I was curled up next to Wes in bed, and he had his arm wrapped around me. I could feel his warmth, and I was listening to his shallow breathing as it made gentle puffs of air against my neck. When I moved, he pulled me tighter to him.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked as he nibbled gently on my ear. “You’ve been awake for an hour.”
“I thought you were asleep,” I said as I grabbed his arm and pulled it tighter around my body. I felt safe and secure in his arms. Before, I had always felt ashamed of my small, frail body. Now I fit perfectly into Wes’s body.
He asked, “Is anything wrong?” We had a long talk when we returned to his room after my encounter with Leo. I wasn’t convinced that another march was the right thing to do. Even though Leo promised me we wouldn’t be arrested again, I was aware that the world might be watching.
I turned and smiled into this face. “No,” I replied, “Nothing is wrong. It’s more like everything is right.” I leaned forward and kissed his nose. “For the first time in my life, I’m happy.”
“Me, too,” he said as he returned a kiss to my nose. “When Dad died, I closed myself off from the world. It was just me and Mom against the world.” He paused as he was overcome with emotion. “Then I saw you that night at the café. You looked so vulnerable. I knew you were feeling the same way as I was.”
“Is that why you kissed me?”
“Yes,” he smiled as he kissed my nose again. “I wanted you then,” he positioned his body over mine as he kissed me deeply and then spoke softly, “Like I want you now.” I wrapped my legs around his waist. When he entered me, our bodies melded into one.
Later, Wes and I went to the café we first met for breakfast. We asked to sit at the outside table we shared that night, but the waitress told us the patio area was closed for the fall. Instead, she sat us at a table near the window so we could look out onto ‘our place.’
Wes is extremely romantic. Since I had never dated, I felt awkward being with someone alone. However, Wes quickly made me feel relaxed with his whimsical charm. As we sat at the table waiting for our breakfast to arrive, he placed his face in his cupped hands and stared at me from across the table.
“What?” I asked embarrassedly. “Do I have snot running from my nose?”
He smiled and replied, “No. I just want to look at the man I’m in love with.”
Tears filled my eyes, and I wanted to lean across the table to kiss him. However, the waitress arrived with our meal before I got up the nerve to do it. Before, I would never have even considered kissing another guy in public. However, with Wes, I wanted the world to know I was in love with him. I wasn’t even concerned that a picture might be published on the front page of a newspaper. Our love was just as real as anyone else’s. If another guy could show his affection for his girlfriend in public, then why couldn’t I?
Wes noticed my mood and said jokingly, “A penny for your thoughts.” Without hesitation, I leaned across the table and kissed him. When I looked out the window, a female couple had noticed us. They waved before walking away holding hands.
After breakfast, Wes and I separated. He was going back to his room to finish a report he was writing for an English class. As I made my way to biology class, students stopped me several times. I think everyone on campus now knew who I was because of the continuous news coverage of my arrest. I stood and posed for pictures four times before I rushed off to class.
Jade and Sydney were waiting anxiously outside the room when I arrived. Jade asked excitedly, “Where have you been? We’ve been calling you all night.”
“Oops,” I replied as I quickly pulled my phone from my pocket. I had turned it off to charge it, and I had forgotten to turn it on when I woke up.
“Where were you last night?” asked Sydney. “Seth said you didn’t come back to the dorm.”
“I was with Wes,” I replied. Both girls looked at each other and giggled.
“That’s what we thought,” laughed Jade. “For someone who went nineteen years without getting any, you sure are making up for lost time.”
“Shut up,” I laughed as I slapped her lightly on the arm. They laughed again when my face reddened and I began to grin broadly and said, “What can I say?”
Sydney grabbed my arm and said, “I say we go to class. The professor will be here any minute. As we entered the room, several students stopped me as I made my way back to my seat. All expressed support for me, and they encouraged me to keep fighting.
One extremely cute young man even pulled me off to the side and asked if he could have my phone number. I smiled and said politely, “I’m taken.”
“Lucky guy,” he replied as he turned and sat down.
As we were sitting in class, I received a text message. When the professor looked down to write something on the overhead screen, I quickly read it. It was from Joseph. He wanted me to meet him at six in the library at the table where we had met previously. I texted him back that I would be there.
When we met Seth and Amanda for lunch at McDonalds, the scene was the same. Several students came up to the table to introduce themselves to me. One guy said he had witnessed my arrest, and he said he was going to kick a cop’s ass, but he was afraid he would get shot if he tried. Laughingly, I told him he had made a wise decision.
