when first we met he was a boy of eleven
and I was an unhappy woman selling cruelty-free products
in a secondary trading position close to his home.
I became fond of this child genius, whose acts of charity
patched up the holes where his friends should have been.
he raced around the street offering to assist the retailers –
pick up a pint of milk,
make a cup of tea.
with his well-practiced
magic tricks and brilliant invention
of impromptu verbal games, he irritated, amused
and finally fascinated everyone with brain enough
to appreciate the value of his company
often, after school, he’d visit me in my little shop
and we’d sit behind the counter talking metaphysics
or laughing as we played ‘if he/she was an animal,
what kind of animal would he/she be?’
even at that age, he was better at it than me.
I could see why his shallow contempararies were wary.
even though he didn’t know he was leaning
others could already sense which way he leant,
and they shied from his opposite quality.
I despised those children; in my protectiveness
making no allowances for the insecurities of youth
I introduced him to a girl in a similar situation
whose callously indifferent companions had deserted her,
and they soon built up a group that became a clan
of good friends who valued each other.
years passed and he came into his glorious own
his gangliness grew into the kind of gorgeous looks
that made a certain kind of man yearn
to be in his presence.
the day he said he could no longer see Unicorns
it was with a shy, but triumphant, smile
he was happier than I had ever seen him
but it took me a few moments to comprehend
that he had left his boyhood behind
and embraced his sexuality.
when only a child
he gifted me his determined sunshine
burying the sadness so deep that few could see
always giving, asking nothing in return.
no Unicorn had ever protected him.
I was glad that those mythical horses
would never again have the opportunity
to back away from his lonely call
©Jane Paterson Basil