That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”-Nietzsche
If you’ve read some of the unique things, people and experiences I’ve been privileged to accumulate over years, both good and bad, you might have an indication of why I’ve been requested by a number of people to put it all down, so I’ve began writing my memoir. It has become a driving need.
Even if no one ever reads it, it is necessary, and for those who can understand and know what I’m talking about, there comes a time when you, like the Blood Eagle, need to have such heaviness lifted to your shoulders so the pain can be released even if for a time the agony is increased. Only then can you fly free.
Do not fall into apathy or mistake the beginning of my memoir as yet another sad tale to roll eyes over. And yes I find it curious and disturbing when people do make comments like, Oh no, yet another story of abuse, because that’s not what my memoir is about.
Given the reality of mankind, unfortunately the statistics for children subjected to abuse is appallingly high (and those are the ones who report it), so “The Boys Who Died” are not alone. This is a story of defiance and triumph over the atrocities both people and life can throw at us, and how one can still find a place of peace and hope within where sorrow can never fully overwhelm you, and you can always dance even if it’s only in your mind.
The Boys Who Died
“It wasn’t until twenty years later I found out why his eyes looked like that, why they were always reluctant to meet anyone’s, those beautiful steel blue eyes surrounded by dark lashes, outstanding against his pale lightly freckled skin and ash brown hair. Why there was a terrifying darkness in them which went beyond the pupils, a shadow which breathed sorrow in every glance.
I found out why his hands were always shaking when he didn’t have then clasped together, or writing, or holding one of the “status” symbols of the safety patrol, the orange crossing flags while he stood at duty, or the times he sat motionless, eyes empty, hands empty, curled, open, defenseless. He always wanted the farthest, loneliest post away from everyone else at school patrol. I can still see him standing there in my mind, out at the far curb, yards from the school, always a little stiff in his crisp blue jeans and long-sleeved usually red plaid shirt, a white crew tee showing just a little near the throat. The crosswalk pole was listless in his hands yet the helmet properly on, but the face beneath it, sad beyond all words.
I didn’t know then why I could rarely make him laugh, though I tried everything. Why he wouldn’t run in P.E. unless threatened with severe punishment. Why he never raised his hand or voice in class and barely ate his lunch. I thought he was cute, that he looked like a young Luke Skywalker who was my hero at the time. I was infatuated, shy in a way, but his reticence made me bolder and he never really pushed me away. He never welcomed me, but he didn’t avoid me either.
Once I remember he shared a small smile with me when we were measured in class, and found to be the exact same weight and height. There were other parallels in our lives we didn’t know. We shared a secret though I never told him, and he never told me, and I’ve never saw him again after 5th grade, only heard about him in the most shocking and horrifying of circumstances.
It was revealed finally, that for years, his stepfather, the father of his younger half sister, had systematically, brutally and nearly nightly, raped and abused him. Not only him, but a number of children of their family group, and it had carefully been covered and allowed for years. When this stepfather came to trial, after one of the girls had finally broken down, the family became divided. Sister against sister, parents against adult children, and in the end they were all rent asunder. All in all, over a period of ten years of his own private suffering, before he ran away and joined the army on his eighteenth birthday, and continuing through successive generations of children, this “man”, his stepfather, along with my friend’s uncle had raped, sodomized and traumatized the children of a deeply religious, old and monied Southern family.
When it came to light, no, that’s the wrong term…when all the testimonies were given, it was revealed my friend’s mother knew, she looked the other way, she wanted to keep her husband at all cost, even if it meant a living death for her only son. They never divorced. She visited him in jailed, loved and supported him faithfully, renounced my friend and ended all contact with her child. Most of the family also did so, dismissed the accusations of both these vile monsters. Defended their position by saying their religion taught them to forgive no matter what, yet strangely enough, their inflexibility, their culpability of allowing the behavior to continue was in direct violation of even their Christian laws, besides those of the land, the government.
All their censure and hatred they directed at the children. The innocent children. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine having to return to such a home every day from school, dreading, knowing what would come again, the indecent caresses, the weight, the heaviness, the pain, the guilt?
My friend took the stand I read in newspapers, and from my mother who knew the older members of the family better as she was closer to their ages, besides which, they were of the same “religion”, I received bits of rumor, gossip and some very real fact, I learned. He revealed what happened to him. It took a kind of bravery which people who’ve not endured such, cannot imagine: to face the one who did it to you, the ones who looked the other way, the one who tissued away the blood and threatened you never to tell. It took courage for which I salute him, a war veteran at twenty-nine, a man with a wife and children, to speak of something he didn’t have to, but finally, finally it helped a man be brought to a kind of justice.
I also knew what that felt like since I’ve never taken a stand for personal reasons, only in a professional capacity in the career I chose: law enforcement. I never revealed in detail what happened to me to my parents, to anyone, but it has completely fucked up my life. I don’t normally use such words, but no other phrase can express it so explicitly, for at times it can still be a raw, blood, furious pain inside me from which I think I will go mad with hatred and grief. It has touched and affected everything I’ve ever done, anyone I’ve every loved even my own child, my dear and precious child. When people say put it all behind you, live life forward, forget the past, they are absurd. We are the past. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be alive.
As I write this, though I haven’t seen him in now, almost thirty years on, I still see him as that little boy, that other nine-year old, like myself, struggling to deal with something far beyond us, which we should never have had to endure. I would want to take that man in my arms, and hold him tight, and pour into him everything of me without saying a word, and draw it all out of him.
It is unimaginable the pain which those like us still endure every single day, but those of us who survived more or less intact, at times holding ourselves together with nothing but willpower, or at others with a kind of insanity that lets you forget in the moment and you don’t even know who you are and why you’re still alive.
You can’t know. You can’t, not unless you have endured it. It is conscious effort which keeps me from collapsing into total raging grief and madness. It’s a second to second fight, guerrilla warfare, touch and go every moment of my life. Many people don’t understand me, many people don’t like me, without quite understanding why I can’t do some things, why I’ve done some things which make no sense at all on the surface, why I am the way I am. Ridiculously and insensibly rebellious at times, a person whose favorite word is ‘no’ because for so long, so many, many times my “no” meant nothing. My protestations were simply ash, brushed away.”