Being Me: It's My LifebySamuelx©
Lying on his back on the soft grass in the quad outside the Mac Odrum Library, he smiled and looked at the sun. all around him, his fellow Carleton University students were sitting, playing and otherwise enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. A heat wave gripped the Capital region of Canada this late in March 2012, and Stephen Lafontant was absolutely loving it. For once, the big and tall young Black man was enjoying himself in the City of Ottawa, Ontario. The fish out of water feeling was gone... if only for a moment.
The twenty-seven-year-old, Haitian-born international student relaxed, and tried not to think about what a Catholic upbringing in Haiti, the realization of his bisexuality, a penchant and affection for difficult ladies of various ethnicities, a fallout with his conservative Haitian Canadian family and feeling perpetually alienated everywhere had done to him. He looked at his surroundings, gazing intently at the carefree students milling about in the park-like quad outside his favorite library. If only they knew all that he had endured, just to get here. Although he walked among them, he wasn't one of them.
How would his fellow Carleton University students react if they knew that he was born in the City of Cap-Haitien, Republic of Haiti, and spent more than ten years living in the City of Brockton, Massachusetts, as an illegal alien? Oh, things weren't supposed to turn out this way. When Stephen Lafontant came to Brockton in the summer of 1999, his parents Franklin Lafontant and Elisabeth Jean Lafontant told him and his sister Annabelle that it would only be temporary. Things were tough in Haiti, and the parents felt that their son and daughter would be safer in New England. So they left them with their aunt and uncle, Leonard and Gina Alfonse. Yeah, the 'temporary' arrangement lasted from the summer of 1999 to the summer of 2009.
Stephen smiled wistfully. He'd put in a lot in his twenty-odd years on this planet. A native of Haiti born with an exceptional intelligence which manifested itself early at his old school, College Notre Dame Du Perpetuel Secours, an all-male Catholic school sitting atop a mountain overlooking his hometown of Cap-Haitien. Actually, could he even think of Cap-Haitien as his hometown anymore? Hmm. He had to think about it. He came into the world at 7 : 11 P.M. at Justinian Hospital in downtown Cap-Haitien. It would forever be the place of his birth. No force on the planet earth could change that. Still, when he thought of home, oftener than not he thought of Brockton, Massachusetts. The City of Champions.
Ah, the City of Brockton. So much had happened to him there. He remembered his halcyon days at Brockton Community High School, and his best friends, an Irish guy named Robbie and a Cape Verdean dude named Joshua. They were his buddies, his lifeline while he was growing up under the thumb of his outwardly friendly yet secretly sociopathic aunt Gina Alfonse. The woman in whose care his parents entrusted him and his sister Annabelle. Living in the U.S. without a social security number, without a passport or any form of identification beyond his school id and his library card was tough. He couldn't get a job. Oh, he worked under the table here and there. Doing odd jobs to get by. From time to time, his parents sent him and his sister money via Western Union but life was tough for them in the Caribbean so he learned to rely on himself early on.
Living with cheerfully sociopathic aunt Gina Jean Alfonse wasn't easy. Outwardly, she seemed nice enough. A hard-working Haitian-American woman, registered nurse, mother of two, churchgoer and homeowner whose husband Leonard Alfonse worked as a manager for the Hertz Corporation. Only Stephen knew what aunt Gina Jean Alfonse was really like. The woman had no conscience. Covertly abusing her family and friends was with she lived for. Stephen wondered how come nobody else could see what she was really like. He later discovered that he had The Gift. The ability to see people without conscience. A talent any police officer or federal agent would kill to have. Well, he had it. For all the good it did him.
Stephen often found his special talents supremely ironic. What a waste of potential! Aunt Gina continued to terrorize the family, manipulating this individual or that one. And like toy soldiers or puppets, everyone fell for her schemes. He couldn't escape from his tormentor. He was broke, he had no legal papers, and his situation showed no sign of improving. Especially once he realized that his dear little sister Annabelle had the same condition as aunt Gina. She was a sociopath. That realization forever shattered Stephen's faith in the human species. The person he cared for and protected like no other...turned out to be one of the smiling, charming, remorseless monsters he feared and loathed.
