Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Long Road Back

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Long Road Back

Article excerpt

Nearly two years after the brutal beating that almost took his life, writer Robert Brake discusses his long road of recovery

Late one night in January 1999, Robert Drake, a well-known gay author and editor living in Ireland researching a book, dragged two fresh acquaintances to his apartment for an after-hours nightcap. Before the night ended, the men beat Drake until he slumped to the floor in a pool of blood, then left him for dead.

But through an incredible combination of luck and willpower, Drake refused to surrender to death. With the aid of a plethora of friends--including an estranged American lover and a then-new Irish one, both doctors--Drake returned to Philadelphia, his U.S. home, to start his long struggle back from death's doorstep.

His journey has been a tedious and strenuous one. He remains confined to a wheelchair, and both his wrists are bent inward at nearly 90-degree angles, a result of the beating. His speech is halting and slurred, just one consequence of permanent brain damage. Instilled with Quaker optimism, however, Drake reminds visitors not only how far he's progressed from the state of unconsciousness from which few thought he'd ever stir but of just how far he intends to continue forward.

Over a fresh cup of coffee at his dining room table in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love, Robert Drake spoke to The Advocate about his ordeal and his remarkable expectations for the future.

On October 10 you appeared at Giovanni's Room [a Philadelphia gay bookstore] to promote Circa 2000, the recently released anthology you coedited with Terry Wolverton. It was your first public appearance since the beating. What was going through your mind?

That it was good to be back out there, to start returning to my old life. I'm lucky I'm alive at all. I feel like I died once, for a little bit. Physically but not emotionally.

How did you keep from dying emotionally?

Because I'm very stubborn. [Laughs] My strength came from the self-confidence that I would one day get better. I never felt like I had a choice. Getting better was my only option.

What's been the most difficult part for you?

Learning how to walk again. It's still a particularly important goal because I want to be like normal people again. I can only walk a few feet now. Before, I used to walk everywhere, in Philadelphia and in Dublin. But I will walk again. There's no physical reason I can't; I've just forgotten how.

Emotionally, what's been the most difficult?

It was very frustrating before I could talk again. …

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