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Memories

Growing up in a small town, I realized early on that it was easy to be marked as different and to be made to suffer for it. I was in grade school when I first heard of June (not his real name). He lived in my neighborhood and everybody knew him. Actually, people whispered about him behind his back. His popularity or infamy, depending on which side of the fence you were, was primarily because June was a very loud, flamboyant and effeminate 16 year-old.

The first time I bumped into June in the street, I think, was when I was seven years old. I was stepping out of the gate early morning on my way to school when he suddenly appeared from nowhere in his high school uniform. Our eyes locked, he looked directly into mine, smiled and said in our dialect "Pretty!"

I was terrified, speechless. I didn't know what to say. I think I ran to school that day.

At home, relatives were already making comments about how "soft" I was. Once during a big family reunion, an adult family member remarked about how I acted like a girl. He said that if nothing was done about it I'd probably end up like June. Everyone had a laugh but I never forgot that day because my very embarrassed mother later on grabbed my arm, pulled me aside, slapped my face and shook me telling me to stop bringing shame to the family by acting swishy.

Later that night I cried myself to sleep and wished for God to fix me. I never ever wanted to end up like June.

***

One summer afternoon, the whole neighborhood was roused from a lazy siesta. We heard shouting and screaming in the street below. From the second floor of our apartment, we all rushed downstairs. Before we, the children, could even step out of the door, my mother blocked our way telling us sternly to stay inside. From inside the house, I saw adults lining the sidewalk, watching helplessly June being beaten to a pulp by his own father in the middle of the street.

I didn't see this myself but would later on put two and two together after seeing June with his small bundle of clothes leaving the neihborhood, badly bruised wearing dark shades. June's family disowned him and asked him to leave even before graduating high school.

That summer afternoon, I sat in the living room terrified by the crying sounds June was making outside. He was begging his father to stop. He was asking the people watching to stop his father. Nobody moved and June's father kept hitting him and screaming about what an embarrassment to their family he was.

***

The next time I saw June, I was a little older. He had arched brows, longish hair and the same open, easy smile. I think I was in Grade 5 and learned that June just joined and won a beauty pageant, a Miss Gay. I was having a book photocopied at a Xerox place in front of a local university that June was attending.

Behind my back I heard loud banter. I looked. It was June and his college friends. They were joking with each other and laughing very louldy. People were staring at them. From across the street, June caught my eye. Instead of looking away, I smiled at him. He smiled back, waved and mouthed the word, "Pretty!" and winked. Then they left.

***

Comments

Ming Meows said…
kawawa naman si june.
Very nice and informative blog

regards

Thomas von Katzberg

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