Sunday morning I got up in my hostel in Sintra –the epicenter of Portuguese romanticism, just outside of Lisbon– and explored a magical garden with cave tunnels, a waterfall, and all of the excessive and unnecessary ornamentation that brings it to be called the 'best occult landscape in Europe'. I got back to the hostel to take a quick shower about 4:40, and checked the internet for the first time. And then everything was just numb.
Be careful abroad, especially traveling alone!
Are you here all by yourself? Where's your husband? You're so brave for traveling by yourself.
You went out of town by yourself? How brave you are!
You must be really brave to travel by yourself, I couldn't imagine it.
Telling LGBTQ people and women and people of color and anyone who falls outside of cishetwhitemalechristian normativity to be careful or calling them brave for living their lives isn't helping. Going to a bar with your friends –going to a safe space– isn't bravery. But it should be safe. Like going to school. Like going to church. Like going to the movies. Like arriving home to your own apartment and opening the door with your own key. I don't understand the obsession with bringing death to others. The desire to rend and puncture and leave holes in other people's lives. You are your own but they are not yours. Let them be safe. Harm none.
And then the news coming out of the US is all terror. And so many people in power are denying the identity of the victims the same way that LGBT existence has been ignored and denied and forced to the sidelines for so long.
Here, the news is about the homophobe who saw two men kissing and went nuts. All around the world, the empathy is not for victims of an ISIS attack, but for the victims of a homophobe who couldn't handle difference. It makes me not want to go back. Not in a rhapsodizing about how wonderful my time here is way, not at all. But in the way that language lessons are often conversations and I have spent the last five weeks trying to not only have problems to talk about.
Sometime I will write to you about the camelias and the gardens and the castle and the primary colored palace. But I can't right now. So here's a picture of a goldfish pond in that garden, fed by a water mine at the top of the hill, reflecting the trees full of peace and carrying the tiny daisies that I floated on its surface like the dancing flowers in Fantasia.
Portuguese has a color that English doesn't. It isn't blue and it isn't purple, but somewhere near them both. It isn't lavender or violet or lilac or periwinkle. It is the color of the flowers of the jacarandá tree in the light of the morning. It is roxo. It is love.
I love you,