Writing was my Boogieman, it was that blissful anxiety of doing something you weren’t supposed to. After all, I was the son of immigrants and there were no De Sousa’s or Ferreira’s or even Vieira’s on the cover of books deemed required reading. It seemed those names were reserved for the sides of battle-bruised pick-up trucks, with steely tool boxes that rattled like Jacob Marley’s chains. No big loss, not like I was a good speller and atrocious my grammar was. Anyway, no one would be interested in the yarns of a blue-collar city boy, no matter how well spun. So, I locked my scribbles away in a shoebox under the bed, guarded by my Boogieman.
I turned my focus on more culturally sanctioned endeavours, dressing up my square peg body to fit into the circular hole. But it soon became clear that practicality is boredom’s petri-dish. The need to tell a story still bubbled up inside me. It often climbed up my throat, leaped past my sharp tongue. It was a release of pressure that spattered conversations with hyperbole and satire. It seemed the Boogieman was more faithful to his nature than I was. I experimented with writing in college, where that sort of behaviour is tolerated. The Boogieman still lurked in the shadows of my room, as each pen stroke pushed me closer to a decision. Saying “I write,” was one thing, to call myself “A Writer” required embracing the commitment, the sacrifice and the vow of poverty. I had counted on all that, but what took me by surprise was the support from other writers, established writers. There was a willingness to share not only their craft, but their struggles as well. They were writers who had broken the chains that stereotyped them, in turn elevating their true culture. Immigrants who blazed a trail and scaled higher obstacles than I will ever face.
They taught me that writing gives permission to explore. It allows me to ask questions, obliterate the answers and figure out new ones for myself. Writing brought my environment into sharp focus and I could see a city of immigrants who aspired to more than what their birthlands’ allowed. I understood, that with sweat and mortar, the De Sousa’s and Ferreira’s and even Vieira’s had left their mark on Toronto’s skyline, giving their children the messy luxury of carving out a place for themselves. The Boogieman still lingers, only now he encourages me so that perhaps one day I could be called a “Good Writer.”