The following story is an edited excerpt from Chapter 13, ‘Growing Pains,’ from my first novel, Sweet Pea, which I wrote from 1990-2005. It includes information from previous and later chapters, so as to convey the story best in this format. This story is a graphic and offensive, but completely true account, of a hate crime that happened to me when I was thirteen. Please read with an open heart and mind. Thanks -BB
A GLOOMY DAY IN NOVEMBER.
By Brian Bolding
It was a usually gloomy and muggy Wednesday on November 2, 1988 in Euless, Texas. I remember the short walk home through the woods after school quite well.
My parents and I had only recently moved to Euless (the town where Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is officially situated) after having lost everything and going bankrupt in East Texas about a year before. I was an ever-growing thirteen years old. Puberty had hit me hard in 7th grade, so I was no longer a chubby short little boy; I had already began turning into a tall semi-slender man with hair in the oddest places. My voice had already changed. And, thanks to those changes, I was constantly trying to hide the fact that I felt attraction towards boys and not girls. I still had virtually no friends to speak of at Euless Junior High, save for my friend John who I met in the Cafeteria one day, essentially because no one was brave enough to sit with the geeky, friendless few. We stuck out like sore thumbs.
John Holmes was a relatively tall, lanky, pale, blonde-haired, full-fledged band geek, complete with wire-rimmed glasses and a slight little lisp when he spoke. Obviously, being among the only few who sat alone during lunchtime, we had become fast friends. We mostly bonded about our shared love for Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Nintendo video game “The Legend of Zelda,” plus and our secret love for 80’s pop music. In the late 80’s, and probably at any time after, it was never particularly cool to like 80’s pop, so we also got into The Beatles and David Bowie to cover it all up, only finding out later we loved them even more.
“Have you heard ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by Bowie? My older brother gave the tape to me the other day. It’s amazing!,” John said, as we shuffled between our classes that day.
“No, I haven’t!,” I replied. “Would you like to swap that for my Cure mix tape? I got it from my cousin. We can make copies!”
“Sure. Still walking home today?”
Embarrassing 80’s pop became our gateway drug (so to speak) to bigger and better music, and it was a nice mutual musical friendship that I hoped would last for years to come. I honestly had not had a friend that close since third grade, since before my Grandmother died right next to me, so I kind of saw John as a new start, as a friend who could potentially be there for me for the rest of my life. We bonded over Star Trek, too, and when we traveled together as a pair, we felt we were a little safer. As a reference to the show, sometimes he’d call me “Number One” and I’d call him “Captain.” I didn’t know then just how gay that probably sounded. Unknown to us, rumors had started circling around school after a few months, and our little Star Trek and music friendship was about to be severed.
Back to the gloomy day in question…
John and I used to walk home together after school, under highway 183 near school and through some nearby woods behind some houses, which we affectionately called The Lost Woods (as in the video game we also loved, “Legend of Zelda”.) It was essentially a fifteen minute daily walk we would take together, which gave us just enough time to dive into the latest Star Trek episode or share mix cassette tapes of the latest radio hits we were too scared to publicly talk about. It was something to look forward to each week, usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday; I’d swap my favorite Cure music tape and he’d swap his Beatles one, sometimes we’d talk about random stuff that teenage boys talk about. Sure, there was always the school bus that could have taken us home, but ever since John got a little beat up one day on the bus, and I also got pushed into a chain link fence once and busted a tooth, we opted to just walk together instead. Also, the school bus that went to our relatively close section of town was always the last to arrive, which meant even more time for the football jocks and popular boys to bully us from afar, which was mostly a daily occurrence. I had become numb to the sometimes-daily shouting and mocking towards us as we began our trek home, John always reminded me of it. Because of all that, we never felt like waiting an extra 45 minutes after school let out. John’s house was closer, but my apartment complex was just up the street a few more blocks, through this second shady thicket of undeveloped woods that was littered with jagged pieces of concrete and half dead trees, with healthy towering trees looming overhead, like security guards monitoring the carnage below. I referred to this second section of woods that led to my parents’ apartment complex as Death Mountain (also a reference to Zelda.) Little did I know then just how apt that moniker would turn out to be.
