Living in a small town in Ireland is something many people would hate. The town my family lived in had 780 people and just as many lived in the countryside around the town. The town itself looks the same as it did 100 years ago. This means that everyone knew everyone and there was a good community atmosphere.
So why would people hate it? Well, definitely the city people would hate it. Nothing new ever happened in the town, and the highlight of the week was mass in the church on Sundays. The town supported a farming community and they had enough work to do on their farms. The only nightlife was when people visited one of the seven pubs in the town. City dwellers would consider our little town boring.
I was 13 when all this happened, so I knew nothing else. The year was 1987. I was proud to live in our town. It had all that I needed, like school, a local scout group, and sports. As a teen, I was, of course, we were influenced by the media so we knew what the latest fashion was and what was in and what was not. I will be honest with you, I never found it boring living in our town. I had enough friends and activities to keep me busy.
I lived with my mom and dad and older sister that had a small shop in the town. Mom and Dad were God-fearing people that worked hard and were family orientated. My mom was in the woman’s group at Church and my dad liked to hunt. I got on well enough with my sister, who was always busy with her latest boyfriend. She was also picky and interfered with how I dressed and looked. As she often said, she did not want a geek as a brother. It was part of her image that she had a cool brother. This could be annoying at times, but the positive side was that I was never considered a geek or teased.
I did not really have a best friend. I hung around with the other boys in town. I always considered the whole best friend thing as something the girls did. My reasoning was that girls needed someone to confide in and tell the latest secrets and gossip. I really did not need a best friend as I could see the drama and intrigues that happened among the girls. It seemed like something one would see on some soap drama, and some girl was often let hurt.
Boys are different. We do not need anyone to confide in. We just hint to the group if we have a problem. Usually, this is done by using some imaginative boy that has a problem and asks what he should do. The good thing is we would find out that a problem we had was the same problem everyone had and we would have a good laugh. Boys did not have the drama that girls had. If we disagreed, we would just meet in the town park and let our fists decide who was right and wrong. After this duel, the whole thing would be forgotten and we would be friends again.
Who needed a best friend when you could have 12 good friends?
When I was 13, a new boy moved into town. It must have been a huge change for him, as he came from Dublin. Right from the first time I saw him come into the classroom, I knew there was something interesting about him. It was like he was special! I suppose the fact that he came from Dublin made him special enough. He also looked special. He had the school uniform on, but his hair went down to his shoulders. When he spoke, his hand flapped around in all directions and it was obvious that voice did not change yet. It was very high pitched!
His name was Martin and he sat down next to me. I introduced myself and welcomed him to our little school. I still remember his first day at our school. It was like it was the event of the year, that a new boy came into our class. The first thing that surprised me was his pencil case. He had so many pens and erasers and other school things and they were so neat in the case. All my pens were old and I had a habit of biting them so you could see the teeth marks on them. The second thing I noticed was when he wrote. He was so slow! When I say slow, I mean slow. A snail would write faster! Besides all this, I found out that Martin was very brainy. He obviously studied a lot.
After school, Martin walked home to my parent’s shop. I told him about my family and the shop. He told me that he lived with his mom and dad and his dad worked in the bank. He did not like being new as he was shy around others. I could not see that he was shy. I did notice that he was polite towards my parents and he talked a lot. We must have talked for an hour. At least he now knew everything about the town and which teacher he should avoid.
That was the first time I met Martin. He seemed to like me as he would smile when he saw me and chatter about what he did since we last met. We sat together in class and he was a good influence on me in class. Martin even helped me with things that I found difficult to do. I even started writing slower and tried my best that my writing would look as good as his. Some things are a lost cause, but at least I tried.
After school, we would walk together home. Sometimes we would go to the park and just sit on the grass and enjoy the weather, while at other times we would go to the shop and see if my parents would give us some candy from the shop.
My mother told me one day that it was good I found a friend, and this was the first time that I realized that did have a friend. I was a bit afraid that this broke the unwritten rule that boys did not have best friends. The group was more important than friends. On the other side, Martin clung on to me all the time and I liked that. It was like I was he needed me and I needed him. This being said, I do not know why he was my friend. We were not the same and did not even like the same pop groups. I liked dance music while he loved ballads were some singer was crooning about some lost love. Even though we did not have the same interests, I found Martin interesting. I never met a person like him. He was different, and in many ways perfect. I wanted to much to have some talents that he had. An example is when he smiled and laughed. It was contagious and made everyone happy.
