I was on the ‘L’ on my way to work listening to a track by Mariah Carey, lost in a daydream of my version of my dance routine to Fantasy. It is a sassy number. Sitting across from me was a Latina woman with a young boy who seemed to be about eight or nine. He caught my attention because he was wearing unmatched socks and pants that were too short for his height. He also had a pair of headphones; only it was a tape player. I could not help but see a likeness of myself at that age. I remember being eight with a Beatles haircut and pants that were from the year before when I was about two inches shorter. Not caring about whether I was wearing a red sock on one foot and a black one on the other.
Oh Dear! How the years go by.
Of course, that wasn’t very long ago, but it was interesting to think of my frame of mind at that age. I mean, by then I already knew I was a little different. OK, so very different. It was a weird time in my life where I didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. I didn’t fit in at home because I didn’t share the same interest as my older brother William. He was great at sports and I was just not interested. I didn’t fit in my private Christian school, well, because it was Christian. Everything about that school was centered on Jesus Christ and how bad the world outside of the apostolic religion is. Wearing navy blue bellbottoms instead of the pleated standard didn’t extinguish the ‘flames.’ I just stood out.
I was quite popular with the girls in my class and the girls on my block. I was the boy every girl wanted to play with because I didn’t play rough and I could patty cake like nobody’s business. It wasn’t that I felt lonely.
I just always felt like someone outside looking in.
At school I couldn’t just walk into the lunchroom without feeling like comments about my sexuality were being said. As I walked into the classroom I would hear boys taunting me by whistling, implying that I walked like a girl. At the time I didn’t really know what the word gay really meant, only that whatever it was, it was transparent. I guess in reality the kids that taunted me didn’t know I was gay; they just associated a feminine boy to mean that was what a gay person acted like.
I didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. I mean, I was just a kid, what did I know about sex? It was the way I carried myself that people would comment on. But what did I know about how to carry myself, I was just eight. I don’t even think kids can perceive themselves from the outside that way.
I always was very aware of my mannerisms, my speech, and the choices I made. I would prep myself up before entering a room, thinking to myself that if I walked believing there were two lines I would walk more like a ‘man.’
My parents raised my brother and I in an Apostolic Church.
It was at church that I felt the worst. It was there that the word gay was used frivolously.
At church I felt battered hearing about how being gay was one of the biggest sins. I felt that way because I knew I was gay and I wasn’t a bad person. I was just a kid who wanted to fit in. Blend in with everyone else. I could feel the eyes of the whole congregation on me, as the preacher would exhort how much Jesus hated gays.
At least it felt that way to me. I was very paranoid that during one of his sermons he would call me to the alter and ask the whole congregation to pray for the gay sinner.
When I wasn’t at school or church, I would sit at home in the front window watching other kids play. Usually my brother was part of that group. I did almost everything from the window: I ate, I watched TV, and I talked on the phone.
My friends would beg me to come down from my ‘terrace’ to play, but I just wouldn’t budge.
I became a loner.
I didn’t want to attract any attention to myself, because I knew that I would have to later on the next day at school, or wherever I went for that matter, just sit and watch.
Sit and watch the sun go down and the stars light up.
I don’t really remember what went through my head during that time, only that I felt very safe in my window. I felt safe from all the comments, safe from the looks, safe from feeling judged, safe from Jesus.
There wasn’t much to being eight, especially because I didn’t allow myself to do much.
The all-too-familiar ‘This is Harrison, doors open on the left at Harrison!’
The boy was gone! I could only wonder if he felt safe.
I know there are plenty of people who are sitting by the ‘window.’ I’m glad I know now that it’s a lot more fun to go out and play.
Short and Sweet by Emmanuel Garcia was originally published in the August 2003 edition of En La Vida.