My roughneck cousins rolled on the ground holding their stomachs with laughter at the sight of me, wailing pitifully, caught in the midst of dark green branches at the pinnacle of a tall pine tree. I’d brought this dangerous and stupid predicament on myself, I thought. They’d thrown out the challenge, “let’s see who is the first to reach the top” because the game was to run away from Leon. This was their idea of fun. They knew, that I’d take up the challenge, while they ran away. Again they’d tricked me into being left alone and crying.
The trick worked because they knew that being alone was the thing I hated most. I thought that doing dangerous or foolish things would earn me admiration or make my friends laugh, and I’d be accepted into the gang. The opposite is true; doing things that everybody else does, not doing things different from those done by the group, brings acceptance.
True, they may admire or laugh, but never admit those people into the group. Stories of heroic and amusing deeds pass from one to another and strengthen group solidarity. They even raise monuments to their heroes, but these remain distant figures, outside the group..
I felt sad and ashamed of being left alone. I blamed others, but later I realized that I had only myself to blame.
To this day I feel alone and I’m plagued by the thought that people wait in excited anticipation, for me to do something foolish or dangerous. “I’m not that kind of person”, I keep telling them. “Dangerous or foolish, I do things that I believe in” not things the masses do. I don’t want to be different or provoke antagonism, (my late mother’s favorite accusation). I do things that I believe are right even if the whole world does the opposite and accuses me of stubbornness or stupidity. I’m left at the top of the tree and they run away laughing.