“Holy crap!” remarked Amanda as he walked away. “You’re a celebrity. In my morning class, that’s all the girls talked about was how cute you are. If you were straight, you could get laid every night.”
Jade gripped her arm and laughed, “He’s already getting laid every night.” They laughed when I began to blush brightly. Even though they knew how much I cared about Wes, it was still difficult to talk about our relationship. I considered our sex life a private affair, and I didn’t see any reason to joke about it.
As we were eating, Darlene entered, went to the counter and ordered a meal. She then came back to our table and sat down across from me. “I’ve been in a meeting all morning,” she informed us as she bit down on a Big Mac. “Jerome has some of the details of the march.”
Jade asked excitedly, “When’s it going to be?”
“Sunday at dusk,” she replied. “It’s going to be a huge event. Joseph is the program organizer. Besides Caswell’s brother, there’s going to be representatives from gay organizations from all over the state.”
“What about Caswell?” Seth asked. “Is he marching?”
“No,” replied Darlene. “Joseph insists that this isn’t to be a political rally. No one running for office is invited. Caswell’s brother is marching only because he’s an important gay lobbyist. The new interim president, Dr. Hathaway, will also participate.”
She looked over at me, “I’m sure Joseph will be contacting you,” she said. “He wants you to lead the march.”
“Me?” I replied excitedly. “I can’t lead the march!”
“Why not?” asked Jade. “You’re the face of the march. If you hadn’t been arrested, no one would have even known what had happened. It would have been a blurb on page nine.”
“I don’t know,” I replied skeptically. Even though I knew Jade was right, I still didn’t feel comfortable once again being in the spotlight. I was hoping that after a week or two, my life would return to normal once again. “Why do I have to lead it?”
Darlene took my hand in hers. “This isn’t about you, Dorian.” She looked over at Jade and Amanda. “It’s about all of us. We’re fighting for what’s right. The more people we can get to listen to us, then maybe we can make a difference. Right now, you have the nation’s attention. People will listen to you.”
Sydney took my other hand. “She’s right you know. You can pretend like you’re not someone special, but we’ve known since the first day we met you,” I looked up into her face as tears filled her eyes, “that you were special. You were born with a purpose.”
I looked over with misty eyes when Jade added, “Talk to Wes.”
I started to cry when Seth said, “You’re the little brother I never had. You’ve got to do this for all the little brothers who need a big brother to look up to.” They reached out and embraced me as I cried.
After my world civilization class, I went back to Wes’s room. He was lying in bed asleep when I arrived. He’d left the door unlocked, so I guess he was waiting on me. I tiptoed into the room, stripped off my clothes and curled up behind him. He sighed when I wrapped my arm around him.
I asked, “Rough day?”
“Not really,” he said as he took my hand and placed it on his erect cock. “I’ve been waiting for you.” He rolled over. I sat atop him, leaned forward and kissed him. I moaned into his mouth when he entered me. Everything that had worried me all day suddenly disappeared.
We lay facing each other. Occasionally, we would quickly kiss and then giggle. Suddenly, he became quiet. I asked worriedly, “What’s wrong?”
He quickly kissed me on my nose. “I want you to move in with me. I want you here all the time.”
“But what about Seth?”
He grinned and said, “I called him before you got here. He said he’d be okay with it.”
“But what if...” He started kissing me passionately before I could think of any sensible reason why we shouldn’t live together. I wanted to share my life with Wes. However, I was afraid Seth would be upset. An hour later, Wes had convinced me that living together would be the right thing to do.
We decided that I would request a dorm change on Friday. Since the clothes his mother had bought me were in the room, then all I would have to do is contact Leo and have my other belongings returned. I told him about the nasty, irritable woman at the housing office, but he assured me I would have no trouble with her.
“You have something you didn’t have before.”
At five thirty, we left to go meet with Joseph. I wanted Wes to be with me to give me courage. Even though the others had convinced me that leading the march would be an unselfish act, I still felt I was being thrown into the lion’s den. I was sure the media and my father’s political opponents would use my involvement to demonstrate my father’s hypocrisy.
Joseph was sitting with Cameron and two other students I didn’t recognize. The guy was the president of a gay national college organization. The girl led a local gay high school student organization. Joseph explained that since we were marching for gay students who were being targeted for their sexual orientation, that the more student organizations that were involved, then it would add credibility to our march.
