"You know anything can happen anywhere at any time, right?"
These words were said to me by an African American man, hitching a U-Haul trailer to the back of my SUV. It was in response to my comment that the trailer likely wouldn't get tagged with graffiti (for which I would be liable) since it was in Burbank.
The beads of sweat glistened on his forehead, as he looked up at me, knelt down on the asphalt, his denim clad knee bearing his burly weight, keeping his flesh protected from the tiny bits of rocks and gravel-- "You know anything can happen anywhere at anytime, right?"
The words were simple, concise, and he was friendly but stern as he said them.
"Yes," I agreed, rather stunned, as his words were quite unexpected, "I know that."
And, I do. But, sometimes, I forget. Not for long, but still. Sometimes I feel safe-- but, underneath, deep down, I know that I'm never really safe.
I've known that for 2 years now. [I can scarcely believe it's been 2 years]
2 years ago, I was like most people--or, how I imagine most people are, anyway. I was vaguely aware of true evil in the world, of bad and violent things occurring on a daily basis. I would see them on the news, or hear them on the radio and think, "Oh, how sad. How absolutely tragic." And I meant it. These things WERE sad, they WERE tragic-- but, they were also happening to someone else. So, I was aware of it, but only in the periphery; I like to think I was genuinely upset about these things--as upset as someone on the outside looking in could be, anyway,
Until October 14th, 2011. When a very close family friend was murdered. It was the first time I felt actually touched by violence--when "Oh, how sad. How absolutely tragic," was screamed and cried into my pillow in fits of rage and despair, instead of with a slight shake of the head and a somber expression as it had been all those times before. I was beside myself with grief. I felt hate for the first time in my entire life--true and utter hate, like I could flip the switch on those who had done this to him myself.
As time has gone on, the pain has lessened-- but the memory of that day still haunts me. And a beautiful light--one of the brightest I've ever known, truly-- in this world was extinguished forever.
Over 700 people came to his funeral to say goodbye, to reminisce about how much he meant to them, or how he had helped change their lives, how he was responsible for their recovery, for their living instead of dying. I was just one of them, but he was very important to me. I'd known him for basically my entire life, and I would sometimes call him 'uncle.' He was one of the kindest, gentlest, funniest people I've ever known--and I'm not just saying that because of the ways in which death sometimes makes us forget a person's true self; I'm saying it because it's true. It's absolutely true. I miss his smile, his amazingly contagious laughter, and the way he always called me "Master Natalie," after I got my degree. I miss his music--he was a bass player for Bootsy Collins, and I made everyone listen to his band's CD to and from my birthday party in the 7th grade. Mostly, I miss him, and the incredible positivity he brought into this world. Theron "Thee-Ram Jam" Brison, you will forever be loved and missed more than words can ever possibly say.
And I hope, more than anything, for justice to be served.