Dinh's Journey

by Andrew Passey

Chapter 9

The first few days in Oxford were disorientating. Living with a family, having my own room, not having to worry about plants dying - it's fair to say this was all a welcome but massive shock to the system. I knew I'd been stressed all the time but I hadn't realised how much I'd been on edge the whole time I'd been stuck in that house growing plants. Now it was a struggle to adjust to a more normal life.

Shopping for new clothes was an experience in itself. Being asked opinions on what I wanted and what I liked. It made me realise how broken I'd become. I was so used to having no choice in anything so when I was presented with one I found it almost impossible to choose. I felt like I was worthless, like I didn't deserve anyone spending money on me.

"Nice clothes!" Alex said to me as he insisted I model what I had brought later that day after we'd finally finished shopping. Clothes had been just something to keep me warm and dry for so long it felt weird to think of them as fashion items. However I did have to admit as I looked at myself in the mirror I looked pretty good.

"Thanks, I'm not really used to wearing clothes like this. It's....different."

Alex smiled at me as I said this. "Different is good! I'm different and I like it."

I smiled back. I certainly was different given what I'd been through and I guess I should embrace it as difficult but as welcome as that change would be. The next few days I began to feel slightly more settled in the family. It was still a massive upheaval for me and things like family dinners felt really strange to me. I'd almost become institutionalised and trying to act like a normal teenager was difficult. However everyone was very patient with me and I knew I'd work it all out in time.

I tried not to think of Bao stuck growing plants again or who knows what. I hope they treated him better for him coming back to them but i suspect the sort of people running the operation couldn't give a fuck. Bao was just one more resource to be mined until they'd exhausted it. So while I would never forget him, I knew for my own mental health I needed to move on and try and adjust.

School was the major impending change on the horizon for me. I can't lie and pretend that I wasn't nervous about going. Yes I'd have Alex with me and that was a relief. I was already slightly besotted with him, he was so confident in himself that I wished I was the same.

It had been so long since I'd been in education I was worried how I'd cope. How would school here be different to school back in Can Tho? How would I cope? Luckily Alex sat down with me and talked me through some of my fears.

"Everyone shits it when they start a new school Dinh. You'll be fine. I'll be there to look after you. I'll introduce you to all my friends...and all the sexy girls!"

"Um thanks," I replied. It had been so long since I'd spoken to a girl I wasn't quite sure how to do it!

Alex then outlined how things worked and some of the quirks of the school. It sounded all fairly normal, well not totally outlandish anyway. I guess school is school wherever you are in the world. You sit down, the teacher stands in front of you and you try to listen and learn.

"That's all the boring stuff anyway, lessons and homework. Just make sure you don't fuck up too much and you'll be fine! There's fun stuff to do as well. There's loads of great extra things to do at school, clubs and all that malarkey."

"What like?" I asked Alex, not quite able to find the confidence to ask what "malarkey" meant.

"Well various sports, there's a rugby team but I hate rugby."

"What's rugby?" I asked not having the faintest idea what Alex was talking about.

"It's a sport but a shit one. Like football but nowhere near as good.I play football for the school so that's one thing that's fun. We have cricket as well, and tennis sometimes."

"Oh great, I love football!" I replied enthusiastically. That was at least one thing I had in common with Alex and hopefully other boys at the school.

"Great, you'll have to try out for our team! Other than that we've got a drama theatre group thing which puts on performances which isn't my thing. I sometimes play chess in the chess club. Oh I'm also in the LGBTQ+ club as well."

I looked at Alex in confusion. "What's that?l

He laughed, "I guess it's a bit of a mouthful. The L stands for Lesbian, the G for Gay, the B for bisexual which is what I am."

I didn't ask what the rest of it meant as I was already confused. "What's bisexual?"

"Wow you are so innocent Dinh! ! It means I like boys and girls. And when I say like I mean I want to have sex with them. Not that I have done obviously but you know it's nice to dream!" He said winking at me.

"What about you Dinh?" He then asked.

"What about me?" I replied slightly confused.

"What are you? Straight, gay, bisexual? I mean I'm guessing you've got a dick so you aren't a lesbian!" Alex said with a giggle. I wasn't really sure how to answer the question.

