Perry Hessenauer

Perry (2)I am an aspiring 53 year old writer. I would like to have more time in the future to devote to writing, but the work demands of my life have prevented this thus far. I enjoy nature and outdoor activities, as well as reading and sometimes watching movies. I have always wanted to be a writer, but only started in 2006.

“Early suffering”

I was twelve years old and my life was about to change in a strange manner.

I lived in Windsor Park, Johannesburg, South Africa, comprising, an area of about 50 blocks, and

consisting of townhouses, apartments and single family dwellings. Scattered throughout the area,

on each block, were undeveloped parcels of eucalyptus tree forests, which were our playgrounds.

My friends and I would play hide and seek and cowboys and Indians, finding branches to make

bows from and we would race our bicycles on half-mile circular trails we cleared on the forest

floor. Cutting Windsor into East and West was a wonderful lush green golf course with woods,

streams and fairways and no fence. Sometimes we heard someone cry, “fore,” and a golf ball

would go bouncing by. The townhouse complexes had swimming pools, and in summer, we

went swimming pool hopping, complex to complex.

One Sunny day Lesley walked towards me. Her golden hair shone in the sunlight and her skin

was tanned dark brown. My heart jumped and I wanted to run away.

“Hi Perry, how are you”, she said.

“I’m fine thank you,” I replied.

Her friend Lucy piped in, “Lesley wants you to be her boyfriend. Do you want to be her

boyfriend?” Lesley watched me, her golden bangs half covering her eyes. My heart raced and I

felt afraid.

With forced bravado I said,” Yes”, as though becoming someone’s boyfriend was something that

happened every day. The girls giggled and ran away.

“Bye Perry. See you later,” Lesley chirped. I raced home feeling giddy; I was Lesley’s


On another sunny, bright, cheerful day my friends and I, along with Lesley and a few of her

girlfriends walked past Boet’s townhouse. Boet was my age; his stomach was jiggly as a

jellyfish, and he always wore a Speedo. He was big and aggressive, and everyone was scared of

him. He liked Lesley and was jealous of me. That day, Boet stood in a small garden in front of

his townhouse. His hands were on his hips showing over the Speedo swimsuit.

“Do you want to fight,” he challenged? My heart thumped, my stomach felt strange and I started

to walk away but Lesley was watching me with a strange look in her eyes.


Perry Ross Hessenauer Early Suffering – Age 12

Boet’s mother chided. “Are you a chicken?” I stood erect, took a deep breath and pulled back

my shoulders. I walked down a few steps into the sunken arena of the garden, my friends looking

down from above; the air filled with electrical charge.

“Hit him, hit him”, Boet’s mother screamed. We circled each other. I punched Boet in the face,

twice, and he swung back at me. When I moved away, Boet lunged forward, big and fat in his

tight fitting costume, and grabbed hold of me, trying to wrestle me to the ground. I hit him in the

face and kicked him in the stomach. My foot seemed to melt into his flab, as if it were thick mud

squishing through my toes. I looked into his eyes and saw pain and fear. He hesitated for a

moment, started crying and ran away.

His mother followed him with a long whip in her hand, shrieking as she lashed out at him, “You

coward; go back and fight.” But he would not. I felt no joy in that moment as I watched his

turmoil. But the gang patted me on the back, and the discomforting feelings I had slid into the

background, as I gloried in new found status. Lesley smiled at me.

As if I were experiencing some sort of cosmic message, not long after the fight, I woke to find a

stranger staring back at me from the mirror. “Mom, I think something is wrong with me!” I


My mother came to me and looked at me; “Gosh Perry, you had better go to the doctor; why is

your face swollen?” She was mystified and I felt stricken and lost as I looked in the mirror.

When Dr. Wynch examined me at his office, he said, “Perry, you must go home and go to bed.”

“When will I be able to play with my friends”, I asked anxiously.

“I don’t know. I will come to your home and do some tests.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Dr. Wynch looked back at me through thick black glasses, under thick

black hair.

“I will speak to your mother. You go home now and go to bed and don’t get out of bed and

move around unless necessary.” I walked home at a slow pace, looking at the ground, and not

kicking stray stones for fear of moving too much.

I stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling, alone in the terrible silence; my lower back ached and I was

scared. I heard my mother attending to my two-year-old sister, and returning to her typing, our

bread and butter. Each day my brother would return home from school and look in on me. “How

was your day,” he asked cheerfully. “I won some marbles at school today, and Robert had a fight

with Tony.”

“Did you see Lesley?” I asked.

“No,” he said, smiling down at me from his position perched on the lone chair. His hearing aids,

which protruded out of the sides of his ears, made a beep, beep sound. My brother was born with


Perry Ross Hessenauer Early Suffering – Age 12

serious complications, which nearly killed him, as he had to undergo two blood transfusions

because our mother’s blood is RH negative. Healthy except for the hearing, he swung his little

legs, as he sat on the lone chair and smiled at me. I looked forward to our short conversations

each day. When we heard knocking at the door, he jumped down. “I have to go now; my friends

are waiting. We are going to play outside.” I always smiled, happy for him, even though I felt a

twinge of jealousy as I watched him go.

We had left our private schools and town of approximately three-hundred thousand for

Johannesburg; population seven-million, where my father was a journalist who reported horse

racing for a meager salary; he was also a gambler and before all else, like his father and

grandfather before him, that was the love of his life. He pursued his passion with the intensity of

a great white shark in a feeding frenzy, unaware of anything else, coming home late and leaving

early in the morning. He attended four to five horse race meetings a week, socializing afterwards

with the jockeys and trainers to gather vital “inside information” for his gambling. My devoted

mother spent 18 hours a day typing to sustain the family. My father would often say, “One of

these days I am going to win a big jackpot,” as if this justified his neglect and the financial

hardship that we had to endure.

