By Mark M.
my 13th birthdMarch 2001. 3 months beforeay.
The past week in school has been... interesting. A new girl moved to Jordan and started attending our school. Her name is Laura, and she’s from Austria. Did I mention that she’s drop dead gorgeous. Laura is in the 8th grade, and us 7th graders generally avoided students in the 8th grade. They’re mature, they’re wise, and rumour has it, they have 5 books for Arabic classes alone! So we generally kept to ourselves, and stayed clear of the 8th grade hang out area during break times.
But Laura changed everything. The news that this beautiful Laura has come to join our school spread like wildfire on Sunday. Amir walked into class and ran straight to the boys sitting near the back. “You won’t believe what I just saw!!” The group formed a tight circle to discuss what Amir had just seen. I was sitting at the perfect distance by the window to be able to discreetly eavesdrop while pretending to look at the trees outside. “This new foreign girl, American or something, I saw her walking into school. The teachers were welcoming her. She’s f*cking hot!!”
“What grade is she in?”, “Miss Layan said 8A. Dude she’s hotter than Nadia!”... This was welcomed with gasps and excited murmurs. I couldn’t help but smile. Their excitement was oddly cute.
Ahmed begged our English teacher to let us off 5 minutes early before break time, and when she said yes all the boys ran out of the class and stood outside the door of 8A, the class she was rumoured to be in, hoping to get a glimpse of her as she left. It was pathetic.
I saw Laura walking with a few girls from her year during break time. It’s not that I didn’t think Laura was beautiful. She was one of the prettiest girls I had ever seen. At around 5’7, she had wavy blonde hair that sort of flowed when she walked. Her eyes were blue like a deep ocean. Her skin was subtle, with just the right number of freckles around her perfect nose. She had double D’s – a rare finding in girls our age –, a perfect waist and a beautiful body. I was not attracted to her in the slightest. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to her, yet she was the reason I hated myself.
Laura had – not surprisingly – become the topic of conversation amongst the boys in my year in a matter of minutes. Jamal summoned up the courage during break time to go up to her and tell her he thinks she’s beautiful. She laughed and brushed him off. It was the running joke of the day, and most boys secretly admired his courage to go up to her and tell her that. The boys all fantasized about her, about her double D’s, and some even went as far as proudly declaring that she had been the object of their imagination when masturbating. It didn’t take me long to get sick of the conversation, which people seemed to want to bring up at every possible opportunity. I began to avoid hanging out with the boys in my year.
I started spending more and more time alone. I spent my break times at the library reading through my course books – which, for someone in the 7th grade, was very sad indeed. After a few weeks, I decided to start reading through the bible in the evenings while I’m in bed, before I go to sleep. I started with Matthew, and in 3 days I reached chapter 5.
But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:18)
That was the moment I realised that I was different to all the other boys in my class. I knew I wasn’t attracted to Laura, but it hadn’t struck me as weird until that very moment. The bible says it’s wrong to look at Laura the way everyone was. It’s something everyone was supposed to stop themselves from doing. It sounds weird in retrospect, being so scared of following what the bible says. And the more I thought about it, the more I started to realise that I wasn’t really attracted to girls at all.
I started to cry. I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t know what I felt. I just cried. I sank my head into my pillow to muffle my gasps. I was getting confused. Why was I crying? I felt stupid, vulnerable and weak.
Looking back, I can probably identify that time as the moment I realised I’m not straight. I don’t remember going to sleep that night, but I remember my mum waking me up at 6 30 am in the morning to get ready for school. My throat was painful and my pillow was damp. I must have literally cried myself to sleep.