"Let's have a gay night," he said.
"A gay night?"
Of course, we didn't know what he meant. I was eight and my cousin, Terry was nine. We were staying the night with our great-aunt and our 19-year-old cousin, Larry, who lived with her. Larry was very handsome, and he could almost dunk a basketball, which went a long way with us. He also seemed to like hanging out with us. Earlier, Terry and I (who grew up in the same house) had been playing Army with him in our back yard. Larry was tall, lean, and dark-skinned. Looking back on it thirty years later, I'm surprised, and a bit upset that I remember him as being so attractive.
"A gay night," he said. "We all do it. It makes us men. First, let's show our dicks to each other."
This is where coherency ends.
What I remember are flashes--bits and pieces. Some of it, I didn't remember until a few years ago when Terry and I talked about it for the first time.
Terry and I were nervous. We laughed a lot. We finally pulled our dicks out. Larry's was hard as a rock, huge it seemed to me, surrounded by pubic hair. Terry's was just naturally big. Mine wasn't. So it, of course, became the butt of jokes for the night. It didn't help that I was fat. A little plump pig, which Larry seemed to actually like. After we'd pulled our cocks out and talked about them for a bit, Larry invited us downstairs. Our great-aunt had one of those old-fashioned exercise machines down there. One with a limp, stained belt.
"Let's take turns putting our dicks on it and turning it on," Larry said. So we did. Somehow this is the worst part of it. Has always been the worst part of it. Thinking back, which I try not to do, it's the monster in the basement. Dirty and stained. I knew even then that this was the turning point. There would be no going back after the monster. I even thought about stopping it then. Other than this, we mostly just went to church together. Larry would sit beside us, smacking green apple gum, and asking as quietly if he could which girls in church we might fuck, if we had the chance. We thought that was really cool. He'd even ask us about his sister, who I had some sort of weird, 8-year-old crush on.
It got worse, of course. It was all about what we would do to him. Would we touch his balls? Would we take his dick in our mouth? I did. Hating it and liking it at the same time. I honestly can't remember what Terry did. I'm sure it was much the same.
When I titled this "Brutal," I expected it to be brutal. Other than a surreal poem I wrote and published in the late 90s, this is the only thing I've ever written about that experience. The poem dealt in symbolism. I told myself, if I ever have the guts to write about it, it's going to be brutal. It's going to be honest and detailed. The details, however, are like an impressionist painting. Parts of it, like the monster, are painfully vivid. Larry's white, white teeth. His beautiful body. The rest is images, textures, feelings. Feelings of guilt and desire all mixed up in one. The taste of his cock and how I remember it being both hard and somehow soft at the same time--the way the skin of it followed my movements.
Whenever I would think about writing this, I'd think, there's a book in it. There's not. There are just these images. Whatever else there might have been, would be about the aftermath, and I've written about that over and over again.
The next morning, I woke up naked on the living room floor. Larry had uncovered me to show his sister. She was laughing at how fat I was. Terry was already ready for church. We didn't see Larry much after that. He decided we weren't really that cool to hang out with anymore. I guess we felt the same. The next time I remember seeing him was at my brother's funeral. He was still handsome. He had rented me a movie, Better Off Dead.
There's a lot to say about my brother and how, even though he knew nothing about this, he should have done something about it, but not here. The next time I heard about Larry, he had died in motorcycle accident. My hometown, Leadwood, kills a lot of people. I was happy he was dead. I'm not sure I am anymore.
For all of his talk about a gay night, Larry wasn't gay. Sometimes I am. And though I consider myself to have the most bleeding heart I've ever known, child molesters still make me scream out for the death penalty. That, however, is neither here nor there. That's just me still trying to defend myself for not stopping this. For not saying no to the monster.
When I was young, and I would feel like, or people would think, I was a really fucked up person, they would think maybe it was because my brother had died when I was thirteen. I'd let them. But it wasn't. It was this. This.
Terry and I were very, very drunk and in our 30s, at a bar, when I finally said something about it.
"You know why were so fucked up?" I asked.
"Larry," he said.
"The thing I most remembered," he said, "was Larry fucking you in the ass."
I hadn't remembered.
"You screamed like a pig," Terry said.
I remembered then. I remembered everything. Hands and knees and pain.