letter

A church that has lost its voice for justice
is a church that has lost its relevance in the world.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

To Whom It May Concern,

Ten, eleven, twelve years old, I was a member of Troop !! in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York (previous to that, I was Cub Scout at same location).

During that time, an older (by at least five years), experienced Scout leader named G molested me and was otherwise sexually inappropriate towards myself and several younger peers.

This abuse manifested itself in several ways – grooming [see here and here: ‘Parents are so naive—they’re worried about strangers and should be worried about their brother–in–law. They just don’t realize how devious we can be.’] and shaming being the two bookend examples.

G worked box office at the now defunct Elmwood movie theater in Elmhurst, and would let us in to see R-rated films we otherwise wouldn’t be allowed in to see*[see below]. He also let several of my younger peers (and their accompanied friends) in for free.

G had various pornographic magazines (not Playboy or Penthouse, but the expensive, glossy, graphic ones contained not simulated sex acts but penetration and ejaculations and threesomes and the likes of which I’d never seen before then) he brought to a yearly two-week camping trip at Ten Mile River in Narrowsburg, New York. He came to my tent with them one night (there were an odd number of us that summer and so I volunteered to stay in a tent without a partner) and whilst leafing through them by flashlight, inappropriate comments and questions commenced. He asked if I’d had sex yet, and told me (in so many words) he’d just lost his virginity earlier that year. Eventually, he asked to see my penis, which I showed him, and he critiqued from every angle (‘big’, ‘nice and thick’, ‘bad circumcision’ – the latter of which has stuck with me all my life; body image is important for a kid, though faith and trust is even more so). This went on, as he simultaneously continued asking questions, the level of graphic nature increasing.

I was eleven at the time, though there were previous, more subtle (read: confusing for a child, but clearly, unmistakably insidious to an adult) incidents.

He also brought with him (to summer camp, mind you) pornographic VHS cassettes, which he lent to two kids a few years older than I (one was my patrol leader – said G: ‘At fifteen, he’s hornier than both you and I put together’).

On a few occasions, I instinctively tried ‘outing’ him, once for having aforementioned magazines. His response: sharp, aggressive victim shaming and blaming. In at least that one instance, several other leaders were present, and heard the exchange (as well as several peers, who were either shocked at my mention of it, or ‘shushed’ me), but did nothing. In retrospect, it is clear everyone knew.

As can be seen, I remember everything, and details are not foggy but HD-sharp.

I was an only child. A latchkey kid. Raised by a single mom (herself a survivor of domestic violence). Insecure, lonely, confused from already having experienced abuse – abuse which he knew about (more than just intuitively). I was prime rib.

Over the years, the shame, embarrassment, regret and fury have not diminished, but accrued, even with therapy.

Months ago, whilst visiting my mother, I noticed mail with my name on it had been sent to her address. One was a postcard informing of a Troop 17 reunion of at Flushing Meadow Park on August 16th, 2014. ‘Does this bring back memories?’ was printed on the back in bold letters.

Indeed it did.

I had planned on writing this letter before receiving that (and several other BSA-related) mail. But it was certainly a trigger. Years ago, I received another piece of mail with dozens of alumni names (including both mine and G’s), replete with contact info for each of us. This was alarming, since I did not live at the address this was sent to whilst I was a Scout and wondered how I’d been ‘tracked down’.

I’ve attached two photos of G – one from then (G smack in the middle of the pic) and one more recent one (obtained via quick Google search).

The number of us with unspoken stories is l e g i o n .

Do something.

Sincerely,
JB

*Friday, June 5th of my twelfth year, my friend CM and I tried to see a 7pm show of an R-rated film, only to be told we were underage. Forthwith, G entered the box office, shooed away the other ticket seller and sold us two tickets. Few weeks later, he let a younger Scout friend of mine (and friend of that friend) in for free to see another film. Point here being: my memory’s sharp as a Tungsten needle.

– Letter sent June of 2014 to the Boy Scouts of America, via both email and snail mail. I’ve yet to receive any response.

empty-inside

dig

‘You’re a good man, J’ – an incantation I’ve heard before, it nevertheless remains an utterly unfathomable locution I’ve yet to decode. Like verbalized ancient hieroglyphics. Yet I continue to excavate, in search of the ancient hieroglyphics scholar long since buried alive but still buzzing about in the basement-bottom of my bruised and battered body.

documentaries

All questions regarding my myriad past traumas and current mercurial recovery can be answered by Wes Craven films – sentient and victim-based (replete with documentation of self-and-society-imposed impediments), A Nightmare on Elm Street, My Soul to Take, Shocker, The Last House on the Left, Deadly Friend and The People Under the Stairs are particularly devastating, illuminating, and veracious.
Too, they remain ridiculously relevant, not only to myself, but to ALL OF YOU.
Take heed. The shit is real.

