Summers seemed to stretch on for ever when I was younger. Each day would be filled with a untapped sense of euphoria and the scent of freshly mowed grass. For a few weeks I was offered a chance to experience true freedom. The rigmarole of attending school Monday to Friday was temporarily abolished and the only commitments to adhere to relied solely on eating, sleeping and how many books I could consume over the course of a week. Those were the good aspects. Of course growing up on a council estate proved interesting (for lack of a better word) and the extra free time meant having to be slightly more aware of my surroundings. Some days I had to do my best to avoid the gangs of teenagers that seemed to flock at each end of the block or not make eye contact with the Heroin addict who offered her 'services' by trying to seduce the slightly older boys so she could get her next fix. I'm sure she wasn't aware that the baseball cap and the way her eyes rolled in the back of her head weren't doing her any favours. There was also the summer a registered sex offender moved in and not to mention the number of times I had to skip over the plethora of used syringes and condoms that littered the estate like gifts that had escaped Bad Santa's sack. An insane version of Hopscotch. You don't realise these things aren't normal when you're younger. I spent those sun-tinged days imagining how my future summers would play out. I was well aware that there wouldn't be a reprieve for six weeks once I had gotten a job, yet the concept of adulthood seemed like an illusion.
Sometimes I would be friends with some of the other kids on the estate but mostly I wasn't. There was always that seed of an idea that I 'wasn't like them'. At this point, the idea of being gay in a place like that was not only unheard of, it would probably be beaten out of existence. I guess I was lucky in the sense that I was deeply in denial about that aspect of my lifestyle until I was Seventeen. Needless to say, I enjoyed the summer holidays. It meant I didn't have to be in school and I can only liken that feeling to what I would imagine it would be like for a wrongly convicted criminal to be released from Death Row. Sometimes, the summer nights got a little hard to bear especially when the house was opened up to host an all night party. The loud music and shouting from downstairs would pummel the floorboards and my sister and I spent many late nights sitting at the top of the stairs, trying to make sense of the drunken ruckus below. The worst part was the morning and the heavy stench of sticky alcohol and cigarette smoke that hung in the air. However, there was still a distinct feeling that 'anything could happen'. For some reason those few weeks in summer brought with them a promise of change. Even if it was just temporary.
I would spend afternoons lay on my bedroom floor, feet perched on my bed, watching the clouds roll past my window. I would attempt to see past that blue void and see if there was another world just waiting on the other side. It doesn't sound like much but this was when I was at my happiest. Some days the other kids would let me play with them; I remember collecting ladybugs in recycled yoghurt pots and picking cherries from the trees which have now been long cut down and built upon. Sometimes the kids would play a game called 'Let's run away from...'. I think the point was that they would insert a name at the end of the sentence and then proceed to run away from 'said person'. As soon as one of them piped up, 'let's run away from...' in a sing-song voice and a smile on their face, something in my chest fell into my baron stomach and I didn't need a mirror to know my face had transformed into a translucent shade of pale. Of course, the name was always mine, maybe it was because they knew they could get away from me because I was a little bit bigger and a little bit slower. Maybe it was because they just wanted to get away. I would compensate the experience by going for a walk, pretending I was going somewhere when really I was hoping that the destination would find me. Most often or not I would return home to read for countless hours. Joining the local library had probably saved me from being consumed by that estate. Finally, I was able to escape. It was as easy as turning over a page. I had even taken to writing my own stories upon my grandmother's old typewriter. The summer allowed me to open up the door to experience as many different worlds and characters as possible. The pages melted away and I was suddenly transposed into the stories and I didn't have to think about who or where I was.
This was summer.