To the class of 64
With hindsight, it is simple to look back on those early days at the Farmers school and to understand, that most of us, probably shared the same fears and lack of worldliness as I did.
Some had come with friends from the same areas and most perhaps; had had more interaction with other kids than I, but; we were all locked in a strange and new environment. A group of 11 or 12 year olds, striving not to be the one who would attract the bullies or bring unwanted attention to ourselves.
I formed a close bond with Reg and we spent a lot of time together, two lonely kids from different ends of the region clinging together against the world.
I had never had a friend and I did not understand the boundaries. I was intense and jealous; not a great recipe for a long time friendship.
By the start of second term, Reg had grown tired of the intensity and he moved on; carrying with him the secrets of our time together, which had included some furtive, and ultimately; futile, sexual exploration. This had been such a ridiculously, tiny part of our time as friends that I had no reason to fear it would ever see the light of day again.
It was a Sunday night in Autumn, the chill winds of the western plains had just started to replace the searing heat of summer and we were being ordered into line at the side of the school hall for Movie night. These were generally some old B grade flick deemed suitable for kids; meaning they either involved some sporting triumph, some motor racing through the deserts of America or they were some tattered old English comedy routine.
We were jostling for position and trying to sit with whoever was in favor at the time; it was at times like this when I missed the regularity and warmth of knowing Reg was by my side.
Suddenly; I was being jostled, and the ugly epithet “Poofter” was being spat in my face; Reg had obviously confided in someone about our fledgling attempts to understand our anatomy and now I was to face the opprobrium of the bullies.
I sat through the movie holding back tears; as my chair was roughly pushed in the darkness and I could hear the ugly rumor doing the rounds in whispered outrage.
I was not even certain what being a “poofter” entailed; I just knew that in this hothouse environment it was just about the worst possible thing you could be accused of.
The movie ended and I walked back to the dormitory, deliberately trying to avoid all of you, I quickly cleaned my teeth and sought the haven of my bed.
There were twelve of us in the dormitory and I tried to sleep with the chatter of my vileness being secretly spread and dissected by various experts on sexual perversion. Occasionally; some heroic soul would brave being caught by the teacher on duty or a prefect; and get out of his own bed to come and prod my prostate form, hissing the dreaded word and being rewarded by the muffed laughter of the others in the room.
The fear of that night has never left me, eventually, the sobs of utter degradation gave way to a fitful sleep and I dared to dream it had been a nightmare.
The nightmare became real again next morning, I went to the showers with the words; “dirty, filthy poofter” ringing in my ears, the lineup for breakfast was a conga line of kids pushing and shoving at me, the dining room, to my ears at least; seemed to reverberate with the news of my heinous crime.
Classes became the only safe haven; I was first in and last out, something of a reversal!
For the next weeks, the abuse was unremitting, I was pissed on in the showers, spat on, punched, sworn at and treated with disgust and loathing.
I would try to go to bed and the hyenas would surround me, they would push me down on the bed and I would hear the crack of the eggs or the squelch of the cow shit they had put in there – I would be forced to lie in this filth all night.
Later the next day, I would surreptitiously change the sheets and sneak to the bathroom and try to wash the dirty ones in the basins, if I was caught by a teacher or prefect I would tell them I had wet the bed – that shame was better than the truth!
I was 12 years old, I was alone, I had no one to turn to, and in truth; the shame and the self-loathing, the fear of being weak, the disgrace to the family would have stopped me from talking, even if there had been someone.
It was the worst of times; the thought of running away filled my mind, but that would have shamed the family and, if there was one lesson I had learned well; it was that you did not bring shame on our family.
I thought of killing myself but the disgrace of having a child destroy himself would have been something my parents could not have dealt with, besides; I had no clue as to how to achieve this state of nirvana.
Jerry was a prefect on our floor and I was ashamed at what this would do to his standing, we had never been close and this was another crevice in our relationship; he did however, at one stage; ask me how I was doing;
“I am tough, it will be OK” he accepted that and walked away, possibly the biggest lie I had ever uttered.
There were some of you who made some surreptitious attempts to ease the pain and I appreciated that, but the tsunami of disgust and anger was too big for anyone to fight against.
Slowly over a period of two weeks, the shrillness died down and I could sleep again, but; the shame of this episode would never leave me and even to write about it now, is hard.
I learnt to survive and adapt, I had to for the next six years I spent with you all; I learnt the lessons so well, I would continue to live a lie for the next 25 years.
There are some things you never truly leave behind.