Friday, May 1, 2009

A Painful Story From My Childhood

Something happened many, many years ago when I was in elementary school that I feel was a terrible injustice. To this day I feel the reverberations of it, the negative consequences. It's made me socially awkward to the point of almost being unable to act in certain situation which I'll get into as we go. Suffice it to say, it's fucked me up.

Now, I want to say that what happened to me isn't near as bad as some of the things I know that have happened to others. In fact it pales in comparison to the horror some of my friends have experienced as children and teenagers. But, that said, it had a bad effect on me, taking a natural shyness and nervousness and turning it into an almost paralyzing fear of 'making the wrong move.'

I also want to say that while I am telling this story from my childhood to show how what happened to me has been the cause of a lot of pain for me, I am not in essence the 'victim' in the story. That's the little girl in the story. What happened to her was my fault, whether I participated in the worst part of her victimization or not. And it is that, I believe, that has caused the guilt and the fear of ever letting something like it happen again to remain with me to this day.

So here goes:

I think I was in the second grade. That would make me and all the other kids in this story around 7 or 8 years old.

Recess had just ended at John Dolland Elementary School in Norwalk, California. The kids from my class and I were lined up outside our classroom door waiting for our teacher to unlock it so we could go back inside. I was in line near two kids who, while I was friendly with, I wouldn't call friends. Their names were Vincent and Corey. Vincent was the leader of the duo. Corey was weak, and a follower. He followed Vincent everywhere like a pathetic little lap dog. I think that was one of the reasons I didn't like either of them too much.

Anyway, standing in front of us in line was a very pretty little girl whose name I am sad to say escapes me after all these years. I didn't like her very much. She was my best friend Derek's girlfriend, and he spent all of his time with her during recess instead of playing with me. And I think I also didn't like her because she picked Derek over me.

I was not a nice kid, and what happened next just goes to show you that I was a complete shithead.

I decided I was going to knock her down, just to be mean. However, having been in trouble one too many times before I wanted to do it in such a way as to make it seem like an accident.

It probably would have all went to plan, except that I wanted witnesses to my cruelty. So I got Vincent and Corey's attention and said, "Watch this."

I started jumping up and down as high and as fast as I could, erratically, and moving toward the little girl. When I was close to her I fell, on purpose, and knocked her down in the process, landing on top of her.

I got up, smiling at Vincent and Corey in victory. Vincent smiled back at me and then did something that froze me in horror.

He got down on top of the girl and, as she cried and screamed, began pumping his pelvis up and down over her as if he were raping her. I watched, unable to act or do anything but start to feel sick, as he did this two or three times and then encouraged Corey to do the same. Corey, always the follower, gave a half-hearted attempt and then the girl got up and ran to a teacher.

The whole time I couldn't believe what had happened. That is not what I had intended to happen to that little girl, even if I did not mean her well. I hadn't even planned on Vincent and Corey being participants in my own little act of spite and cruelty.

Whatever my intentions, I soon found myself standing with Vincent and Corey in the office of the one person in the world I was completely and totally terrified of. Her name was Ms. Dugan.

I have no idea what Ms. Dugan's position was at Dolland Elementary at that time. She wasn't the principle or vice-principle, I know that. I also know that no matter what rule infraction you may have committed, to her you were always scum and always would be. And she treated you accordingly. She was more vicious in her treatment of students (in my experience) than any other school official I ever encountered. To this day I feel she had no business what so ever in interacting with children.

Ms. Dugan had the story from our teacher. She had the little girl tell her what happened. I listened in mounting terror as I was pointed out as the one who had started it. I protested my innocence but as far as the little girl was concerned I had started it and had done exactly what the others had. I can't say I blame her. To an outside observer it probably looked like it happened just like she said.

Ms. Dugan called our parents. As she dialed the first number she looked at us and said, "Do you know who I'd be calling if your were five years older?"

"No," I managed to answer. I think Vincent chimed in with me.

"The police," she said.

It was at that moment that I realized how bad this really was. At the time, 'rape' wasn't even a word in my vocabulary. I knew what I had seen had been bad, very bad. But I also knew that what I had actually done is something that almost every little boy has done at one point or another (shitheaded, but all in all not terrible).

