Smoke, Games, & Me Too
This is the account told from the perspective of a young boy with the terrible but necessary movement of people, mostly women revealing that men have abused them sexually. It happened to me, though I tried burying it deep under the skin of my life trying to forget it happened; but it did. It affects my relationships with my wife and children. It has affected my entire life. Maybe by letting it out, I will be able to help others to talk about their experiences so that we can all move past the shame of this social issue and towards healing.
The subject matter is very serious and is not a light read. It is, however, in expository form. The experience gives some background and no names were used save one. This experience does not define any of the people involved but is a dark snapshot of life that we tend to want to leave out. None of us is perfect, but we like to think that we are. Some of our experiences we can leave in the past, but when it needs to be brought forward, let's.
How it started
We had just move into a burn-out shelter. I did not know what was going on in the world. I just know that we had to leave our friends because my uncle and cousins died next door. We lived in the duplex next to them with my mom who was on drugs. Thinking about that sucks, but it is what happened. While my younger brother and I were at school, my little cousins were playing with matches in their part of the duplex. Uncle was asleep in the house when the fire started. My cousins hid when the fire grew—in fear of getting in trouble. The smoke got them. The fired burned all around them, but it was the smoke.
Mom tried to save them but the security gate on the door did its job to keep her out. Good thing too because she could have gone with Uncle and my little cousin in the smoke. The smoke was evil. It takes everything good—everything I love. It did not take her life, but smoke took mom in a different way from us. Was it my little cousins playing with matches or my Uncle and Mom playing with them?
See, that was the story I was told as a kid—that the fire was started by my cousins. If the fire was started by two adults smoking a pipe, dropping a match, and vegging out on a high too much to notice, who would tell that story? Who would ever tell that one? Either way, two people did not survive and we had to move to the burn-out shelter.
God Was Near
The shelter was nice. The building was pink and it had a long row of about six or seven separate apartments for families to live in displaced by the fire. We did not have any place else to go because of Mom’s habits with smoke. I call it smoke, but there was no smoke involved. I knew it was drugs of some sort, crack, maybe.
Mom was a functioning addict I suppose. She was good a slipping by people she did not know—pushing herself off as a normal person not taken by smoke. I knew, though. I loved Mom. I know she loved us. She had a smoke problem, though. I knew, and I had to protect my younger brother and me as best I could.
Other families lived in the burn-out shelter that we came to know—kids and adults. Lucky for me, the shelter was across the street from the church I went to with Auntie. I could walk over to the church, which is what I did for as long as we stayed at the shelter. Church is not what this is about though.
I wet the bed the night before. I had a weak bladder. I was always afraid someone or something bad was near and I ended up wetting the bed no matter how hard I tried to get up.
Tears and Bounty
The good times we had at the shelter worked hand-and-hand with the bad. One night, my brother and I were sent to bed with no dinner. We didn’t do anything wrong, there was just no food.
“Mom, we haven’t eaten yet,” I said. I was confused. This, no matter how much smoke Mom did, had never happened before.
“I said go to bed,” she repeated with a cracking voice—shaky with emotion she tried to hide. My brother and I walked away to the rooms without making a sound. I saw Mom start crying when she thought I was not looking. I went into the room worried about me and my brother—and Mom.
There were other people in the apartment—nice clean furnished apartment. I do not know if they cared that we were going to bed with no dinner. People were always at our place—men mostly. I did not understand with Mom did with those men. She must have used smoke with them. That is all I wanted to think.
We awoke to so much food in the apartment that we could not believe our eyes! There we desert and prepared foods of all types! My brother and I were happy, to say the least. We had to go to school, but we ate cake for breakfast with pudding! Mom said she was sorry and that nothing like that would ever happen again—the going to bed without dinner.
I was happy. I wet the bed the night before. I had a weak bladder. I was always afraid someone or something bad was near and I ended up wetting the bed no matter how hard I tried to get up. The food made me not worry about having to hustle anything up for me and my brother. I was not going to be hungry again. I did not wet the bed for a long time after that. Mom came through so that I did not have to this time—like before in the duplex. That’s not what this is about, though.
This Spanish family became friends with me and my brother. The did not have food. The dad and mom of that family lost everything and they had no food. The mom of that family spent hours talking on the phone to her friends in Spanglish about all sorts of things. I blocked it out mostly. I would just take her kids with me to church. My brother did not always want to go, but we had to get away from the apartment. The kids liked church. I gave them some of our food when Mom was not looking. We had so much that there was no way we were going to eat it all! I asked Mom to help them out, but she would not listen; so, I stole it. The mom of the family kept asking for more food, though. I had to be sneaky. They were sent out of the shelter soon after that. It seemed like ages, but we were only there for two weeks. That’s not what this is about, though.
A man and his wife came to the apartment. Unlike the other men that came to the house, this one paid attention to us! He spoke to us and gave us candy. He gave my mom a $20 bill once and she told us we can buy anything we wanted from the store! We left immediately to the store just up the street about ten minutes away walking. We bought as much candy and goodies as the $20 bill would allow and walked home happy as larks!
