Growing up, I always imagined my mother to be very Joan Collinsesque.
As a matter of fact, looking at the soap opera dynasty, I would always think that it will be nice to have a mother like Joan Collins.
Few people spoke about my mother and when they did, they said awful things.
I remember being taunted by my male and female cousins that I was not wanted. That my mother tricked my father. that my mother and father met at a church bazaar and they screwed on the steps of the church and nine months later I was born.
From very early age I learned what the words “bastard” and illegitimate” meant.
I always yearned for my mother. I had heard stories that she was a prostitute, that she worked on a boat in the capital city, Port of Spain and that she had three of us and she gave all three of us away. One heartbreaking story was that she once gave my eldest sister sleeping pills and left her in a sugarcane field when she was just a few weeks old. As a result of such negative stories, I began to have a sense of distaste in my mind for her.
Then…one day…I remember it as if it were yesterday, she appeared.
She was everything I had imagined. She was glamorous, impeccably dressed, flashing jewels, smelling great and speaking with a sense of authority, as if seventeen years of absence did not matter. I did not know what to feel, initially, I was in awe, she was truly a beautiful woman but the excitement soon faded within a few hours and a sense of rage and resentment began to overcome me.
How can you be absent for seventeen years, living in Tobago for Gods sake, and not come and visit once!!! Do you know how many times I cried? How many times I wished you were there to hold me? To protect me? To take me away from all the pain and hurt and torture I was facing? To comfort me?
Even as I write this, I feel the pain.
I wanted a mother for God’s sake, not a glamorous show off, talking about her affluent friends and her undying love for your mate. I wanted her to sit with me and give me a plausible explanation as to why she left and never looked back, not even writing a letter. My God I had passed common entrance and when everyone was getting Timex watches for passing their exams…I got nothing.
I went through forms one through three with four shirts and two trousers and a shoe that was so tight I had to curl my toes in to make it fit. And she was there sitting with my grand mom and my other cousins (who gathered and listening intently) describing a life of affluence and I was there sitting in amazement…bewildered.
Just as I yearned for a hug from my father and words of encouragement and to hear those three words “I Love you,” I had waited equally, all my life, to feel her hug, to inhale her perfume and to hear her say “I Love you” but it never came. Instead my appreciation for my grandmother grew immensely, I realized then and there, that I was just fine with her. I realized that even though she did not wear fancy clothing or have fancy perfumes and even if she was not literate, laughed with a toothless grin, smelled of vicks and Limacol…this lady was my mother and nothing and no one was ever going to tell me differently! I believe that I learned, then and there, during that short time with my biological mother, what hate was.
One day my mother went visiting with one of my aunts, unknown to her, I followed her to my aunt’s house and as i stealthily crept, I heard their voices. My aunt, was there filling her in on my lifestyle and she sat there listening intently. Now, if it were in a sympathetic manner then I would understand; but here is my aunt relating to this woman whom I just met, my sexual predisposition and proclivities as if she knew me. And the unmitigated audacity of my mother to respond that she would not want any son who was a bullerman! At that point I lost it completely. Seventeen years of rage and unspent energy came out in torrents of anger and frustration, in tears and pain, I released my hurt with such fury that even I was surprised.
As the years went by our relationship became tolerable, I kept my life to myself and she never bothered to find out, as far as she was concerned, being gay was wrong and I was destined to go to hell.
So at age twenty one, going to spend time with her in her home for the first time, was a bit scary for me. I expected her to want to change me, in fact, on my second day at her house she took me to have a bath by a woman who practiced necromancy. I guess she thought that with some cleanse-me oils, katanga water and some bush I could be cured.
What she did not know was that I was wishing I had drank enough of the weedicide so that I would have died. That on the surface, I yearned for her to tell me it was going to be ok, that the pain and the fear and the hurt that I felt and the overwhelming sense of loneliness I felt would abate. That on the surface, I wanted her to ask me about my childhood, I wanted to tell her about the years of abuse I had to endure, I wanted to tell her about being raped and the fact I had never told anyone. I wanted to tell her that I had such a low self esteem, that I was so unhappy and all I ever wanted was to be loved. That I deserved to be loved, that it was my inherent right as a young man to be loved, regardless of who I slept with I deserved to be loved.
Instead it never came…the love never came.
Perhaps it was my fault.
I chose not to subject myself to further humiliation by family members so I made the big step of moving out of my village.
My twenties went by in a blur. I was working in the health services of Trinidad and Tobago and my femininity just grew. I was so visibly gay that people shunned me but for the first time in my life, I was happy. I soon became promiscuous and would end up sleeping with several guys in a week.
On the weekend I would go to the club and I would dance my ass off and before the night was over I was sure to pick up a guy. One particular weekend, I remember sleeping with seven guys from Friday evening to Sunday night. I lost all sense of morality. My self esteem was so low, that at a point in time, I would resort to giving men money to sleep with me. Sex had lost its true meaning. I just wanted to have sex and I would.
By age thirty I had slept with over two hundred and fifty men.
I had gotten Syphilis, and Gonorrhea and then I had an HIV scare. When that happened, I realized that I had to stop.
I began to change my life. I walked into church one day in the middle of the day, I knelt, closed my eyes and for the first time in over ten years, I began to pray. I prayed to God to take away any affliction and diseases, I prayed for guidance in my life. It is funny I did not pray for him to take away my gayness but I prayed for discipline. It took some time but I began to feel renewed and for five years I did not have sex. I was on a sabbatical. The temptation was always there but I was determine and also had a support team at the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Trinidad.
My five year sabbatical was over when I met and fell in love with a guy. At first he seemed to be made for me, not only was he supportive but he said he loved me and after waiting all my life to hear those words, I was hooked. There wasn’t a thing that I would not do for this guy…and he knew it! I would feed of him. I loved him more than I loved myself and soon I began to spiral out of control…and then the abuse began.
At first it was a clout here or a slap there and then the beatings began in earnest. He was in the military and he knew where to hit so it will not show. I remember running around the Queens Park Savannah from him one Sunday night and in full view of the passers by he beat the living daylight out of me. I would get paid at the end of the month and he would be there to collect and I had no say in handing it over to him. I was foolish. But I was in love, or what I thought was love.
At that time I was also living in an area that was not gay friendly but because of finances the rent was affordable. I was being abused by my boyfriend and my neighbors would taunt me daily. They would break into my apartment and steal my foodstuff, they would hideout in the street and throw stones at me when I walked the street on my way home from work. The last straw came when they threatened to set fire to the apartment I was living in because I reported them to the police and for the first time in my history the police did do their job. I knew they meant it and I was not sure the police was gonna continue protecting me.
I had few friends and those that cared gave up caring because I would not listen. Then one day, after two years of enduring the abuse, I decided I had enough. I realized I had to leave, I had to get away, I had my American visa and I had a friend who was willing to take me in. I visited my grandmom to say goodbye. She was frail and childlike, dementia had taken its toll on her. It was and remains today one of the most difficult goodbyes I have ever had to say.
I packed my bags.
On Tuesday March 23rd, 2004 at 2:30pm as the aircraft taxied up the runway and we made our assent I felt for the very first time in my life safe. I remember Whitney Houston’s moment when she exhaled…and I did.
Next Week: The conclusion.