Hey everyone! Back to the story this week.
Trigger warning: this contains overtones of sexual...awkwardness, I suppose, since it’s hard to call it abuse. It contains a number of incredibly personal and uncomfortable thoughts and experiences. It’s one thing to through something like this. It’s quite another to enjoy it. If I’m being honest, I’m tempted to chicken out on posting this again and write something else.
It’s also important to note that memory is fallible. While I’m certain of the overall flow of the event, the details of the conversations are vague in mind. Thus, conversation is largely reconstructed as closely as I can recall, but I would assume that some of it isn’t quite accurate. That said, it’s the base of the things that matters most.
So I hope that you don’t judge me too harshly here, and thanks for reading. If reading this triggers anything you’d have preferred remained forgotten, I sincerely apologize.
Names changed for obvious reasons.
(A10) Private Initiation
“I can give you a ride home, if you like.”
“Yeah, that would be great, thanks.” You grab your backpack, stuff it with beginner books from your piano lesson, and chuck it into the back of Mr Swift’s tiny white pickup truck. He’s still getting ready, so you stand by the door and wait for the late-middle-aged man to leave the house and let you in. As he strolls over, you notice that he’s stuffed a small book with tiny yellow bookmarks in the front pocket of his button-up shirt. He seems distracted.
“You know how to drive?” He asks, once you start moving.
“I’m only twelve,” you say, “ I can’t yet. Besides, I don’t want to drive. Driving is stupid. Bikes are so much better- why would you want to just sit there when you could make yourself move under your own power? Bikes are like flying! In a car you just get carsick.” This is a rehearsed argument- you’re quite passionate on the subject. Bicycles are freedom, and love. Cars are nausea.
“Well, when you’re older sometimes you need to move things or go places you can’t go on a bike,” says Mr. Swift, then, “you okay?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” you lie, “you’ll just tell my dad.”
He pushes. “No, really, what is it? I promise I won’t tell him.”
That’s good enough for your hairpin reluctance, so you launch into venting all your early teenage angst. Mr. Swift is one of those older men who is a really good listener and he’s easy to talk to. He seems to really get your perspective, but the closer to home you get, the quieter you become. What is dad going to make you do now? What new form of emotional torture will he invent under the guise of trying to help you “submit to God”? You hate him, you hate him so much. And yet all you want to do is please him. Even though you know it’s impossible.
“Come on, let me show you how to drive”, says Mr. Swift, slowing down and turning off of a side road. He’s one of those balding dudes whose head looks remarkably like an ice cream cone.
“But...” you start to object, knowing that if you try you’ll just fail and then he’ll never let you try again.
He cuts you off. “If you don’t want to, that’s okay. But I think you should at least try, and then we can stop and take a walk. That way you don’t have to go home right now and we can tell your dad I was giving you a driving lesson.” It’s flawless logic. So you ride along down a bumpy dirt road, tall grass waving to either side. What kinds of wildflowers are hidden in between? What if there’s a Calypso? Or a Dutchman’s Pipe? The prospect of going for a nature walk is tantalizing.
Mr. Swift stops the truck and turns it off, and you switch places. It’s a stick shift, and he explains how to get started. You kill it several times before managing to make first gear move, and then you’re driving down a dirt road at five miles an hour.
It’s a harrowing experience, because you just know you’ll hit a rock and the whole truck will disintegrate and it will be your fault and then he’ll hate you too.
About twenty feet in you cross over a cattle guard and then stop. You can’t take it any more. You expect Mr Swift to be diasappointed, but instead he laughs and congratulates you on a job well done. This is so strange for you to hear that for a moment reality sort of goes off the rails and you realize that he’s actually really beautiful, with his scraggly ring of white hair. It’s like he sees you. You wish he was your dad instead.
The road doesn’t go much further, so the old man parks the truck and asks if you want to go for a walk. He comes here often, he explains, when he needs alone time, and there’s all sorts of cool spots along the trail. At this point you don’t really care what you’re doing so long as it means less time at home and more time with Mr. Swift, so he leads the way and off you go into the trail, tall grass waving to either side and a low, thick forest some paces to your right.
It doesn’t take long before your mouth starts moving, and you find yourself venting more and more about your father, saying things you haven’t told anyone. The old man just listens and never tells you you’re wrong or worthless or that children should be seen and not heard. He never tells you to be quiet. He just leads the way and tries to understand.
You begin to contemplate telling him what’s really on your mind, what has been on your mind now for as long as you can remember. The constant craving compulsion that never goes away, never recedes. You fall silent.
“Hey,” says Mr. Swift, “let’s take a break. There’s a neat spot over here.” He turns off the trail and heads into the forest to one side. You feel like you’ve just started walking, and haven’t even found any pretty wildflowers yet, but he is old, you suppose. Old men need rest more than kids.
