In Love too Early - In Love too Late?

by Cleo Manago

Once upon a time a boy was born; a Black boy named Paul who knew, quite early, that he could love another boy. As Paul frolicked through his young life, with notions of love, loving other boys, he thought all boys felt this way. No one ever told him otherwise. In his eyes everything around him pointed to this truth. Girls and boys used separate bathrooms, he and his sisters had separate bedrooms, boys were teased and taunted if caught kissing girls. Paul plainly knew this would never happen to him, it was boys he wanted to kiss.

Though Paul frequently fantasized about love and romance, it was not until age 9 that he realized his feelings for boys included notions of lying naked with, touching, caressing and kissing them for long periods of time. Paul was full with these ideas when thinking of Lawrence Green. Lawrence, also 9, had reddish bronze skin tones, big brown eyes, reddish bronze hair and the only smile in the universe; at least that's how Paul saw it. At school, Paul watched Lawrence all day. At recess he would climb the big tree in the middle of campus to watch Lawrence play baseball on the school yard. Sometimes Paul would leave the tree, pick up a stick and write Lawrence's name in the dirt, in huge letters; then climb back up to admire his efforts. Paul looked toward the sky and imagined that God, the helicopters, planes and birds flying high above were also admiring Lawrence's name.

In class Paul cherished the back of Lawrence's head, at recess he savored Lawrence's body, at lunch he treasured Lawrence's face as they sat across from each other. Lawrence thought Paul's behavior was peculiar, but he knew that whatever the reasons were for Paul's antics it felt strangely warm and good.

At night Paul dreamt of Lawrence. He awakened exhilarated thinking Lawrence must have dreamt of him too. One morning Paul awakened distressed. Anxious, he felt it was time Lawrence and he talked about and admitted their feelings for each other. Paul could no longer bear the silent conversations of love between them. Paul believed Lawrence loved him too, that their feelings were good. That day at recess, like many times before, with undaunting devotion Paul watched Lawrence play baseball with the other kids. The clamor of the bat after Lawrence whacked the little white ball into the air sent welcomed sparks through Paul's torso. As Lawrence ran for the bases, Paul cheerleaded energetically, aroused by his passions for his true love shouting, "Go Lawrence go!" All the other kids looked at the animated Paul as he screamed for Lawrence's victory. Some of them could sense that Paul was in love. Like the baseball soaring through the sky they could tell Paul's heart was also in flight.

After the game Paul asked Lawrence over for dinner that evening. Lawrence said he had to first ask his mother. After school Paul nervously waited while Lawrence went for his mother's consent. Lawrence returned with his mother's yes. Paul was overjoyed. Like he had seen in the movies, Paul asked Lawrence to carry some of his books. Lawrence said yes. Paul could already hear the sounds of wedding bells. As they walked up the block to the Projects where Paul lived, they noticed Paul's younger sister, Lisa. Lisa, 8 years old, was sitting on top of one of the poles that held up the clothes line in the front yard. She was singing, while unmercifully chewing a huge wad of strawberry bubble gum, legs swinging under herself to her internal rhythm. "Whose dat'?," she said with a voice filled with curiosity. Proudly, Paul boasted, "This is Lawrence, he's my boyfriend." Stunned, Lawrence quickly turned his eyes, then his head to Paul, saying under his voice, "I didn't know boys could be boyfriends." Before Paul could comment, Lisa blurted, "So what! Tomorrow I'm bringing my boyfriend home too, so there!," sticking out her tongue. Lisa continued with her song, her gum and her legs. A perplexed Lawrence, and Paul headed into the house. As they walked away, Paul winked at his sister, appreciative that she offered a cue he found useful in telling Lawrence of his place in Paul's heart.

When Paul and Lawrence were finally alone, Lawrence repeated softly, "I didn't know that boys could be boyfriends." "Well they can!," said Paul confidently. Paul went on to say, "Didn't you know that?? Lawrence just stared at Paul saying nothing. They played with Paul's toys until dinner. Lawrence sat next to Paul quietly during the meal. At the table, Lisa playfully snickered, making faces, teasing Paul for bringing home his boyfriend. Paul was excited about Lawrence's visit, but could sense something else was occupying Lawrence. Finally Paul's mother mentioned it was getting late and she should be taking Lawrence home. Paul and Lawrence sat in the back seat while mother drove. When arriving, Lawrence thanked Paul's mother for the ride home and told Paul he would see him tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, with great anxiety and anticipation Paul rushed off to school. When he arrived to class he saw Lawrence and smiled. Lawrence looked up at Paul, then back down, saying nothing. Paul could sense something was wrong. At recess Paul climbed his favorite tree to watch Lawrence play ball. He climbed down from the tree, found a stick and slowly wrote Lawrence's name in the dirt. He climbed back up the tree to admire his work.

At lunch time Lawrence didn't sit across from Paul like he use to so many times before. Paul got up from the table looking for Lawrence. He found him outside sitting alone at a bench, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nervously, Paul said, "Hi Lawrence. Where were you at lunch time?" Looking away from Paul, Lawrence said, "My mother told me not to play with you. She also told the teacher that we are not to play together anymore. I can't eat lunch with you either." With a breaking voice and watering eyes Paul forced his numbing lips to ask, "Why?" "I just can't play with you!" said Lawrence and walked away. Abruptly, Paul lost his breath. He became heavier, jolting every fibre that was his body. Under its sudden weightiness he collapsed toward the pavement. His heart shattered, world torn apart. He thought he was dying.

A bell ring signaling the lunch period's end. Paul stayed on the ground. Agonized, Lawrence watched from behind the classroom's tinted windows. Five minutes after, a teacher came over to Paul, led by another student who said, "There he is. I think he's sick!" Paul began to moan, intoxicated with tears and confusion. The teacher said, "Are you all right." Paul said nothing. The Principal appeared saying, "What's wrong Paul, are you sick??. Paul continued moaning. The Principal picked him up carrying him to the nurses office. He placed Paul on a cot where he fell asleep.

Later he awakened to his mother's embrace, lifting him into her arms, carrying him to the car, heading for home.

After this incident Lawrence never spoke to Paul again. Paul could not bare it. In the second year he requested of his mother that he be transferred to another elementary school. Soon after, he was. Paul fell in love with a few others after that. Occasionally, he did meet boys who wanted to play hide and seek, who wanted to "accidentally" have sex, who wanted to play house and be his wife. In high school, among some, it got around that maybe Paul liked boys, that he was a fag. In hopes that the rumor was true, some boys offered sex to Paul, but no one seemed interested in what Paul wanted -- love. Paul wanted a profound connection, a relationship, a boyfriend, somebody to go to the prom with, but when Paul spoke of love, he was rejected.

Ironically, Paul's self-knowing and comfort kept him lonely and alone for years. Today we are told that Self-Love still keeps Paul misunderstood. This is probable in a society where self Love among his kind is still rare. Today Paul walks around his community to notice the still rampant self-rejection and lack of self-love that cloaks itself as over achievement, invisibility, substance abuse, abusive behavior, assimilation.

Oh yeah, it turns out that Lawrence did indeed love other males, he told Paul this 15 years later in a bar. He also admitted that in elementary school the feeling was mutual, but he just could not face it then. Sadly Lawrence died at 27 years of age of AIDS.

Paul still works toward guiding communities toward discovering how worthy of love and loving each other they are. Time will tell.

The Storyteller.

P.S. Paul's real name is Cleo.

[QRD main page] Last updated: 23 February 1996 by Chuck Tarver