On the island, off the coast of this most western province, is a secluded all-boys exclusive prep school. Actually, now it allows both sexes whereas back in the day there was a separate all-girls school down the road a bit. This school captured social exclusivity well, defining economic class structures like the British roots in which this school came. A large elaborate and architecturally brilliant building is its center showpiece, situated on estate grounds that capture your breath. The school borders a lake, brilliantly blue and crystal clear, nestled into the mountain range on the eastern side of the island. Instead of a more common regional sports team, this school boasted a premium, world-renowned rowing team. My tour of this place only reinforced my own exclusivity.
I was at this school to write a very special entrance exam. Out of the thirty boys in attendance there would be only nine scholarships awarded. After our tour we all gathered in a great hall where we sat down at individual tables staring at a thick unopened booklet in front of us.
“The test will begin in two minutes,” The headmaster explained, while looking at his pocket watch over the rim of his half glasses precariously perched at the tip of his nose.
With that prompt we all obediently broke the seal of the booklet in front of us and taking our pencils in hand we turned the page like a synchronized swimming team. A couple hours later it was all over and I was sitting in my grandparent’s vehicle, headed back to the airport to catch my flight back up north. I felt really good about my chances. I felt really good about that place. It was meant for me and I was meant for it. With my chest puffed out as large as I could make it, straining the top button on my buttoned up dress shirt I hugged my grandparents and boarded the plane for the long journey home. Upon landing at the airport in this northern city a stair truck would drive out to the plane on the tarmac to help the passengers unload, with family and friends standing behind a chain link fence at the edge of the field waiting. Here my parents stood, waiting and waiting and waiting for their child to disembark.
After several minutes had gone by, and after the last person emerged from the plane, my parents were getting worried. A couple more minutes went by until a stewardess emerged and walked over to my parents. She inquired as to whether they were my parents, to which they nervously replied yes. The stewardess calmly explained to them that I had locked myself in the bathroom, refusing to come out, after unceremoniously throwing up all over a gentleman wearing a very nice business suit who was sitting next to me. My parents were asked to come on board the plane to help get me out of the bathroom.
This is called foreshadowing.
It all began to unravel for me. I lost my edge. In the weeks that followed this incident I borrowed my brother’s BMX on one occasion to take a jump in the park behind our row housing one sunny afternoon, only when I took the jump, I snapped the bike in half, frame and all. If that embarrassing incident wasn’t enough, on my birthday I had an opportunity to call into the local radio station to request my favorite song, which I did, only to have the DJ give a shout out to the young girl who was celebrating her birthday that day.
It didn’t stop there. As a class outing we were all going out of town for a couple of days to go camping. Not understanding the instructions clearly, or perhaps not given any instructions because I was too busy hanging out in the enrichment trailer all day, I went with only my backpack and no supplies, with the understanding that we were bunking in cabins. To my surprise I found that we were all required to have tents, sleeping bags, ect. to which I had none. So, an old tarp was found, which was used to crudely construct a lean-to and I slept in my clothes on the ground with a stone for a pillow. I went home from that trip, camping by a swamp, with no spot left on my body that a mosquito hadn’t enjoyed some dinner, in agony for several weeks, and never looking at nature the same way again.
It was shortly afterwards that I received a letter from the prestigious school indicating that I did not receive one of the nine scholarships awarded.
I had come in tenth.
And then there was the bully.
It was as if one of the many bullies I had faced in my previous city received a transfer to this place with the sole purpose of continuing their torment of me. This bully was relentless. He would wait purposely for me after school to give me my beating. He would follow me around, name-calling and taunting me. It got to the point that I felt trapped, afraid to go anywhere. When I would leave the school and spot him I would hastily retreat to the school and my teacher would make special arrangements to get me home. This bully came into my life just around the time I was enjoying my exclusivity and the popularity and social privileges afforded to such a ranking. My social class meant that I could ignore the emergence of this bully but now after so many socially negative experiences, it was all taking a toll to which this bully was exploiting for their benefit.
My worlds were colliding. The world and identity that I had escaped in the previous city was now showing up in this new place. My facade was crumbling all around me and I was ill-equipped to deal with any of it. I was becoming more and more socially stigmatized, isolated, and left alone in the corner to think about how I have been ruining other people’s lives with my presence. My perspective was narrowing, my fists tightening, and my mood darkening. This new identity that I had tried on that fit so well had melted in the sun. I was standing in that place, naked, in front of everyone, and all they could do was to stand, point, and laugh. I did not want to face this reality any longer and I was sure as hell not going to go back to that emotional and psychological place that I left before coming up to this god-forsaken place. Something needed to change, and fast.