It happened when I was 17. I lived in my parents’ basement. My mother was wheelchaired by the ravages of twenty odd years of rheumatoid arthritis during a time when the drugs and methods to treat it were ineffective at best. My violent, narcissist father and I had had the standard, for the times, ‘I got too big to beat’ fight a year previously. So I was left alone in that basement. And it was pretty sweet. I had parties whenever they left town and sometimes when they didn’t. I started putting on shows for my band to play and invited other bands to play in what became the beginning of a career in presenting performing arts. I did a lot of acid. There were several girls, and a lot of weed. My father always had a keg of beer in the fridge in the garage, and we emptied it a couple of times that year. Possibly out of guilt, or maybe because it was one of the few things I did that he could understand, he never got too mad about it. I only got yelled at when there were half full cups sitting around in the morning. Don’t waste beer, he would yell.
So it was awesome that I could have band practice there. It’s probably one of the few things in my upbringing where I can say my parents gave me something I wasn’t appropriately grateful for at the time. They let me make a lot of noise, pretty much at any time of day or night. I became a musician in that room. I went through several bands and iterations of bands as is common for a suburban teenager. It was easy to find guitarists and bassists among friends, and a core group formed. At times we’d put ads in the local alt-weeklies for drummers and keyboard players. Although we were teenagers, sometimes we’d get dudes in their twenties and thirties playing with us, or joining in the band. That’s where he came from. A drummer in his late twenties, he had nice skills and a lot of knowledge about classic rock and music that was a treasure trove for a bunch of teenagers just starting to crack the book on the canon of western music. I think he was in the band for about a year.
He was pretty normal, no affectations, dressed plainly, liked to smoke weed. The one curious thing about him was that he identified as gay. This is in a southern/midwestern state in the early 90’s, so it’s not like out gay people were common. As a matter of fact he was the first out gay person I ever met. He didn’t match any of the stereotypes on TV, no affected voice, nothing feminine about him, no broadway records. But it didn’t really matter. Since I had never met anyone like that, I didn’t really have any expectations. I also didn’t have any hangups about it. I had always been a weird outcast in school, and had no problem letting girls put makeup on me and do my hair. I liked the attention from girls. In school this sort of ended up making me the stand-in gay guy at a place and time where no actual gay person would be safe to come out. I was attacked and beaten up throughout high school. I was skinny, had long blond hair, and hung out with girls who put lipstick and eyeliner on me. Gay enough for an occasional beat down and daily ‘hey faggot’s in the lunchroom. Of course, at the time I was getting laid by what I thought were some pretty swell girls, so I was in a place of deep security in my sexuality, I realized it freaked them out more than me, and I occasionally egged them on. They’d call me fag, I’d blow them kisses. I loved the confusion. And after a lifetime of dodging the blows of a giant violent muscular father, these guys didn’t really phase me. So from the first time I met a homosexual and continuing into the rest of my life, I really didn’t give a shit about what they did with their jiggly bits, and I had first hand experience of the type of violence and harassment they might be subjected to. Having a violent father, I abhorred violence from a young age and have made every attempt to never attack anyone. Physically anyway, but that’s another story. The point is, not only was I curious about this gay drummer, I had immediate sympathy for him.
Here’s where the memory gets foggy. I’m not sure of the timeline. This is a time in my life, for reasons soon to be revealed, that I have only rarely revisited in memory. Going back to it is like digging up a magazine you buried in the back yard a year ago. It’s smudged, partially destroyed, eaten and damp, and gross to touch. I know it happened before I turned 18, because I immediately moved to Arizona when I became legal. And I know it happened after I was 16, because it was after I graduated from high school. I graduated early. They said I was smart or some bullshit. I passed a test. I was technically in college but I didn’t go to class much. I played in bands, I smoked weed, I had weird part time jobs, I did acid, etc. Anyway, at some point that year the gay drummer lost his apartment and was homeless for a few months. I had a big basement, and had let my friends crash there for weeks at a time on occasion as we each took turns running away from home for a bit. So that’s how I got my first roommate. We spent a lot of time together. He showed me parts of the city I had never seen. He had a lot of stories. This was pre-internet so social media was all word of mouth. So, I don’t know if it happened before he told me the story or after. This confusion of which came first, the story or the event, played far into the future as the event itself bubbled up into my consciousness. Was it real or was it the story? Did I invent a reality that matched the story? It was only time, maturity, and other interactions I had with him years later that eventually solidified the truth into my mind. The story and the reality were the same.
