Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Growing Pains: Part 1



One of the most vivid and defining times of my life were my middle school years, grades 7-8. I was 12 and times were damn rough for me. I had just moved from NYC to Scottsdale, Az and resented my father for the decision but I tried to make the best of it. I excelled academically in school but I had few friends and found it difficult to relate to many of my classmates. I had moved from a school environment where I was surrounded by mostly african-americans and fellow Italians with last names like DeSantis, Sicotello, and Fiorello to a place where little girls named Leslie had pot-belly pigs as pets and came dressed to school in pint sized Chanel-like suits with matching sun hats. I was surrounded by a sea of white consisting of Mashburn, Smith, and Connor. To top it all off I had to adjust to another paradigm shift: soda was called pop in these parts. Pepsi had turned clear and the most entertaining thing in my life was how my Hypercolor t-shirt and sweater changed color when I huffed breath onto them. I was miserable.

I had more than a hard time making friends in this new place. In fact, I was outright shunned by a group of people that I thought had some great people in it. Unfortunately they were led by a girl named Lani who would use some kind of oppressive mind game to make all the people in her group "vote" to not allow me to sit near them. The only solace I had was when one of them came up to me one time after a "vote" and told me that everyone actually liked me but was too afraid of Lani. I took it as a backhanded compliment but any compliment at that point was welcomed.

Things were not going well but I had my brother Douglas to come home to. My brother had decided that he needed to get out of NY and moved with my family to Scottsdale. He was 29 and had made a decent sum of money for himself to live on and my parents didn't mind him living with us. I would come home and he would tell me stories from his many travels to europe, his experiences traveling across the country or we'd watch old movies and he'd educate me on how to identify screen legends of the past. He made me laugh, made sure I got out of the house, and he helped me with my homework. In addition to all that he was my highly protective of me. I came home from the doctor from my yearly checkup and I was devastated that I had been told that I was "overweight." It was another thing added to the list of shit caving in around me. My brother saw how how upset I was and immediately came to my rescue. He showed me pictures of himself at my age, a round boy just like me. Doug assured me that I would change and that I was fine the way I was. I learned later that he called the doctor and gave him a fierce talking to.

One night Douglas decided that he was going to take me to dinner at the Arizona Biltmore Shopping center to Houlihans. My brother was fond of junky chain restaurant food, its a penchant that I have inherited. It was over this meal that he would inform me that he was gay, that my oldest brother was gay and that the man he had been living with was his partner, and that he had HIV. For a twelve year old awkward pubescent this news was a lot to handle. I remember being more shocked about the sexuality of my brothers because I had known then that I was gay and felt really embarassed about it. My first words were, "Paul is gay?" To which Doug replied, "Yes. Why do you think he's been living with Alan for so long?" I thought a moment and said, "Well I just thought they were roommates." Douglas smiled widely and laughed. Knowing that two of my brothers were gay comforted me but the comfort was overcome by the news of Doug having HIV.

I knew what HIV was and I was confused. My brother was healthy. He ran in the NYC marathon several times. He wasn't pale or gaunt, in fact he was a handsome physically fit man. He couldn't be dying.

I was silent on the drive home. At a stop light he turned to me and said, "Adam. I know this is a lot for you to hear but I want you to know that I'm not going to die tomorrow. I love you." I remember how badly I wanted to cry but I couldn't. I don't know if it was for lack of maturity or just convincing myself that I had to keep it together so I could think about the situation logically. All I knew was that he was going to die soon. I was so angry. Angry about the move, angry about the people at school, angry at being fat, angry at my brother, and angry about my inability to cry about it all.

(To be continued)

8 Comments:

Blogger BRETTCAJUN said...

Wow. What a powerful story. I look forward to reading the rest. I kind of wish I had gay brothers to mentor me before I came out. That would have save me from a lot of trouble I had to handle own my own.

8:53 AM  
Blogger GayProf said...

This is a really sweet story. I don’t know, though, who makes me more jealous: You, for having two gay brothers; or the 12-year-olds with the Chanel suites and matching hats. I am still looking for that today!

9:37 AM  
Blogger jeremy said...

Great post.

1:16 PM  
Blogger AC said...

I love your writing! Although, I must confess, I have difficulties getting to know other Adam's... It's my name, dammit! j/k

1:23 PM  
Blogger tornwordo said...

Can't wait for part 2. I remember going to a new school in 7th grade. I was universally shunned too. Hurt like hell.

7:26 PM  
Blogger tim said...

I love that story. I too transferred to a new school in eight grade. From Nigeria to Syracuse. Talk about alienation. Then switched schools after the first 10 weeks. Talk about drag.

11:51 PM  
Blogger D. said...

Beautiful post. Don't make us wait too long for Pt. 2! ;-)

I can relate; I grew up moving all over the country. Every two years or so; new school, new town, having to find a way to fit in all over again. Junior high wasn't so bad but High school was awful. Midwest. Early '80's. 4,000 students and I was the only gay kid. It majorly sucked.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Knute123 said...

You're making me cry Adam! I still can't believe how I behaved towards you in French class...acting like you weren't upset enough over your brother's situation. I was a royal bitch.

Well, we did pay eachother back I suppose. I DID buy you lunch everyday in high school, and you drove me around Scottsdale. The karma has stabilized...a true accomplishment for both of us.

d., you could NOT have been the only gay kid in a group of 4,000! Isnt' that statistically impossible? But yeah, the midwest is awful.

1:03 PM  

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