As he talked, it was obvious that he had thoroughly planned the event. He said he was going to call Sunday, ‘A Day of Unity.’ He thought it would be more effective if we focused on positive ways of eliminating discrimination, bigotry and hatred if we showed that there were alternative ways to deal with it.
He said that the university had given him permission to use the gymnasium for organizations to set up awareness booths. A section would also be reserved for lectures and workshops. He spoke emotionally about a wall that was being erected inside the gymnasium in which people could post pictures, notes and other memorabilia of themselves or others who had been victims of hatred, bullying and violence. The more he discussed his plans, the more excited I became. By the time he discussed the march and rally, I was ready to jump to my feet and lead.
“We’re expecting a huge group,” he said. “Universities and high schools from all over the state are bussing in students. We could have as many as five thousand marchers.”
“Five thousand marchers?” It was going to be far different from the twenty of us who had marched earlier.
He explained with excitement, “We’re going to start the march at Founder’s Square at dusk. Everyone will be given a candle. We’ll march silently to the gymnasium for a Unity Rally.” He paused and looked over expectantly at me. “I want you to lead the march,” he said. “And I want you to speak at the rally.”
“Speak at the rally?” I looked quickly over at Wes. “I can’t speak at the rally.”
Wes smiled, gripped my hand and said, “Yes, you can.”
“Look, Dorian,” added Cameron. It was the first time he had spoken. “I once told you that you don’t pick your place in history, that sometimes history picks you. Your moment has come.”
I looked at Wes and he nodded. I then looked over at Joseph and asked, “What do I have to do?”
“I’ve penciled you in to speak after Geoffrey Caswell,” he said. “Just deliver a three or four-minute speech.”
“More like a three or four thousand-year speech,” I said woefully.
Cameron laughed and said, “It won’t be that bad an experience.” I rolled my eyes as Wes rubbed me gently on my back.
After the meeting, Wes and I headed over to Seth and my room. I still wasn’t sure how he would react to my leaving, even though he told Wes he approved of the move. On the way, I received a phone call from Leo.
“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing all day,” he blared into the phone. “People have been calling wanting to speak with you. I’ve gotten requests for you to do thirty-three newspaper interviews, nine cable shows and three nightly talk shows. A Canadian talk show wants you to fly there for an interview.”
“Leo,” I replied, “You know I can’t. I’ve got classes.”
“I know,” he said. “But we need something to circulate. Do you think you can get your friend there at school to interview you again? What was her name?”
“Yeah, Darlene Foster,” he paused a minute. “Let me write her name down. Do you have her number?”
After giving him her number, he said, “Make this good, okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” I started to hang up, but he suddenly stopped me.
“I’m proud of you.” After he hung up, I smiled at the phone.
I spent the next few days preparing what I wanted to say. Besides attending classes during the day, spending countless hours in the library and meeting with Joseph and others about the activities being planned for Sunday, I found I had very little time to write anything.
Sydney and Jade insisted that I spend at least three hours each evening working with them so my grades wouldn’t be affected by everything going on. I’m thankful that they did, or I probably would have fallen behind in my studies and grades. Both acted like bodyguards if someone walked up and wanted to speak to me. On Thursday night, Jade made me wear a ball cap and a pair of sunglasses so I wouldn’t be recognized. We had a test to cram for in sociology. They would ace the test, but I would be lucky to make a passing grade.
Between classes on Friday morning, Wes and Seth accompanied me to the Office of Student Housing so I could request a room change. The woman who I had denied my request twice before wasn’t there. When I asked where she was, I was sharply informed that she had been reassigned to a department where she had little involvement with students. The young lady who took my request readily approved it.
“I’m going to miss you, Buddy,” Seth remarked as he threw his hand over my shoulder when we left the building.
“Yeah,” I grinned as I looked over at Wes. “But at least you’re gaining a brother-in-law.” Seth reached over and high-fived Wes’s upraised hand.
I spent Saturday with Seth, Sydney and Jade. I knew that after I moved in with Wes, my life would change. They would always remain my best friends, but our time together would be less frequent. Wes and I had spent Friday night working on the speech I would deliver Sunday evening, so some of the pressure was gone. I was still nervous about the idea of speaking before thousands of people. I tried not to even think about millions watching me on television. I had heard that a few local and national channels planned to cover parts of the rally with live feed.
“Do what I did when I had to give a speech in high school,” laughed Jade.