“So how was band practice today? What do you do in there, anyway? You never really tell me,” I laughed, hoisting my heavy backpack up on my right shoulder after Art class. “Remember? I tried out for band last year, but they told me I had to play the trombone, and I just wanted to play the drums.”
“They all wanna play the drums,” John said, itching his nose and sliding his huge glasses back up his nose with his itch finger. “Well, I don’t wanna bore you. It’s kind of geeky.”
“You must fit right in,” I added, trying to hide my chuckling. “No offense. Like my Dad says, I only insult those I call friends.”
John let out a rare laugh. “Well, it’s the one good thing I’m good at, and my dad keeps telling me it’s my ticket to college, so I just keep at it.”
“My parents don’t talk about college anymore,” I added. “Not since we lost everything. It looks like we have a clear path today, I think there’s football practice today.”
We walked and talked the rest of the way, chuckling and being boys.
John let out a sigh of relief as we approached 2717 Butterfield Court, his home. It was a house right out of 1950’s TV, complete with white picket fence, two windows, a door and perfectly manicured lawn with pink flamingo in the middle. “Thank God! Well, here’s my place. Wanna come in for a sec? We can lay on my bed and watch last week’s Star Trek you missed.”
“D-do you have it on VHS?”
Every time John asked me to hang at his place, my body tingled and my stuttering returned. Something about him made me squirm, both good and bad, and I didn’t know what it was. Sometimes he would invite me in, strip down to his underwear and undershirt and sit around half-naked on his bed, asking me to sit with him. I rarely did. I felt as if he wanted to try to make out with me, or something else, but that just seemed gross to me, and I was scared of that kind of thing, so I very rarely went inside.
“No, I’m alright. I gotta get home and feed my cat,” I replied. The real story is that I’d remembered the previous trip when he asked me to massage his near hairless arms and legs with some of his mom’s oils, and I felt really uncomfortable.
I was lying, of course. I wanted to watch Oprah with Mom in the living room and feign ignorance for all things sexuality related. “I’ll see ya later!”
“Alright, see ya!,” John said, his sinewy pale silhouette disappearing underneath a string of oak trees that lined his street. “Maybe tomorrow!”
As John disappeared through his front yard gate and door, locked down like a 1950’s Fort Knox, I continued through the woods that loomed behind John’s house, thinking about my upcoming Art class project I was about to work on. As I began walking away from the perfectly manicured sidewalks and into the shadowy trees, I was completely oblivious to the fact that five older teenage boys were standing about 50 feet to my right, behind some neighboring trees. As my ideas and thoughts about John began to swim in the confusing cage of my brain, one of these boys suddenly jumped out at me quickly from the shadows. It was Julio, I remember, from the EJH football team, one of the ones who used to punch me randomly in the hallways, and a few other bigger boys, from High School by the looks of it.
“Hey Bolding. Practice got cancelled. Our lucky day. Hey, what time is it? Hey, fag!,” Julio yelled. He then faded into the background and a different boy approached me and whispered, spitting in my direction, grabbing his crotch. “Hey faggot! Wanna mess around?”
I tried not to look over at the group of five boys. Instead, I kept walking on the dirt path that led to home, eventually started to run, and ran swiftly right into a tree that seemed to come out of nowhere. I fell hard, the Earth like a sudden period after a run-on sentence. I stood up quickly. One boy stepped on my untied shoelaces and grabbed me by my fake leather jacket, flinging me back into the same tree. I could see the outline of my apartment complex through the trees in the far distance as my vision became hazy. If only I had run faster… I could see the confused face of my little baby sister, and the crying eyes of my Mother, after I hopefully got home after this ordeal. In my thoughts, I could already see the wide-open mouth of my mother crying and sobbing, tears running together wither her caked-on mascara and mixing in with her makeup she’d worn to work as takeout lady at Pancho’s Mexican Buffet just a few hours before.
