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The Wall

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The Wall

by Richard Norway

I'm eight years old, and I hear the word 'fag' for the first time. I don't know what it means, but the way Jacob uses it, it isn't a good thing. I laid the first brick in the wet mortar at the bottom of the door sized opening in the basement wall.

I'm eleven years old, and my dad says to the TV news report about some parade in San Francisco, "Queers aught to be hung. They don't belong among us." 'Are queers fags?' I'm questioning. 'Why don't they belong among us?' 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.

I'm now thirteen years old and I have to undress in front of my classmates for gym. I feel embarrassed about my body because it's starting to change, so I hide and do it as quickly as I can. I understand that I'm not supposed to look at the other kids while they're naked. By now, the third row had been completed.

I'm fourteen years old and in high school, and I chance a glance at Jacob, my best friend. He looks at me and says, "Stop perving man." I've started the fourth row.

I'm 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 don't 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 that I didn't know hits another kid that I didn't 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, "You fucking homo!" Everyone just watches. No one moves to help. That second kid's blood had mixed with the mortar for the start of the sixth row of bricks.

I'm seventeen now, and I get up the courage to ask Jane to a movie. I really don't want to, but people keep asking me why I don't date her. They say she likes me. I don't kiss her like I'm supposed to do when I take her home. I say, "Thanks for the night." 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.

I'm nineteen years old now and in the Navy. We're 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. It's expected of me. The eighth row had become easy.

I'm 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, "I'm physically attracted to you." My emotions freeze, and I cannot answer him. I continue to walk toward the ship, saying nothing. I can't answer him, my best friend in the Navy. I feel like cutting my throat. The next layer was placed in a fury.

I'm 25 now and in university after the Navy and a short time at a Jr. College. I have my first gay sex with a friend. I'm ecstatic, but I can't 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.

I'm 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, I'm 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, 'what have I made of my life? Have I fulfilled everything that I was taught that I should be and do?' 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. I'm 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 began to assault the wall, my emotional wall.

I'm now 52. The light of the day now assaults me...and it fulfills me.

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There is something about analogy that lends itself well to the experience of human emotion,

and to the human mind in it's attempt to recreate the feeings with word pictures.

Yours is a fine example of just that, Richard, and as your wall went up, my heart sank, my hope

faded, and the feeling of being cut off from the world and self was vividly real and frighteningly


And in the sudden influx of light, I found myself taking a deep breath.

Nice work, Richard. Thank you for your effort.


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I found myself holding my breath half way through the narrative. This is so much the common thread that defines gay people of my generation. Thank God society is opening up a bit more each day so that, eventually, there will be no need for boys and girls to start laying those courses of bricks.

Societies build many gulogs and prisons. The worse are the ones where it forces the inmates themselves to erect the walls that contain them. Guilt, shame and fear are the mortar.

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