One More Step Towards Piece of Mind - Part Seven of Angel

“...Can't keep it shut much longer
Have to let him  see
The truth about me…”

     He arrived a minute after I did.  I had been waiting for ten minutes, now.  But I had left ten minutes early, much to the frustration of my companions.  When I saw him in the light, I took note of the subtle beauty that I had'nt been privy to in the darkened cabin where we first met.
     When Adam walked into the dining car, he looked over the room carefully, examining every person's face, perhaps hoping for the recognition that I would have when I saw him.  I watched from my seat in the corner of a booth.  He stood there, as slender and observant as an oak tree.  A light hit my eye as made a quarter-turn to his left and the sun caught in a talisman hanging from a beautiful work of beads and bones that hugged his throat.  I hadn't noticed that last night.
     I was surprised that his gaze never fell upon me and he turned to leave.  That's when I called out to him.  The people sitting near me turned their heads slowly, chewing their food in a way that reminded me of the cows I had seen on my uncle's farm in Minnesota.  Others snapped their heads around to watch Adam hop down the isle and dive into the seat across from me.
     “Hey!” You could hear the smile in his voice.
     I felt dizzy. “Hi.”
     “Did you find the place okay?” I quipped.
     He laughed and my heart soared.
     Earlier, I had realized that I wasn't just anxious, I was happy.  This was the first guy that I had really connected with in a while.  That's unfair to say; before I hadn't really taken the time to get to know anyone after what happened the first time.  But Adam did something special for me.  He made me feel comfortable and relaxed, I didn't have to put up the macho walls I had been so used to hiding behind.  Although some were still around.  But I had a good reason for that.  I didn't want to screw anything up.
     Adam seemed to be something perfect, someone wild and innocent.  He seemed like an animal that wasn't used to people so close to him.  And I felt like the hunter, lulling him into a false sense of security before I eventually shoved a bullet into his neck.  I tried to think that my past was a weapon, something so terrible and destructive that would clear everything in its path.  I told myself not to go there.  
     We shared our mornings and then ate in relative silence.  The thoughts I'd had earlier seemed like a terrible toothache.  After we had lunch, Adam asked me if I wanted to meet Poochie.  Of course, I jumped at the chance.  From what he had told me, his dog was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  And I already loved dogs; I had a black lab named Lucky at home.
     We practically pranced through the car, playing follow the leader all the way to his cabin.  Poochie was beautiful.  He was a golden lab with a thick, shiny coat of fur.  Immediately, the dog leaped up on me and began licking my face.  Not expecting such a generous show of affection, I lost balance and fell into a seat.  Adam looked concerned at first, but then he started laughing when he realized Poochie wasn't trying to kill me.  I was overjoyed.  I hadn't seen my own dog for the three months I had been on a trip across the nation to learn about America's history.
     “Looks like you've made a new friend, Poochie.”  Adam gave Poochie a pat and sat down next to me.
     Soon, Poochie relaxed and jumped up onto the seat across from us.  For a while, we sat there, next to each other.  At first it was awkward, sitting in silence.  Adam was staring at me, a deep, thoughtful stare.  I wondered where he went.  Then, he noticed me staring, and smiled a gentle smile, but the edges of his smile were still turned down a little.  I could feel a sadness inside him.  Don't ask me how, but I could feel it, and I felt sad for him, too.
     Adam must have noticed my look of empathy.  He turned his head away, slowly, and looked out the window at the passing scenery.  The cabin felt a little cold then.  My mind turned to my inner darkness.  I wondered, again, if he had seen something in me.  Something he didn't want to think about.
     I looked at the dog.
     He regarded me.  Then he huffed as if to say, “I don't know.”
     It was a longer time before any either of us talked or moved.  But when it happened, I was so involved in the emptiness of my thoughts that I jumped when I felt him leaning back against my body.  I turned towards him and hugged my arms around him.  His body was comforting but his heart was racing.  Still, nothing was said , and I wondered if speaking would scare him into the forest.

