I was 15 in an all boys' school, and really involved in theater. We were going to stage a play that celebrated the 50th year of our school's founding. It was a musical about the life of Saint Marcellin, our patron saint, where at one point the young Marcellin had to rap. It was definitely not striving for realism. As soon as I read the script, I realized it was written by condescending old men who thought they knew what young people wanted. Dump in a few verses of that newfangled rap music, one of them probably said. They love that stuff said the other.
I pitied the poor guy who would be lead. This was going to be embarrassing.
They gave me the part of the father mainly because I was tall and looked the oldest. I also looked straight. It wasn't that big of a leap that I knocked someone up. That the boy turned out to be a saint, yes well, there's the rub.
As preparation, we were subjected to a three day acting, dancing and singing workshop. It was so physically grueling, there were times I wanted to stick a pen in the choreographer's eye. Pleeck your pinggers, he says. Pak you my mind shouts back.
From the get-go, we knew how our group was going to be arranged. We were given two classrooms where we can set up our sleeping bags and clothes. Like sheep, heterosexuals went in one room, homos in the other. The dividing line between the straight and the gay boys couldn't have been any clearer. If you had a lisp, or a limp wrist, you go here; normal kids thattaway. I went with the gays, but not without a warning look from a friend that went in the straight room.
We spent the first night bonding. At some point, someone in our room invited some of the boys in the other room to join us. We spent the night talking about life in general through that particularly unique point of view adolescents have. The straight boys still huddled together, but at least there was a certain openness to the exchange. It felt like a soiree.
The second day was much the same; this time we were making fun of the scarf the choreographer had around his neck. Apparently they decided to make Marcellin Filipino. Good job. Now we were going to be farmers planting in the fields. Farmers who will, at some point, have to rap. Palm, meet forehead.
When night came, I crawled back to our room to sleep, sore and bruised from the countless rehearsals we had to endure. My friend Jimmy told me that a small group was going to the track and field oval to look for ghosts. I begged off, I was too tired.
The last day of the workshop felt like any other day. As usual, I was the last person in the room, everybody was already getting breakfast. Jimmy came up to me and told me that Ms. Bunny, our adviser, wanted everyone to go to another room for a meeting. I brushed my teeth quickly and washed my face, then went after Jimmy who motioned for me to hurry up. Apparently, Ms. Bunny was angry.
I never liked Ms. Bunny. A fresh graduate from a top university, I found her both condescending and falsely modest. She also enjoys having tantrums. I lost track of the number of times she's kicked a chair and walked out on us when she didn't get her way. I told Jimmy I think she's a drama queen.
I went in the classroom and the atmosphere was strangely heavy. My roommates' faces were a shade paler than usual, and they spoke in hushed tones. When I asked Jimmy what happened, he told me he doesn't really know. I knew he was lying.
Ms. Bunny walked in, and in a high-pitched, strangulated voice announced that all the straight boys can leave. I looked at her, then looked at Jimmy. Jimmy refused to look at me. I looked at the others. They still huddled together, but kept quiet. The other group stood up and left. Heart pounding, I joined them.
It was a full half-hour before the meeting in the room ended. All of us who left were waiting in the covered court. I sat quietly in a corner. No one was in any mood to talk. I saw Jimmy and approached him but he motioned for me to remain seated. Ian, who was part of the group inside the room, looked visibly upset and angry. I asked Jimmy what happened.
Apparently the ghost hunting activity segued into something more adolescent (or adult, if you think about it). A few sexual jokes that became dares. Nothing happened, but something almost did. Another guy from that group went to Ms. Bunny the next morning and told her what happened. Ms. Bunny immediately zeroed in on the lisped, limp-wristed ones.
Ian came over. He could barely keep his temper in check. I wasn't even part of the group that went to the oval, he said. How dare she. How dare she.
I listened to him rant. I felt something squeeze my chest, which I first couldn't understand. Then I realized I wasn't angry, I was guilty. I knew, and instead of standing with my own, I left. I was sure Hell reserved a special place for traitors.
And so I let him rant. In my cowardice, or precisely because of my cowardice, I shared in his outrage.
Photo taken here.