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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Michael J. Sakara, one of an endangered species.

Michael Sakara was my friend. We lived a couple of blocks apart in New York City. We met in 1969 around the time my mother was dying. The circumstances of our meeting were awkward and highly charged. They are not relevant to anything that will follow here.

In time, after we met, we had a few conversations, and found ourselves liking each other a lot in spite of a rocky beginning. We became friends. I became one of a group of his friends that would get together, usually at his place, for a few drinks and conversation. I enjoyed his other friends, and we became a circle of sorts. My feelings for Michael deepened, as his did for me. We talked on the phone a couple of times a week at least, and got together very often. We were only a sneeze apart.

His other friends were all far above me in education, and mostly in economic status also. I may have actually been the least solvent of the group. They were mainly involved in the arts. Music, theatre, writing…. They were fascinating, warm, accomplished individuals.

I met an opera singer there, who has since become well known. I will not name her because I would prefer to have her permission to do so. But I’ve heard her sing on recordings, and she sang for us once while another friend, Stewart, played the piano. Michael’s shiny black grand piano sat at the end of the living room in front of large windows. It was a beautiful scene, with her singing against a backdrop of New York lights and big potted plants.

I liked all those people. They were so intelligent, clever and funny, and they accepted me immediately as one of them. It was a new experience for me, being at the center of that much intellectual energy and wit.

So many years later, I am finally aware that I had some talents myself, even at that fledgling level of my development. One of his very close friends, a composer(this man is well known in the field of music, and again I don’t have permission to name him, so I can’t for the sake of his privacy) set a poem I'd written to a piece of his music, another, a writer, sat in my apartment one night reading my poetry, brutalizing it, but found the pieces he felt were good, and told me why they were. Today I think I love him for it. His name was Tom.

Michael was aware of my ugly-duckling, un-dated, un-courted existence of the time, and began taking me to dinner often, always picking up the tab. We would dress up, and go. It would be like a date, and it made me feel happy. I was in mourning for my mother, and he understood that I needed some cheering up, some getting out and away from it all.

We spent so many days, and even nights together, when I’d fall asleep on his sofa, because we had talked until we were nearly unconscious.

We played chess. I never won. I’m not a player, but it was such an elegant game, and Michael was an elegant man. It was a classy thing to do together. I loved it. He never criticized me for playing poorly.

Michael loved good food.

The first time I ate escargot, it was with Michael. He gave me one to try, and I loved it. The first time I ate frog’s legs, it was with Michael, I tasted his. The first time I had Banana FlambĂ© it was with Michael. My first glass of Cointreau…. There were so many sophisticated adventures between us. I felt as though I were being groomed in a sense.

He gave me good wine, and we smoked good grass together. We listened to good music, and I learned to become me. He was the only person I knew who would lie down on the floor wearing headphones to hear music, while feeling the vibrations of it through his body. I got a pair of headphones as a gift eventually, and almost always listened while feeling the music through the floor. Michael taught me about good electronic equipment, and to this day I buy the best I can afford. He showed me quality in places I wasn’t aware of before knowing him.

It was with Michael that I took my first hit of mescaline, and he pulled me across the divide toward recognition that I was in fact, safe and sane in his arms in spite of my terror of the moment. He held me until I got back to the world uninhabited by nightmare visions. I have never regretted that first hit. We both learned that I would do better on a half tab, and hysteria never devoured me again when I was tripping. I almost always did it with him. When I was alone, it was never fun. Together, the world was hilarious, music was something divine, and introspection was sacred.

No matter what the attitude of these times may be, and no matter how comfortably I might be viewed with distaste for my drug ventures, I will challenge any critic to reach the places of deep understanding I reached when under the “influence”.

I would never have gone there without Michael being my guardian and guide. I will always be happy that I went on those mind journeys with my friend.

I will also always remember the sun rising across the water as we rode the Staten Island Ferry back home to The City during my first trip, as the drug’s effect wore off. I will always remember the flowers I bought at a sidewalk stand, and carried with me, just to look at the color of them all through the night. I will always remember the early breakfast at The Brasserie on 53rd St. as we made our way back to so-called real life. I can taste the coffee, I can hear our laughter at the night we’d passed as strange wanderers, and I can see his smile…. He had a cheerful absolute smile.