“Pretend the audience is naked.” Seth spit out a mouthful of Coke he had just sipped from a cup.
In the afternoon, we took a bus to the mall. Sydney suggested that I should don my baseball cap and sunglasses so people wouldn’t recognize me. A few people stared at me because they weren’t sure if I was the guy they had seen on the news. An elderly lady did approach me and ask if I was ‘that queer fella who caused all the trouble.’
I giggled and replied, “You must have mistaken me for your great, great, great grandson.” Jade grabbed my hand and pulled me away as the lady muttered, “wise ass.”
We went back to the dorm at six to shower and change clothes for dinner. I had spent the night before calling people who had become an important part of my life since arriving at school. With Leo’s help, I had reserved a private room at the Italian restaurant where he and I had eaten. Besides Wes, Seth, Sydney and Jade, I had also invited Amanda, Darlene, Mrs. Hayes, Brian, Cameron, Joseph, Jill and Scooter.
Jill wasn’t happy when I told her I had decided not to work any longer. Since my grandfather had provided me with a substantial bank account, I no longer needed to work. However, most importantly, I felt my grades were being affected. When I told her I might return my junior or senior year, she assured me that as long as she was manager, there would always be a job waiting for me.
I whistled when Seth came out of his room. He was dressed in a dark blue suit with a pale blue shirt and striped red tie. “Would you look at you?” I remarked as I circled around him. “You clean up nicely.” I squealed when he picked me up and tossed me on the sofa.
“I’ll show you nicely,” he laughed as he started tickling my ribs.
“Stop!” I screamed as I attempted to pry his hands from my sides. “You’re going to make me pee!” After one final tickle, he sat down beside me.
He looked over with a sad expression. “I’m really going to miss you, Buddy,” he said.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I assured him as I tried to hold back tears. “You’ll still see me all the time.”
“I know,” he sighed. “But it won’t be the same. You were a really great roommate...and a best friend.” He reached out and hugged me tightly. When he released me, his eyes were wet with tears when he smiled and asked, “Brothers for life?”
Tearfully, I replied, “Brothers for life.” We again hugged each other tightly.
Wes arrived at the room around seven-thirty. Sydney, Jade and Amanda arrived a few minutes later. We were going to walk to the restaurant to meet the others at eight. Like Seth, Wes was dressed in a dark blue suit. Since my clothes had not yet been returned to me, I had to wear a green sweater and khaki pants. I felt out of place because everyone was nicely dressed. Even the girls were wearing dresses. I was the only one who looked like I was attending a basketball game instead of a dinner.
“Don’t worry about it,” replied Wes when I remarked that I was underdressed. Everyone laughed when he said, “You look good in anything you wear,” and then added quickly, “or don’t wear.”
When we walked out of the dorm, several students were gathered around a long, black stretch limousine parked along the sidewalk. I stopped and smiled broadly when Carlton exited, walked to the rear door and opened it.
“Holy Shit!” exclaimed Seth as he climbed into the back. The others excitedly entered the limo as I stood before Carlton.
“Mister Dorian,” he smiled. “It’s good to see you again.” I reached out and hugged him. He stood rigidly at first, but soon he returned a warm embrace.
“I’ve missed you, Carlton,” I cried into his shoulder. He stepped back and looked at me tearfully.
“You have a dinner appointment,” he remarked as he took the door handle and motioned for me to enter.
I asked before getting in, “Did Leo arrange this?”
“No, Sir,” he replied sharply. “The Senator.” He closed the door, and I sat between Wes and Sydney.
It was amusing to watch their reactions to riding in a limo. Seth was like a child in a candy shop. He even asked Carlton if he would roll back the sunroof so he could stand up and wave to people on the street.
Dinner turned into a roast for me. As we ate, Seth, Jade and Sydney related every amusing story that involved the three of us. The funniest story was when Seth described how I looked when Jade snuck me into the room wearing a blond wig and a girl’s pink sweater. At the end of dinner, I was moved to tears when they spoke about our friendship. I tried to tell them how much they meant to me, but I was overcome with emotion.
“You don’t have to tell a friend they are a friend,” remarked Jade as she hugged me. “We already know.”
At the end of the dinner, when I asked our waiter for the check, he informed me that it had been ‘taken care of.’ When I asked him who had paid for it, he told me he didn’t know. A few minutes later, the manager came to the table and asked to speak to me. He pulled me aside and informed me, “Mr. Gale, your father took care of the tab.” He smiled and added, “He also left a very generous gratuity for the staff.”
