Sitting on my desk, I have this old photograph of my eldest sister holding me when I must have been about three. She’s leaning into me for the picture and I have this look of confusion on my face. Likewise, the first memory I really have is with my other sister Esmeralda, or rather it’s without her. She had started kindergarten and it was the first time I was home without her. I was begging my father for us to go to the bus stop so we could pick her up. He wouldn’t relent—she still had four more hours before she would be there.
19 years later I’m in a dorm room, in a very big, very cold city. I’ve been far away from Houston where my home really is for almost 6 months now. The thing about New York City is that it’s a place of connections. Whether it’s on a chaotic subway or a jog in Central Park—people everywhere gaze at each other and connect for these mini-seconds of relief. We crash into each other and look for similarities. But what I’ve learned here is that while I connect with these people, I think of the people who gave me the courage to come here.
Three days ago, my friend hung himself from his bathroom on the 8th floor in a dorm across the quad. Three days before that, I saw him and a school eatery. We hugged briefly and smiled. I didn’t anticipate that what would happen would in fact happen—no one did. I heard the news on Saturday night. It sat with me but I didn’t think about it. No, I didn’t think about it until I sat at my desk and looked at my sister holding me. I looked at my confused face and her leaning body. And suddenly, I remembered everything. I remembered what it’s like to hug my mother or sit with my father. I remembered the feeling I got when I was six and my mother would go on business trips; I remembered my older brother teaching me how to untie my shoes; I remembered my sisters, my dog, my old dog, my room at home. Yes, I remembered all of these things. And I was sad. As these days keep drifting in and out, I think of those who commit suicide: do you really go to hell? Is there even a hell? Eric wouldn’t go to hell. On the night that Obama won, he protected me from getting trampled by drunken partiers in Harlem. People who shield smaller people don’t go to hell. But do people who kill themselves? I don’t know, but G-d I hope not.
I don’t really know what I should think yet. But I do think that suicides don’t go to hell; neither do gay people or the non-baptized. I believe in hope—hope that Eric is happier now; I believe in leaning in for photographs and hugging your mother so tightly it feels like everything will be okay; I believe in brief connections, subways and sidewalks alike. I believe in my family. My wonderful sisters, my amazing brother, my sapient father, and my mother who even if she were in a meeting with Barack Obama, would step out to answer a phone call for her ‘boo-boo boy’. Yes, in times of worry, I believe that a family—whether it is of friends, sisters and brothers, or even unknown city people—will always be willing to connect, comfort, hold, and cherish you. This I believe
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