Michael was murdered in July of 1993. I found out about it during one of my searches on the web, looking for lost friends. He was cut into seven pieces after he was eviscerated. He was left here and there in plastic trash bags. He was thrown away.

I discovered it just a couple of hours ago, and I am going mad from it.

Writing this isn’t about me and this terrible grief that is eating my heart. It’s about Michael, and maybe someone you love.

Michael died because he was gay. It’s just that simple. He was gay. He loved men instead of women.

But he loved me, and I’m a woman. I was his friend. He loved his sister, and I suppose his mother, and I know he loved the women friends of the little charmed circle.

He could be difficult, who can’t? But he was a giving friend, and a kind one, and he could be very comforting to a newly orphaned 29 year old. He had great beauty within, and he shared all the good things about himself. He was often the center of a group, but it was always okay that he be so.

Years after I left New York, I spoke with him. I called him out of the blue. My marriage had fallen into ashes, and I was moving to a new place. I bought a small dwelling for myself, and wanted to tell him. He was sorry about my marriage, but very happy for me about my new home.

Things didn’t go too well for me right after that, and there were many economic woes and close calls to deal with, and everyone from yesterday faded in the face of new disasters.

When I finally got a computer in 2000, I discovered eventually that I could find people on the web, but his number wasn’t listed anymore. He had moved away it seemed. I’d tried to call but the phone was disconnected. I figured he’d been gone too long for a forwarding intercept. So I kept trying the Internet.

I never quit looking, but I didn’t do it obsessively. Every couple of years I’d search for one friend or another. Search engines weren’t what they are today, and today I got a taste of high technological excellence when Google dropped two old New York Times articles from the sky into my brain.

When I searched this time, I just typed in Michael Sakara, no initial, and there they were…two articles about the murdered Michael J. Sakara. I knew there was no mistake in identity. It was him.

And now my bookmarks contain a lot of things about it that I can’t deal with at the moment.

When the righteous among us revile gay people it makes my stomach turn to a bile filled sack. Who are they to judge anyone else? I hope I don’t hear any anti-gay rhetoric from anyone soon, because I’m liable to become very vehement and vicious, and maybe even physically unwise. This would serve no purpose whatsoever.

My friend will never call to invite me to dinner again, or to rove the midnight streets just looking in store windows. The family he left behind will feel his absence at the holidays, and on his birthday, and on the anniversary of his death, and every time they recall something he said that was funny, or kind, or even hateful. If he left a lover behind, that man will always feel the pain.

When we love deeply, I think it tends to stay with us in one way or another until we die. And there’s always a time that comes when the light is a certain color, or a breeze touches you with a familiar scent that evokes a shade of melancholy, and we mourn for a moment for the lost loves…child, sibling, parent, grand-parent, uncle or aunt…spouse, lover…friend….

Michael, I know I hurt you a long time ago. I was too dense to ever tell you how much it bothered me. So I want to say here, I am so sorry my friend.

If you, the reader have a gay person in your life, please be aware that they are always in potential danger because lunatics prey on them the same way they prey on children, or defenseless women.

They beat. They rape. They hack. They slash. They shoot. They pulverize. They drown. They dismember. They torture. They do it all, and they are out there in the guise of the respectable. The man who murdered Michael was a surgical nurse for many years at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He was working there when he killed Michael.

Yes, a very respectable man, just having a drink in a quiet gay bar, just having a conversation with another man he didn’t know. Just a serial killer who cut my friend up and threw him away like garbage. My friend was not garbage; he was a human being of worth.

The murder, Richard W. Rogers, got life in prison. If he’s still living, I hope he suffers every single day of his miserable existence, and if he ever gets out, as they often do, it would be nice to imagine a fate of an ugly unexpected nature awaited him. But I am not such a dreamer. All I can do is curse him in my razor sharp rage, and call hell down on him. He’s getting old now, if he’s still alive. I can’t find anything that indicates he isn’t. He’s an old murderer.

I am a newly minted mourner. If my hatred can reach into his heart like an ice pick, I send it his way.

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