My parents’ closest friends had a son, Jamil, who was almost exactly my age. We were playmates during a large portion of my early childhood. While we weren’t in the same class, we attended the same school. We were together during recess and lunch. We went on vacations together and we spent our summers at the beach together. My dad and his had purchased adjoining beach bungalows.
Jamil was tall for his age, with a full body that hung on to its baby fat for longer than one would expect in an active child. He was blonde and his skin had a golden glow about it. He was very soft-spoken. Even at a very young age, barely out of toddlerhood, his speech was deliberate, with an unusual affect. His gait and mannerisms stood out no matter what he did or didn’t do. Whether he was running, sitting, or even standing, there was a certain aura about Jamil that was unmistakable.
That aura was external. Jamil didn’t display any kind of self-awareness of what ultimately would be labeled his sexual orientation. Other kids would point to him. Some would call him goofy to his face. Jamil, good-naturedly, would act really goofy when confronted like that. If he knew, consciously or instinctively, what the taunting was really about, he never let on.
His mom was a tall, full-figured woman. Jamil clearly got his physique and mannerisms from her. Unlike her easy-going, gregarious son, his mom was withdrawn, given to migraines. She would often retire to her room when we kids were there for play dates. The other parents would whisper to each other about her depressive nature all the while giving Jamil knowing glances.
I lost touch with Jamil soon after I turned eleven. My parents had been divorced but trying to reconcile. By the time I was ten, reconciliation was no longer an option and my dad remarried. My mom and I returned to the US the next year. I haven’t seen Jamil since.
When I visited with my dad in the mid-90’s, I learned that Jamil left as soon as he turned eighteen. He moved to Paris and made a career as an art dealer. His mom never snapped out of her crushing disappointment at her child’s sexual orientation. I did get to see his dad during my visit. He was as I remembered him, a tall, gaunt, and stoic man who, while he smiled a lot, never really showed his inner feelings.
I hope you found your happiness in Paris, Jamil!