Today, I walked.
Today, I pressed sock-less feet firmly into black high top converse sneakers against new york city pavement for 10 kilometers, otherwise known as 6.2 miles.
Today, genders united, sexualities integrated, businesses advertised on the backs of their employees, as we held hands and walked toward a cure for HIV/AIDS. Or, I held hands and others held hands, but we didn’t exactly hold each other’s hands.
There were babies in strollers and adults in wheelchairs and a woman on a man’s back and octogenarians and those decades younger and baby dykes and homos and heteros. And it didn’t matter who we each voted for President. And it didn’t matter our favorite sexual positions. And it didn’t matter our educational backgrounds. And it didn’t matter how much money congested or haunted our bank accounts.
All that mattered was: We all decided to wake up this Sunday in May in New York City, travel the distance from Bronx or Brooklyn, Staten Island and beyond and make noise with our feet and hearts.
I was marching today for a poet.
A poet who’s book rested against my back, safely contained in red backpack. He marched alongside me in poems and memory. He is gone now, only in body and bones and lung expansion. But his poems…..all these poems and stories….march on.
I was marching for a man I met last year at this time in Amsterdam, who greeted me in wheelchair in gargantuan church called Dominicus on Spuistraat, who wrote a poem with me one afternoon on AIDS Memorial Day.
Together, we wrote:
poetry is religion
there are lots of angels here
a lean into bowl creates a hum
the sounds of bells
Countries and languages and humans unite to create a future that exists without HIV/AIDS
As we reached checkpoint two, we were greeted with bags of chips to fuel us toward the end. Gratefully, I accepted a bag and as the last chip left dust on my tongue, I noticed something happening.
Central Park gravel exchanged texture of black and smooth to multi-colored and mess.
The garbage cans were overflowing and plastic bottles of sucked-out water were creating a puddle of empty containers.
Then, as we reached the end of this momentous walk, we were greeted by cheers, music, balloons and ice-cream. Tiny, emptied cups littered the entire area. Garbages were engorged and later, ignored. We left our (carbon) footprint by polluting each spot, which just moments before, we had been celebrating.
Vitamin D coated my exposed skin (even through its carefully applied sunscreen). My belly was full from salted chips, ice-cream, memories of the men I was walking for, and my own emotional state of just being alive and grateful. However, it is hard to ignore the disappointment of how “we” leave our mark.
Volunteers with labeled shirts began the process of clean-up.
I began the process of making my way back to Brooklyn.
Where does all the garbage go once it’s reached it’s rim and what happens when the march ends and life is left to be lived?
How to continue honoring, raising awareness and funds and…still be aware of this earth we are breathing on.
Garbages are going to overflow because we are overflowing. We are running out of seats on subways and languages are getting lost and dying.
When one cure is found, there will still be a need to fight for another.
I am going to hold onto my empty ice-cream cup until there is a place I can throw it into. I will take the extra seconds to separate my garbage. Maybe I will even start composting again.
It’s just one more step. Amidst a lifetime of so many more.