GETTING AWAY SCOTT FREE - But Not From the Church
Updated: Dec 11, 2021
THOSE SUMMER NIGHTS - Sneaking Around with Badboys at Dusk
13 years old
…terrified I’ll hear the too-familiar whirrrr of a pursuing bicycle looming behind me, I cut the shortest diagonal across the road. The crickets chirp. My hard breaths are louder. My tennis shoes pound out the steady, driving drum in time with my sledgehammer heart. The jank! of my keys hits every other note.
I don’t stop running until my feet fly over the outside steps of my house and slam onto the concrete patio. Flinging open the screen door, I try the handle—locked. My blessed key rams home, turns—click—and I’m inside. I slam the door. Another click and it’s locked again. My back falls against it. I let it hold me up as I pant and shudder. My legs are like rubber. My lungs are on fire.
I want to take a scouring shower, in particular my right hand and forearm. The feel of his cruel vice-grip still burns into my wrist. And the constricting heat of his jeans, the wiriness of his pubic hair, the nauseating sponginess of his—
The house is dark and silent.
There’s a note on the table. My dad’s familiar blocky hand:
Went down to the Hill’s. Be back later. Will you please do the dishes? Thanks hon.
Love, Dad & Mom
I huff in relief.
I'm going to get away with it!
All I have to do is whip off this jacket and my shoes, get those dishes done as fast as I can, zip into my room with a book, and they will never know the difference.
But before I can get the sink filled with water, Dad walks through the door.
I shrink down to the smallest speck that I can make myself. With a shaky breath, I chance a glance up at him. His eyes blaze with fury and he looks about three times his normal size. I try to grin. It is little more than a cringe.
I am sooooo dead.
As it turns out, I didn’t get away with jack squat.
When my parents had called the house looking for me and gotten no answer, my dad and his best friend, Gary Hillcrest, had gotten into Gary’s Bronco to search for me. They knew I’d gone out before they left. Ahem...on a "walk." Even though our town was not very big, they always made sure to check up on me.
I might not have liked that fact in the moment, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate that, if I hadn’t gotten away from Trent myself, they would have eventually found me.
Instead, they found some strange “hoodlum from out of town” pedaling down the highway on his bike. Mr. Hillcrest knew everybody in our town, even the countryside. He was the football coach and our gym teacher, so this long-haired, biker-boot-wearing teenager stuck out like a sore thumb when they rolled up to question if he’d seen a missing daughter.
I hear Trent tried to take off on his bike at that point, and I really kind of enjoy envisioning the look of terror that must have crossed his face in the split second beforehand. I know what my ex-military father looks like when he’s on alert, scared something might happen to his baby girl, and pissed off. That Wrath of Thunder face was a thousand times more fearsome than any threat my bullies could have made against me, which is why I always preferred to take what they would dish out rather than face him after getting in trouble.
Gary Hillcrest wasn’t any more of a peach when he was on the rampage, and I may as well have been one of his daughters, just like his girls may as well have been my little sisters. I’d been babysitting them since I was eleven and our families did everything together in the summers, so when I went missing, I’m sure the burly, thunder-voiced Hillcrest probably put on his “you guys are mouthy slackers and there is no place for that around here—GIMME FIFTY” pants.
It’s my understanding that Trent may have filled his. I’m sure he’d been hoping, just like I was, to get away with everything Scott free. But right there in the glow of the Killer Bronco headlights on the asphalt of Hwy 23, he spilled half his beans, admitting that he had left me at the playground, “safe and sound.” They let him split, and I never heard of him again.
Now don’t get me wrong. Do I feel badly for Trent’s sixteen-year-old blue balls? Absolutely. I had turned out to be the Princess of False Advertising, from his point of view. Even my age couldn’t provide an infallible “well, whadya expect from a girl that young” slap upside the head. I’m sure he had encountered plenty of thirteen-year-olds who would have been well equipped and thrilled to let him stand tall in his clompy boots, counting just how many licks she took to get to his warm, gooey center.
I could name several myself, and his hometown was much bigger.
How was he to know that when he had said his favorite flavor was also cherry, I thought he meant that literally.
Like…cherry. Like…the fruit.
Yeahhhh… That’s how innocent I was.
And I wouldn’t have been caught dead admitting that. I tried my darnedest to fake worldliness and sensuality. I mean, come on! I had gotten the lead in almost every show I auditioned for, so apparently I was good at portraying people I was not, especially when I desperately thought I wanted to be those people.
Like sexy cheerleaders who dated badboys.
The trope was already old when I was young, and is still going strong to this day. You know: Sandra-Dee & Danny Zuko. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and…her vampires. Jessica Davis & Justin Foley.
Of course, there’s the dreamy-eyed fantasy of this pairing of opposites who make it work. Some don’t. For many…it’s complicated.
I reside in that some-to-many category.
That still gave him no right to coerce sexual contact I wasn’t ready for.
It especially gave him no right to force it on me.
Which brings me back to this being soooo dead thing. When my dad began the interrogation as I tried to finish the dishes, he called me a liar, because he and Gary had driven past the playground multiple times. I did not tell him why I didn’t notice the Bronco—because I was a little busy trying to extricate my arm and keys from the bottomless pit of the fucker’s too-tight pants. When I did own up to kissing him back there in the shadows where they couldn’t see us—that must have been why I was too distracted, yeah, that’s it!—Dad accused me of purposely ducking back there, hiding out.