“Get the fuck up! Get the fuck up!!,” the tallest boy screamed at me, spitting in my face and wiping his bloodied hand on the side of his Dallas Cowboys jacket. He was blonde and looked familiar to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could make out the four other boys, including Julio, and tried to ignore them, too. They mocked me and made little snide comments beneath the shade of nearby trees as I laid in a lump on the ground. Two boys began kicking me again in the kneecaps and I screamed for help. The tall blonde boy kicked me in the groin with his cleats, and I fell quickly.
“Where’s Brian?,” I could hear my Mom asking herself, in my mind. “He would have called if he was at John’s. I’m worried.”
Then, everything became foggy and like a lucid dream. The beating continued. I’m not sure where they hit me or what state I was in, all I could see is the faces of my family, only a hundred feet away in the distance, past the woods and across the expanse of a sizzling hot graveled parking lot.
“Take that, you pussy! Take that!” They continued pummeling.
In the space of about half an hour, I would completely black out, never to remember most of what happened. The pain became so intense that I could no longer feel it. Everything pulsated with so much pain, and I was too weak and overcome with sadness and shame to fight back, face down in the dirt. All I do remember is being punched by the tallest boy continually who landed most of the blows and suddenly, I found myself awake again and landing face first into a slab of jagged concrete while I tried to run away again. I was defenseless.
“You like that band geek, huh? You wanna suck his cock?! You wanna suck his cock?! Well why don’t you suck mine instead?,” one of the other boys screamed as he sat upon my bloodied chest, each fist of his coming down like heavy rocks, landing blows to the sides of my bloodied, bespectacled face.
“You fucking faggot.. We won’t tell anyone your secret. We’ll just fuck you up, and make you suck our dicks. Because you are worthless.”
I was an immovable lump of torn flannel shirt, splotchy blue jeans, shivering fright and madness. A few more blows came crashing down. My glasses went flying and disappeared under the sneakers of one of the other boys; I could hear the crunch of the frames and lenses, followed by laughing, as the pounding to my face continued. I fell to the dirt path beneath me and raised my fists to swing at the air, only to be kicked down by another boy. I could hear my Dad yelling in my mind: “Fight back, fight back! Don’t be a pussy!”
“You think we don’t notice but the whole school knows! You and band geek are in love! And this ain’t freaking San Francisco! This is God’s country. And we’re gonna whip your ass! Now tell us you’re a faggot! Say it! Say it!”
I was forming words with my trembling mouth, but no words would come out. I was hoisted up by two of the boys, my knees buried into the moist Earth. I was wearing a new pair of acid wash jeans but it felt like I was soaking wet. I thought it was the milky white mud beneath me but I soon realized it was mostly a combination of piss and blood.
“You’ll never fucking amount to nothing!”
“You’ll regret moving to this town.”
“Stand up! Stand up! Fucking weakling! Look at him, dude! Haha!”
“Faggot punk. Faggot white boy. Faggot. Faggot.”
I remember being thrown against a tree, my backpack flung around the forest and all my books spilling out. I don’t know why, but I tried to pick them up and run, as if I even could. Everything became mixed together and came back over the years in jagged little pieces. I recall one of the boys ripping my fake leather jacket to shreds and whipping out his dick, pissing on my shoes, which by then had fallen off my feet. I remember being on my aching back and looking up, seeing the taller blonde boy kicking me several times in my groin. Flashes of intense pain, followed by numbness and sadness. I could no longer feel the pain in my penis. He kicked me so many times, in fact, I lost count after 10, and the painful throbbing and the constant blows to my head made me black out, face down in a pile of wet blood-soaked leaves.
“Fags aren’t welcome in this town!,” one of the boys yelled and spit at me. When I managed to open my eyes, a darker haired boy, probably one of the High School guys, had unzipped his pants and had begun whipping me in the face with his flaccid penis and laughing. “You’ll suck this, too, won’t you?”
Most of the sexual part of the attack came flooding back years later in therapy.
I tried to fight back, but blacked out again and again. One of the times my vision and mind returned to me, I felt the sensation of hands around my neck strangling me and a flaccid penis going in and out of my mouth, forced open by hands. “Suck it! Suck it!,” the group of boys chanted and laughed. “Suck it! Suck it some more!! You’re our little bitch.”
