My life has changed. I was once afraid of someone. They cast a shadow over me, and I could see no escape. I tried to run but no matter where I went, they were just behind me. I was haunted. My self esteem was battered and I sought validation from anyone and everyone. I was desperately seeking a seal of approval in the hope that it might chase the shadow away.
One day I stopped running. I sat down and waited. I faced my fears, and I braced myself for whatever might happen. The truth he gave me was not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. This man I had tried to evade was strong but he wasn't unreasonable. His demands were fairly simple and I agreed to them.
Now I am my own man. I am in my skin and so happy to be there. I am riddled with faults, yet I am beautiful. I will never be perfect, but I try everyday to be a better person, and, sometimes, I succeed.
The man I had been running away from was myself. So many years I hid who I was, not just from the world, but from me. I was scared of what people would think of this. However, this is who I am. Every piece of grit and glitter, every obstacle I have overcome has made me unique. You can thrust labels on me and goodness knows I like a label. Spastic, Camp, or Aspergers are all worn like Chanel for I am as strong as an ox, as cool as cucumber, and as crazy as a coconut. I no longer worry about what anyone thinks because I have found the key to my happiness is just being me.
He says he loves me. He says it when no one can hear. I know he loves me. He shows me when no one can see. Love should be so simple but life is so complex.
He wants to keep me away from the public eye so that my very existence cannot taint him. Yet the thing he is afraid of isn’t me. It it inside of him. It goes where he goes and he cannot escape himself. These feelings he wants to suppress overflow like lava and each eruption confirms that he is not who he wants to be. So he has placed our love in a cage. A well defined place with limits and boundaries. He puts me in purdah behind a rainbow screen and, because he can’t deny himself, he denies me.
At the moment he hates himself and by seeing all that he hates in himself reflected in me, he hates me. He could start down the long road to self acceptance. If he could learn to love himself as he is, our love would be so different. I cannot tell him what to do. He needs to make these decisions for himself.
I am what I am. I am my own special creation. But so is he.
Desire can easily make a wise man foolish. I have a crush on someone. At fifty I suddenly find myself feeling as giddy as a fifteen year old. The first time we met he scampered over and told me all about his life and work. I listened but was distracted. I couldn’t decide if his sunny smile was broader than his feet. Both were irresistible and, being shy in the presence of beauty, I studied his feet more.
The second time we met he had forgotten my name. I remembered his and, much my shame, had practiced saying hello in Khmer so that I might charm him. He was as puppy-like as before. His broad, welcoming smile comes so easily and it’s hard to believe he only had the same number of teeth as any other mortal. I saw his eyes sparkling and then spent a while contemplating his feet, naked save for a plastic Y strap disappearing into his rather excitingly spaced toes.
Last night I saw him again. He regaled me with tales of traditional games that will be played in the run up to the New Year celebrations. How I want him to wet my face and blow flour all over me. Or perhaps in the tug of war I can encircle his slender waist with my arm and add some weight to his team. As we talked I found his excitement quite contagious. My smile must have mirrored his and he said my smile puts a light in his heart. I caught his eye, just for a moment before, feeling my colour rise, I dropped my gaze to his toes, which flex constantly as he talks.
He wants to visit me at my home before the New Year. Cambodian custom demands footwear be left by the door and finally I will see those capivating, dark feet fully naked on my floor. I am not foolish enough to risk clouding a beautiful smile so I will be a perfect host and offer my guest tea and cake rather than a foot rub. I may feel as giddy as a fifteen year old but experience has made me a wise old man.
In Britain, 1977 was The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. There were street parties, lots of red white and blue and every pupil in my primary school got a commemorative mug. Society was changing and Britain was emerging from a recession and would soon dive into another. There were punks on the television with black leather jackets and brightly coloured hair. The dissatifaction they represented was lost on this happy child. Ironically the death of disco coincided with my mother noticing that her younger son was more a sexolette than a sex pistol. I certainly liked to get dancin’ in the garden in my 99p aviator sunglasses. Such happy, long, summer days when I was old enough to be somebody but young enough not worry what that might mean. I danced like no-one was watching and my mother hoped if they were that they weren’t noticing. It was my last summer of innocence.
The storm clouds of puberty were gathering and whilst my hormones didn’t rage too much, some my peers were getting angry. By 1978, I was aware that having hair that looked like an outraged chrysantheum was an anecdote best not shared and that junior school’s eccentricities were big school’s weaknesses. I was the boy who was different and people were not afraid to show me how much they valued conformity. My mum, who liked punks more than The Queen, let me be myself. She supported the outlandish haircuts, the asymmetric earrings and the fashion disasters. She had enough punk spirit to allow her germ free adolescent the freedom to become a happy, well adjusted dancing queen .