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P. 5

Sylvie never became my girlfriend, but we were friends for three

years; that is, most of the time I was at the school. I don’t think she ever
knew about the nightmare that I was living, the lack of food and love at

home. I did my best to hide it from her, from everyone. If she ever knew,
she never told me so, and if that’s the case, I’m glad of it.

Sadly, I’ve completely lost touch with Sylvie now. Maybe I’ll never
be able to tell her how important her friendship was to me during those

terrible times, how much I looked forward to seeing her, and how she

made my days more bearable when I was so hungry and so desperate.
To cover my embarrassment over lunch period, my fifteen-year-

old self gave excuses. I’d say that I was doing my homework or going to
eat something out in the schoolyard. I certainly knew it would have been

torture sitting with my classmates, watching them eat, smelling their food,
and experiencing the shame of having no money, nothing in front of me.

So what did I really do while they were eating? During the lunch

hour I’d run as far from the school as possible without actually leaving the
grounds. The school was by the sea, not far from a long beach on the

opposite side of the road. It was an industrial area, and every day I could

see vast cargo ships sailing past. These ships carried away the products
my homeland exported, especially bauxite (aluminum ore), sugar, and

I could see the ships leaving Jamaica, where my life was so

limited, and I could see people working on their decks. I knew they were
traveling to other places, where their struggles might not be so

demoralizing, places like the United States. I wanted to go to other places

too. I wanted to escape. I felt alone, unloved, and ashamed. And very
hungry. Always hungry.

Even worse, I knew that back in the canteen, Sylvie and my
classmates were enjoying their lunches, chatting and laughing while they

ate. I was missing out, not just on the food, but also on their company. I
realize now just how suicidal I felt back then. I wanted my suffering and
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