When I fully woke up, my face was buried in the dirt and I could not see. My body was numb and lifeless. I couldn’t feel my legs or anything, only my arms and neck could move. I was finally able to raise my head after a few failed attempts and noticed my broken Swatch watch in a patch of grass before me. It was half past five. Oprah was over by now.
I left the watch there and hoisted myself up on my elbows, whimpering and crying, looking around me; everyone had gone by then. Opening my mouth to scream or yell for help, no words came out. Tears ran down my face, and everything became slowly shrouded by a cloud of oncoming darkness. I looked up at the bright sun with my mouth agape, no words coming out, only tears streaming down my face. Silent tears that nobody could hear, with a piercing ringing in my ears.
“Wake up… Wake up…,” a little voice inside my head kept repeating. “Wake up. Don’t sleep. Wake up and go home. Mom is waiting.” It was the voice of my dead Grandmother. Suddenly, I smelled her perfume all around me. Like musty old roses. “I love you always.”
My eyes like bruised slits, I tried to hoist myself up again, the crusty blood smeared all up and down my black and white flannelled arms. Deep dark red drops of blood fell from my forehead, rapidly like fast rain, to this one sunny dusty patch of dirt beneath me. I remember seeing the blood disappear into the dirt, being enveloped by the dried-out patches of dirt. It was as if Mother Nature was trying to cover up what happened. The trees grew darker and the afternoon shade more menacing.
“M-M-Mom?,” I managed to say. “Momma. I need to go home… to Mom and Dad.”
I spit out a partial tooth that had been bouncing around on my back tongue and looked down at my bruised and bloodied body, noticing that one of the boys had smeared a white bodily liquid on my pants leg; I also wiped some from my face and watched as it dripped down the side of my shaking hand, gold colored with dust and gravel. The cold and bitter mixed taste of blood, snot and cum oozed out of my mouth as I finally stood to my shoeless feet, trying my best to walk, stumbling over to some bushes and a little pond. I somehow managed to throw some of the pond water all over me with my good hand, erasing some of the evidence of what had happened.
“Band geek is next,” I remembered one of the boys saying as they walked away. “If you tell anyone about this, you’re dead.”
I had to warn John somehow.
I repeated to myself a series of dizzying thoughts in my head, all of them disturbing and negative, as the warm pond water trickled down my stinging, pained body: “Do I deserve this? What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to me? Leave me alone. I just wanna go home. I’m not gay. I’m not gay. I’m not a fag. I don’t know what I am. My Dad will kill you.” All were words that I could not say out loud, because I could no longer speak. The stabbing pain in my penis and balls felt like little knives sticking into me as I hulked across the hundred feet or so that stared me in the face, the hot gravel of the outskirts of the mostly vacant apartment parking lot like a wide-open sea of pain and suffering that lay before me. I was almost sure my face looked like reheated meatloaf, but nothing compared to the constant pulsating pain I was beginning to feel down below.
“Home…,” I whispered to myself. “Got to get home. Now. Now. Get home now.”
About halfway through my limping trek back to the apartments, I found that I just couldn’t stand anymore, so I fell to my hands and knees and crawled through the remainder of the rough-feeling graveled parking lot and sizzling hot speed bumps. Finally, I was able to stand back up and I limped home one arm after the other, one leg at a time, hands reaching out for chipped yellow apartment stairway railings, finally. My clothes were literally hanging off of me and covered in blood, I must’ve looked like a dead zombie to a few of the little kids I saw running past and screaming. Once I got to the third and final small step, I finally felt able to halfway-run a little bit in the direction of my home, across a few kids’ toys that I nearly tripped over but managed to crush with my dirty white socks and bare feet. I stumbled across the pavement, covering my face with my right arm so all the little Mandarin and Asian kids playing in the courtyard below couldn’t laugh at me or start to point. I made it through the chilly breezeway leading to my parents’ apartments and flung myself up the two flights of stairs leading up to my home, Apartment 213. I hoped my baby Sister was asleep, but she wasn’t. She greeted me at the cracked-open front door with her favorite blanket in her mouth, and her confused three year old face looking at me in astonishment. “Bubba?,” she said.