I do not think that the other boys saw him the way I have seen him. We had a football game against another school. We always were beaten by this school and we really wanted to win this time. Everyone was playing at their best and the game was a tie. Martin was playing in the defense. This was an easy position I felt. I was an attacker and felt the pressure all the game to get a goal.
The game started with a disaster. The other team got a goal after 5 minutes. So for the rest of the game, we had low team morale but did not give up hope. The ball went back and forth but neither team could get a goal. The highlight of the game came when I managed to get a goal. I would say it was planned and because I was so talented, but the truth is that I was lucky. The goalkeeper should have stopped it, but he misjudged which direction I would kick and the end result was that we managed to tie the game.
This made the team happy as we would have been satisfied with a tie. However, the other school made a last effort to get a goal. Martin was the only one to stop the ball. I was shocked when I just saw him stand there and cover his eyes. This was the cause of them getting a goal and us losing!
Martin was unpopular after the game, and being teased that he played football like a girl. They called him a sissy and generally gave him a bad time. I was disappointed with him as well. Martin tried to explain that he did not like sports and he was afraid of the ball. I just thought that shows we are all different and it does not make him a freak.
After that game, it took a week or so for the other boys to forgive him. Still, he was not really one of the group, and this split me. At lunch break, the other boys would kick a ball around or something active and I always thought this was fun. However, Martin did not want to! Martin just wanted to stand in a corner and chat and talk. He would talk about anything from music, politics, morality and the latest gossip. He would try and tell a joke, something he was very bad at. The thing is Martin was interesting and I liked talking with him. The problem was that I felt split. The other boys said they needed me in some game they were playing. I wanted to play the game, but did not want to leave Martin alone!
Disaster stroke Martin when his father left him and his mother. It was not like Martin was close to his dad, but he took it very personally that his dad left. Martin was in tears when he told me that he thought that he was not good enough for his dad. He now spent a lot of time trying to console his mother and hoping she would stop crying. I spent a lot of time at Martins’s house, and even though I did not know what to say or do, I think that just listening to him was enough for him. This made me also think of how lucky I was for my family.
Martin surprised everyone one day by coming to the school with an earring. The school was Catholic and run by a religious order called the Christian Brothers. One of the brothers told Martin to get rid of the earring. Martin refused, which is something only a person wishing to commit suicide would do. I never seen anyone disagree with a teacher or brother and yet here was Martin standing his ground. The brother told Martin that his long hair and earring were not Catholic!
Martin still refused to get rid of his earring or cut his air. He even refused when the other boys told him that he looked like a sissy! The teacher finally sent Martin to the headmaster. As I sat in class, I could not concentrate as I was thinking about what torture he was going through at the headmaster’s office. Minutes passed away slowly and the longer the time went, the more worried I got.
Martin came back smiling and whispered to me that he did not have to change. He later told me the headmaster really did not care about his hair or earring. He was more worried about how Martin was coping with his father leaving him.
When I visited Martin the following weekend, I told him I did not mind his hair or earring. If he liked it, then so be it. I figured it must be something the boys in Dublin done. I told Martin that I admired his courage and it was a victory for the pupils that someone actually stood up to the teachers.
Then I got all personal and said, ” I never had a best friend, and never thought I needed one. However, I consider you my best friend. I hope this is ok.”
“We are BFF” Martin explained. He also had to explain that BFF means best friends forever.
I told Martin that I had a secret he should know. It took me some time to say it, but after 20 minutes of stuttering and sighing, I told him that I still wet the bed. I found this very embarrassing as I had to wear pull-ups and this made me feel like a baby. I begged him not to tell anyone at school, as my worse fear was that everyone at school would find out. If this happened, then my life would end!
Martin did not tell anyone at school. I felt bad at wondering if he would or would not. After all, we were best friends, and best friends do not tell each other’s secrets!
In fact a few weeks after, he invited me to a sleepover. I love sleepovers and this one was no different. His mom made us spaghetti and after we saw the TV, while we ate junk food. Martin gave me his bed to sleep in while he slept in a sleeping bag on the floor. It took us a long time to sleep, as we chatted about everything and joked. It was a great sleepover and we agreed that as best friends, we should do this often. The next time, he could sleep at my house.
When I was nearly asleep, Martin shook me and told me he had something to tell me. He said as best friends, it was important he told me his deepest secret.
I smiled and told him to relax and he could tell me...
Martin whispered in a low voice, ” Well... My deepest secret is that.... well you see.. it is hard to explain... it’s even hard to admit.... well here it goes... I am gay!"