No place for beginners or sensitive hearts
When sentiment is left to chance
No place to be ending but somewhere to start
No need to ask
He’s a smooth operator
Sade (Smooth Operator, 1984 album)
I got up in the morning and I put on my pants the same way as the next guy but there was something different about me now. The continuous leaving – no, correct that, abandoning of one city and then moving onto the next one had caught up to me. The circumstantial behavioral learning that meant I could screw up relationships, neglect responsibilities, and pretty much dick around, because inevitably, within a short period of time, my parents were bound to stuff my brother and I into the family vehicle to suddenly uproot and move to a different city, had created this blank slate in which I could create whatever persona I chose.
My prepubescent self took full advantage and milked it to the max.
Circumstances only seemed to reinforce my pride-crusted heart and mind even more. I was enjoying the curious attention afforded to me. With my buttoned up shirt and tie I would be mocked by the other boys but were surrounded by the girls. Then, with a smirk on my face I stood back and took in the scene the next day when all of the boys arrived wearing buttoned up shirts and ties. I recognized my influence and took full advantage of it. I was the curiosity, the wise council, the mysterious stranger standing in their midst. I was a spitting image of Dick Tracy, with my fedora pulled low over my eyes, and a popeye cigarette hanging out of one corner of my mouth. I would be present for the beginning of the school day, taking charge and casting my wisdom, but then would mysteriously disappear to my other world until the end of the school day, when I once again emerged to take credit for all the work done.
My other world was the ‘enrichment’ portable that was outside the school at the edge of the playground. A formidable place that required a special pass to enter. It would be here that I would spend my days learning about bananas and other critically important aspects of life. I enjoyed the segregation. I relished in the societal privileges afforded to me. My every action and my ever word was being celebrated. Gold stars and badges were thrown around like candy at a parade. I felt that I could take on the world. And I tried.
I had gathered around me a posse. Three young women who I would grow quite close to during my time in this northern city. One was the daughter of a pastor. A strict, ultra-conservative upbringing with their own hidden secrets. The other from a very poor and broken family where the battle scars were seen by everyone. And the third, who was the glue that kept all of us together. I formed perhaps what could be characterized as my most stable and normal relationship with her that lasted several years and several different communities. She would be the first to leave this group, heading even more north than this city – into a northern territory. Perhaps that was what intrigued me and had me so bent on remaining in contact with her – this idea that she left first. That had not yet happened in my life as that dubious honor was always given to me. The four of us spent those first few months together and it was an amazing experience for me. I was on top of the world.
I didn’t know it yet, but all of this was about to unravel, following a plane ride back down to the island where the coastal city was located, where I would be visiting an all boys prep school on a special invitation from that school.