When I was young, about 10 years old, life initiated the journey towards the confusion of my identity.
It was at this time that a new family, migrating from the northern highlands came to settle half a kilometer away from my house, living with their relatives who were quite close to my family. The kids of this family would end up studying with me in the school that required crossing the railway line and shabby mud houses built on the slopes that extended further away from the school.
The two boys split based on their age, Donald – the young one of about 11 years – came to sit in my class and the older one Daniel – tall, charming and matured – went to the class with my older brother.
Donald was reserved in class, not because his nature dictated this but because he was not made for books. His grades were not as impressive as those of his brother, his concentration wavering as if he was a bit allergic to education. He would scribble in his exercise book what seemed to be images of birds with the clarity and good hand of one with a promising future in drawing.
I remember when I saw him for the first time going to school in the morning, his skin the color of chestnut, took on the color of honey when illuminated by the morning sun. My eyes were drawn, lingering, admiring. With the young mind I had, it was hard to decipher this; I wasn’t raised in the community that bestowed upon me the ability to categorize my feelings and identify their labels.
When we were in class that was when I when I realized that he was left handed. He twisted himself in a manner I didn’t in order to form letters on his exercise book. In fact, his handwriting was as twisted as the posture he took. I remember being intrigued not because I had not seen a left-handed person before, but because though his writing took on an ugly turn, he had a skill for throwing stones that no one in class had. He would hit anything he aimed at, even the electricity wire running over our heads. Though he wasn’t endowed with the clever gene like his brother’s, he became famous for his throwing and drawings.
Initially, Donald and I were two pupils in a group of five that would take the same road to school and back. But slowly an attraction started building up, an attraction I couldn’t comprehend within the box I was living. My interpretation, based on what I knew, sent me to brand the whole thing as friendship. However, even as I was living in the village that had not empowered me to know for sure what was happening, I knew there was something more to this, something sinister and beautiful about the feeling I harbored for him and not for any other person.
One day, Donald and I we were heading back. I can’t remember what happened to the rest of the group. Today, what I remember is the rain that started pouring, forcing us to enter an empty house that was constructed but its owner had no desire of finishing it. We were drenched since we had to run for few minutes to get to it. We were breathless and Donald proceeded by taking off his shirt. His body was smooth, no hair, and no imperfections. His skin was lighter than the one that he had been exposing on his hands and legs. As I looked at his body, at age 10 when many things didn’t make sense, I felt something that could be translated into a simple word as excitement. It built up in my stomach, pushing the internal organs up, thus forcing my heart to beat faster and harder enough that I could hear it with my ears. I am not sure if it was the same build up but all of a sudden what I grasped to be the feeling of shyness filled with enough doses of intrigue ate me. I looked away not to be caught staring.
By this time the rain had decided that it shouldn’t stop and if it wasn’t enough on its own, it called on the winds. It got colder, exacerbated by the wet clothes hanging on my body. I started shivering slowly and in five minutes I was on the verge of grinding and reducing my teeth to powder.
You see, from such a young age, the doctors had diagnosed me wrongly for asthma though after many years I would come to find out that what I had was pure allergic reactions to numerous things that kept on changing with every checkup I did to the point that I stopped the whole exercise and committed to indulge myself in those actions that I was denied of.
As the shivering got worse, I clung to my body with my two slender arms, trying the best to warm myself.
Take off your shirt –
These were the words that changed my life. Initially I wasn’t sure if I should do it. You see back then I was very thin and I had cultivated a habit of being a very private person that didn’t like showing any part of himself to anyone, in fact, I would say with as much certainty that I was shy even to myself. I hesitated and Donald read my expression.
You will freeze to death –
Reluctantly, I followed his advice. The shirt went off slowly and soon it was clinging on my right hand. He was smiling, as if awarding me for being brave enough to do a simple task that other boys wouldn’t even need to be told to do it. The wind grew stronger and in no time, the act which seemed like a good idea became sour. I was shivering and it echoed through the room.
And that is when the unexpected happened. Without asking or saying anything, he grabbed me and hugged me with the intention of preventing my death. His hands were wrapped around me, scrubbing my back as if trying to generate the heat I needed. My hands were suspended and I was too shocked to do anything. His warm breath on my shoulder, his body warm like the sun at dawn made me dizzy.
This way you will be warm –
He muttered these words as the dizziness grew; my world was about to crumble and in no time a mound in form of an erection took shape. I tried to push my back outward to disguise it but I couldn’t. I was shivering both from the rain and the contact with his warm body. He held me tight until the rain died off before he let me go and put on his shirt.
As we were heading back, though he was chatty as always, throwing stones with the precision he was famous for, something had changed in me; a new awakening had taken shape. I was not the same. I belonged to a new world.
After a month or so his family would leave town. I would sink into something that resembled depression and nostalgia. I became recluse and my grades dropped significantly. No one knew what was happening to me and for those who tried to guess, their assumption led them to think that I was entering the adolescence phase.
I remember clearly the last month before he left. I would wait for him outside my house, hoping he would pass. Though I had already cultivated the trait of being shy around him, he was still the same person he used to be, treating me with kindness of a brother, defending me. He would teach me to throw stones but I proved to be a bad student. I helped him with his studies and numerous times I would do both his and my homework because I relished the idea which gave me such ecstasy in form of an erection. His presence, his smell and everything about him became my life.
When he left we never stayed in touch and even now after 15 years have passed, I still remember him.