     When Adam spoke, his words were like the quiet whispers between the wind and the trees.
     “I used to have a boyfriend,” He said, “But something really bad happened to him.  And that's why I'm going to Pennsylvania.  I'm not really going back home, Cole.  I'm sorry, I lied to you.  I'm running away from home.”
     My synapses drowned themselves in a flood of their own questions.  I felt uneasy all of a sudden.  But Adam remained relaxed in my arms.  After a beat, he continued.
     “His name was Scott, and he was beautiful.  I loved him deeply.  I met him in an arcade.  We played video games.  He invited me home.  His parents were really nice.  I felt welcomed and loved by them instantly, especially his father.  He seemed to go out of his way to make me comfortable, always asking me if I needed something.  I guess that's `cause my father was such an asshole.”  He spit on the spit on the floor.
     I wanted to ask him all of my questions but it didn't seem right.  He was sharing his truth with me.  I told myself to wait.
     “Anyway, he invited me over, and I spent the night with him.  We watched T.V. and talked.  A lot like what you and I did last night.  `Cept we didn't have a television to watch.  I could tell right away that he was a really good person.  Just like I can tell you are.”
     A terrible voice inside of my head told me that I was leading him on, that I really wasn't good.  But his words touched me in a place I had refused to acknowledge for a long time.  It was the part that cared for others.
     The part that wanted to scream, “I'm here!
     The part that knew I really meant well.
     But it was that other, terrible, part that I let rule me with fear and shame.  And I could feel it throb and writhe like a tree cracking under the terrible stress of lightning.  For a moment, I could almost hear the moaning of its limbs as it contorted into the terrible thing that it really was.  I was still too scared to look at it.
     Adam continued: “That night, when we were undressing for bed,” He slowly slid his shirt up, “He saw my scars,” And I saw them.
     They ran across his back like the veins in a leaf.  My heart exploded.  His fingers ran across them as be began to tell me about his father, the drunk bastard who did that to him.

     “I didn't want to tell Scott what they were from,” Adam said, “I started using the excuses that my father had told me to tell the nurses as they were treating me.  I don't know if they believed me or not, but Scott sure didn't.  He pushed me until I finally told him.  I got angry at him.  I yelled at him and told him what happened.  But, by the end of my story, I was crying in his arms.  I hadn't told anyone else but my aunt Macy until that point.  I didn't know why I was finally telling him either.
     `Until I realized, he was just like Aunt Macy.  I could trust him and I could tell he cared about me….”
     He looked up at me and smiled honestly.  Adam's finger touched my face, wiping away my tears. I was crying silently the whole time he had been sharing.  It hurt me to think he had been hurt so badly.  It made me angrier than I had ever been at anyone.  I was sick to my stomach, I was so angry.
     “He became my confidant.  And I started calling him instead of my aunt after every time my father beat me.  He told his parents about what was happening to me.  They wanted to call the Child Protective Services.  But that would mean I would be taken away from Scott.  And my mom would be left alone with him.  I couldn't let that happen.  I thought I was responsible for keeping my mom safe from Dad's fists.
     “He was already raping her.”  He spat out, and angry tears clouded his face.  “I figured that would be all he did if I let him beat me.  I didn't want him to . . . kill her.  It would be better if it happened to me.”
     Adam composed himself to tell the rest of his story.
     “One night, just like all the others, Dad came home drunk.  He was acting like even more of an asshole than before.  He was really out to get me.  But I was on good behavior that night.  I didn't want to be beaten again.  Of course, that just pissed him off more.  He tried to start a fight.  He called me names, told me I was worthless.
     `But I didn't take the bait.  Scott's dad was a lawyer and he coached me on different ways to handle those types of situations.  And one of those ways was just to ignore it.
     `I did my best.  But when he knocked the cup of water out of my hand, I must have shown some anger.  I don't know how it happened.  It's not supposed to be my fault. . . . He beat me again.  And after he was finished, I cleaned myself up.  I tried not to hear what was happening to mom.  My nose wouldn't stop bleeding.  I hid in my room for the rest of the night.
     `When I thought Dad had gone to sleep, I called Scott.  But that was a big mistake.  That was my fault.
     `Dad was angry again.  I guess I forgot to pick the cup up. . . .  I don't know.  Anyway, Scott tried to stop him.  God, that was so stupid!  He would have been safe if he'd just let it happen.  But he tried to hold dad back.  Dad just got madder.  He started hitting Scott.  He wouldn't stop. . . .”
     Adam fell silent.  “I . . . screamed at him to stop.  He was going to kill Scott.  Dad looked really scared and Scott . . . .”
     He looked confused, like he was trying to remember.  Adam's eyes did something strange then.  They glazed over.  Then, it looked he'd been physically struck in the face.  Then, he started crying violently.  I knew what had happened.  Adam's father beat Scott to death.
     I held him tight and brushed his hair.  I did what I knew how to do.  That was: hold him and let him know that he was safe right now, with me.  His body shook violently against me.  His cry turned into a horrible wail.  Poochie immediately jumped from his perch and rubbed against Adam's knee; but Adam was oblivious to it.
     Adam's crying broke like every thunderstorm of horrible realization does.  Just as his tears began to slow and he began sniffling, so did the train.  A loud knock at the door shocked us to jump.
     “Answer it, please,” Adam whispered.
     One of the conductors (or whatever they're called) was waiting for me.  My heart jumped into my throat, along with my fear.  Adam wasn't supposed to have a dog in his cabin.  My fear was exposed and I felt vulnerable.  The man smiled.
     “Be cool,” he said.  “I'm just here to tell the kid we're supposed to be stopping for a few minutes.  He might want to let the dog out, ya know?”
     My body collapsed onto relief.  He wasn't there to bust us.  I wanted to thank him.  But I was still too shocked to say much.
     “Umm. . .” I looked at Adam.
     He nodded.
     “Okay, thank you.”
     I closed the door apprehensively, fearing that he may yet bust in and wrench the dog from the room and throw it off the train.
     “That's Randy,” Adam told me, “He's really nice.”
     “Oh,” I fidgeted with one of the rivets on my jeans.
     Adam jumped up and dried his face with the front of his shirt.  “C'mon, let's go take Poochie for a walk.”

