30 January 2013

Speaking the Unspeakable


Shown above is some text I've prepared for my next print. By the first two names you can probably tell that this is a list of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals who have been murdered in America in the past thirty years or so. It is by no means a complete list. And for me it is by no means an impersonal list. The third individual recorded here, Joseph Kelly, was my friend and neighbor.

Joe lived downstairs from me in a small house in Somerville, Massachusetts, that had two apartments. The night he was murdered I was out on a date with a woman I had just started seeing. I think we went to a party that night, I'm not sure, but I stayed overnight with her. When I returned home and opened the front door into the foyer which was shared by the two apartments, I knew immediately that something was wrong. My bicycle, which I usually kept in the hall, was missing and there was a strange odor. I went upstairs to my unit and moments later the phone rang. It was my landlord David, Joe's longtime friend and sometimes lover, who lived in the front house on the property. David asked if he could come over. I let him in, we went upstairs and David shivered as he told me the story. He had found Joe in the hall, barely alive, bound and gagged, stabbed nine times, partially dismembered, and his skull fractured. Joe died in David's arms, and David refused to allow anyone except himself to clean the crime scene. I later learned that this was because David had AIDS and was afraid that Joe might also carry the virus.

One of the things I remember most from this event was the kindness shown by the Somerville police. The detective who was investigating the case interviewed me a couple of times and, although he was clearly unfamiliar with what he termed "the gay lifestyle," he was very compassionate towards what he was learning about Joe through reading his diaries and immersing himself in the details of Joe's life. I really liked that detective. The perpetrator, a man named Thomas Moore who had met Joe through a personal ad, was caught fairly quickly. Moore, who had recently been released from prison, stole a leather vest, a camera, and a bank card from Joe's apartment after the murder, and it was his attempt to use the card without a password that led to his arrest.

I'm always grateful that I wasn't home that horrible night. I'm grateful for the friends who came and slept with me in the first days until the police captured the killer. And I'm grateful for the huge wake up call that Joe's death brought to me. I began to see a therapist in the aftermath, and within 6 months I had given up alcohol and drugs. Seeing how fragile life could be, I wanted to be fully awake every moment of whatever time I had left in my own life. Almost exactly one year after Joe's death, and four months before the trial and conviction of Thomas Moore, David succumbed to AIDS. He was one of so many that we lost to AIDS in that decade.

Rest in peace, my friends.

13 comments:

dewatobay said...

cannot even begin to imagine the trauma for you, for everyone. thank you for sharing

dinahmow said...

This is very brave of you. I know how hurtful and harmful such experience can be.Thank you, Annie.

Tracy said...

big hugs to you, annie.

Walt Pascoe said...

xo

Holly Friesen said...

Annie, I now understand what you meant by the realms of hell..Shining light into the darkest corners takes great courage and strength. A brave and resilient soul you are. x

Andrew Stone said...

Well you did warn us that the next subject of your work would be something that you cared about.
Sorry about your lost friend(s)and
the senseless violence that must have been so full of anger and fear.
Grateful though that there was a decent person in the detective.
We are a violent race, capable of unbelievable barbarity and cruelty but sometimes,quite unexpectedly and far too rarely, kindness and heroism.
This kind of hate runs downstream, often affecting in so many ways everyone that comes in contact with it. It seems to have led you somewhere else. Glad you're willing to show us where.

Annie B said...

Thank you all so much. My heart was literally pounding when I hit the "publish" button. Joe was killed so long ago, 27 years now, that I often forget that it really happened. But it's good to remember sometimes. I know it's hard to read, so thank you.

Anita Thomhave Simonsen said...

Hi Annie!

I will send my love to all gay people and to all those who need to open the frozen heart and get rid of hatred and violence...may these terrible actions have and end...

anita

Elizabeth Busey said...

With all the silly things that go forth through the Internet, it is most fitting that we also use it to share the things that are closest to our hearts.
Thank you for being willing to share this with the greater internet universe.
I pray that the tide of history is flowing toward acceptance, safety and peace.
Elizabeth

Annie B said...

Thank you, Anita. Elizabeth, I believe that the tide is in fact changing.

Kit said...

Annie, what a heartbreaking and horrifying experience that must have been for you and all affected. I also have great hope that the tide is changing. It takes courage to expose these cruelties and hurts.

Janis Doucette said...

This is starting to be a very powerful piece! I'm glad you found the courage to approach it!

Pistoles Press said...

Oh my god, Annie. You are so brave. I'm very sorry to hear Joe and David's story but also very moved. Thank you for sharing this powerful story.