The Human Condition Ch. 08


"Wait a minute," I spoke into the receiver. "I'm sorry, repeat that again."

"I said," Cam's baritone come over the line loud and clear, "you don't have to worry about John Schubring bugging you anymore about suing that asshole who went at you. You can't sue a dead man."

"Elliot is... dead?" I said, in disbelief.

Betsy heard me say the last sentence and came over and put her arm on mine. "Is he sure?"

I nodded and she gripped my arm tighter. I'd known that Elliot had been moved to a real prison after two months at the forensic center. You have to be even more twisted than he was to get to stay there indefinitely. County lockup had not been an option either, because he was considered too dangerous to be in with the run-of-the-mill felons so he'd been sent to Jackson to wait out his trial. It was the
toughest prison in Michigan, now it seemed to be once again living up to its reputation.

"Aren't you listening?" Cam said. "There was a fight in the prison yard yesterday afternoon. Elliot got stabbed. He died in the hospital this morning. They don't know for sure, but it seems that piece of shit finally picked the wrong guy to try out his perverted little sex games with. The kid belonged to another prisoner who took offense when
his boy-toy came home a little the worse for wear. Elliot got thrown in solitary confinement for that stunt, but all that did was prolong his miserable life. Yesterday was the first day he was allowed out in the yard. There was a scuffle and when the guards finally broke it up, there was Elliot - one knife in his back and another where his balls
used to be. Gotta love the irony."

I supposed I agreed with Cam, but I still winced at the thought of having your balls cut off. We talked for a few minutes more. Cam reminded me that I could still go after Elliot's estate on the civil case, but I told him I still hadn't decided whether to just let it go. Finally, Cam hung up. I put the receiver back in it's cradle and looked down at Betsy's worried face.

"It's over," I said.

"Are you sure?" She studied my face.

"Hell, yes, I'm sure," I felt weak as the thoughts, I wouldn't have to sue, wouldn't have to testify, finally sunk in. The reporters had still not identified me as the man who'd been Elliot's final victim. I'd been dreading court because I was sure that my name would inevitably get out. Now it wasn't going to happen.

I was in a daze, I'd heard the words and I knew what they meant, but it was a lot to believe in. Betsy and I talked for a few more minutes and then she had to go for her shift at the hospital. We made plans to go out for goodbye dinner the following week, and I led her to the door.

With the news about Elliot, I'd almost forgotten what we'd been talking about before the phone rang. Betsy reminded me as she was leaving. "Remember what I said, Mike, about you and Joe," she said as she hugged me goodbye. "I'm not done yet, either, I warn you. I really think you two are right for each other, and I think it'd be a shame if you didn't
pursue it. Especially if the only reason is because you're too scared to find out the truth once and for all."

I just stood there and watched as she closed the door behind her. I knew she was right about one thing: I did need to think about it. But tonight wasn't the night. Tonight I had to accept that Elliot was finally, irrevocably, out of my life forever. I picked up the phone to call somebody, anybody, to tell them the great news, but then I looked
at the receiver in my hands and put it down again. It was Friday night. Everybody was either out already or just getting ready to go. I didn't want to disturb their plans.

And there was another thing: before I could tell somebody else, I had to come to terms with the news myself. Elliot... gone. It was unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I didn't feel one bit sorry for the asshole. If anyone ever deserved what he got, it was Elliot. Not for me, but for the three dead boys they'd dug up by the lake, and for countless others who'd been victimized and abused by him. Those
nameless guys who'd been so terrorized they couldn't even face reporting him.

He'd picked wrong with me. I had friends, a home, and a family who cared. Even if he'd killed me, someone would have come looking for him. But it seemed that he hadn't always been so careless. Of the three bodies, only two had been positively identified. They were runaways, one whose name Kevin recognized as a kid who'd taken refuge at the shelter. There were two other boys that Kevin knew, too, and both had apparently disappeared off the face of the earth. I was afraid Elliot had found a better hiding place than his isolated cabin for their last resting place. And if not him, maybe some other predator had found them. In the last few months I'd learned that monsters really do exist.

