WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Routledge Publishers

 
 
 

ACTING AMERICAN (excerpt)

by Robert Boulanger

     Les Grèves was a vacation colony run by the good Franciscan Fathers, forty miles north east of Montreal. Every summer, three hundred boys spent weeks or months there. My older brother Michel and I stayed the entire summer. All the boys slept in a large two-floor dormitory—a big, airy barn of a building with rows of beds on several floors. Michel and I had our beds on the second floor, about thirty beds apart.
     It was 1949 and I was eight years old. On one of these hot, humid summer nights in Quebec, by the Ouareau River, I woke up crying from a nightmare. Afraid to stay in my bed, I got up, walked over to Michel's bed, and gave his shoulder a tentative shake.
     "What's the matter?" Michel said, his voice deep from slumber. "Why are you crying?"
     "Because I can't become a priest. I'm not like the others. I'm different."
     "Go back to bed, and stop bawling," Michel groaned.


Bobby as child actor

     I had realized at that very young age that I was different. For three summers at Les Grèves, I would fall in love with one of the Brothers or lay workers. It was always very platonic, yet extremely intense and consuming—full of guilt and mixed emotions, with hours of late night fantasies.



Bobby, Michel, and their mother Simone

     That summer Albert was the one I fell for. Albert was mysterious. He was quiet and kept to himself and I could sense he was hiding something, some deep pain inside. He was the organist and singer at the little white-steepled church run for the boys by the Franciscan Fathers. I sat at the top of the stairs that led to the organ balcony, looking up at him playing and singing Gounod's Ave Maria and I would cry my eyes out. Once in a while he would look down at me and smile warmly and I would feel this tingle all through my body. The tingle of being alive.