Strange Love

As I work my way through my tales of the ‘hood, I found a part of myself aching, and I was compelled to face the same question over and over again. Why, as a such a little boy, did I fall in love? For there were two boys I fell in love with at first sight one time. No, nothing ever happened with them, and they were in two totally different locations. But I wanted to be with them in the way I had with other little boys – closer than natural, perhaps – for I wanted to make love with them; which means I loved them. Because I did. A ‘love at first sight’ kind of thing.

One was Mark (or Matt; we really aren’t quite sure), a boy on my bus, a boy I saw frequently when I was seven and eight. He didn’t live in the hood; he lived some distance away. He had pale green eyes, wide set and framed with thick lashes, and a laughing face. I remember how the corners of his eyes would crinkle when he smiled – a broad and happy smile – as he got on the bus. He lived on a narrow road cut in the clay, embraced by high red banks. The bus got into a wreck there one time, flipping onto its side with all us kids flying in all directions. I wonder if I loved Mark because Mark looked a bit like my best friend, the boy next door – curly brown-blond locks, a square jaw, impish upturned nose. But unlike my friend who had a thin scattering of freckles, Mark’s complexion was fair. Each time he would get on the bus I felt my heart skip; I wanted to get close to him, know him, and let him know how drawn I was to his personality. It was a painful desire, and yet I never did. Even at that young age I was knew what what going on in my life was wrong; I was too ashamed to even speak of it. And yet – I felt that draw, that want – and yet at such a young age!

The other boy I fell in love with was in North Carolina when I was nine – an Asian boy named Leo whom I can still remember quite clearly. He was a lithe black haired youth, slightly taller than I, with a laughing face and a quick smile. Physically he did not resemble Mark, not at all; in that respect they were total opposites. He got along with the other kids, unlike me – a “new” kid in school, transplanted from the dirt poor outskirts of a southern town to what was to me a large and modern city. I don’t know why I loved him so much, but I did, and like all my loves, it is one I still feel ghostly echoes of. We would play, my eyes on him – and I was only what? Nine? And yet I wanted to be so much closer; to be as close as the teenager had been to me: skin to skin, warm body to warm body, feeling his flesh pressed against mine. Again, I think it was something about his personality which attracted me – something in the eyes, the laughing smile. So odd! So strange! – for a boy of nine. And yet I can still see him, dancing and running in the dappled shadows on the playground; laughing and playing. So odd – I do not remember being happy at that time. Was it because we had moved? Or was it because I was so afraid to approach this kid to whom I felt such a strong bond? I was pretty friendless that year, being the “new kid” and all – and we moved away before I could make good friends. Such is the life of a military kid: here today, gone tomorrow.

In the ‘hood my best friend and I were the closest of friends. Sexually abused by his older brother, the teenager, we were on intimate terms, and yet we were not lovers. We did not know how to be lovers, but we were both always together – and we did “things” together – the things his brother had shown him. And yet my feelings towards him – when I compare them towards my feelings towards Mark and Leo – it was is if my best friend and I had been thrown together, whereas in Mark and Leo I could sense something more was possible – a closer closeness than a sexual relationship can bring; a deeper love. Strange to think of a seven, eight, and nine year old boy being possessed by such feelings, but given my past I think I can understand, explain it a bit if you can not. But remember: I am still attempting to understand it myself – and the child within me.

I loved the teenager – that much was true. I still feel echoes of that love from the past. I trusted him with my life, would do anything he asked – and all I wanted in return was to be loved and accepted by him, even if in the end it all fell apart with his betrayal. Given that child’s desire and the way that the teenager showed his affection and acceptance – through sexual acts – led me to feel that the only way I could express or accept love was through intimate touch. It is a problem I still face in my relationships: for me love and physical intimacy are as closely intertwined as vines on a wall; rain to a rainbow. I cannot have sex without love; and with love comes the desire to please the other person “in that way”. That much I know was taught to me, courtesy of the teenager, and it has affected most of my relationships since then. It has been a love undeclared in many of my relationships, for in many it would have been rejected with scorn and embarrassment (or at least I so I believe, or believed, remembering with burning hurt the way the teenager betrayed me); in others it would have been morally wrong, damaging the other person. It is one of the reasons I am leery of making new friends, and do not tell close friends all that I feel. It’s one of the ‘crosses’ it seems I must bear, a sometimes painful one I do not like, but thus far am unable to change. The shrinks told me that it was wrong but to be expected given my past, this fusing of love and the idea of making love, but they were unable to totally break that bond – and I understand that even for ‘normal’ people, this can be an issue: confusing sex with love and vis versa.

Going back to those two boys – I know some of the “whys” of what I felt: I had already been introduced to the concept that love and sex were one and the same. But to this day I wonder why I felt the way I felt towards Leo and Mark – a feeling so strong that I can still recall their names (both real in this story) – as well as their faces. There are shadows to answers in here, this “story”, this batch of questions – and yet – they elude my grasp. The only answer that makes any sense to me is that perhaps, somehow or somehow – they may have been soul mates of mine.

I guess that’s something I’ll never know, and there is a bit of sadness in that knowledge.

(I must admit: this was a difficult story for me to write, and probably could have been done better. Some part of me – and I know which one: the child – had pushed me over and over again to write about this. I resisted, then finally caved in some weeks ago. I put it aside, not really sure if I wanted to post it – for what difference could it possibly make? It is in the past; there is nothing I can do about it. And the child within has been whispering, gently pushing me in his childlike way: “For me.” To tell a bit more of “his” story, how “he” felt, and still feels today. I used “I” in the narrative, for it was the “I” of yesterday who experienced those things, felt these things. As a result I get a bleed-over of “his” emotion. I guess it just goes to show that despite being a house divided, “I” and “he” are in many ways one and the same. But it is what it is, and I did the best I could to both communicate the depth of feeling I had; the desire I felt – and my confusion at feeling that desire. In some ways I find it a scary thing – that a seven, eight, or nine year old child could be capable of that kind of feeling, and embarrassing in that I was a boy, feeling that for another boy. But I realize: such is the way I was taught by the teenager and it’s made quite a difference in my life. As the past often define us, it has something to do with the way I am.)