Coming from a background of seclusion it is hard for me to fathom that I
actually was able to have a crush on a boy. Until I was five years old I was not let out of my grandmother's sight. To go out unaccompanied meant to sit on the back porch alone with my dogs. I used to watch the children play downstairs but I was not allowed to join in. After I turned five, I was allowed in the backyard with my guardian dog Laddie; or I was permitted to go downstairs with Johnny the boy next door.
Johnny and Jackie, his sister, were twins. They were exactly one year
older than me. In the early days, I was much closer to Johnny. Johnny was
warm and playful while Jackie was independent and aloof. When it was time for me to start school, Johnny would walk me to school and pick me up every day after school. He had to pass my school on his way to and from his own.
I don't think it was much of a bother for him because he got the chance to play "big brother." In his own home the twins were the babies of the family. Johnny and I would play together constantly and my grandmother never understood why we were the closer ones rather than Jackie and I. After all, she was a girl.
Still, my grandmother always thought Jackie was too sophisticated
for me. She was a worldly girl, hanging out with older kids. In a way, my
grandmother thought that it was a blessing in disguise that I was closer to the innocent twin brother.
Well this innocent twin brother was not so innocent after all. As we grew,
we did have our share of childhood sexual exploration. We played doctor in
the back shed. I have to admit I was the instigator but never did it amount to anything really serious.
Claire, who was Johnny and Jackie's niece (a daughter of a much older
sister), and the same age as the twins, played doctor as well, with her
boyfriends. Theirs was not so innocent a game, for at the age of 14, Claire
became pregnant. At the insistence of my grandmother, the sheds were
boarded up after that. I was so shocked by this pregnancy that I never wanted to play doctor again and in fact I was tormented by my guilt of being a bad girl for many years to come.
At that tender age I still did not have a clue about what sex was all about. The only thing that Johnny and I had done was visually explore each other's anatomy, with brief periods of touching. Yet I still carried that sin around with me for years.
You would think that I would have had a crush on Johnny, but I never did.
In my mind, we played doctor and that was it. It was a game of sexual
exploration, not love.
My first love was Brian Nichols. He and I were in the second grade together. He was the smartest kid in the class and in the whole
school for that matter; well, I thought so anyway. Brian had red hair, green
eyes, and freckles. Not only did he stand out from the rest of the kids in the
school who were primarily black (Afro-Canadian) or white, none of whom
had red hair, he was also from a different socio-economic class.
This boy was cultured. He had definitely come from a middle-class
background. He knew more, saw more, and read more than all of us ghetto
kids put together. Lord only knows what circumstances befell his family that caused him to move down to our area and forced him to go to our school.
Brain took it in stride though. If he was aware that he descended the socioeconomic ladder, he certainly didn't show it. He was the class valedictorian,the ever-pleasant, and ever-eager-to-help-out teacher's pet! He was also the boy I was in love with, though I loved him from afar.
I would do my best to be picked for projects that he spearheaded. Whenever I could, I sat beside him. Yet Brian never saw me. I guess I can't blame him for I was invisible to most girls in the school let alone the boys.
In the beginning, like any other boy in the second grade, Brian hated girls.
Well, you know they were alright from a distance, but to have a girlfriend—no way! Later though he still was not in the true girl-liking stage yet, he did fancy the prettiest girl in the classroom: Linda Joseph. Maybe it was because she was as pretty as he was or maybe it was because it was obvious that she was different from the rest of us as well. She too did not have the ghetto mentality. It was apparent that she came from a middle-class background, judging by her demeanour.
There you have it, the two different kids bonding together, leaving me out
and breaking my heart. Brian left the school at the end of the third grade. All we were told was that his family had moved and he would not be coming back. I imagine the family got back on their feet again and moved back to where they belonged.
As for me, I carried this love in my heart for him all through my elementary school years. I placed him on a pedestal. He was almost a demigod to me. No other boy could measure up. I thought it was love making me feel this way but what I did not know at the time because of my youth and innocence was that I was holding on to an ideal.
I was holding on to the ideal of being different. Not different in a bad way
as I was used to being, but different in a good way. I was holding on to the
ideal that some day I too could rise above my circumstances and move out of that ghetto. I was holding on to the ideal that one day I too could be somebody.
One day I could live in an environment where 14-year-old-girls did not get
pregnant in back sheds or where the only known form of reading was comic books. I could live in a world where life did not include living in poverty.
Brian Nichols, wherever you are, I wish you the best. You will never know
how much you impacted my life.