Nope. Woulda loved to have had your big, booming “What in the HELL is going on back there!” voice right then.
Okay, maybe not.
I still have mixed feelings about whether it would have been best in the long run if they'd caught us or I’d told my parents the truth about what had happened to me. On the one hand, I wouldn’t have had to harbor that festering wound alone for the fifteen years I carried it. And who knows if Trent did similar things or worse to other girls after me. Statistics show that it’s highly likely.
On the other hand, I’m sure my parents would have demanded that criminal charges be brought up and ohhhhhh what a nightmare that would have been. In those days, I would have been dragged through the ringer and branded a harlot as well as a wolf-crier, back-peddler, take-back tease who’d deserved it. And with him moving out of state...
Would it have been worth it? Ehhhhh. That little girl in me still says no way. The Martial Arts #MeToo Champion says I should have.
As it was, when it happened it was staunch No Way Camp for me. I was absolutely convinced that it was best my parents thought I had smooched a little and was a lying, sneaking troublemaker.
🔥😇🔥 That’s all. 🔥😇🔥
The next evening, Mom sat down with me on my bed, looking pale and grave. She talked to me about how I had to be careful of strange boys and being alone with them, because they could do “bad things” to me.
I didn’t tell her that it had already happened. It could have been much worse, but it had been bad enough. Instead, I sat there, staring at my blankets and wishing I could tell her, but I was afraid she would be even more mad at me. She had already grounded me for the rest of the summer and into the school year—two months in all.
She also made me go back to catechism classes, an odious duty from which I had begged excusal the year before. No longer. She was convinced that I needed some good, sound straightening out by “coming back to the church.”
Ironically, half of our time at those classes and events was spent ogling cute boys and getting phone numbers. Church did nothing to “straighten me out.” In fact, it only frustrated me and drove a greater wedge between my mother and me. That wedge would grow into a broad gulf after I moved away for college and became a Recovering Catholic. I was angry at her for punishing me with religion, and I resisted it tooth and nail.
I did eventually finish those sessions and was confirmed. I wore a pretty dress and stood up in the front of the church, mouthing promises I had no intention of keeping.
Inside, I had a private conversation with God. “You know I don’t mean any of this, right? Sorry to have to lie. I have never needed some old man to speak for me when I need to talk to You, and I never will. I have no interest in ever having children—much less a whole brood I can’t stop from being conceived between my legs—and raising them all in this place, but You knew that. I have to lie like this because…well…I’d rather tell this lie than be excommunicated and ousted from my family for saying what I really think about all this. You understand, right? Even though I won’t be a ‘good Catholic girl’ the moment I’m out of my parents house. We're all good, right? Yeah. Cool. Thanks. Love ya!”
Of course, I never really had been a good Catholic girl. With every year that passed, my disaffection and confusion with religion grew. Mom, on the other hand, saw church as an ever-growing devotion, a solution to life’s troubles.
I began to see it as one of the main problems in life that needed to be rectified. Church had never done anything for me spiritually. I had never experienced any sort of soulful revelations there, and it always seemed like a place of strict rules where blank faces mumbled a series of words, where mechanical hands made a series of gestures that no one really talked about, and then—after the all-important chit-chat-networking session over coffee and bars (in Minnesota, bars are both taverns and sweet treats) —everyone scattered to go about their business until next week. There seemed to be no place for emotion and passion and curiosity.
Everything I stood for.
Then you had the hypocrites. Those people who spouted godliness on Sunday mornings and holidays, but beat their wives and kids or cheated on their husbands. Even the kids themselves bragged about getting drunk on the communal wine and having sex on the pews during Bible Camp.
My adventures as Camp Rebel started young. “Why are we here?” I asked one morning. I was going into third grade.
The answer? A lofty, hand-wafting, “To glorify God.”
That didn’t make any sense to me. “But why do we need to glorify Him?” I asked. “Isn’t He glorious already?” The hemming and hawing explanations grew more and more frustrated, more and more absurd, and I finally burst out, “I don’t get it. Who are we glorifying God to? Does he have God-Friends up there, so that He needs to show us off, or what?”
Hooooo boy. That didn’t go over well, and that was the end of the philosophical questions from me. At least, until I was out on my own.
So at thirteen, I donned my Catholic good-girl mask, took my two months of grounding in silence, and pretended that no “bad things” had happened on that playground with Trent.
If I had confided in my parents--or anybody, perhaps my entire dating and marital experience would have turned out differently than it did. In which case, I would have, too.
As I write this at the edge of my ornate, comfy studio with the faerie lights glowing, about to put on the music, dance and play with martial arts, I still wouldn’t go back and change anything if I could.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE:
--COMING UP: One of the other longstanding funny-not-funny jokes of my family is the day that I "went to a funeral and came home with a date." Yeah. I know. My halo really is held up by the horns. But in order to understand what would drive me to commit such a faux pas, you have to understand two things about me. This is the first one:
--"SENSITIVITY" IS NOT A DIRTY WORD - Being an HSP in an Overstimulating World
--OR if you'd like to know more of my thoughts on religion, spirituality, compassion and the other Biggies of being a good person, I had a lot to say one night in 1997 in a Chicago Pub with four Catholics from Ireland.