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
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
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