B A N T A M

29/01/2017

The year 1963, a year earlier we arrived in Canada to be reunited with our mother from whom we had been separated for five years. Placed into the school system according to our respective ages in spite of our qualifications, we were undermined, through filial politics affecting our lives ever since. Not that there weren’t other contributing factors, via cultural considerations; but, I will not be relating these and other earlier experiences in this story.

 

I graduated elementary school after the first year, uploaded into the local high school, Central Technical School, claimed the largest high school in the British Commonwealth. We were all informed of this fact during our orientation assembly. It was a whirlwind experience, new for us all as we set about familiarizing ourselves with the layout among a student population numbering 2700, 200 of which were females! A dizzy undertaking amidst a mostly Eastern Europe and Mediterranean immigrants, adding the first wave of Caribbean emigres among which I numbered.

 

During my first week of high school, I was still unclear of the protocols in spite of having survived my first year as a senior public school newcomer. Unaware of having an accent, not hearing how I sounded outside of my thoughts, I received quite different indications from various peers in and out of school grounds. Those fell by the way like water off a duck’s back, as I had no emotional investments being unaware of their content and context.

 

Walking the halls, to and from classes, there had been incidents without context, except that I fended off intendant assaults as they occurred. Interestingly, unexpected support by interceptions from larger senior students standing nearby. All the while, there was little to no meaning in these attempted assaults that still had not registered to my naive psyche without social context. I continued in my orientation of this new world amidst a wide variety of nationalities and attempted to gain a stabilizing foothold.

 

All of us grade nine boys were told of an activity called ‘football’, a very different activity for those of us who recognized the term relative to ‘soccer’. A subtle form of conscription was in the works by way of creating a bantam level team in preparation for the senior grades from the hope of a talented team would emerge. I made the cut onto the roster formed, got called up and given football equipment with detailed explanation of how to dress from cleats-to-helmet.

 

After donning our equipment in the dressing room, I made my way to the playing field for initial practice with all the other niners. Before arriving to the full gathering, I was intercepted by the coach, a Physical Education teacher. It appeared there was late arrival to the school who he appeared to prefer on the team instead of me. Out of the more than twenty-something grade nine students, I was intercepted before joining the squad when he instructed me to return to the dressing room with this student. I was instructed to remove all my equipment, minus my jock-strap, and give them all to the new student.

 
Surprisingly, I could hardly breathe after the exchange that with that teacher, not-to-be coach. My mind went blank, emptied of all awareness as I walked out of the team’s dressing room feeling downhearted and mortally wounded, emotionally.

 

Curiously, weeks later an incident of grave importance putting my minor numbing incident into perspective, occurred on the international stage,. Without qualifying my comparison, there were two known fatalities during that month, a president and I.

 

 

c. 1962

A  Pivotal  Phase

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