This story began with Alice, and, though not much of the middle part of the story involved Alice, it was part of her story, because her son was part of the story. Now, at the story’s end, Alice again becomes the focus.
It’s also the part of the story that took me the longest to understand, and the part that involves the most pain.
For most of my childhood, Alice was part of my home. She was my home. She was there in the mornings when I got up, she was there when I came home from school. She cleaned me, bandaged me, laughed with me, taught me, hugged me, loved me. She was my best friend.
I was pretty quiet and shy growing up, and I didn’t make many friends. I played with the neighbor kids, though they were mostly older than I. The few friends I made in elementary and middle school all ended up moving away at the end of the year (our neighborhood was made up of a lot of military families).
But Alice, she was always there. She was who I played with. We played cards, some times for hours: Rummy, War, Go Fish. She even taught me to play solitaire.
She read stories to me, listened to me read stories to her.
She taught me to make chili, to make excellent macaroni and cheese, to poach eggs.
She hugged me every morning when she finally got me out of bed — I hated getting up! She hugged me when I left for school, hugged me when I got home, hugged me before she went home.
Alice was not my mother. I knew that she wasn’t. I never pretended she was. While I was growing up, I spent at least as much time with her as I did with my mom. My mom was busy with work, and, when she wasn’t working, she was busy with the mountain property she and dad bought when I was 4. My mom became obsessed with the mountain property, and building on it — specifically, moving buildings in, and completely remodeling them. When she wasn’t working, or visiting her friends, our time was spent going to hardware stores, lumberyards, department stores, looking for materials for the mountain cabins; then, the rest of the time was spent in the mountains, doing much of the grunt work ourselves. It seemed, to my young self, that my mom was more interested in the mountains than she was in us.
I don’t want to sound as if I idolized Alice, or that I resented my mother. It wasn’t that way. To be very cliched, it was what it was: my mom was my mom, Alice was Alice. I never confused the two, I never wanted to switch one for the other. When you’re young, you take things as they are. The life that goes on around you is what you view as normal. So, in my world, Alice was the one who taught me things, who I had fun with. Mom was who worked, and who made me work. I loved my mom, and I loved Alice. It was that simple.
As I got older, and after my brother went back to live with his birth mother, Alice didn’t come to work as often. I was nearly fifteen, and was able to get myself off to school. Not that I went to school. But, I could have, if I’d wanted to (school, and I, were not the best of friends). She came to the house once or twice a week, and still did some cleaning.
When I finally broke down and told my mom about Alice’s son and I, I don’t know what I was expecting to happen. I knew that I wanted him to stop threatening me. Somehow I envisoned that we’d still be able to have sex. But, I don’t think I went as far as thinking about consequences.
In retrospect, I think that if Alice hadn’t wanted to be around me again, I would have understood. But, she still kept coming to work, she still treated me the same. We always managed to play a few games of cards when she was around. Whatever had happened between her son and I had not changed anything between us. Maybe she felt guilt? I don’t really know. After the story came out, after the visit by the police, the whole subject was never spoken of again. I think that He saw a therapist for a bit, though I’m not entirely sure. And, no charges were brought against him, for which I was glad.
(In case you are wondering — we were never allowed to be alone together again. In fact, we hardly ever saw each other after that. I do not believe that he was a pedophile, or a predator. And, while we never saw each other, I was aware of how his life played out, and, as I’ve been trying to keep Him from being identified, I won’t divulge any more of his story, other than to say that I’m very certain that he never did anything with someone underage again. I think that our situation was just something that happened — an exploration, if you will. And, I think his threats came from fear of being thought of as gay, rather than from the fact that I was young. I spent many hours with him, and, I don’t believe that his intent was anything other than fear of being gay, or even being thought of as gay. Alice was very religious, and, I think that fact weighed on him. And, looking back on the whole thing, I don’t think he was gay. I am gay. I’ve always felt gay. I’ve lived my life as an out gay man since I was about 15. I’ve known a lot of gay men. While I may not be an expert in psychology, I do have a pretty good idea of who is, and who isn’t gay. I also have a good sense of guys who are curious about it — but, curious does not make one gay. Even sleeping with someone of the same sex doesn’t make you gay. Sexuality is much broader than that narrow definition. I think being gay has more to do with who you love than it does with who you have sex with. Being able to love, and accept love, from someone of the same gender is, I believe what defines you as gay. I can’t say if He ever had sex with other men, but, he never formed any attachment to men. I don’t think he formed any attachments, with anyone, really.)
Once the whole sordid tale of He and I having sex came to light, it was quickly dealt with, and then, just as quickly, ignored.
Alice, as I said, never treated me any different.
Then, one day, it all changed.
Not having had any children of my own, I have no idea what parenting is like. I don’t really know how a parent thinks. So, what follows is, at best, speculation.
Almost a year after The Scandal, my mom told Alice that I was gay.
