no sympathy. One of my co-workers said, “I heard he was a ‘battyman’.”(Jamaican equivalent for ‘faggot’). I could feel the tears coming but I was too numb to cry.

That morning was as bleak as the signs of morning showers: dark clouds rushing across the sky and the absence of sunlight. I stood in the car park, smelling the air of sea salt and listening to the rushing waves crashing against the rocks along the seashore. I was distant from everything else that was happening around me.

I knew I had to leave the country.

I knew I was too close to him. I had hoped the story hadn’t reached my neighborhood. I hoped my father hadn’t heard about it. I had hoped it would remain a secret, at least until I had left the country.

He was my very first manager. He was only 38 years old. A very strong, powerful man; full of life, hardly complained about anything. But he had his own weakness. This is not something you are allowed to talk about. Everyone seemed to have known – I was still guessing. In a sense, it wasn’t my business, but in a typical communal, homophobic society, everyone was very concerned about what deviance he embraced. They were concerned about his lifestyle.

A ‘lifestyle’ – that’s what it was called.

But his take on life seemed more established than anyone else’s. Regardless as to whether or not he was gay, many people respected his guts.

I did too. And for a different reason, I thought I was learning.

The first lesson he taught me, was that regardless of what society tries to make you believe, you do not need to be with a woman to be a man. He was a man on his own terms.

But when he died, it took me several months to put sense to his unexpected absence from life.

Throughout the time that I got know him, I could sense that he was depressed, frustrated, sad and secluded and that made him bitter. He was miserable. But instead of whimpering to the rhythm of pain, he lived lavishly – he spent, drinked, partied, laughed – and quite frankly, pretended not to care too much about what people thought of him.

No one knew who he was. He was extremely private.

Everyone saw his strength. But as I got to know him more, I could sense his pain. A witty, smart and aggressive man but his soul was frail.

I always wondered why he never left the country. But he got so used to being depressed, oppressed, so distanced that it all became commonplace. He learnt how to fight. And so he lived and died fighting.

Still, he achieved a lot. A home in a great neighborhood. A great car. A great job. But I couldn’t tell if he was ever proud of what he had.

Initially, I thought he knew the way out of depression. But there was a bigger chance that all he ever did was what he could to defeat the fear or likelihood of receding into depression.

Around the time that he died, I wrote the poem below… at a time when poetry was my only relief from the tension that was building inside. To me, this poem was very personal but I have gotten to the point in life where I no longer believe that I should be ashamed of my past or fearful for my future:

It’s titled: “He Taught Me How To Live.”

It feels like a new chapter had begun

My life had frankly started but may have also ended

Yes! I was suicidal

…Had thoughts tearing me apart everyday

…Lost and confused

But now and then that chapter repeats itself

But very few people, if any, ever saw my tears

While there were many faces

As many as I could remember,

None shared my pain

I was shrouded in gloom

Like society, religion and my family

Had devoured a big chunk of my heart

And still, I was the same face in the mirror

The same shame

The same embarrassment

The same lie

The same captive

But somehow I met a few people

Who gave me the same reasons for wanting to live

…That I shouldn’t give up

…That I should just give it a try

Somewhere deep within I had found that very thing that gave me life…

…The unquenchable thirst to succeed

…To be!

Someone had walked into my life

Had taught me how to be a man

How to live simply because it is life,

But he never had to tell me

More importantly, he showed me

But everyday has its own end

Everyone has his own end

And so did he… a great teacher, but he had his own

…Not what I had expected

Maybe not so soon

But he wasn’t perfect

As none of us are.

He had things to learn
Because life never stops teaching.

2 Replies to “He Taught Me How To Live”

  1. RaiC says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It always pains me to still hear about murders, especially ones that never truly get solved and become matters of speculation. I am happy to know that your co worker did leave a piece of him with you… sharing his knowledge and showing his strength although things may have not been so great.

    I hate that people have to hide behind a facade and cannot be who they really want to be more often than not. I hate the idea of pretending, faking, or hiding but sometimes, that is the only option to truly protect yourself. Humanity is a tricky thing and no matter how much we grow as a people, there are still some who just dont get it… and for that, I am so disappointed. I dont get why people cannot just mind their business?!! Smh

    God Bless you and I pray that you find strength and security in yourself. I hope that you find the power to continue to fight the naysayers and all the haters. I hope that you continue to allow your friend to live vicariously through you. I hope you continue to write poetry and use your words and experiences as the motivation to stand strong and empower others in similar situations. You’re solid, always remember that.

  2. Kevin A. says:

    Thank you, Rai!

    This is heartfelt. It’s awesome that you mentioned poetry here because I was just about to share some news on a new poetry group that we have been working on.
    Exciting stuff… hopefully, you can make it someday.

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