One day as I was convalescing, some of my friends knocked at the door. My mother showed

them into my room. My heart quickened when I saw Lesley among them. They seemed uneasy

and concerned when they looked at me. “When will you be able to come out and play again?”

Lesley inquired. Her white teeth sparkled as she smiled down at me; her golden hair shimmered.

I longed to be in the sunlight with Lesley and my friends.

“I think I will be well soon,” I responded, not wanting to disappoint her. My mother returned and

shuffled them out, whispering to them at the doorway. They ran off hopping, skipping and

laughing into the sunlight.

Every day for several weeks Dr. Wynch came to take blood. To make me smile, he said, “You

look pale, I think you are scared of the doctor.”

Instead of smiling, I started crying, “Mom, I don’t want him Dr. Wynch to take my blood

anymore. I want a new doctor. I don’t think Dr. Wynch likes me.”

“Perry, Dr. Wynch is a good man; he has been worried about you.” Since I had enormous respect

for my devoutly religious mother, her statement profoundly affected me. I realized that Dr.

Wynch was not responsible for my heartache; it was not his fault that my friends didn’t come

around anymore, and that I longed to see Lesley. My anger and resentment towards him were

misdirected. My heart softened.

For at least a month, I kept still in my prison and stayed silent. Tick, tick, tick droned my

mother’s typewriter, as she Dictaphone typed for Dunn and Bradstreet. One morning I looked in

the mirror and I saw me. I was elated. “Mom, I’m going to take a walk to the store!” I shouted.

My mother looked at me and smiled. “Don’t take long, and take it easy.”


Perry Ross Hessenauer Early Suffering – Age 12

The sun shone down on me as I walked the familiar streets looking for my friends; passing

Lesley’s apartment I felt disappointed not to see her. I returned home about fifteen minutes later,

feeling overjoyed, free. I went to the bathroom mirror; staring back at me was someone

unrecognizable, with a puffed up and distorted face. “Mom! My face is swollen again,” I

screamed. My Mom came running and we both stared, our hearts beating fast.

Dr. Wynch returned. I was in bed and he sat on the lone chair next to my bed. “Perry, you have

Chronic Nephritis. You have developed a cold in your kidneys, caused by wearing a wet

swimsuit for extended periods of time. You will have an incurable kidney disease for the rest of

your life. If the disease comes back, the chances are high that you will die in a few hours.

I learned that Chronic Nephritis occurs when there is slow, progressive destruction of the

glomeruli of the kidneys. This means that the kidneys do not filter properly. For many years after

that I removed my swimsuit shortly after getting out of the water.

“We are still going to swim? Why did you take your costume off?” my friends asked.

“I just don’t like wearing a wet swimsuit; I will change later when we swim again,” I countered.

Every five minutes, I would look in the mirror and often be afraid that my face had become

swollen. Any kind of ache in my back caused me to imagine the worst, as I remembered Dr.

Wynch’s words. I lived in secret fear, never sharing my feelings about my condition, afraid I

would lose my friends again.

As soon as I was well, I went searching for Lesley. When I saw her, I ran to her, jubilant to see

her once more. “Boet is my boyfriend now”, she said.

“Why?” I sputtered.

“He does stuff with me; you don’t do anything with me.”

“I’ll do stuff with you,” I exclaimed but I felt bewildered.

“Show me”, she said as she led me towards a darkened underground garage. I felt befuddled,

frightened and my heart raced. I had said that I would do stuff with her, but that was only

because I did not want to lose her affections to someone else. I understood that her intentions

were sexual, but I was still an innocent boy with no such feelings as she had. My joy was simply

to be with her and speak to her.

“I have to go somewhere now, I’ll see you later,” I said and raced away and out of sight. I stood

alone for a long time, on a quiet street, thinking about whether I should go back to Lesley. I

wanted to scream; I wanted to die and cease to exist. I stayed in that spot for a long time

overwhelmed by panic such as I had never experienced. I wanted to run away and hide from the

world, but did not know where to run or hide. A friend approached me and said, “Hello, Perry.” I

raced away, not answering, and he chased me for a few blocks shouting, “What’s wrong; what’s

wrong?” Eventually, he gave up. When my panic subsided, I walked slowly home. I had called

up all the courage I had to conceal the anguish of soul, but my heart ached. I never shared what


Perry Ross Hessenauer Early Suffering – Age 12

had happened between Lesley and me with anyone, and only saw her at a distance from then on,

always feeling great sadness as I watched her golden hair reflecting the sunlight.

Years later, the South African infantry conscripted me but I never disclosed that I had had

Chronic Nephritis. If I had I would have been assigned clerical duties and been ridiculed by the

combat troops. The thought of being considered inferior to others terrified me. I feared rejection

and losing all that I loved, and being powerless and lonely in a strange world. I never showed my

physical weakness and when my feelings were hurt, I tried to hide my pain from others. I went

from army base to army base, hopping through South West Africa and Angola; only this time I

was no longer a carefree young boy, but a careworn hardened combat soldier with skin tanned

dark brown. I got wet many times in the bush warfare, not from swimming but from rainfall, but

I never got sick again. I believed in my heart, that if what Dr. Wynch had said was true, and I

had an incurable kidney disease, which caused severe swelling of my face and dreadful back

ache, a disease which never reoccurred, then God must have cured me.

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