As I lay curled beside Wes later that night, I asked him why my father had taken care of everything. “Maybe it’s his way of making up,” suggested Wes.
“It’s going to take more than paying for a dinner,” I replied angrily.
Wes kissed me and said, “It’s a start.” Tears welled up in his eyes when he added, “Just be glad your father is still here.” I pulled his arm across my chest and wondered if my father and I would, or even could, reconcile someday.
I woke up Sunday morning sick to my stomach. I was a nervous wreck. Wes took me to breakfast at Tim Horton’s, but I ran into the restroom and vomited it up as soon as I finished.
I knew the day would probably be one of the most significant days of my life. I was proud of myself because I had stood for what was important to me. It seemed I had removed the shackles that my parents had placed on me. For the first time, I felt a sense of independence.
Selfishly, I just wanted things to go away and my life return to normal once again. My life had changed so much since coming to the university. I had real friends, friends for life I could trust and depend on. And I had Wes. We were falling deeper in love each day. He provided me with more love in one day than my parents had in a lifetime.
However, I knew that Cameron was right. You don’t choose your place in history- it chooses you. That night Joseph and I talked privately in the library, he had instilled in me a purpose in my life. Finally able to accept myself, I knew that I had the voice to make people listen. The mob of reporters trying to get me to speak to them convinced me that my place in history had arrived. The Day of Unity was not only a day of healing for a nation; it was a day of healing for me.
Wes walked up and straightened the blue tie I was wearing. “You look wonderful,” he said admiringly as he kissed me gently on the nose. Leo had returned my belongings to the room, so I now had on a tailored, gray suit that I had worn to my high school graduation. I was surprised that the waist was a little snug. I must have put on some weight recently.
When I confessed, “I’m scared,” he kissed me again.
“You’ll do fine,” he responded assuredly as he placed my speech into my suit pocket. “Besides,” he said, “I’ll be with you.”
“You better be,” I replied worriedly.
He looked down and smiled, “Ready?” I nodded, and he took my hand as we headed out the door to the gymnasium.
When we entered, thousands of people had already arrived. A mass of students and reporters surrounded me as I walked around. Wes held me protectively to his side. A few minutes later, Seth, Sydney, Jade, Amanda and Darlene joined us. Darlene immediately began taking pictures for the school newspaper. She had interviewed me Friday evening for the article she was preparing on the event. She had sent an advanced copy to Leo, and he was going to circulate it to some of the largest newspapers in the United States. He assured Darlene that her name would appear on the byline. She was excited because it would be an opportunity to open many doors when she graduated.
I was eventually led to the Campus Pride table. Joseph, Cameron, Noah and many other members greeted me with hugs. For the next three hours, I signed autographs and had my picture taken with numerous students and parents. Even Geoffrey Caswell came to our table and had his picture taken with me. Though the media had been instructed not to approach me, it didn’t stop them from recording my every move.
Joseph couldn’t have been any happier. Every time I saw him, he was crying tears of joy. He couldn’t believe our small march a week before had turned into such a spectacular event. When things had settled down at our table, he came over and grabbed my hand.
“Come with me, Dorian,” he insisted as he pulled me toward the south side of the gym. A large wall had been erected, and there were hundreds of pictures and written notes pinned to it. Flowers had also been laid on the floor in front of the wall with messages of support attached to them. Students had pinned pictures of themselves or a friend to the wall. Some had written letters of apology to someone they had bullied in school. Joseph pointed out a picture of his friend, Brad, and he broke down and cried when he said, “I wish he were here to see this.” I turned and cried into Wes’s chest as he held me tightly.
An hour later, the scene was repeated when Wes’s mother arrived. We followed her to the wall as she placed a picture of Wes upon it. She also included a brief message telling Wes how much she loved him. The three of us hugged each other tightly and cried.
At five-thirty, people began to leave the gymnasium and head toward Founder’s Square for the march. Thousands of marchers gathered around the structure. Organizers were busy handing out candles for us to carry. At six o’clock, Joseph and I lit our candles. Soon, Founder’s Square was illuminated with a bright glow. It was eerily silent as we marched across campus on our return to the gymnasium. No one said a word as we marched in a dignified silence. As I looked about, most marchers were crying as I was. As I moved forward, I could hardly see the path in front of me with hundreds of people to the side of us holding lit candles.
