Here I am again, exhausted by battles with life and disease and uncertainty. I haven’t caught the Corona-virus, or anything so fatal. But I had to drive my number two son to work last night and bring him home this morning. He is working for the Dallas Sheriff’s Department and doing the night shift. The drive is about forty minutes each way in light traffic, and I suffer from arthritis and diabetes which both make driving that far a misery.
And driving that far, forty minutes alone with my own thoughts and worries, I was not only plagued by my aching rib cage and diabetic headaches, but my mind returned to that same dark, muddy wheel-rut that infects so much of my driving down novel-writing paths… In the Baby Werewolf, Sing Sad Songs, Fools and their Toys, and other stories as well. I can’t get out of that horrible trap I was in when I was ten and sexually assaulted.
You see, his brother gave me a warning, telling me about what had been done to him on a couple of occasions. But, stupid little me, I didn’t understand what he meant. I mean, I knew what testicles were, but I had not had the sex talk at that point to know anything at all that was true about the subject. I sorta liked girls, though I never admitted that to any of my girl-hating friends. And I knew sex was something that people did that would make me want to kiss a… (ergh) girl. But I had no idea how it worked or why you would do that. And I suspected what Lonny told me had something to do with sex, but I had no idea what the connection was.
I admit that I could not tell you the date that it happened. It was some time in October, I think, before the tornado tore apart Belmond, Iowa where both of my parents were working. I am pretty sure after the long night worrying about my parents, both, it turned out, helping with rescue and attending to injuries, I was so overwhelmed by the terrors of that month of my life that I intentionally buried what had happened to me in a lock box in an unused dark part of my memory, where it stayed until I opened it again when I was twenty-two.
Now, here is the part you may want to skip, the horrible secret I kept buried for twelve years and only talked about twice with one other person in the following twenty-nine years. He caught me when I was playing alone in my own back yard. He dragged me to the pile of used tractor tires in the neighbors’ yard. He pulled me into an alcove in the side of the tire-pile where nobody else could easily see. He roughly pulled down my pants. And what he did hurt so bad I saw stars. Who knew that you could twist part of another human being in a way that could cause that much pain? And that was not the worst of it. He warned me not to yell. “Nobody will hear you anyway. And you will just get hurt more. ” He showed me how much he enjoyed what he was doing to me. His enjoyment was large and scary to look at. And he got that way by causing me pain. He even told me that it was happening to me because I wanted it to happen. My head was too dead inside at that point to tell him that it wasn’t the truth.
I know that I probably should have told a teacher, or my parents, or the police. Believe me, a lot of years of regret and self-loathing happened because of that “should have.” But when I finally unlocked the repressed memory, my attacker was already married and a father. And I had never heard a report that he had done the same thing to anyone else. I could’ve destroyed his life by telling someone then. But would anyone have believed me? Especially if his record was clean otherwise? And how petty and evil would I have looked after keeping a terrible secret like that for twelve years? I made it my mission to learn everything I could about that kind of sexual assault. Was I a monster myself for having something like that happen to me? Especially for not telling? Cowardice can make a man a monster, can’t it?
John Wayne Gacy was arrested in December of 1978. My memories of the assault on me had come flooding back into my memory in April of that same year. Gacy had handcuffed, raped, and murdered over thirty young men and boys. And during the trial, it came out that he had himself been sexually abused as a child. That news stabbed me right in the heart. Was I destined to become that kind of creature of darkness? Was I a monster?
Simply put… I am not a monster.
And it was up to me to prove it. I like to think I did just that. As a teacher, especially when I was still single, I made a special effort to be a mentor and a protector to young middle-school and high-school boys. I did not rape and murder even one. I was dungeon master for endless Saturday role-playing games. I gave them a sympathetic ear to listen to the things they needed to talk about. I reported some abuse. I even fed a few of the hungry ones.
Judgmental old ladies noticed the time I spent with kids and took note of the fact that I was unmarried (though I had two different steady girlfriends they didn’t notice.) I got reported for their suspicions. But I had character references to help in that matter. I had game-mastered for the son of the County Sheriff and the son of the Baptist Minister, as well as the son of the high school Science teacher. I had already been thoroughly investigated at that point. And every boy they asked about me defended me. I felt that proved… at least a little bit, that I was not a monster.
I can’t say truthfully that I never had a moment of inappropriate lust in my life. But, not only was I not a rapist, molester, or murderer, I was not gay. And no girl was ever invited by me into my apartment. Only my girlfriend was responsible for inviting them and was always present when they visited. (Except for one girl who came with her older brother for role-playing games, and she was always chaperoned by her brother and one or two of his friends. And he brought her along without an invitation from me.) Truthfully, I never invited anybody to my apartment. The kids would ask for a role-playing game, and I would agree. Even my girlfriends weren’t invited by me. They just assumed they were welcome and came in anyway. I didn’t protest… most of the time.
From the time I learned in Belmond Junior High what being a virgin meant, I never considered myself to be one. But that was because of the horrible secret. My sex-life and love-life were extremely quiet and eunuch-like until I got married at the age of 38 (girlfriend number three, and the second teacher-girlfriend). My sex-life was negatively affected by the horrible secret. My chance to become a practicing nudist was also stifled by the horrible secret. I still suffer from the after-effects of what he did to me. Especially when my illnesses and a long drive make me feel bad and a bit down. But I am not a monster. And that one resolve has kept me from ever being one.