I had knocked down a little girl to make her cry. I stood accused and convicted of miming a rape. Ms. Dugan treated me from that day forward as if I'd committed the real act.

When my grandfather picked me up at school he was furious. When he got me home I got the belt. I got it worse than I'd ever had it before or after. My ass was bruised for a week. I got exactly what I would have deserved, and part of me feels exactly what I DID deserve for being the cause of what happened to that little girl.

To this day I am terrified of ever doing anything that could lead to a similar accusation against me. I'm ten times nervous around women than I should be. I avoid any physical contact what so ever unless I know it's okay. I freeze up every time a female friend hugs me for the first time. I've never initiated one of those hugs, for fear it may be inappropriate.

In an intimate moment, I'm more likely NOT to make a move on a girl when I'm almost completely convinced she is willing and waiting because I don't want to ever make an attempt when she is not willing, even though I know she'd let me know loud and clear that she isn't I don't want to ever be seen as even the slightest bit forceful.

The first time I'm with a woman I've got all of that on top of natural nervousness to make things that much more difficult for me.

I can't count how many times this has cost me. How many potential relationships down the drain because I let 'that moment' pass without acting. How many times I've let my self-imposed distance and barriers keep me from getting close to people. I can think of two times, one recent and one from a few years ago, where I should have acted and didn't. No matter what might have happened if I had, I'd feel more confident in myself if I knew I hadn't been holding back when I shouldn't have.

It's almost 3 AM, and probably will be when I actually post this. I've been up since 1 AM. I started writing this around 2 AM. I've thought about it many times in the past.

This whole episode in my life is probably one of the reasons I'm so lonely right now. I know that my inability to easily interact with people socially is because I am coolly formal at almost all times. I don't say much. I don't get too close. I almost never touch.

But I also got something else out of this. Something not so negative. I have a deep and abiding hatred for all sexual predators, and an empathy for their victims. My brother's girlfriend was recently the victim of one of those predators. She managed to fight him off before things got to far, but she was still traumatized.

I just barely managed to keep my brother from killing the guy. I did the right thing and distracted him until Law Enforcement officers were able to arrive. But I'm feeling a lot of guilt about that.

I walked right up to the guy who did this while he was sitting outside his front door. He had a rifle next to him. He was waiting for my brother, who was not 50 feet away approaching the back of this piece of shit's home.

I walked up to this would be rapist, knowing he didn't see me as a threat, with a concealed gun on my hip. Instead of doing what every molecule of my body was screaming at me to do and blowing his guts all over the side of his house, I convinced him to go inside and lock the door.

I pretended to be his friend. I acted to the benefit of this evil piece of shit. I could have just distracted him until my brother came up behind him. But I didn't.

I didn't want my brother going to jail, or getting hurt, because I knew his girlfriend would only feel like it was all her fault and that she should have just kept her mouth shut. I didn't want a victim to be silenced. I want justice for her.

I still feel guilty for not helping my brother take that son of bitch out. I think I always will. That's why I couldn't sleep to night. It's one of the reasons I can't get that childhood memory out of my head. My zeal to take the mother fuckers who would do such things out is partly fueled by fear of ever again being labled as one of them.

And the things I've done to myself to help make sure that never happens again are part of the reason I'm alone right now with no one to tell me it'll be okay, no one to comfort me so I can get back to sleep.

But after what I caused to happen all those years ago, I can't help but think I'm getting my just deserts.

1 comment:

Ave said...

Wow.

Okay, that bears repeating.

Wow.

I'm impressed. I'm impressed with the clarity with which you see yourself and the situation, and impressed with the way you can lay yourself out like that--I've never been able to publicly lay out any of my wrongdoings the way you just have. Shame is a thick emotion for me.

I'm impressed at the depth of your feelings against rapists and the ilk. I kind of wish you'd helped that the sorry son of a bitch find out what comes after death too, but also glad you didn't. Rotting in jail is no fun at all, and having a death on your conscience--even a justified one--is not an easy thing to live with.

I'm also impressed with the quality of your storytelling here. No jumping around or getting off track or rambling in another direction like I do.

So yeah, impressed is the word for me here. Thanks very much for sharing.