Two years ago, at the annual Eastport July 4th celebration and parade, I sat on the steps of the local Catholic church with friends, to watch what is boasted to be one of Maine's longest parades. I watched as one man and two women carried a banner for Mainers United For Marriage. "Commitment - Love - Marriage for All." I jumped up from the cement steps, as did my partner and we joined in the parade on the spot. It was my first gay march at age 60. It would have been easier years before, when my spine was healthy, but today was to be the day.
As I walked the parade route many people smiled, applauded, and shouted words of encouragement, but others booed, yelled horrible things, and to my great disappointment a woman I turned to and smiled at, stuck her tongue out at me! I nearly laughed but then I saw it was my neighbor who lived one street over from my home. For a long second our eyes met and I saw an element of her own shame on her face. Clearly, this woman who always waved, and said nice things to me, suddenly registered her own guilt. She didn't expect to see me! All I could mouth was, 'Thank you.' I gave her a slight shake of my head, and shrugged my shoulders, as she bowed her head in embarrassment.
A man in his fifties or a bit more, called out something negative and I turned and said, "Come talk to me, I live on such and such street." He bellowed, "I know!" Hmmm. I always wondered who shot and wounded my cat with a pellet, and who left a dead mouse on a broken coconut shell on my front porch steps. Oh well. I'll never know. But I do know hate when I see it, or hear it. I pray deeply for less hate in this world, for all people.
I have to add that there was one other group of watchers along the route who did not smile or comment, this group looked more like they were deer caught in a bright headlight. They simply did not know how to react. Again, there was one family with blank expressions at this gay banner, who were my closer neighbors of a husband, wife and 2 children who knew I was gay. When they saw me, they did a double take, only the wife smiled and waved.
This poem is not about parades but about how I have felt on a deeper level, as I lived quietly in this world.