So here’s the story. We’re two dudes smoking weed in a basement after band practice, swapping ‘can you believe it’ style local legends. He tells me about two roommates in college, one of whom was gay. The gay guy had a crush on the straight guy but the straight guy wasn’t having it. So the gay guy got a hold of some chloroform, started waiting till his roommate would fall asleep, would hold it over his face till he went from sleep to passed out, and then he would fuck him in the ass. To be honest I don’t remember the end of the story. Though it was apparent that the arrangement went on for a while. At the time, it was just a crazy story. I didn’t have the vocabulary or knowledge to even understand an event like that as rape. I didn’t think, fucking rapist, I just thought, what an asshole. There were other things that I didn’t have the words or understanding for. Other things I normalized. The gay drummer talked about dating and having sexual relationships with teenage boys, 15 being the youngest I remember. We never met anyone he was dating. As a 17 year old, fucking a 15 year old was common and fair game at the time. It didn’t click that he was in his late 20’s. I didn’t know what was correct. He was my peer, I dated a 15 year old, so it must be ok for him to do it too. And there was the sexual banter. At the time, I brushed it off as him being a jerk. Telling or even daring your friend to suck your dick was normal teenage boy humor. So it was easy to normalize him begging me for hours at night as I tried to go to sleep, from the other side of the room, to just suck his dick. To try it. Just a little bit. I told him to fuck off, eventually he’d stop. It did not occur to me that it was wrong for him to do that. He was just being annoying. He was my friend. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your dick sucked. I was always asking my girlfriends to suck mine.
So here’s the event. And it’s important to understand that this was something I brushed off and really didn’t think about until two years afterwards. During the period of him living in my room, I had a weird dream. It’s pretty easy to guess at this point. I dreamt a sharp pain in my ass and rough pushing. Pretty simple, not long. The next morning I awoke with a terrible headache. When I was taking my morning shit I noticed a blood stain on my tighty whiteys, something I had never seen before. I was confused. And even with every implication which I’ve described above, what it implied was literally the furthest thing from my mind. What it implies to anyone reading this story, and what it implied to me, years later, at the time was simply beyond my imagination. Sometimes I go back there. Where it’s beyond. I shrugged it off as simply a weird dream and I must have eaten something wrong. I had a busy teenage life. I jumped back into it.
After the band broke up. I had four further clueing interactions with the man over the next four or five years. He only lived in my parents’ basement with me for a few months, then he became roommates with another bandmate. The band went on for a while but then everyone moved on. The moment I turned 18 I got a full time job and after two months moved across the country with friends. Basically to just get away from an abusive father and to be free and independant. Typical really. I was away for about a year, and of course while I was there I started dating a girl who was from my neighborhood back home. So after awhile we decided to move in together, but back home, so we could go to college cheaply. The last week I was there, out west-ish, packing with the girl, he suddenly showed up in the same city. Wanted to hang out. Invited me to a hotel room. I don’t remember much of that conversation. Except that he wanted to be friends again and had moved out there to be with me. I was like dude, sorry but I’m moving back home in a week with this girl. Also, it’s really weird you would just show up unannounced over a year after the band broke up. But anyway, enjoy this place I’m going back see-ya. And that was that. The second interaction was much heavier. A year later, living back in the same city as my parents with that girl in her condo, he calls me out of the blue one night. He’s back in the city. He needs a favor. He wants to know if I can print out some pictures for him. This is the mid-nineties, the beginning of html for the masses, so my girlfriend’s got a decent Mac. I say sure come on over, though at this point we’re not really friends anymore and I know there’s something off with him. I feel like other things had happened, or people had said something that I’m just not remembering. So he shows up with a floppy disk and we go to the computer and I toss it in, and open a picture. It’s a naked boy, definitely ten years old or younger. I closed it out, ejected the disk and said no fucking way. He begged me to. I told him he had to leave. He begged more. I said no, and I showed him the door. I never heard from him again, except two strange calls, one a year later, one a bit after that. I don’t remember much about them, except that they were creepy, and solidified my opinion of him as a bad person. You have to understand that at the time, the internet was a baby. People weren’t really talking about pedophiles, the whole sex registry thing hadn’t reached any steam. I’m not even sure I knew the word pedophile at the time.
