Have you ever been so wrapped up in a subject of conversation that you aren’t in the realm of a normal one? That happens to me more than I'd like to admit. In Fact, it happened one of the worst times in memory just the other day. I was sitting with a friend of mine. We were taking care of our over-intoxicated partners in crime. I could not have been more tangled in the webs of thought as I struggled to get my point across with words. Hands swinging back and forth more than a helicopter blade on a moving BMW logo. Missing words and sputtering like a poorly mixed two-stroke engine, I was oblivious to my mistake. It was quite simple you see, sometimes, every now and then, the good outweighs the bad by so much that it is blindsiding. I was blindsided by my own stupidity. It was nothing new, I was the guy most people knew as the "Special" friend. Their words not mine.
So we were talking about how if you wanted to change the world you would have to start with education. The education of children at the earliest possible time would get the largest degree of change in the world that we can see. I was just so wrapped up in this and the particular utopian vision you could have if you just followed the education reform to the strictest degree. My friend had long since tuned me out but it wasn’t every day I could get a chance to fully stretch my legs in a rant and see where the solution could take us.
In the middle of my rant on how we could change each individual and how that would change the world, I compared children’s mindsets to precious metals. I was really onto something until I said,
“It’ll all be white, silver, and platinum. We will be able to touch these kids like Midas! Fuckin’ gold everywhere.”
I was a little pressed as I flushed and turned to see if it had passed over my friend's head. Unfortunately, It hadn’t. The smile he held high had me thrown through a loop on my own. Knowing I had fucked up, I would have stuck it out but I was more turned around than I thought. I let it slip. Our other friend had actually made jokes to me about that. He had always made jokes but it was never like he didn’t have a touch of resentment in his eyes. He always had something else that he never shared. You could tell even if he told you more than you ever expected to know.
You were ready to respond but at the same time you were still trying to figure out if you needed to bite your tongue or not when your friend sniggered and let it loose,
“Yeeeah, I don’t think we wanna go around advertising you touch kids. I mean troop leaders, fathers of the church, and every stepdad on a few websites might tell you differently, but I would be willing to bet...”
You had your moment, the one where you have all the puzzle pieces laying out but none of them connected. Confused yet willing to start,
“I mean I can’t speak for anyone, everyone, or someone who I don’t know. However, I do know a guy.”
The smile tightened across your face like the laces in a baseball being seamed up. Tight, ruby red, and a perfect place to put your finger across as you prepared to pitch the next line in conversation. He was stammering and standing but couldn’t get his feet in the conversation.
“You know a guy?”
“Is that code for you are a guy?”
His face turned back around to the group as red as the crimson flag that flew above the house when we walked in here.Go cougs. He was blushing and embarrassed but knew that we didn’t mean harm. We may have meant to fluster him but it was more controlled and to interrogate about the questions we all had looming over our heads now. His delayed and thought-out response wasn’t coded for alarm as it would have been in some cases. It was more of a reassuring delay as it meant he was outthinking for the safety of the story, for the safety of the people involved.
“Well, we all know this guy actually. We just don’t know him like this.”
A pander of confused looks as this monkey wrench in the story didn’t affect its ability to remain truthful, but almost added a layer of reassurance. If we all had the audacity to befriend this man he couldn’t have lied to us all, especially if none of us knew about it.
“He didn’t want to tell me the first time we talked about it either. It just kind of came out in an odd drunken state. He was pissed that someone else who was trying to vouch for kids that had been molested, doing something they considered to be all in favor of the children, was playing their hand backward. He tried to call them out. He tried to tell them that would harm the kids as much as it healed them. He was furious about some of the “stupid things they spat”. He was drinking more and more to cope with their side of the story. As people who claimed to have been molested, touched, and even raped, he questioned their truthfulness. It was truly quite odd. He was drinking at a poolside chair in the sun, one moment he was going in for a refill, and the next he was blowing up.”
“Well if he was going in for a refill we know who it wasn’t.” the whole group thought for a moment.
“Yeah, we’re sure it wasn’t you.” snickered another.
“You would have been passed out by the pool from pregame.” Everybody laughed.
As the friends with the first story calmed down his eyes let out looks of understanding, or at least trying to. He, like the rest of the group, stammered around their next words, hungry for more. He continued, “So whoever this drunk was, what did he say about it?”
I was brought back to this dimension of reality from a quick departure. I was readying my next launchpad. This is where my memory and my thoughts were continually mixed from this point onward. I wasn’t sure what he said and what I felt. I wasn’t sure where to draw the lines. I wasn’t sure and I told them so.