“Oh my God!!! Oh my God!!!,” my Mom screamed to the heavens, who appeared out of nowhere. She clutched my bent arm and helped me into the apartment with the cordless telephone pressed to her ear. “He’s home! He’s home! He’s been in a bad fight or something! I gotta call an ambulance!! He’s hurt real bad!!”
Mom helped me inside and guided me over to the hallway and eventually, the bathroom sink, the blue towel falling off of her freshly washed hair. She sobbed and covered my face with her wet hair towel. It felt like a million razors going through my face. She cried agonizingly and squeezed me close to her chest. “What did they do to you? What did they do to my baby?” Mom’s hard tears fell into the wounds on my face and it stung. I know she never wanted to see me like this, I know she feared the worst when I hadn’t come home. I always came home to her. We always watched Oprah together at 4 and she’d make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I’d watch G.I.Joe and we’d laugh at Bob Ross on PBS afterwards. She’d start supper and we’d wait for Dad to get home from work at 6.
That’s all I wanted. I wanted things to be normal again. Now they were all going to ask what happened, why I was beat up, how I got put into that position and why I didn’t defend myself. As Mom cried and wiped my body with a blood drenched rag, my baby sister started crying in the distance.
“Not now, Kris! Not now!,” Mom screamed at my crying baby sis. “Where’s your Dad?”
Everything else that followed I only remember in bits and pieces. I remember an ambulance coming and whisking me away, the loud deafening sirens, my Mom crying in the apartment breezeway and running to her car with my baby sister. I remember my Dad’s yelling voice on the telephone, saying he would kill whoever did this to me, that he would come home to get his pistol right away and go out looking in the woods. (He did that, too.) I remember a very tired Doctor looking at my half-naked body and asking me if I was alright, I remember responding yes, and that I just wanted to go home and be with my family, which is just what he did.
“You’re bruised up pretty badly but I think your parents can handle it. Classic junior high bullshit fight, I guess. Are you hurt anywhere down below? Did they do anything else to you?,” the Doc asked.
“NO! I’m fine,” I replied guiltily and ashamed. “I just wanna go home. I’m fine.”
But I wasn’t.
When we arrived back home, all I wanted to do was run into the bathroom to take a bath and be alone. I stripped down and threw all my bloodied clothes into the hallway for Mom to pick up later. I slowly made my way to the bathroom mirror and I was shocked. I no longer recognized the strange naked boy standing before me. He was no longer a little kid, he was nothing. I slumped over the bathroom sink and cried slowly into my arm, my entire body pulsating with pain, tons of bandages and Band-Aids covering me from head to toe. I slowly ripped off the ones I could and plunged into the bathtub, sobbing uncontrollably, wondering what had just happened and where I would go from there. I cried silently in my bed that night, too, into my old flat pillow, on pain medication for my bruises and cuts, an ice pack or two on my face, and the knowledge of what happened locked up inside of me for many years. The memories were made unavailable to me because it was just too painful to recall all the little details. For the longest time, I never remembered the sexual attack, just the punches to the head and waking up and seeing the result near the pond. The mind can be funny, it can block out things that are just too hard for an early teenage boy to handle. I rocked in bed so many times at night, with a pillow between my legs because the pain was just too much to bear.
I did that for at least 2 years until I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Years after, the stabbing pain in my testicles continued on a daily basis, and, fearing the wrath of my gay-hating Father, I kept all the specifics to myself. I knew that I was attracted to other boys and I couldn’t let him find out. I couldn’t let him think for one second I was beat up because the entire school thought I was gay, because I was so close to John, because we were different and different was not good. I couldn’t tell Dad about John at all. I managed to call my friend Cynthia, who called John to let him know about the boys coming after him, too. John withdrew from my school a week later and we never talked after the incident.
