This weekend, I thought about Lance and couldn’t stop laughing. He was a hurricane of animation. Amongst our religious community, we bonded as outcasts: Me for being, well…me; him for being both flamboyantly gay AND in the closet (if that makes any sense). We met when he was 16 and I was 18. Having become so accustomed to judgment and scrutiny, we didn’t know what to make of one another. Our friend that introduced us was in line at McDonald’s leaving us in the car. He produced a hidden 40 of 8 Ball, and said, “You want half? I’ve never had one of these.” After we finished, and against sage advice, we went to the hood daiquiri shop and got two house specials. As if that weren’t enough to cement our friendship, after my night of puking, I called him the following morning. He answered the phone sounding like Dr. John and said, “I’mma call you back when I don’t feel like shit.” How can you not love a person like that?
We weren’t sole hangout partners, but when we hung, it was ON. The dancing was wild, the laughter was raucous, and the fun could not be contained. And the hugs? The best, tightest, longest hugs ever.
People liked to ask me, “Well, what’s his story? Is he GAY?” I would give them my best version of, “The fuck should I know?” and keep it moving. Now, his strut, manner of speaking, fashion sense, and insistence that we see “Too Wong Foo” opening weekend pretty much told me the story, but it was really a non-issue. It’s amazing how, even when you’re very young, your elders will jump on you and attack because you’re different, and don’t fit into their norm. I never got that. It’s almost like they will force you to be something that you aren’t.
And that’s sort of what happened. He got married and had a couple of kids. I remember him working hard for his family (something a LOT of his heterosexual critics couldn’t seem to do). Trying to force something that doesn’t fit (and we were both doing it at the time) is an incredibly draining process, and we lost touch. When we would see each other, we were both frazzled and distracted, trying to fit our square selves into these round holes of our own creation. The hugs were tight, but more out of relief of being with a person that accepted and knew us as ourselves, not the facsimile.
We ran into each other at the store somewhere around the summer of 2005 and made tentative plans that included food and libations. LOTS of libations. Of course, tentative turned to never. Those who know me, know how terrible I am at keeping in touch, so when I moved to Maryland, of course the plans faded to black.
So it when he crossed my mind this weekend, it was very random. I kind of remembered hearing that he’d left New Orleans, but the details were fuzzy at best. He lived here, he was moving there, no one had answers. Our friend who introduced us didn’t even have a current number on him, as she was going through her own craziness.
Lance, though still married, had come out a couple of years back. Additionally, my sister was not one to gossip, so when she asked me, “Have you heard about Lance?” though I didn’t know what to make of it, I knew it couldn’t be good. And when she told me the news, I couldn’t catch my breath. And when I could catch my breath, I went to Google and typed my friend’s name in the search box, and I paused. And my fingers hovered over the keys, because I couldn’t really type the word that would lead me to confirm the news about my friend.
The very first link contained the news about my friend’s bullet ridden body being found in a parking lot. They found him. No one knows who. No one knows why. Four sentences. He was a husband, a father and a friend. He was loving and would readily give you what he had or find it for you if he didn’t. He got four sentences. Five if you count the added fact that a man in a white tee and blue jeans was spotted fleeing the scene. His grandchildren, whom he will not hold at their birth, will not be able to give testimony to the goodness of his hugs, or how his laughter would crack through the air and force you to laugh. What he means to people just really can’t be covered in four sentences.
That shit couldn’t be covered in four billion.