 
 

 
 

big

Don’t judge me until you know the whole story. If you knew the whole story, you wouldn’t judge me.
On life and beauty, I know shit you don’t. Chronic physical pain permits perspective you lack (Ankylosing Spondylitis is a life sentence – incurable, unyielding). As does having survived myriad childhood traumas the extremes of which you’d register and file as fiction (as any citizen would when presented with the unfathomable – I never had that option). If I peddled my pedigree, there’d be pity from thee. But the pity is mine to have – these experiences have indeed burdened me with awareness, an almost supernatural ability to see through pretense, view people and situations the way they really are.
I see hypocrisy crisply, catch calumny with crystal clarity, denote denial dexterously, spot sorrow instinctively. But I also see and appreciate beauty in a way civilians do not – can not.
See, I am a small sliver of the pie – a paltry contingent of the populace witnessed combat before being able to spell CAT. Tiny eyes took in dad committing atrocities some soldiers never see. No, you couldn’t imagine – the worst nightmare you ever had doesn’t compare to my reality (I also know violence doesn’t happen in cinematic slo-mo; it happens as if sped up – a fraction of a millisecond, and one’s life, and the lives of all involved, as well as the lives of all those who are or will later become involved with those who were involved, are altered for all time).
Don’t judge me until you know the whole story. If you knew the whole story, you wouldn’t judge me.
The lessons:
Cut through pretense. Cultivate beauty. Discourage denial. Protect and nurture the children around and inside you. Be kind and generous and gentle and loving. Expect nothing in return. Don’t shop at Walmart, eat McDonald’s, or watch ‘the news’. Speak out when witnessing injustice. Social media is not enough. The political is the personal. Politeness is for privileged white people at cocktail parties. We’re here to live, not to be polite. See the bigger picture. Spread truth. Use every venue to do so, from fakebook to courtroom to street corner. Silence absolutely equals suffering and death, and is not part of the problem, but The Problem Itself. See the bigger picture. There is always a bigger picture. Intimacy is everything. Intimacy is everything. Intimacy is everything. Keep awake. Keep awake.
Biggest lesson: See the bigger picture – keep the widest perspective. With that, the rest falls into place.
Make this your smelling salt.
I could go on, but it would be to myself – 99.99% of you moved on to the next newsfeed item before reading the third sentence. Those of you still here, text me hello, and tell me how you’re feeling.

dear

She has an ass like a Honeycrisp apple and when she corners me on the seventh floor stairwell, I grab it and squeeze.
She smiles and says, ‘You’re definitely a bad boy.’
I miss my cue to ask why. It doesn’t faze her.
‘Because I only dig bad boys.’
I’ve heard this before. And will hear it again.
‘That why you’re married to that lunatic?’
Her eyes swap seductive for scolding.
And you’ve got big balls,’ she replies, then grabs them and squeezes.
It’s true – years of trauma tempered the Alpha, but He still manages to occasionally flex His pecs on Bronx stairwells.
I pull her to me. She feels me and flutters.
‘I want it,’ she says.
‘You’ll get it,’ I respond.
Our lips meld, then open wide in the middle. Her tongue licks the roof of my mouth. I catch it between my teeth and bite down, first lightly, then not lightly. Her eyes widen.
An old-school slow jam sets off in my skull, something like Mint Condition.
Her legs lift, ankles crossing behind me. I turn us around so her back’s to the wall. She grunts.
I put a hickey on her right shoulder. It’s a brazen thing to do. I don’t care.
Her hand reaches for the burgeoning bulge between us, and her eyes widen wider. ‘Jesus,’ she declares.
‘No,’ I respond, which she ignores, focusing instead on measuring the length and width of what she’s asked for. When finished, she looks at me accusingly and explicitly states, ‘Fuck.’
‘Ok,’ I respond.
The square window on the seventh floor stairwell door steams up. It’s summer and we’re scorching, two hoodrats smeared on a tenement stair wall like graffiti.
It smells like weed, sweat, Grey Flannel, arroz con pollo and cocaine cut with ammonia. But when I put my face to her chest, all I smell is Freedom. From all of the above, and then some.
Her skin is eloquent as fuck and it’s clear he’s illiterate. I’m not. My nose and lips graze slowly, implying, informing. Stopping at the black bruise he put just over her heart. With more affection than I’ve ever mustered for my self, I kiss it. Tenderly. And sound drops out.
She’ll be leaving soon, but not really; she’s in my blood.
Noiselessly, I put my nose to hers and it sticks.
I look into her eyes and, with them, both of us fully clothed, I enter her.

 

bring

Strobes flash. Spray paint tags weep. Moving mouths lie. Bodies swarm. To Wu’s ruckus. Place trades fifteen minutes for each two. Synthetic authenticity. In whose suspect corners buzz Truth. Brace. For the real. Get your gut got. Your ghosts gone. Brace. For a surge. Thick with tumult. Then erupt, expel. And emerge released.