One day while I was healing, there was a note attached to our front door. My little sister Kris brought it to me with this puzzled look on her face. It read:
“Thank you for telling me. We’re moving, and I’ll miss you friend. -Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise
The next few weeks at school, people left me alone. I shut everyone out and sat alone quietly at lunch each day in the corner. The school counselor and nurse would let me lay in their office often and just cry while they held me. As I entered ninth grade, and into High School, the attacks stopped. All of my classmates had heard about what happened, and everyone ignored me as if I were a virus. There were whispers in classrooms, chuckles in hallways that eventually faded, and I just didn’t care anymore what anyone thought. Eventually, in 1991, we had moved to a new apartment complex across town. I ended up crying to my Dad in the bathroom hallway and told him I could no longer walk. I asked Dad to follow me to the bathroom and I broke down with him. I told my Dad was that my balls were killing me and the left one was much larger than the other, that I couldn’t take it anymore and it was so hard to sleep at night. I also said that sometimes, hot baths helped, and sometimes when I went to the bathroom it stung.
He pulled down my underwear and cupped my oversized throbbing left testicle in his hands. At this point, it was the size of a big peach.
“We’ll call the Doctor first thing in the morning, but if you want we can call the Ambulance right now. Why didn’t you show me this before?!”
My father was livid, and rightfully so.
“No. I’ll be OK until morning. I was embarrassed to show you. I think it was from that fight two years ago.”
That night was the worst of it. Ironically, knowing I would be going straight to the Doctor in the morning meant the pain came back with a vengeance. I laid awake all night, holding a pillow to my chest and laying in bed, trying to brave the intense hot waves of pain as they took hold of my testicles. I knew an ambulance was expensive and we couldn’t afford it, so I was clenched into a little ball under two blankets and full AC crashing down on me for eight hours, until Dad came rushing into my room at 6 AM to call the Doctor and take me down to get examined on the back of our family car, his Harley, in the freezing Winter snow. As his Harley bounced over the snowy pavement, it was like a knife going through my groin each time.
The doctor prescribed me anti-inflammatory meds, which made the pain nearly go away and I was able to sleep in peace for the first time in two years.
A few days after that visit to the doctor, after two years of shamefully keeping my hidden pain private, I was sitting in a hospital room with my older sister and her boyfriend Phil as an intern doctor all of 25 years old pointed at my swollen left testicle and laughed. “That’s a big nut!,” he joked. “Could be cancerous.” I felt mocked by society, unimportant, and dead, inside and out. I was numb, walking through life and completely speechless. That’s when I began writing more to get my feeling and emotions out.
A month later, when Dad whisked me to the hospital in the freezing cold on the back of his Harley for my operation, a clipboard hanging next to the bed said “B. Bolding – Male – Age 16 – Testicular Cancer,” and as much as my Dad tried to pretend that it didn’t say that, that’s what it said. We both saw it, and he yelled at Doctors to give us the correct information, although I overhead two Doctors in the hallway saying they “could get all the cancer out in surgery, put the boy on meds, and none’s the wiser.”
They were able to remove all of the cancer and the tumor and a few months later, I was on meds after a few weeks’ recovery and back in school. They had removed my left testicle. The doctor wanted to honor my wishes of not wanting to feel different, so our family doctor (Dr. Guthrie, who was there when my Grandmother died years before) made sure to ‘hide the financial paperwork’ and installed a testicular implant to replace the one that was removed. He met with me privately about this, and said he would make it work, he would pay for it out of his own pocket and not to let Dad know he did that.
“I’m so sorry about what happened to you, Brian. Your grandmother would want me to take care of you, your family is very important to me. We were very close. I know your Dad can’t afford any of this, but I’ll do what I can to make this better.”
God bless Dr. Guthrie. I was thankful for the implant then. Sure, I looked so normal in the mirror for awhile, but little did I know then that I would always feel the hardened implant and it would be a constant painful reminder of what happened to me in those woods on that gloomy day in November, all those years ago.
Thankfully, I’d wiped and washed most of the sexual attack evidence away in the pond before I made it home after the incident, so Dad was never knew. The whole family always assumed I had just been beaten up. The gay accusations and sexual attack stuff was just too much to bear, and I blocked it out of my mind for many years.