The fact that her son had sex with me for nearly three years, sex that always ended with my being shoved against a wall, or thrown to the floor and pinned down, while my life was being threated if I told — that, somehow made no difference in how Alice viewed me. As I said before, I’ve wondered if it was guilt that kept her close to me? A sense of guilt that she hadn’t taught her son the right way, or that she was feeling guilt for her son putting me though such emotional turmoil? When I got older, and thought about it, I tried to imagine how I would react, and, while no one can really say for sure how they’ll react to a situation (one never knows until one is actually in a situation what one’s reaction will be), we often imagine how we’d feel or react. My thought has always been that I, as a parent, would be ashamed. And, that sense of shame would lead to embarrassment, which would lead me to distance myself. And, maybe she did feel ashamed, yet, her shame made her want to keep hugging me, and playing cards. Maybe that was her way of saying she was sorry — apologies are tough to make, and most of us aren’t very good at them. Maybe she was trying to tell me she was sorry she let her son hurt me?
Who can truly know how someone’s mind works?
So, the fact that her son had inflected what I think of as a mental molestation upon me made no difference. But, when my mom told her that I was gay, well, that suddenly changed everything.
She stopped working for us, quite abruptly — citing health reasons. She was getting older, and, she had health issues ever since I was a child, so, it seemed reasonable and logical. I was busy with school — or, rather, I was busy avoiding school, and seeking out those dark, hidden places where I discovered pleasure and pain, so it was quite some time before I saw her again. My mom continued to talk and visit with Alice. She took Alice shopping — Alice never learned to drive. She helped Alice get into Senior housing, as her kids were all grown and on their own, and she couldn’t keep up her house. After Alice moved into the Senior housing, my mom offered to give her a rocking chair that lived in a spare room, a chair neither of us used.
I loaded the chair into the car, and brought it over to Alice.
When I arrived at the door, she opened it, pointed to where she wanted it, and hurried into another room. I put the rocker where she requested, and stood waiting. I was around seventeen then, and hadn’t seen her in a couple years. Teenagers tend to be wrapped up in their own little world, and, sometimes are rather thoughtless. As I stood there, I felt bad that I hadn’t come to see her before. I was lost in a memory, when she suddenly reappeared, with a really horrible look on her face. I thought maybe she was ill.
She didn’t look at me, but said “You can leave now.”
The tone, more than the words, startled me. ”Oh. Ok. I thought maybe I’d talk you into a game of cards. Are you ok?”
“Please leave my house. You’re an abomination, and I don’t want your kind in my home.”
I just stood there, unable to move. I couldn’t quite comprehend what she was saying. I didn’t move, but managed, I think, to say “What?”
There was silence. I was looking at her, trying to figure out what was going on. She wasn’t looking back at me.
We stood there for a few seconds more, in silence. Finally, her eyes turned to me, and the look of hate directed at me was like a slap. I stepped back. ”Abomination!” Her voice was deep, but loud. “Your sick ways are what possessed my son. He’d never have done anything to you otherwise. He’s a good boy, and you’re an evil abomination . Please leave. Now!”
Her eyes and her voice were charged with such hatred, that I left, scared of what she’d do if I stood there any longer.
It was the last time I saw her. The last memory I have of her.
I don’t think I fully realized what she had been saying to me — not until later, much later. I’d been too hurt, and just wanted to forget it. Obviously, her religious beliefs caused her disapproval of my being gay. My mother’s Catholicism influenced her reaction to my homosexuality; Alice’s more conservative religious beliefs made her even more disapproving than my mom — and, I suppose, it wasn’t surprising. The intensity of the hate was, though.
I don’t think it was until I was in my early twenties when it finally dawned on me what she was saying that day. That it was my being gay that had led her son to have sex with me, that it was my fault. And, it somehow confirmed what I’d always wondered about — on that first day, that first time, when He had dropped his pants, had I somehow responded in such a way that made him want to do what he did; did I somehow seduce him? I mean, I was twelve, and I don’t know that I knew what seduction was, but, did I have a look of yearning or desire on my face, that fueled his sexual appetite? And, Alice’s words seemed to say that I did say or do something to encourage Him. It was my fault.
To this day, I’ve never been entirely sure how much I am to blame. To this day, I wonder if I hadn’t been gay, what would have happened that day in His room? Would it just have been a look, and a touch, and that’s all? I wish I knew.
I never told my mom what happened between Alice and I that day, but, I think Alice may have said something to my mom, because after that, they saw less and less of each other over the next decade. None of her children ever contacted us to let us know when Alice had died. My mom found out when she stopped by Alice’s senior housing, and discovered Alice’s apartment had a new occupant, who had moved in several months earlier, after “the lady who’d lived there had died.” She didn’t know exactly when, just that one of the neighbors told her Alice had been sick in the hospital for several weeks, and never came home. She was gone, and I’d never get to try, as an adult, to make amends.
Of all the names I’ve been called in my life, abomination is, without doubt, the most wounding, especially coming from Alice, my friend. I’ve wondered if her heart ever thawed, if she ever forgave me?
Some stories have happy endings that bring the story to a close. This story has not much of an ending, and very little closure.