Be Not Fearful. There is Beauty in Raw truth. Life is to be sung, danced, loved and affirmed. That's what I keep telling myself. But my fears get stuck in my throat. They have been lodged in my heart, raw and abrasive, since I was a kid. Since the last time I remember sunshine.
Charles "Charlie" Day. That’s his name. He still lives happily in Tucson, Arizona. He was married to my mother for a short while and is, in fact, the biological father of my brother. Charlie brutally sexually assaulted me on several occasions in late 1982/early 1983 in the apartment he and my mother shared. I remember one occasion clearly, having to clean a little bit of blood and feces out of the inside of my underwear. I remember being smacked in the head very hard because I peed during it. I was scared. I wanted somebody to help me. I wanted somebody to stop it. And I remember Charlie marching me down to Little Jim's, where my mother tended bar, to tell her I peed my pants. I've never felt such humiliation. Everyone in the bar laughed at me. I never felt so alone.
A couple years later, Scott Durzo, who was my basketball coach, made me show him my penis. This was behind the side wall near the basketball courts at the bottom of McGaugh Elementary school. He told me I was going to be suspended for pulling out my penis (which he asked me to do). I was confused and scared, not understanding what kind of game had just transpired. He pulled me into the boy's bathroom and put his erect penis in mouth. I tried to fight, but he grabbed me by my neck and told me I'd have to change schools if I kept squirming. He then put it in my hand and made me hold onto it, while he moved back and forth and finished. After, as strange as it sounds, I remember he chose that exact moment to tell me he wasn't sure if I was going to make the all-star team (the season had just ended). I had led the league in rebounding that year and was clearly one of the best players. I cried. I remember that. Not sure if it was due to the shock of what just happened or due to my coach failing to recognize all of the hard work and effort I put into that season. It seemed to disgust him. I grabbed my backpack and ran home. I used to walk with a couple friends, but not that day. I remember throwing up in the bushes on the way home behind the Bay Theatre on Main Street. I also remember this sinking feeling that I was going to get in trouble. That I had done something wrong. I sat by the little red box car across from our apartment and cried and cried and cried. Scott Durzo put me on the team, but I never went to the all-star game. I avoided Coach after that. I eventually told a teacher what had happened. Nothing became of it. I was afraid to tell anyone in my family because I thought Mr. Durzo was going to have me kicked out of school. I didn't need any more humiliation.
Scott is now apparently awaiting trial for doing similar things to another Seal Beach kid some 23 years later.
These things inside me cry out. They sound off like shrieking cicadas, or alarm bells; repeating like broken records. I've felt the fucking sting and shame and humiliation, the ramifications of these brutal acts for the last 32 years. I've never been able to fully forgive. These things, they still often color the way I see the world. They shape fears I have about the world my son is living in.
There was no justice for me. And guess what? There is no justice. It doesn't exist. Not for me and not for most people. There are just the ghosts; memories that linger. The memory of events. The radio station replaying it in your head like a sugary pop song you can't wash out of your skin or your teeth. The alleys of childhood do not release us willingly. And that special kind of shuddering humiliation always accompanies the memories.
Over the years, some people have responded to my story (I've shared it in therapy, in SLAA, etc.) with religious sentiments and assurances. "God is Good," they say. "God loves you," they say. "There is Forgiveness and Mercy in Jesus," they say..
You know what I say? I never give you a hard time about your religious beliefs, but don't you Dare throw prayer or God at me when it comes to the abuse I've suffered. You’ll never know how much I prayed, begged, cried, pleaded with our "Father God" to find the mercy and love in His heart to end what I was I was enduring. The answer from on High: Silence. That silence is what I remember the most.
I don't have yearbooks and scrapbooks and memories and pictures in frames. My childhood resembles a torn-down amusement park. Happy memories wrapped around a bigger tragedy. Big hulking pieces of decaying infrastructure that prove there once was a place where happy pools of memory would accumulate, where laughter used to live, where dreams almost took flight. But you realize when you take a closer look at those old, broken down carnival rides, that the ghosts are still taking tickets. They have dominion. They own this haunted place. You realize this painful truth and you run.
I have no justice, but I have music. I have my songs - raw and vulnerable and tattooed on my heart. I don't have God anymore, not in the traditional religious sense (I'm very spiritual).. but I have something better.. I have Life. I have that moment, staring at my black boots on the dirty floorboards, and taking the rope off my neck. That moment I finally and permanently threw the rope off and, after a few missteps and forays into some rather destructive hobbies, I picked up a guitar. It saved my life.
All we can do, people like me, is try our best to learn to live and love without Fear. Luckily, I find that love, that beauty and that fearlessness I seek, through the music that permeates my life. Songs ring out in my head and heart and I chase the muse, heartinkblood to paper, because it takes six strings to tell my story.
I do it because I want to be courageous and fearless someday. I do it because I want my son to be a million times the man I'll ever become.
And I do it because Fuck Charlie. And Fuck Scott Durzo. I do it because someday soon, the chords of age will drown out this bad dream. I’ll continue to lower my defenses, slowly. I’ll continue to flower and awaken and be more emotionally vulnerable and available. I’ll become less afraid. I’ll become a better Dad, friend, lover, brother.
I’ll continue to find new alleyways, to do my best to take a different way home, avoiding that painful childhood route that stays with you that we like to retrace to further cement our criminally non-existent self-worth. Avoiding those broken down amusement park rides, those hulking, ghostly machines, that cesspool of emotional wreckage and debris.
I will say this, in all sincerity.. It gets better. It truly does. Every day, it gets better. But I had to say something here, today, because it’s still a big part of who I am and I feel like, if you want to truly be friends with me and care about me, then you should know the truth. I owe that much to you.
And I'm still looking for that sunshine..