“Well, he came back to the poolside already flustered. I wasn’t sure where his story started and where my imagination picked it up, but it went something like this. He had said that one of the people in the hotel lobby had asked him to put a shirt on in front of the conference room where some children who had been through a life-changing event were stationed. Apparently somewhere in between the older woman asking him this and him trying to acquire a drink and a stop at the restroom he lost it. Wellbeing our friend, slightly drunk, and with a lifetime of secrets bottled up inside allegedly asked her if she’d ever been touched was the wrong move. Security from the hotel was called over before he stopped laughing at his own pun. The woman didn’t realize exactly who she was talking to. But said something along the lines of
“You could never understand what the children have been through and what they have left to go”'.
Our friend, being escorted out by his own security team back to his poolside bar, now in a full fit of rage was letting her have it. It went something like this.
“You goddamn cunt, you haven’t been touched by anything, including the blessing of intelligence. You don’t understand them, but I do. Do you know why? Cunt, I've been through that! I was touched, molested, raped, and fuckin scared for the rest of my life before I was twelve. You act as you can help them. You act like you could know an ounce of the pain that they have to carry. You act like you’re not making it worse by calling it out in front of hundreds of others. You act like talking about it all the time with you will help the kids. YOU DON’T KNOW CUNT! The only person that can help you in these situations, the only person you should talk to about these all the time, the only person who has your best interest at heart is yourself. The second you relay that to those kids and they stop needing you is the second they can move past the trauma that you’ve created. You create the devil by telling the children he’s there. So be godlike, shut the fuck up and get out of the way.”
His security guards then seated him in the lounge chair. He drunkenly toasted the absence of whomever called him out. As he came seated right next to me he must have seen the surprise on my face. I had not known any of this and he was remembering that about the moment he started to sip from the edge of his cup again. He looked at me with a gaze that said
“You get it?”
Still awestruck and I had to have my mouth open for still irritated and surrounded by his own security team from his hotel here the first thing he could say to me was,
“Close that thing, this conversation doesn’t need anything gaping.”
As I closed my mouth he began to explain the last two minutes. “See here, we’re probably gonna keep this to ourselves, right?”
He turned to me and lowered his sunglasses in order to make eye contact. As soon as he had, he continued, “ Yeah, I know that this may be news to you. It’s news to me. I wasn’t going to tell you, or anyone today but we had different plans.”
He held his freshly filled drink up for a little wiggle.
“I wasn’t prepared to do a lot today but I guess at least I have a lot of explaining to do. So yeah, it happened. When I was a kid. There was a thing. Two different men at two different times. I took care of one of them. One eventually took care of himself. I’m not really proud I was convinced as a young boy that something so wrong was okay. I’m not proud of the actions I took to help myself sleep at night. I am less proud at how long it took me to take some of those actions. It was as bad as you can imagine. It was probably worse than you can imagine, as it doesn’t take a whole lot of real-life pain to engulf the thoughts of struggle you had imagined. It was bad. No way around it. It has caused a lot of damage later in life that could have been avoided.”
He casually sipped off the top of his glass like a child with their first big kid drink. Smiling ear to ear, he was holding his happiness in a cup. He was distracted for a second. As his happiness faded his words began,
“I own the hotel, I’m the one that called them to put this on for kids. I wanted distractions and help to help them through it. I’d like to think it’s not the only way, but as someone who’s put it all behind me as well as any other, I would know I was lying. I didn’t want these stupid adults posterizing children for their pain and telling the children all that’s wrong with them. I don’t want adults telling them shit. I only want them to ask questions. Let the kid tell them what’s actually wrong, stuck in their minds, affecting their daily life. Not the other way around. It’s bullshit. I don’t want the adults handing out problems at the door like it’s a trauma sticker. The sheriff is already here handing out his gold stars. We don’t need competition for fucksticks. One day when they figure it out a little better someone will remember me telling them. Until then I feel as if my cause will die here on this hill with me and my army.”
He held his now half-emptied glass to the sun, toasting his battles, and many more to come.
My continuation of confusion wasn’t cut to end here. I would think of this conversation for years to come. Whether he remembers it or not, I will. I was toying with the idea of what this must have been like to keep a secret like this all those years. I weighed what it would take to fabricate a story like that. I weighed what it would take for that to really happen. I was not convinced of either but was open to both. To me, it didn’t really matter if this happened. My friend was set to change it from happening again, at least to others. He appeared to believe it himself as he fell asleep in the shade under the sun. The real question now was not the events under the microscope of revisiting history, but would this change anything?
Would my new knowledge whether it be true or false, loom in my subconscious decisions involving him or children that could have gone through anything like that? It was a life-changing three minutes as nothing happened to me, yet everything happened to what I thought. Our friend snoring his intoxication down the drain as the sun crept under the umbrella. The sunset to burn any fool who had forgotten about its fiery past. Set to burn all those who evaded the safety precaution we call sunscreen. The sunset to burn anyone it could. I got up to move my friend's umbrella so his face would remain shaded.
I looked back at my friend who I was carrying the conversation with and nodded. He nodded back.