2 AM, vivid memories of my spirit looking down upon a familiar looking boy completely unclothed, The boy was struggling to gain stability and read whatever was written on the pages in front of him. A tall man, was behind him with pants around his ankles, vigorously thrusting back and forth into the small boy. The man then placed his hand on the boys right shoulder for better stability. As my spirit leaned in to get a closer look, I could see exactly who it was. It was the boy’s pastor. The boy was me.
The scene suddenly changes and my spirit enters the naked boys body; seeing what he sees I struggle to focus on the scripture scribbled on blue lined paper in front of me. Fighting against the back and forth motion all I could decipher were a few letters at a time. Was that the letter “R?” Could that be an “O?” I think he is going to talk out of the book of Romans on Sunday.
As quickly as before, I am transported outside of the small boys undulating body. Looking down on the unnatural scene from the drop-tiled ceiling. I was caught like a video stuck on an endless loop with the same sequence repeated in my dreams over and over.
The last few days of July were spent desperately trying to cope with the chaotic cycle of sorrow, anger and fear inside my pounding chest. The neverending loop of the same horror of a pastor raping a small innocent me. Because of this, it seemed as if the very air were laced with an acidic concoction that bit at my flesh and infecting every open wound. Each morning for the weeks prior, I woke up wiping the sleep and feelings of disjointed smallness out of my eyes like a nightmarish terror of years past. I was loosing my desire to fight.
July 30th, I arose out of bed and splashed cool water over my face, brushed my teeth and quickly pulled my jeans on. I needed to drive my wife to the train station so that I could have the car if I needed it. Perhaps I would go to the gym and try and exercise some of these confusing emotions away. I’d then relax in the spa and focus on my breathing. Perhaps there I could put the incessant night into day-mare visions of the small boy getting ass-raped further away into the recesses of my own memory.
“Nah, fuck it.” I thought to myself. “I’ll just go home and hide my head between my knees. I don't have the strength to heal anymore. I hate you, Wayne.”
That’s just what I did, or at least tried to do. I am not quite as flexible as I used to be, and after a while my children needed some attention. Snacks, then lunch, laundry, straighten the kitchen and living room, sweep and vacuum the floors, fold the laundry. Try to act like everything is normal so that my kids and wife don't suspect that I am struggling with all this damn, fucking CSA shit again.
By the end of that afternoon, It was time to retrieve my wife from her job. While waiting for her, I desperately fought to put a smile on my face and greet her with a loving kiss. “What had he written there? Why can't I read it?” I questioned to myself as I watched her come out of the tunnel that went under the interstate and led to the light-rail station.
I physically shook the questions out of my head and pressed the button that unlocked trunk so that she could put her backpack away. She opened the front passenger door, “Hey sweetcheeks. How was your day?” I chirped as I painted a smile on my face and gave her a light kiss on the lips to welcome her home.
“Good, I got another budget done, and a new manager starts tomorrow. I am finally getting things back under control. How was your day?”
“Eh, same ol’ same ol’.” I replied. “Same day, different number.” I flashed another smile hoping that she would talk to the kids and would not press for any deeper answers. The children in the back seat then began to talk all at once about how their day was and how much fun they had playing at various houses in the neighborhood. We arrived home and the children loudly argued as to who was going to play with the newest toy from Chik fil A . I turned the stove on and prepared a quick dinner of ham and cheese omelettes, with toast and iced tea. (Why breakfast is only once a day I’ll never know.)
After dinner, we all sat down on the couch to watch the latest episode of “America's Got Talent.” I made fun of Nick Cannon’s ruby red slippers. Soon, it was time for the children to go to bed. Naturally, they complained as the finalists for the live shows had not yet been announced. After “five more minutes,” I had had enough. I didn't want to be strong anymore. I needed the kids upstairs and asleep so that I could be in a dark room with my knees to my chin and listen to John Stewart rant about income inequality or some stupid thing Fox News said.
The children weren't moving fast enough. My youngest was crying because he had accidentally bumped his toe on the table. I lost my composure and began to loudly lecture him as to how I needed him to stop acting like a 3 year old and begin acting his age. I was tired of him crying all the time. At that point he really began to cry. I looked at his fearful face and tears streaming down his cheeks. I gave up and stormed out of his room, slamming the door, and went downstairs where my wife was waiting to tell me what I was telling him was inappropriate.
