September 23, 2017

     

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As I entered my teen years something changed inside me. My chemical structures began to indicate the onset of puberty. This included a shift in my imagination. A new way of looking at the world came into the foreground. The innocence of childhood was complicated by the rise of a critical awareness. I began to notice how our life at home was and was not like life in the neighbourhood. The fact that I had choices to make first intimidated me. Then it began to lead me forward.

Like many other boys in the country, I had a paper route. Summer and winter walking through the neighbourhood, tucking the daily paper into people's front doorways. Every two weeks knocking to collect payment. Putting the money in an envelope for my supervisor. Keeping a small portion as my wage. Saving most in the hope of getting enough to buy myself a bicycle. The local hospital was on my delivery route. I had to walk through about two hundred yards of forest to get there. Carrying a flashlight to light my way was useful. It also added a layer of adventure. With each step the lamp light caused the shadows to sway and dance. My imagination sometimes got me at least a little nervous. I was always very glad to step back into the warm embrace of home.

School grew increasingly difficult. All the evidence made it plain that my intelligence was well above average. The academic results did not fit with this. My scores grew lower with each passing year. This related to my growing realization that conformity was expected of me. Something I was not ready to take on. Instead, I grew increasingly non-compliant. This produced a fair degree of animosity with my teachers. I spent lots of time standing in the corner of the room. This being a method used to remind pupils of their status in the classroom. We were under authority and liable to discipline should we contradict that authority. I learned many things about the way of the world during these years.

During these years I began to wonder about my relationship with others. Specially girls. The other boys were always talking about getting connected. Some bragged about exploits. Stolen kisses and subtle touching. Not so for me. I admired girls from a distance but could not manage to make contact. The years passed but I never had a date. My younger brother once told me that the other kids were calling me "fag". This raised a question that I could not answer until many years later. This while I drew more and more into myself. Turning to books as a way of relief. Finding in them ideas and inspirations which would not mature for many years.

Our home life was increasingly complicated. There were eight children. We also had borders. Men who paid money to father for daily room and board. These men generally ate first. They sat at table with father while mother served them. After they were done, we had our supper. Generally what was left from the men's meal. Sometimes very small portions were all we had. It was hard to resist the rise of resentment in the face of this unfair situation. There appeared to be nothing we could do about it. So we learned to be glad for what we did get. But the resentment took root in me. I grew angry inside. An anger I suppressed for fear of reprisal.