I was led backstage to await my appearance on the stage. I insisted that Wes and Seth join me. Even though fear had been replaced with a calmness and serenity I had never felt before, I still wanted the two people who gave me strength to join me backstage.
Joseph gave an amazing speech about why he had organized the event. He was overcome with emotion as he talked about uniting into a bond of brotherhood and sisterhood. He spoke of his dreams for a world free of bigotry and violence. Afterwards, when he came backstage, we hugged and shared tears of understanding.
I froze when I heard Geoffrey Caswell introduce me after he spoke. Applause erupted throughout the gymnasium as Wes and Seth lead me to the makeshift curtain behind the podium. “Kick ass,” Seth whispered in my ear as he pushed me gently onto the stage.
People continued to applaud as I stepped onto the podium. I looked down at the floor to all the television cameras. Cell phone lights dotted the gymnasium as people took my picture.
“Thank you,” I said nervously. A hush suddenly filled the gym as everyone waited for me to speak. I reached into my coat pocket and took out my written speech. With Seth’s words of encouragement still in my mind, I replaced it back in my pocket.
“I had a prepared speech,” I said, “but I’d rather speak to you from the heart.” I quickly looked off to my left at Wes and Seth. Both nodded their heads. I glanced nervously down at the television cameras who were recording me. I then took a deep breath and continued. “Much has been said on this stage tonight. The speakers before me have talked about how people must come together, unite and be more tolerant and understanding. And we must do that.”
I took another deep breath before continuing. “But as I listened backstage, one thing that hasn’t been addressed is the silent victims in all this. We’ve talked about the people who bully, and those who exhibit hatred and prejudice. But behind their cruel actions is an unspoken victim who is left hurt, ridiculed and ashamed.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I declared boldly, “I am a victim.” I then looked out onto the audience and said, “I want everyone in this room who has been a victim to stand.” There was a deadly silence as people all around the gym quietly stood. Many were adults who had brought their children with them. Some stood shoulder to shoulder.
“We are the victims,” I proclaimed loudly. “We are the ones who are hurt, humiliated and shamed by others’ senseless and harmful actions. We are the queers and the faggots, the dykes and the homos. Those words pierce our hearts like a bladed knife, and they etch scars on us for the rest of our lives. We are the ones you push into the school locker, or point and laugh at as we eat in the school cafeteria or walk through the mall on a Saturday afternoon. We are the ones you tease and torment in the locker room, and then hide our clothes and laugh.”
I looked down at the cameras below and spoke directly to my mother and father. “I am a victim. I am the one who suffered loneliness and isolation because I didn’t fit into your perfect world. I am the one who cried silent tears late at night in my bedroom when I knew the world wasn’t watching and couldn’t hear my anguished cries. You didn’t have to say the words, but I knew they were there behind your fake smiles. You could have put a knife in my heart and twisted it, and it wouldn’t have hurt as much as your rejection.” Tears flowed freely down my cheeks.
“Yes, I am a victim,” I spoke softly as I looked out into the silent audience. “I was stripped naked, and I faced public humiliation, embarrassment and shame.” I wiped away tears from my face. “But what was more shameful was not the act that was done to me; but rather the inaction of those who had the power to do something, but instead hid from their responsibility.” I raised my voice louder and exclaimed, “It is those very acts of irresponsibility that has brought us here today.” I paused briefly before continuing.
“Tonight we, the victims, shout loudly and clearly, ‘No more!’” Applause erupted throughout the gymnasium as the room echoed with shouts of, “No more!”
I looked once again out onto the audience. “Look around you,” I spoke softly. “Look at us who stand. We are more than the words you so cruelly hurl at us.” I pointed to the wall. “See that wall,” I said reverently. “Tonight it has been referred to by speakers before me as a Unity Wall. To many it is a symbol of a healing nation.” I let my voice rise, “But upon it are the names and faces of us who have suffered a nation’s venom of indignation, intolerance and scorn.” I drew a deep breath and declared angrily, “To us it is a National Wall of Shame!” I watched as the news cameras pivoted to show the wall. “Look at it!” I shouted. “And feel our pain!”
There was a silence as I took my wallet from my pocket and opened it. I removed the only picture I had in it. It was a picture of my parents and me when I was thirteen years old. I kept it because it was the last picture taken of us together. Everyone watched in solemn silence as I stepped from the stage and approached the wall. Through misty eyes, I looked down at the picture before pinning it to the wall.
I then fell to my knees and wept.
At last, I was free.
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