Iím eight years old, and I hear the word Ďfagí for the first time. I donít know what it means, but the way Jacob uses it, it isnít a good thing. I laid the first brick in the wet mortar at the bottom of the door-sized opening in the basement wall.
Iím eleven years old, and my dad says to the TV news report about some parade in San Francisco, ďQueers ought to be hung. They donít belong among us.Ē ĎAre queers fags?í Iím questioning. ĎWhy donít they belong among us?í By now the first row of bricks had been laid across the opening, and the mortar had already started to set on the first few bricks.
Iím now thirteen years old and I have to undress in front of my classmates for gym. I feel embarrassed about my body because itís starting to change, so I hide and do it as quickly as I can. I understand that Iím not supposed to look at the other kids while theyíre naked. By now, the third row had been completed.
Iím fourteen years old and in high school, and I chance a glance at Jacob, my best friend. He looks at me and says, ďStop perving man.Ē Iíve started the fourth row.
Iím fifteen now, and I get talked into running through the senior quad area (reserved only for seniors). I was talked into it by my friends because, well, I want to be accepted. I donít get caught by any seniors. The fifth row has now been completed.
At sixteen years old, and as I walk down the hall to my next class, I see a fight break out. Someone who I donít know hits another kid who I donít know in the face. The first kid keeps hitting him until the second kid slumps to the floor against the row of lockers lining the hall. The first kid keeps yelling, ďYou fucking homo!Ē Everyone just watches. No one moves to help. That second kidís blood had mixed with the mortar for the start of the sixth row of bricks.
Iím seventeen now, and I get up the courage to ask Jane to a movie. I really donít want to, but people keep asking me why I donít date her. They say she likes me. I donít kiss her like Iím supposed to do when I take her home. I say, ďThanks for the night.Ē and walk back to my car. The bricks of the seventh row have gotten easier to lay as the top of the wall is not so far away from me now.
Iím nineteen years old now and in the Navy. Weíre in Manila, and a bunch of us guys are on a tour to the mountains north of the city. A few drinks later and we all head from our hotel to the streets below to pick up prostitutes. I am getting laid for the first time, and I like it. Itís expected of me. The eighth row had become easy.
Iím twenty now and still in the Navy when a friend and I are taking a load of trash to a dumpster on the pier. On our walk back to the ship, he says to me, ďIím physically attracted to you.Ē My emotions freeze, and I cannot answer him. I continue to walk toward the ship, saying nothing. I canít answer him, my best friend in the Navy. I feel like cutting my throat. The next layer was placed in a fury.
Iím 25 now and in university after the Navy and a short time at a Junior College. I have my first gay sex with a friend. Iím ecstatic, but I canít be gay. This is not what my family or friends want or expect of me. The wall has gotten up to my chest now, choking me.
Iím 26 years old and just about to graduate. My friend is getting married, and I decide that the girl that I had been dating, another student at the university, would be good as a wife. I mean, Iím 26 now and what would please my family and friends more? We have a big wedding. The opening in the basement wall was closing in on me. It was getting harder to see the outside world, the real world, now.
32 years old finds me with a daughter. I ask myself, Ďwhat have I made of my life? Have I fulfilled everything that I was taught that I should be and do?í I look at the wall in front of me, and it is now complete. I am locked inside the world that I had built, and the air is getting thin. Iím choking just to be able to breathe. I have built myself a cage, a wall to hide my emotions, to deny my emotions, to not ever be able to see them, or to even feel them.
I am who I am because of what others expect me to be.
I pick up a rock from my cave and begin to assault the wall, my emotional wall.
Iím now 52. The light of the day now assaults me... and it fulfills me.