The spot is as neat as he said. It’s almost tent-like, all covered over with arching branches and leaves with the afternoon sun glowing through. The grass is already tamped down a bit, and it’s clear that the old man has been here before. It’s a cubby-hole, a hiding spot, and it feels safe. Just you and him. Part of you wants to cuddle up to him and take a nap, but memories of a lifetime of negative touch push that thought away almost before it coalesces in your mind.
As it goes, the compulsion slams into you. I just want to go back! Back to when they just loved me, when no one tried to make me into a man or made me do things! I wish I could just start over knowing everything I know now. Then I’d really appreciate that love and I’d never do whatever I did to lose it. I...
Mr. Swift pulls out his book.
Curiosity overwhelms your thoughts but not the dark feeling that spawned them. Lately, that’s becoming, more and more, your normal every day feeling. The book is similar in size and shape to many of the religious books you’ve seen before but the title seems different. He opems it to one of the yellow post-it bookmarks and begins to read.
Something in the air changes.
“What are you reading?” You ask. “Can you read it out loud?”
He’s suddenly become slightly fidgety. “It’s not for kids,” he replies.
“I’m not a kid, I’m twelve!”
“Your father wouldn’t like it.”
“He doesn’t like anything.” You retort, then add: “and besides, I won’t tell him!”
“Are you sure? You probably wouldn’t like it.” You answer with a flat stare. He looks at you, smiles, and begins to read aloud.
It’s nothing you’ve ever heard before, something about people coming together and doing things with each other. It has a kind of rebellious air to it, of something forbidden. Your parents definitely wouldn’t like it, but you definitely do, possibly because they wouldn’t.
A small wet stain begins oozing through the front of Mr. Swift’s jeans. Something about it excites you, and you feel a reflexive sense of shame.
“Are you... uh, having...an accident?” You ask. He looks down.
“Doesn’t this happen to you?” He laughs and then looks at you quizzically.
There’s a new sensation moving in your breast, swirling. Exciting you and choking you at the same time. But you have no idea what the old man is talking about. “I don’t pee myself,” you spit in defense, “only babies and old people do that.” Then you change your tone because maybe he’s disabled? “It’s okay if you can’t help it, though. Do you have to wear diapers? I saw some in the bathroom...” There, the subject is out.
“Oh, no, those are for my father. He’s really old and can’t get out of bed at night so we have to use those. Anyway, this isn’t like pee. It’s thick.”
“Can I see?” You’re increasingly getting the feeling that you’re finally getting to be a part of what men do. Is this what they do in the men’s meeting before church? Is your never having done this why you can’t go? As the questions begin to swirl in your mind, Mr. Swift undoes his tented pants. His tighty-whitey’s are stained slightly yellow on the front, and he pulls those down too to reveal his penis, which is leaking something white and thick and strange, and you can’t help but reach out and touch it. It’s sticky, slimy, warm, and not at all like pee. You wipe it off on some grass, and then on your pants. Mr. Swift redoes his jeans.
“Want to finish? Or should we go home now?” He asks.
No way you want to end this now. You’re learning way too much about the world, and the whole moment has you feeling things you’ve never felt before and can’t define, but they’re good. Probably. Weird, but good.
“Definitely finish” you say. He does. His pants tent a bit more than before and then the stain gets bigger and he’s a little bit sweaty.
After a moment, he closes the book and replaces it in his pocket. “What did you think about it?” He asks.
You think for a while, trying to find something impressive or profound to say about it. “I think mom wouldn’t like it for sure,” you say, “she’s way too goody-two-shoes for that.”
“What about you?”
“I think it’s cool. Can we read more?”
“Maybe next time”, he says.
“What are you going to do about the wet spot?”
The two of you return to the car. It’s getting later in the afternoon and the shadows are growing longer. You open the car door.
“Wait, just a minute,” Mr. Swift calls out, still not quite off the trail yet. “We need to check for ticks.”
He’s right. He comes over and you disrobe so he can check you over, all very clinical, and then you re-robe and offer to check him. “No,” he says “I’ll ask Mrs. Swift to do it when I get home. Want to try to drive again?”
“No way”, you reply.
At home, dad wants to know why you’re back so late. “Mr. Swift was showing me how to drive”, you say. Dad asks to talk to him privately and they disappear into his study. A few minutes later, you watch the white truck pull out of the driveway.
Unfortunately, things immediately go back to normal except that about a week later Mrs. Sweet tells your dad that you are talented and he then informs you that piano lessons are over, because you’re clearly in competition with other kids and don’t need another idol to worship.
You know the truth, though. He realized it was making you happy, and it’s just another loss in a long line of painfully short-lived gifts.
It’s too bad you can’t just go live with the Swifts.