The following is taken from the second section of my book, which talks about my experiences during high school.
I am on the cusp of fifteen and I am afraid of a lot of things. A list of things that keep me awake at night, but is not exclusive to, include: Losing my glasses; peeing myself in a swimming pool; finding a bone in my chicken & a potential smallpox outbreak as I watched a documentary on it when I was nine and it still haunts me. My most prominent fear at this moment in time though is getting changed in front of the boys in my gym class.
I stand there, my school shirt pulled down to cover my underwear, angling my body awkwardly, whilst glancing sheepishly around, trying not to inhale the musk of confidence that’s stinking up this changing room. The majority of boys here have hit puberty. They have abs and have hair in places I’m still sure shouldn’t have hair. By comparison I look like a child; a little girl in fact. I tuck myself away in the corner of the changing room, hoping they’ll not notice me or my fragile masculinity. As if they do one of them will undoubtedly whip me with their towel as that seems to be a favourite pass time amongst my peers.
Every lesson features a superfluity of jibes and remarks; an ongoing plethora of dim-witted comments: ‘Topher loves gym because he looks at us getting changed.’ In reality nothing could be further from the truth. On paper I SHOULD love this part. According to the boys in my class there is a direct correlation between being gay and being a pervert. I am attracted to a few boys in my class yes, and seeing them nearly naked would be a highlight of my day if not for the crippling anxiety I feel whenever I look down at my penis which is, by my own speculation, the tiniest in the room. I do however take mental pictures and will probably revisit the scene later on in the comfort of my own bedroom.
This week it is swimming lessons which encompass two of my worst nightmares: getting completely naked in front of others and swimming. I am extremely blind without my glasses, and since I cannot wear them in the pool because of practicality purposes (blind as shit) coupled with the fact I’d look like the love child of Harry Potter and a Magikarp if I did, I am forced to splash around like a fish having a stroke; utterly unable to see what is going on. Our school swimming pool wasn’t big, but it was big enough to drown in, so it sends my anxiety, which at this point was in its infancy, into a bratty temper tantrum.
We emerge from the pool and are told to go shower. The majority of the guys strip off completely and start horsing around, slapping each other on the butt or doing that bizarre helicopter thing with their penises. Some even jerk their cocks with the heft and gusto of an Olympic javelin thrower before comparing sizes. I dunk myself under the shower when it’s my turn, then flee to the changing room. I grab my stuff and hurl myself in to the toilet before another remark is made or another guy sneaks off to get changed in private. Only this time the door is locked; someone has occupied my safe haven. I can only compare this moment to the feeling of opening a cupboard to grab a biscuit but instead getting a dick-slapped.
In my haste I’ve forgotten to grab my pants and trousers. I run back through, figuring I’ll wait until the guy comes out of the bathroom before I go and get changed. By the time I tip-toe back into the now flatulent smelling changing room my stuff is gone. I know this is a prank because most of the boys are looking at me and laughing. One them then bolts past me, my clothes in hand, and hurls them into the swimming pool. As I go to try and collect my now drenched clothing, two more of the boys drag me from of the changing room and lock me out. The gym teacher, Mr P, walks by and asks what’s going on. Trembling due to being cold and being distraught I tell him through quivered lips what’s happened. He laughs slightly and says some pseudo masculine bullshit about how ‘boys will be boys.’
I run to my Gran’s house at lunch, I tell her the story and she is scandalised. She insists on calling the school, but I convince her not too because the last thing I need is an inquisition featured around my sexual orientation, particularly as it’ll inevitably involve my parents. Instead I tell her I’ll chat to the Head Teacher and tell him about what’s happened – I am a model of equanimity. The Head Teacher passes the buck and suggests I talk to Mr P about this myself, as it’ll be good for me to learn to communicate better. I take his idea on board but decide to alter it slightly and write a letter instead, which sees me accuse the teacher of ‘blatant homophobia’ and was titled ‘what the fuck is this shit class for anyway?’
Mr P pulls me up during the next lesson, which due to a tiny blessing was a week later because the next class was cancelled after a first year defecated in the swimming pool. He sits me down and asks me to explain my letter and why I think he doesn’t like gay people. Unable to speak to adults properly I sort of mumble some basic vowel movements and spit a few sentences into my lap. He then tells me he isn’t homophobic, that his son is in fact gay and that he wanted me to try and resolve these on-going issues in class for myself as he knows from personal experiences involving his own child that the best way to tackle bullies is to confront them. I am flummoxed by the events that unfolded during this meeting, but haven’t really absorbed any of the information other than his son is gay and that I have, for the first time in my life, completely misjudged someone. I leave wearing a shroud of guilt and wondering that, since Mr P is very attractive, if his son is hot and if he is single.