Fortunately, Stephen had an outlet. That fantastic mind of his was something he exercised daily. For years and years, he wrote fiction stories. Fantastic tales of men and women having amazing adventures. He also wrote horror stories and quite a bit of literary erotica. Thanks to his father, he was able to enrol at Bay State College in downtown Boston after graduating from Brockton Community High School. He excelled at school, outshining the wealthy sons and daughters of the Irish, Italian, African-American and Hispanic communities who were his classmates and friends. It was at Bay State College that he first became aware of his bisexuality. When he fell for his buddy Karl...and a sexy Italian-American gal named Brigid...at the same time. How do you like them apples?
In the end, he would lose them both. Karl was bisexual too but unable to admit it to himself, or acknowledge his feelings for Stephen. As for Brigid, she didn't mind having fun with Stephen on campus but the day her father Guillermo found out, she dropped Stephen unceremoniously. Yeah, twin heartbreaks. After leaving Bay State College, Stephen drifted aimlessly for a while. He began volunteering for the Domestic Abuse Helpline For Men And Women, the only worthwhile organization he had seen in a long time. D.A.H.M.W. existed to help both male and female victims of domestic abuse. Its founder was a kindly lady from Maine. Stephen volunteered for them, spreading their message to the best of his ability in both Brockton and Boston.
Stephen sighed. His volunteerism definitely changed him. Stephen got to interact with all kinds of people. He helped out quite a few of them. The funny thing was that while he could help and even save others, he couldn't save himself from the nightmare of domestic abuse. Abuse he continued to receive from his aunt and sister even as he helped others. You see, he couldn't escape from his torment because he was an illegal immigrant in the United States of America. Where would he go if he left his aunt's house? He couldn't legally get a job. He didn't have a criminal record. Hell, he didn't have a record anywhere outside the schools he attended. His parents lost his passport shortly after dropping him in New England in 1999. He was an undocumented person. Albeit one with degrees from both Bay State College and Massasoit Community College. It was tragically ironic. Stephen was a highly educated, healthy young Black man with no criminal history. He was qualified for many jobs....but couldn't get any of them because he didn't have a social security number, or a passport, or a driver's licence for that matter. When life gives you lemons you're supposed to make lemonade. When life throws you in hell, how are you supposed to crawl your way out of it?
Wracked with deep despair, Stephen nevertheless found hope. For him, hope came in the form of John Sama, a tall, stocky, elderly Black man from the Nation of Cameroon. Born in Cameroon but educated at the University of Massachusetts, Sama was working as a health care worker at the time he met Stephen. The recently divorced father of four grown sons and a daughter saw an all-too-familiar anguish in Stephen. Sama reached out to Stephen, and the two became close friends. Sama became the father figure and mentor Stephen yearned for but never had. Sama's wisdom and guidance kept him sane as he navigated his way through life in Brockton. Sama always encouraged Stephen to continue with his education, to be a God-fearing man, and to do good. While Stephen saw himself as a person with wasted potential due to tragic circumstances, Sama saw in him a potential for greatness.
Stephen continued to live his life in Massachusetts. He ran into Wendy, a beautiful young Haitian-American woman whom he remembered from his days at Bay State College. They became fast friends. She was okay with his bisexuality and cared deeply for him. He loved her, and she loved him, though circumstances would end up keeping them apart. Stephen prayed for a way out of his situation. In the summer of 2009, Fate stepped in. Through his aunt and sister, Stephen heard about a program which could help people in his situation. The program was an agreement between Canada and the United States. The two countries would facilitate the passage of refugees fleeing deadly situations by granting them a chance at a better life somewhere in North America. Having failed to win status in the U.S. Stephen got a chance at a second life in Canada, as did his sister Annabelle. The two of them ended up coming to Ottawa, Ontario, where their mother's brother Vern lived with his wife Marian and their collegiate daughters, Mariah and Wilma.
Thus, Stephen found himself in Canada. A country he briefly visited in the 1990s, back when his family was well-off in the Caribbean, before he got left haplessly in Massachusetts. Canada was similar to the U.S. but also quite different. It wasn't the paradise of racial tolerance and multiculturalism it claimed to be, but Stephen grew up in New England. He considered a Boston Brahmin. He swore to himself he would master the challenges of Canada. And he did. It took him a while to establish himself. He had to go through the process that all new immigrants, especially refugee claimants, had to go through. He had to wait to get those things without which a person simply couldn't live in Canada : A work permit, a social insurance number, a health card, and an actual J.O.B. In time, he earned himself these things. The moment he got a work permit, which he had to renew every year, he went looking for a job. Even though he had college degrees from the U.S. he couldn't find work in his field because he wasn't a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada. And he wasn't an American citizen either, though in his heart he identified as Haitian-American.
