Here it is, part five, the final part, of my short story Shooting the Sparrow. Enjoy.
Petya had run to the Capital, to an LGBT safe house, where perhaps Petya could be treated with respect and dignity. There he had met Ivan, who had made it his mission to take care of Petya and the other men and boys who had run for their lives, been targeted by the state, the government, for being homosexual.
Petya was in a safe room, but he couldn’t focus on his safety, because he knew what had happened to Andrei. And he was crying. Crying hard. It made him feel empty within, as though he wasn’t even human.
“I miss him, so much,” Petya said, pacing up and down the room, putting his face in his hands, running his hands through his hair, looking panicked and sad, looking disheveled and broken, his tears soaking the blood-stained grave. “I miss him. I need him. Why did they do this, I don’t understand? Why did they kill him? They didn’t need to kill him. They could have just beaten him up, like they did me, and we’d make it out together with our scars, our battle wounds, intact. And we’d be together.”
Ivan looked at Petya gently. He felt the broken heart that Petya was radiating, and he shed a few of his own tears. Honestly, this situation made Ivan incredibly sad. He didn’t want Petya to suffer because his boyfriend had been murdered in cold blood. But many times, the world did not operate according to one’s wishes and desires. Hence why Petya was broken in this moment, crying and unable to reduce the panic and sorrow within his heart.
“We have to get back at them,” Petya said, knowing this was a lost cause. “Please, Ivan: we have to do something, we have to make them suffer.”
Ivan simply said, gently, “I can’t imagine what you’re feeling, Petya. But I promise you, justice is cosmic and ordered. You will get what you need, and even though we won’t act on the impulse to distribute and disseminate justice, I know you will be okay and you will find a way to heal your broken heart.”
This helped Petya organize his thoughts, but he wasn’t sure how much he believed that justice would take place. His partner had been murdered without any precedent, and in all honesty, it broke him. And Petya was aware of this, and it made the pain even worse.
So he said, “Ivan … I just want … I just want it to be okay again. I want to be able to wake up to Andrei’s embrace, I want to be able to feel his heart beating against me. And now … I’ll never be able to have that again. It’s over for me.”
Ivan said, “But it isn’t over. You have your whole life to live. And Andrei, God bless his soul, but you honestly may meet someone else, someone as beautiful as Andrei but different too. You don’t know what the future holds for you.”
Petya tried to integrate this information into his mind, but his sadness was stronger, and even though he wasn’t crying as much as he was, the tears still flowed, gently, like the blood of a wounded sparrow, a wounded baby sparrow. And Petya just wanted everything to be okay again. He needed to have a second chance, the state couldn’t get away with murder. They couldn’t defeat Petya.
Ivan was having a harder and harder time not showing at least some affection for Petya, focusing simply on professionalism. But the situation warranted it, and when Petya continued to cry, saying how much he missed Andrei, Ivan finally decided to push against the expectations of his professionalism, and he hugged Petya.
When Ivan did this, Petya cried even harder. Petya felt broken. He felt as though he was never going to be healed again, as though it was over for him. His life was over. His family was no longer a part of his life, they had disowned him. And Andrei was gone. Which meant he had nothing left, except for the hope that when he immigrated, he would somehow be able to put it all behind him, and start over.
“You’re loved by God,” Ivan said, knowing the irony and cruelty of this statement, when considering what had happened. But Ivan had to believe that someone was there for Petya as he cried and felt hurt and wounded, and so he insisted this to be the case, because he had to believe in some kind of cosmic justice, he had to believe there was some type of hope.
And Petya … he just continued to cry.
I’m with my friend Preston, and I’m thinking about what’s going on in Chechnya. Putin has denied any inclination or directive to purge homosexuals from Chechnya, the purge is somehow incidental and not that big of a deal to authoritarianism and totalitarianism, to injustice and cruelty.
I’ve read about this in an NPR article, and I’ve been following the story for a while. But reading the article moved me to write my own story about what I think is going on, even if I change details and fictionalize the account.
I tell Preston what I know about the situation. Basically, they’re killing gay men in Chechnya. I don’t know why, it’s just because they’re gay it seems. And it makes me sad because some of them are boys. Misunderstood, and thus, subject to death.
Somehow, Chechnya and the government justify their attack of police on vulnerable people.
When I tell Preston all of this, he says, “Hearing stuff like this makes me think my intellectual pursuits are meaningless. As if they have no purpose.”
He says this jokingly, of course, but it strikes a chord in me, I feel the gravity of his statements given the situation going on in an anti-democratic part of the world. Where innocent people suffer.
Where it’s okay to kill someone for being different.
I tell Preston about the fact that gay kids are dying, simply for being different, and the government doesn’t show mercy for them, as kids and men are rounded up and tortured and beaten up in basements and it is forgotten that they exist as human beings. In fact, they are told they aren’t human.
I tell Preston all of this, and I think about what this blatant violation of civil rights means for me. I’m Phoenix, and I’m gay, and what would I do if I was in such a situation? I would die, I would perish, even if I fought with love and compassion, strength and resilience. Banning homosexuality simply because it’s a little bit deviant, described as “non-traditional.” And I think, but why can’t love be love? It’s because we politicize such things as love. We still murder homosexuals in cold blood, even if we aren’t burning them at the stake anymore. We still find ways to kill them. And I think about what this all means for me, and it’s enough to break down some of my courage and strength. I think about how vulnerable I would be if I was in that situation, if I was in Chechnya. And the fact that it’s Islam that potentially leads to some of these hateful practices and social movements, I think about Sam Harris talking about how Islam is a dangerous religion and we never know where the ideas are actually coming from. Though I pray that Islam is not a justification for killing people, for persecuting a minority group, especially because in America, Muslim are already a minority group.
Preston and I continue to talk, and I continue to reminisce on what these things mean for me as a person. I guess in some ways, we don’t always get social justice, we don’t always see good prevail. Because we are blacklisted as being sinful and unnatural, inhuman. But I am human, when I get hurt, I bleed and it really hurts. And it’s not always my choice. It’s not what I want.
Which is why, I think about the lost gay kids over across the world, and I see them as heroes, for surviving trauma, and for being who they are despite it all. They can’t necessarily know any better, of course, innocence is innocence.
And all I can say in the end, is that I care. And not just because I’m gay, but because I appreciate those who fight for what they believe in, even if it leads to a lot of pain. Even if we suffer as a consequence.
All we can do is keep fighting for our rights. I realize this is my conclusion, though I realize there are many things I will never know.
Petya wakes up suddenly in bed, and it takes a moment to remember where he is. After a few moments, he hears Andrei breathing beside him, gently, sleeping gently. Petya can’t help but feel a little sad, feeling that something bad is going to happen to the two of them. Something that they won’t be able to come back from. But he realizes, in this moment, all of the danger felt doesn’t matter, because they are together in this moment. So Petya takes Andrei’s hand, and holds it. Andrei wakes up partially and smiles at Petya, and gets closer to him, and then, falls back to sleep. But Petya can’t help but hold onto Andrei forever, because this is what he needs. This is who he is. And he isn’t going back, as he smiles to himself in gratitude for being with someone he loves dearly, someone he cares about so much, and will always love.
Outside, sparrows take flight.