I argued back that I wanted him to be strong and that if he could just act his age he would be less likely to experience what I had gone through. She told me that, “he is only six and that he is doing well.” And that, “If you continue to treat him this way, he will be more likely to be victimized.”
I didn't want to be wrong, but I knew she was right. I kept to my point, “I just don't want him to get ass-raped like I did.”
“Joel, when you are triggered like this, you have a tendency to take it out on him. I don't know if it’s because he looks like you or what, but you need to stop doing that.”
“I will protect my son, even if it’s from you,” she continued. “You are an awesome father, but when you are triggered, you focus your anger on him, and it is not fair.”
Damn it! How did she know I was triggered! I looked at her for a moment. I took a breath and in that breath I thought about what she had said. I knew what it was like to grow up without a father. I knew what it was like to have a grieving and absent mother. It was not a life I wanted for my son. I thought about what would happen if I just gave up on healing. I was so tired of thinking, and dreaming about what AFB had done. In that moment, I honestly wanted to give up and let the pain take control. I wanted to let the rage burn. Instead, I fortified myself and determined to make this better before it got any worse. It was time to be honest. Honest with my wife and honest with Liam, my only son.
“You are right, I am triggered. I was trying to keep it from you because it’s not fair that I burden you with this CSA shit all the time. I am just so tired of healing……” I then began to explain all that I had been experiencing that day, the dreams and flashbacks from the night before.
“I understand Joel; I am your wife. I am here for you, I love you and I don't ever want us to be apart. You cannot expect a six year old to behave like an adult, to process things the way you want him to. He loves you so much and he is going to copy your behavior. He is seeking out your approval. If he can’t get it from you, he will be open to get it from someone else,” she said.
“How do you make someone strong?” I didn’t know how to answer her question.
“How do you make someone strong?” she persisted.
I knew the answer, but I was afraid to say it because it obligated me into doing it.
“How do you make someone strong?” she said again. “By supporting them and loving them,” I finally said. My wife took a deep breath of relief knowing that I had the right answer. “You need to apologize to him and let him know that he is not the source of your anger. He feels like he is right now. How would you feel if you were him?” My heart sank knowing that I was doing damage to my son, which was the last thing I wanted to do. I shook my head in agreement.
I looked at her and told her that I loved her. It was time for bed, and as she rolled to her side, I felt her sleepily place her hand on my shoulder. I knew everything was going to be ok. I was going to get up tomorrow and fight again.
The next morning, after she had gone to work, I turned off the T.V. and called Liam over.
“Liam, it’s time we talk,” I said to him, fear and tears welling up in his eyes.
“I have been yelling at you a lot recently haven’t I?”
He nodded his head yes.
“I am so sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.”
A tear slid down his left cheek.
I continued, “A long time ago, just after my dad died, when I was eleven years old, a very bad man did very bad things to me. I am still angry about that. Sometimes, I take it out on you. I shouldn’t do that. I am very sorry.”
“What did he do daddy?”
“He broke my heart.” I then pointed to a scratch on his hand. “When you got this scratch, it hurt. Right?”
He nodded his head.
“Now it’s healing and doesn’t hurt anymore. Soon, you won't even know it was there.”
“There was blood and everything!” he said.
“What this man did, cut me to the very center of my being. Sometimes I get very angry about it. I feel like my heart won’t heal like your scratch and that makes me sad. Do you forgive me?”
He looked at me with love and compassion in his eyes. “I forgive you daddy.”
“Do you have any questions for me?” I asked.
“So, it’s not me? You’re not mad at me?” My heart welled up with sadness. I knew I had hurt him, but i also knew I was making amends and would be better to my son.
“No, It’s not you. I am just mad at this very bad man.”
“Ok, I love you. Can I go to Branden’s?”
“Yes, go on then.”
As he ran off to play, I was left feeling vulnerable and exposed. Yet, somehow like I had taken giant leap to heal a rift that threatened to divide a father from his son. “I must keep going,” I thought. “I must keep going, for his sake. It’ll be worth it in the end.”