"Er, I don't really know," I replied simply. This was sort of true. I'd been used as an object for other people's sexual urges since before I started puberty. I had no baseline of what it was like to just grow up and discover for yourself. So while I thought I was probably into boys, I wasn't sure if I was into girls as well. It was all very confusing. That night with Phuc and the time with Bao had been good fun and I would love a repeat performance with someone. All the other stuff though I wanted to erase from my memory.

"How can you not know?!" Alex asked in amazement at my seeming lack of knowledge about my own sexuality.

"It's um...complicated. I'll tell you one day soon. It's just...I don't want to talk about it right now."

Alex shrugged at that and picked up a controller for the PS4 and passed it to me. "Fair enough, tell me when you feel like it. Now let's see how much better you're getting at FIFA!". I was relieved the subject had changed and I had something trivial to concentrate on instead!

In bed that night I lay there thinking about what Alex had said. So he liked boys and girls. I knew I really liked him but did I also like girls? Did I like other boys as well or was it just Alex? Was I getting attached to him because he was showing me friendship and being nice to me. How the fuck did you know what you were? I guess my brain had been scrambled so much by what had happened it felt understandable I didn't know what I was.

The weekend before I started school I decided to open up to Alex. We'd grown close over the past few weeks or so and I wanted him to understand me better.

"Can we talk?" I asked him as I knocked politely on his open door. He was sitting down doing homework but smiled at me and said of course.

"Sounds serious!" He grinned at me and then stopped when he noticed I wasn't grinning back. I was nervous and I wanted to get the words out. We sat on the sofa and I looked up at the ceiling thinking of the words to say.

"So Alex, you know when you asked if I was into girls or boys or both? And I said it's complicated!"

"Of course," he replied before I launched into my monologue.

"Well it's complicated because of what has happened to me. I could tell you the fantastical story but I guess I want to be honest with you. I don't know what I am exactly because I've been...I don't know how to explain, but I guess my brain and sex has got a bit scrambled up. I know you said I was so innocent. If only that was the case. I'm so far from innocent that it hurts sometimes. Before I started puberty I was being raped by the chief of police's son most days. I had one night with my friend Phuc where we had sex. I was sexually assaulted all my way across on my journey to the UK as were a lot of the boys and girls I was with. Sex has been something that's been done to me forcefully or something I've had to do to survive. I experimented a bit with Bao, the boy I was working on the cannabis farm with but I don't know if that was just because we were so starved of affection that any warmth and enjoyment was gratefully received. So I know a bit about what I like but I also don't know it all. I think I'm broken."

I wanted to tell him that I really liked him and that the thought of him sometimes made my dick hard and my heart sing. But what would be the point? A boy as amazing as Alex couldn't love a boy as broken as me. So I kept that to myself and waited to see what his response was.

He reached across and squeezed my hand, "Oh fuck, I'm so sorry Dinh. I had no idea and I shouldn't have asked you about it. You're not as broken as you think but even if you are we can fix you. I can see it hurt to tell me all of this and I'm flattered you told me. I'm happy to talk whenever you like but for now let's talk about something else. "

I actually wanted to talk about it for a bit longer. It had been such a big step to open up to Alex that I was happy to tell him more but I guess it made him uncomfortable. So we talked about other things as I gradually relaxed now that I'd unburdened myself to Alex. At least partly unburdened anyway. I hadn't told him how I thought I felt about him but then again I'd told him that I was just confused about everything. Maybe I was just confused about this as well? I'd only known him for a short while and maybe everything was still scrambled in my brain.

The night before I started school I struggled to sleep with nerves and a tinge of excitement as well. It would be hard going back into education but it would also help me move on and find some semblance of normality. I eventually fell asleep and felt quite light headed the next morning. I showered and got dressed into my school uniform. Once I got downstairs Huong and Mike took photos of me and I could tell they were really excited about me starting school. Alex left it all to the last minute as usual and charged downstairs.

"Wow! You look amazing!" He said enthusiastically when he saw me in my uniform.

"Amazing" seemed a slightly strange word to use to describe someone in a school uniform but maybe he was just excited. As he quickly ate a piece of toast I thanked everyone for their support. Then it was time. We picked our bags up, said goodbye and opened the door. I was off to the new school. The next chapter in my life and hopefully a much better one than what had come before....

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