It still took years for me to piece it together. It’s hard to remember when I began to suspect it. It’s not something you want to have happened to you. As I became an adult, and began my career in the arts, I met a lot of homosexuals, lesbians, transexuals, what have you, and my world expanded. At some point around the age of 30, it occurred to me that he wasn’t gay, he was a pedophile. At some point in my mid 30s, I admitted to myself that he probably did rape me. Though I had no comprehension how you’re supposed to deal with being raped 18 years previously while you were unconscious. During this time I told a few people, when I was wasted drunk. I think the first time I said it out loud, it came up because of an argument with a woman about sexual abuse and rape, she said I couldn’t understand, and I blurted it out. It wasn’t until I was 40, a full 23 years after the fact, that I really came to terms with the fact that it did happen. And probably more than once.
The rape isn’t the important part of the story however. Lots of people get raped. By their friends. And as far as rapes go, I had the luxury package. I was asleep, there was minimal pain, and I was able to block it completely from my mind for decades while I processed it. Don’t get me wrong, the slow horror of acceptance over decades is still no picnic. But that’s not the reason I’m telling this story. That’s not the reason I’ve been dragging this story out, not wanting to get to the end. I’ve been able to be largely uninterrupted in life by the events described above, and take my sweet time letting it bubble up into consciousness. And when, a bit after 40, I was able to accept it and recognize what had happened for what it was, it was sort of anticlimactic. I started thinking about tracking him down, and maybe seeking some kind of justice. And then that’s when the real horror hit me. What I’d let happen while I went along happily burying this in the folds of my mind – What about the others? Who else had he done this to, while I refused to admit that he had done it to me? How many while I was his friend? That fifteen year old he talked about. Who was that boy in that photo? Had he done it to other friends of mine once he successfully did it to me? I can only assume he did it again, succeeding once. Of course he did. Of course there were others. I could have stopped him, had I been stronger. Had I been more aware, had I had the words to describe his crime, had I had the education to recognize his acts for what they were. And so horror was replaced by guilt and shame. I know it’s not my fault. I know what he may have done to others after what he did to me is not my fault. I also know there’s nothing you can say that will wipe away the shame and guilt I feel for not being able to confront what happened to me until decades later. I’ll get over it. Telling this story is about that. It’s about the others. Coming forward isn’t necessarily about you. Though it can be freeing, get you closer to closure, help in the process of healing, those are all great things. But I don’t need that from telling my story. What happened doesn’t hurt me anymore. What I didn’t do is what weighs on my mind. Coming forward is about protecting the others. So that’s why I’m writing this.
He doesn’t seem to exist on the internet. There’s a very good chance he’s dead or in jail. Though that may just be my hope. I spent a frantic couple of days last year googling, whitepages reading, doing those dumb internet lookup things, trying variations on how his name was spelled. Couldn’t find a damn thing. I really hope he just died there, back in the 1990s. But what he might have done, what he might be doing, because I didn’t speak out long ago continues to haunt me, more than what he did to me itself. So if something happened to you, and you’re wondering about speaking up, I want you to think about it this way. Speaking up about rape and abuse is only half about what happened to you. The other half is about the others you can prevent from being harmed. I’m so sorry it took me twenty years to learn that. And I really hope no one was hurt because of it, and that that motherfucker is dead. #meToo