I want to avoid being revisionist and always analysing with the benefit of hindsight, but on the other hand I suppose that what you know about yourself now is what makes some experiences stand out more than others. Still, the experiences that stand out are also the ones that seemed to have the most effect at the time which makes what I just said seem specious.
But not really. At the time going into boarding school (sounds a bit like “going into the convent and becoming a nun!”) was probably the best thing, short of going to another school, that could have happened to me. Looking back, I think it took me a long time to get over it.
I was in the rather rare position of having been a “day-wog” and become a boarder. It was a bit like going over to the other side, or coming to the promised land depending on your perspective. For me it was the latter. Still I was able to understand both sides of the school and in some sense I felt like a bridge. Not that it meant anything, I suppose, except it was as if I was growing into something. Not too much later that would re-manifest itself by taking another step and trying out the seminary in what seemed to me a logical step.
But we are here for the story, and the story at this time was principally my love affair with the school. In a slightly warped Catholic sense I more or less sacrificed myself psychologically for the place. It was a good thing I did, otherwise I might have sacrificed myself literally. I think I was pretty desperate about my family breaking up, but I never really talked about it to anyone because I didn’t really know how to. And none of the adults ever asked.
Now I know I must have been pretty fucked-up psychologically and I don’t understand how no-one noticed. There must have been signs. But then apparently they didn’t notice all that child molesting going on either so it isn’t really so surprising. I just can’t understand how they could let kids bear so much on their own. After all, that’s all we were – kids. I coped by playing the part I thought was expected of me. A good boy.
“The College Family” was now my only functioning family, so the relationships there were very important. And for a maturing boy the relationship with his father is paramount. My father was busy. So I focused on the ‘father’ of the college, the principal Br A***.
Those last two years of school were both amazing and awful. I can remember coming back after a free weekend and going straight into Fr M***’s room and telling him I wanted to become a priest. I was serious, of course, but the amazing thing was that he took me seriously. There couldn’t be too much wrong with me if I wanted to be a priest, to sacrifice myself. The awful thing was that I felt this was almost expected of me.
I was elected the college captain. At the beginning of the experience I didn’t know if I was the right person for the position and by the end of the year I was certain I wasn’t. There were other kids who would have done a much better job in my opinion. I thought it would please my father, however, but all I really remember him saying about it was that now I should aim for a Rhodes scholarship. Still not good enough.
Being college captain meant that I would probably have a different relationship with Br A*** than other students. Perhaps. I used to go down to his office sometimes and ask him how he was, if he was alright. I guess that I thought it was part of my job to support him in a personal way and that was how I expressed it. No doubt he appreciated it, at least I hope he did, but I think he might have appreciated it more if I had been the captain of the First XV.
Nevertheless there must have been some concessions to the position. I asked Br A*** to let me drop a subject. I seemed to be so much busier now with non-academic duties that I didn’t have time to maintain the seven sevens of grade 10. It was a crazy request in the sense that firstly, I should basically have been at school to do as well as I could in my studies, and secondly, only having 5 subjects was quite a precarious position to be in regarding later options. He let me drop the subject – after all, I was going to become a priest.
The most awful thing to happen was Dr S***. I can’t believe such a person existed and I can’t believe he was actually employed by Br A***. Dr S*** was supposed to be some sort of psychologist / counsellor but he looked like an extra from a Frankenstein movie. The bastard could hardly walk and had difficulty with any co-ordinated movement at all, arms or legs. He was missing an eye and wore a band-aid instead of an eye patch. And he was seriously disturbed and disturbing. Sometimes I wonder if he was real at all, like a nightmare. I don’t know what hold or power he had over Br A*** but there must have been something.
One free weekend Dr S**** took two of us out, supposedly to do some sort of charitable work. He used to drive an old white Daimler and we took off in it to the St Vincent de Paul hostel in the city, I think. Dr Stewart’s car’s brakes were in about as good a state as the bad doctor himself and we narrowly avoided a collision at the bottom of the hill at Edward St. This so shook us all up that we decided to abandon the trip to the St Vincent de Paul. The other student was so shaken up that he decided to take off altogether, so it was just me and the bad doctor who suggested that we go back to his place before going back to the school. Once at his place we started drinking rum and coke. I swear this is all true and I swear that I was this fucking stupid. And I swear that I was fucked by the bad doctor.
This must have happened in grade 11 because I remember calling my father to come out and talk to me. I begged him to let me finish the last year at a co-ed school. I couldn’t tell him why – who believed those things – and he couldn’t see why.
Later on, while Dr S*** was still around, some of the younger kids came and complained to me that he was asking them questions about masturbation. You can imagine how concerned I was and I raised the issue with Br A***. His response was “That’s why we have good, strong seniors like you … to keep an eye on him.” So it was all my fault.