“ We all have our stories Phillip. Some are sadder than others. But rest assured that everyone here tonight has their own story to tell. Did you want to hear mine?”
He looked at the big man and could tell by his hard swallowing between sentences that it might be a painful one to tell. Still, his curiosity aroused, he asked Brad to continue.
“ I was always a big boy growing up. School was hard for me. My size invited challenges from the other boys wanting to prove how tough they were. Well, fighting became second nature to me and led to more than the occasional trip to the principals’ office. And though the vast majority of fights were not of my making, they deemed me to be a trouble maker. A problem student.
As my hatred for school progressed, my grades sank. They assigned me a mentor to help with my schoolwork and turn my attitude around. All of eleven years old and branded a nuisance. My mentor seemed nice enough at first. We worked hard at the books, and then he would reward me with a trip to the store for a chocolate bar and a coke. We would talk for hours. Me telling him my darkest secrets, my fears, and my desires. He was the perfect listener.
Up till then, I had no idea what a predator was, but, I soon found out Phillip. You see, as my trust in him grew, his friendly gestures turned to touches. Small at first, but always growing.”
Phillip could feel the blood in his temples pulsing, trying to take in what Brad was telling him. Brad’s complexion had also changed along with his demeanor. In his voice, the further the story progressed, the more pronounced the seething rage inside the big man surfaced.
“ Well Phillip, you have probably guessed by now. I was sexually abused by this man. I was confused and angry. And now, instead of simply defending myself, I would seek out confrontation anywhere I could find it. That’s how I dealt with it. Admitting my abuse was out of the question. For an eleven year old boy, admitting that another guy had touched you that way, well, the other kids would call me queer and stuff. And so I kept it to myself and raged against anyone and anything. They finally removed me from that school and placed me in another. And I was placed in a special class, with other special kids. It was horrible.
This whole thing carried on with me my whole life. It’s an awful lot of baggage for a kid, but I survived, and never forgot. It never left me. School was terrible for me. I could not make friends. Hell, I didn’t want to make friends. I didn’t want to trust anyone ever again. As the years went by, and my grades kept slipping, I discovered alcohol and dope. And by the age of sixteen I would consume anything with wild abandon. My parents were beside themselves and the family urged therapy for me. I, of course, didn’t want to know anything about it. All I cared about was beer and dope and anything that interfered with my getting high pissed me off. They suggested a trade. My Dad suggested the army. My choice though was to deal dope and get an apartment. And I did. I just kept sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of despair and depravity. I met a girl. Phillip, I’ll tell you, I fell head over heels in love at first sight. I stopped dope and returned to trade school. Love can do that for you.”
For the first time since Brad had started to tell his story, Phillip saw a small smile light up his face. And for a second, Brad was lost in some delicious memory of those days of innocence. And then, as quickly as the smile had appeared, it drained from the big mans face.
“ We talked about everything in those days. Then, one night, I told her about my abuse. We cried together and she held me close like a baby; rocking me, saying over and over again it would be all right. We found a therapist and I started therapy with gusto. I had to drop all this baggage that had dragged me down all these years. And through it all, I finally learned to love myself again and believe that it was not my fault. I had been the victim of a criminal act. I learned to be happy and at peace with myself again. And I married that girl! We now have three kids.”
Phillips head was swimming with unasked questions and thoughts of why the hell is this guy telling me all of this? He reached into his shirt pocket and drew another cigarette. As he went to take a sip from his scotch, he realized that his glass was empty and after all that he had just heard, the numbing effects from just one glass simply wouldn’t do.
“ Brad, may I fetch you another Scotch?”
Brad gave broad grin and said, “ Just a sec Phillip.”
He opened the screen door, and asked Melinda, “You think we could get that bottle of scotch out here?”
His request was filled within a minute.
“ Here you go boys. Sorry, I have some stuff in the oven. If you need anything else, just let me know.”
Brad gave Melinda a quick peck on the cheek and thanked her with a grin and poured both of them a hefty dram of the heady elixir. Brad looked at Phillip as he gulped the Scotch.
“ Better now?”
Phillip simply nodded yes as he puffed on his cigarette.
“ Good. Now where was I? Oh yes. Well, it seemed my life was going well. I was happy; gainfully employed; the father of three kids with soccer and hockey and nights at the table helping with schoolwork. I had a beautiful wife and a lovely home. One evening I came home and was casually leafing through the newspaper when I came upon a story on the third page. It was about a young man that had committed suicide the day before. A child really, only sixteen years old. I continued reading the story. And as I read, I started to tremble, uncontrollably. My wife walked into the living room and saw me. She rushed over to ask what was wrong. I’ll tell you Phillip, I couldn’t talk! I simply held up the paper to her as my tears splashed on the pages. I couldn’t control it. It was the most horrible moment of my life! As my wife read the story, she saw the name. This young man had had a mentor!”
Phillip watched as the big mans body wracked with a tremour and a tear rolled down his cheek. Brad turned away from Phillip and quickly wiped the tear away and sniffed hard.
“ The thing is Phillip, the cops were already onto this guy and building a case against him. They had hoped that this kid would testify and finally give them the proof to put him away for a very long time. However, because he committed suicide before he could testify, and because of the Doctor/patient confidentially law, they couldn’t get the Therapist to testify. You see Phillip, we also have friends that are absent here tonight, but also have a story to tell. And those friends are in the force. I was contacted a few days later, and asked if I wanted to testify, but if not, then other arrangements could be made. After my tears, the rage set in. That’s when I realized the great opportunity that had been presented me. Now don’t get me wrong Phillip. I was never a great believer in revenge. I was never a believer in working outside the law, apart from my dope days.”
Brad gave out a hearty laugh at the last remark. And Phillip realizing the comical intent, laughed as well. The pressure seemed to leave as Phillip sipped from his glass.
” Well truth be known Phillip, and without getting into the gory details, I am the one that killed that rotten son of a bitch! I did it and I am not sorry one little bit for having done it!”
Brad turned squarely into Phillips face with his last remark as though to gauge his reaction. Phillip could not remove his eyes from the big mans face. No words would be right. He had no idea what to do or say to such a confession.
As the wetness hung about them on this warm summers night; the beads of sweat forming on his upper lip, Phillip simply turned to look down into his swirling glass. Then the big man spoke.
“ Phillip, I don’t need to know whether you agree with what I did, I simply want you to understand why I did it. As I told you earlier, we all have our stories. Mine is just one. Please try not to judge too harshly. You’re amongst friends tonight. I have to return to the guests now so I’ll see you in a bit.”
And with that, Brad was gone back inside in the wink of an eye.
Phillip felt dizzy. Maybe it was best to call it an evening and get the hell out of there!
As he butted out his cigarette and prepared his excuse for leaving, the screen door opened.
“ Hello Phillip!”