     And that was his story.

     We spent the rest of the day together, in Adam's cabin.  My friends caught up with me while I was picking up dinner for the both of us.  They wanted to know if we had “done it” yet.  Then they asked a whole lot of other questions that I found insensitive and imposing after the things that Adam had shared with me.  They were put off when I wouldn't give them the answers.  But I said my goodbyes as soon as our pizzas were ready.
     Back in the cabin, Adam was scribbling in his notebook again.  He thanked me for getting dinner and reached for his wallet to repay me.  But I said it was the least I could do.  Adam smiled and thanked me more honestly than I've ever been thanked before.  We ate together in silence.  Poochie took his dinner from my outstretched hand, then hopped back onto his perch, to gobble it.
     The sun was setting when we finished our dinner.  Then Adam turned to me and asked me what the worst thing that ever happened to me was.  My heart stopped.  This was it.  I knew I was going to tell him eventually.  So I swallowed hard and told him my grim story:

     When I was fifteen, I fell in love with a man from a foreign country.  He was wonderful, nice, understanding and always interested in what I had to say.  I think He was everything I was looking for in a partner.  From the first day we met, we hardly ever spent time apart.  We soon told each other I-love-you's.  And we exchanged jewelry.  I gave Him a ring.  It was silver and printed with the Maze of Life, the Native American symbol that represents the paths of life.  It's not really a maze, considering all the paths lead to oneness.  Some paths just get you there a little more quickly.  He gave me the gem-encrusted pentagram He kept on a chain around his neck.  We almost never removed them; such was the love we had for each other.
     My parents didn't approve of our relationship, of course.  He was much older than me.  It was illegal.  They said it was a big mistake.  I should have listened to them.  He raped me.
     After nine months, I played hooky from school to spend time with him.  We were in the shower.  I remember the curtain falling down.  It was falling down a lot those days, it wasn't installed properly.
     There was a mirror right across from the shower and I could see myself, and him, in the reflection.  That's when it happened.  He started joking about putting it in me.  He had the tip resting against my entrance.  I thought He was just joking.  But then He did.
     And it felt like someone shoved the blade of a blender through my insides.
     I told Him to stop.  But He didn't.
     When it was over, I pushed Him away.  He didn't even acknowledge what had just happened.  He just giggled and soaped Himself up more.  I had fallen to my knees after He pulled out.   I felt sick to my stomach; the pain was so bad.  More than that, I felt betrayed.
     That's when I said, “You need to leave.”
     I waited in the bathroom then.  I walked Him to the bathroom door, then closed and locked it.  I stood there, waiting to hear the front door shut, when I knew He had dressed and left.  That was when I forgot.
     For a long time, it all just seemed like a dream.  All I could remember was seeing us in the shower.  Then hearing the front door slam shut.  I was wondering what happened.  I walked into my room in a daze, trying to come up for reasons of why I told Him to leave.
     I forgot what had happened for three months.  But not completely.  I was uncomfortable around Him.  I eventually broke up with Him because I didn't feel safe around Him.  But I still didn't know why.
     I remember going over to His friend's house and being treated special, like an adult.  Drinking wine.  I guess that was all part of His plan to loosen me up.  It never worked, though.
     Then the pieces came together and I knew it was real.  At least for that instant.  I wrote a poem about it.
     I gave the poem to my school counselor to read.  And I told her it was true.  That, to this day, was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life.  We called the Child Protective Services.  Then I called my dad.  I think He was supposed to pick me up that day.  I might have even let Him drive me home.