Stephen resigned himself to get a job just to pay the bills. He recognized the name Securitas when he saw it on a building while walking downtown Ottawa. Securitas was an American security company with holdings all over the United States, Canada and Europe. Stephen walked in, and signed up for training. A few weeks later, he got his security licence, and his uniform. He began working as a floater. Picking up shifts here and there. Once he started making money, he began looking for his own place. He'd been staying with his uncle Vern's family in Orleans, Ontario, ever since his cousin Sharon Jean threw him out on the street. Stephen got himself a modest apartment in the Nepean area of Ottawa. He began saving up to fulfill his dream. He wanted to attend Carleton University, one of metropolitan Ottawa's leading schools. The fact that he was a refugee claimant waiting for a life-altering decision from the Canadian government didn't intimidate him one bit.
Throughout his Canadian journey, Stephen kept in touch with his friends in Brockton, especially his mentor Sama and the ladies of the Brockton library system. He'd begun turning his erotic stories into anthologies the moment he found a publishing house willing to take a chance on a hot young author. Stephen was thrilled when several of his books made it on Amazon.com and he wasn't shy about letting friends and family know about his success. He applied to Carleton University through the Ontario University Application Center website, and they requested his transcripts from his old schools, Bay State College and Massasoit Community College. Stephen wrote to his former professors as well as the deans of his old schools. They found his transcripts, along with most of his old courses syllabi because Carleton University requested them. He got accepted into Carleton University as an international student. Carleton University's registrar's office thought of him as an American student since his transcripts came from the States. Stephen did nothing to disabuse them of that notion. To him, home would always be the place where he grew up, the place where he first fell in love, the State of Massachusetts. Regardless of what was written on his passport...or lack thereof.
Thus Stephen began studying Law at Carleton University. He still worked for Securitas from time to time. In time he found a better job working for the Call Center of Bell Canada. Since he was bilingual and had a Canadian work permit, they were willing to take a chance on him. Even after living in the U.S. for a decade, Stephen spoke fluent French and Haitian Creole. His English had a distinct Boston accent in it, of which he was proud. The young man began enjoying his life in Canada. He loved Carleton University, which now featured heavily in the fiction stories which he continued to turn into novels and anthologies. He reconnected with his parents, whose financial situation in the Caribbean had become dire. He was proud to send them money via Western Union whenever he could. Paying international student tuition fees at Carleton University hurt his wallet, but working for both Bell Canada and Securitas helped balance things out. Stephen has always been the type to roll with the punches life threw at him. He would not surrender to the whims of fate. He just took things in stride and tried his best.
Lying on the grass, Stephen tried not to think but for him, that was impossible. This burning hot Tuesday in late March 2012, he was feeling...odd. The weather was nice. He was working extra hard both at school and at work. His grades in his Law classes and his elective were less than stellar, which troubled him. His new professors were tough graders. Also, he'd been distracted lately. He constantly worried which decision the Canadian immigration authorities would make in his and his sister's cases. Would they be allowed to stay in Canada and begin new lives as productive people? Or would they continue to be citizens of nowhere? Only time would tell. After a lifetime of hardships, Stephen was pessimistic by nature, but he tried to think positively.
Looking around, he saw couples everywhere. A tall Black man with dreadlocks with a short redhead. A chubby White guy with spiky hair and a Black woman who looked like a model. A hijab-wearing North African or Middle-Eastern woman holding hands with a darkly attired young East Indian man. A tall, slender Chinese gal with a tall, burly White man. A light-skinned young Black man holding hands with a short, dark-skinned Black woman. A skinny blond-haired White guy locking lips with a short, muscular Hispanic man. Stephen smiled at them. Looks like everybody's happy but me, he thought. Yeah, something was missing. In a town teeming with beautiful people of all shades, faiths and cultures, he couldn't find anybody. Even though time after time people told him he was tall, handsome and friendly. Whatever. He put his sunglasses back on, along with his game face. It was 5 : 45 P.M. and he had to get to his next class which would begin around six on the other side of campus. Let's move, he told himself.