“What is all that,” Mom asks in her stressed angry voice when we returned. “I didn’t say spend the whole 20!”
“Oh,” is all I could manage. In my mind, saying that we could get anything we wanted was the same as saying get everything we wanted.
“You need to take that stuff back not!” She was not mean about it. We obeyed. I wondered why she did not just take us to the store, but I knew why. We did not need to be in the apartment for what they were trying to do—the adults and their smoke. We ate as much of the junk food as we could before we returned the rest of the cash. That’s not what this is about, though.
The First Game
The man, Ralf, was super nice. He looked like a superhero! He was handsome and strong and he had big muscles—just like my dream dad. I had a dad, but he was nowhere around. Ralf had his own kids, but he took me and my brother on as his own. He promised to take us to the movies and even Disney World!
His wife and my mom went out one night and Ralf watched us. He told me he wanted to play a game. I loved Ralf. He made me feel special. I wanted to do something to make him feel special too. When he hugged me I felt safe and protected. No one could hurt me with those muscles of his!
The game he wanted to play was not one that I liked, but it was Ralf. I would do it for Ralf. He took me to a room and told me what to do for him. I cried. I made sure he did not play this game with my younger brother, but I am sure he did when I fell asleep. He told me not to tell Mom or she would not let him come by anymore. I still loved Ralf. It would devastate me if he left! I kept quiet about our game.
The Second "Game"
The next day, Ralf and I went to the store at night while Mom entertained people at the apartment. We were in Ralf’s truck. It was cool! Ralf went to a dark street and pulled over to the side of the road. He wanted to show me a new game. I trusted Ralf, but a twinge of discomfort formed in my chest for a moment. I did not like the other game, but it was Ralf. He would not do anything that was wrong.
He kissed me and told me to kiss him back. I knew boys were not supposed to kiss, but it was Ralf. The Superhero. The dad I always wanted. He was married. He would not do anything wrong. Mom liked him and let us be around him. I kissed him back. His beard felt weird and I did not like the feeling. It was Ralf, though.
“Now,” he said, “We do our tongues like this” demonstrating with his massive hands. As he proceeded to instruct me a man walked up to the car who knew him.
“Aye Ralf, what’s going on, man?” The man looked intoxicated and could not see into the truck well because of the darkness. He came to my side of the truck speaking into the open window laughing and greeting.
Ralf took his muscular arm and covered my body, putting my head into his armpit to wrapped it around me. I strangely felt safe, but I knew that this was not right anymore. It was Ralf, though.
“What’s up, man? I am out with my young lady here,’ he said referring to me as if I were no boy! Sure, I had soft features and I was 12, but I was a boy! He told me to keep quiet before the other man could hear and they keep talking. I could not move. He was so strong. I was afraid to move.
I was confused. I did not like Ralf anymore, but he told me that I would get in trouble if I told Mom because she would be angry that I was being mean to him. It made sense. I no longer wanted to be around Ralf. I did not want to play games that I knew were not games. I avoided him.
The Movies and Me Too
The last night in the shelter, Ralf told mom that he wanted to take my brother and me to the movies.
“That’s okay,” I said. “We don’t want to.”
“Yes I do,” my brother chimed.
“Go on to the movies, son,” Mom said. I did not know what to do. Ralph smiled at me and I thought that maybe he would actually take us to the movies. With me and my brother together, maybe he would.
We went to get burgers first. I could not wait to see the movie we would get to see. We pulled into a motel for some reason. We went into a room for some reason. We did not go to the movie. Ralf told me that he could do it to my brother or me. I did not want my brother to play games with Ralf. This time was different, though. He was gentle, but I was small and it hurt. There was a movie in the motel room. After he finished, I moved away afraid and my brother slept between us safe. When he took us home, I never saw Ralph or his wife again.
This is no light matter to consider when thinking about the experiences of people who have been in these situations. It was a small window in my life before my mother sobered and could protect us properly. I was a child and she was vulnerable. It happens too often in our society. Be aware that the stories are real and the people are all around that those stories happened to. Let's recognize that we can prevent this from happening to others by being aware that it can happen to anyone.
- Talk to your children.
- Get the help that you need.
- Know the people that you allow into your home around your children.
Signs of abuse or trauma in the home is bed wetting. No in all causes doe it indicate trauma or abuse, but it is a sign to watch--especially in teens and adults.
In children, another sign of abuse or trauma is a sudden shift in behavior towards a particular person. It does not mean the person is an abuser, but that there is an abuser or trauma. The child may project blame on an otherwise close adult or friend as a cry for help. It is important to regularly counsel with each family member. Start today and make it a regular habit. This builds the infrastructure for the future.
This will not stop all of it, but it will make it harder for the predators to have easy access. As embarrassing as this is for me and others, me too.
- Understanding Male Sexual Abuse - Get Information | 1in6
For male survivors of sexual abuse—explore topics, find answers to common questions, read myths & facts, learn from stories of other men, etc. You're not alone.
© 2018 Rodric Johnson