     Dad and I went to the police station and filed a report.  The officer I was working with was a lesbian who was supposed to be specializing in internet predators.  The cops made it something special `cause they found out we met each other from an online personals site.
     She was the one who seeded doubts in my head.  The rape kit examination wasn't performed on me (as she wanted).  That would have provided clinical evidence.  I guess I wasn't able to handle the knowledge that my body had been scientifically proven to have been violated in that way.
     We tried to record phone conversations.  But He was never home.  I think the friend that I had shown the poem to tipped Him off.  In the end, I was shut out of the case.  The officer I was working with told me I wouldn't have to testify, and that was all.  They put a warrant out for His arrest, and He turned Himself in.  How did that make me look, when He denied everything?
     Everything but consensual oral sex with a minor.  I didn't hear anything else.  I called the officer one time and asked her to please not make Him register as a sex offender.  I was under His control, even without being anywhere near him.
     Restraining orders were issued on my behalf.  I was scared to death that He would come around and try to hurt me or my family.  But He never came.  Even to this day, I sometimes look out my window, thinking he's watching.  The last time I heard from the officer, she left a message with my father.
     “Tell him to stop sleeping around.”
     I felt the same way I felt when He did those things to me.  Most of all, I felt betrayed.  She was family, in the broader, community sense of the word.  And I had trusted her to defend me.  But she failed me.  I'm still not over that.  At least it's not something I hold against all lesbians.
     since then, I've been sleeping around.  I've slept with everyone I've come in contact with.  All of them feminine like Him. I seemed to have something against all of them.  They all were going to hurt me.  Just because that one asshole fucked me.
     But, I realized it wasn't just Him.  Before He came along, I had been getting into abusive relationships with other feminine acting guys.  It's the only thing I knew since I'd come out.  That epiphany didn't come without the help of an amazing therapist.  She told me to become friends with a fem, and not have sex with him.  And I did that.  Soon, I got another friend, and another.  I realized they weren't all like that.

     When I was 18, I was enrolling in a local junior college.  That's when I saw Him for the first time in three years.  I was scared.  I was petrified.  I didn't think it was Him, at first.  I mean, the guy looked like Him.  But when I walked by, I could smell the cologne He always wore.  And then I knew.
     I wanted to run away.  To just get in my car and get the fuck out of there.  But I stayed.  Maybe it was the punk music I had been listening to lately.  But I said: fuck fear.
     He tried to get my attention.  He was staring at me.  But I didn't pay Him any attention.  The district that I was enrolling into had five different schools anyway, so I probably wouldn't see Him again.
     I finished my paperwork, submitted it, and then strutted out of the room while He glared at me.  And that was it.  No break down.  No running away.  No forgetting.  I just dealt with the situation.  Every time I saw Him again, it became just a little bit easier to live with.

     Adam was silent, thoughtful.
     “That's why I want you to tell your Aunt, Adam.”, I said.
     He looked at me, fearfully, but understanding my point.
     “If you don't tell her, this secret will live inside of you, and it will affect your life in ways you won't be able to see until it's too late.”  I hugged him close and nuzzled his cheek.  “Don't run, just face it.  Things will become easier, I promise.”
     The train stopped once more that night before we went to sleep.  The next morning, we traded contact information.  He didn't have much, of course.  But I gave him my phone number, email and address.  Then we hugged, giving each other little pieces of ourselves.  And then we left.

This story is copyrighted 2004-2005 by Gabriel Duncan.