My newfound love for journaling and poetry writing kept my emotions of anger and sadness at bay. My grandfather’s sister, Jo, appeared one day like an angel wrapped in a purple gown, her big bouffant white hairdo glowing like a halo. She gave me a journaling book during my surgery. “This is for you. You’re God’s angel. I heard you have problems expressing yourself sometimes. Write in this as long as you need to and remember we are always here for you.” Strangely enough, I never saw that woman again in my entire life, or ever before.
Writing in my journal kept me sane, it kept me real, and it kept me in a positive and upbeat. If it weren’t for that, and my sudden interest in James Dean and Route 66, I never would have made it out of that in one piece. Or at least two very badly put together pieces. I began my first piece of poetry that day in the hospital bed, sometime in 1990, and I’ve never stopped writing since.
I laid in my hospital bed after surgery, completely motionless and unable to speak or move, bandages removed from my lower half little by little. I was being fed through an IV and all I could remember is wanting to scream and for all my cousins and relatives who visited me to just leave. There was a room full at one point, and while I was grateful, I was a sixteen year old boy laying in a bed nearly completely naked and vulnerable. My privates were barely covered up by a cloth diaper, but at least they had shaved me down. I wanted to be alone.
“Tell them to get out,” I wrote down on a pad for my dad. “Tell them all to get out. This is embarrassing.”
“Will do,” Dad said. “Everyone out!!”
The second day in surgery, a nurse appeared, saying that I would need to urinate, or else, ‘a catheter may be necessary.’ My Dad darted up from his chair. “Oh no, you don’t want one of those!” He asked for physical therapist and got me up out of that bed, my cloth diaper dangling from my pale body. Dad held my IV stand and, over the span of two hours, held my hand while I attempted to urinate in the tiny bathroom closet in my room.
“You can do it, son! You can do it,” he whispered to me. I have faith in you. You can do it.” In the next room, my Mom also encouraged me. “I know you can. You’re strong.”
And I did. God my parents loved me.
In the end, the boys who attacked me got sent to Juvenile Hall, two of them were from High School and were suspended and one was later sent away or something. Can’t remember exactly. I do remember the Judge asking me to come down to the courthouse to possibly identify one of the boys who attacked me the most, the blonde-haired boy, but he fully confessed on the stand, and we didn’t have to go in after all. I was riddled with the fact of possibly having to see any of their faces ever again, I was so glad to put the entire event behind me. I had been friends with a nerdy girl named Laila, too, her family just happened to be from Tonga, and they were very large, strong people. Like large tree trunks, build like mac trucks. They heard about what happened and a few of her cousins, along with her older brother, beat up every single boy who attacked me. One of the boys wound up in the hospital. When I heard the news a year or so later, it made me feel vindicated.
This brutal hate crime at such a young age changed my life forever, and made me the strong man I am today. When I feel my implant, a hard object covered by skin, I’m reminded of what happened, but I look back now with thankfulness that I survived. The one good thing out of the attack was that it started my interest in journaling and writing, which continues. These days, I will fight anyone to the death who tries to physically assault me. I’m not afraid to be who I am, even if it means fighting back with my fists, or my words. I still prefer to fight back with words, that never changed. These days, I am proud to be who I am, and I won’t let anyone take that away from me, no matter how ignorant or how flawed they are themselves. Life’s too short to also hold regrets, so I have fully forgiven the misled bullies who took away my innocence so long ago.
These days, when I see younger gay couples kissing or holding hands in public, I often wonder if they know the hardships us older folks had to endure to get to where we are today. I’m sure they don’t know, and maybe they shouldn’t have their innocence taken away, either. I leave that up to them. But if they do want to hear it, I tell my story to anyone who wants to listen. I tell them about how a young boy lost his innocence on that gloomy day back in November 1988, and how he emerged from it to be a very strong, defiant gay man who doesn’t take shit from anyone. In a way, the experience made me stronger and even more determined to be myself, and shout it from the rooftops.
-Brian Thomas Bolding