That night I had a dream. I was back in Elliot's playroom. I could feel the bite of the metal against my skin. Sweat ran down my body, stinging the cuts he'd made and mixing with the blood that still oozed out of them. Elliot stood in the corner, his back to me. Only it wasn't him. I realized with a shock that it was Joe. For a second, I
slumped in relief. Joe was here. He would save me. Then he turned. He had no face. I started to scream.

I was still screaming when I sat up in bed. My heart was pounding and the sweat poured off me, soaking my sheets. I was so caught up in the dream, I was almost afraid I'd find blood there too, when I turned on the light. Of course there wasn't, and I sat there, gasping for breath and desperately trying to calm down.

Eventually I managed to crawl out of bed. I went to the bathroom and got a glass of water. I was feeling pretty foolish by that time. It was only a dream for Chrisssakes, and one that was pretty easy to figure out. I went back to the bed and looked at my clock. Only 11:30. I'd been asleep for about an hour. That was odd; usually I only remembered those dreams that occurred right before I woke up in the morning. It had been years since the last time I'd had a nightmare that had awakened me like this one had.

I went over to my door and checked the lock to make sure it was bolted. Then I went back to bed. It took me a while to fall asleep, but when I did, I dreamed again.

That became my pattern. I'd sleep for a little while, only to be awakened by a nightmare. They were always pretty much the same: a faceless predator in a locked room had tied me up. After the first one, I was no longer shocked to see it wasn't Joe and I wouldn't scream. Instead I'd watch in horror as he approached me. I knew what he was about to do and I struggled to break the bindings that held me to the wooden apparatus. I never could. I would fight until I felt him close behind me, his breath hot on my skin, his body huge against mine. I knew what he was planning and I begged him not to. He never responded, never made a sound. The only noise in the room was my frantic breathing, my cries for someone to help me. And then...

I wouldn't get any further. At that point, my conscience would step in and pull me out of the dream by waking me up. Over and over it happened, leaving me shaky and exhausted, until I gave up on the idea of sleep and spent the rest of the night on my couch watching infomercials and praying that the sun would rise and chase the demons from the room. When it finally did, I got dressed and started my day, determined to put the evils of the night behind me.

I was pretty successful, too. I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom, something I usually found an excuse to put off, then I went shopping and met Beau for a quick lunch at the local Subway. We took in a matinee - I don't remember what we saw, but I know I insisted on a comedy. When it was over I headed home. I took another shower and got dressed and went over to Kevin and Saul's for dinner. They were their usual entertaining selves, and Saul was hilarious as he described his recent trip home from Africa.

There'd been a high school marching band they'd picked up on his connecting flight from Paris. These kids were just a little too helpful as far as the flight attendants were concerned. Especially when they all repeated every sentence the one poor woman said during the safety lecture and mimicked her arm movements as she went through her demonstration.

"It was in-fucking-credible," he laughed, "fifty sets of arms pointing out the escape doors and showing how to put on the oxygen masks. And then later, one of the kids liberated a drink cart and..."

I was still laughing about it as I fell asleep.

But I wasn't laughing when I woke up a half hour later. I couldn't believe it was happening again. The nightmare was back, even more vivid even than the one the night before. Again, I ended up awake and waiting for the dawn. When it finally came, I decided that maybe I could finally sleep. I went back to bed, but the minute I lost consciousness it happened again. I moved to the couch, then my recliner. Location wasn't the problem, though, and my dreams followed
me wherever and whenever I closed my eyes. Sleep, which had been such a comfort to me, was now suddenly my enemy.

By Monday, I was a basket case. I forced myself to drag my ass to classes, but I might just as well have stayed home for all the attention I paid to them. I was completely exhausted, and nothing the professors said seemed to make any sense.

I didn't know what to do. Well, actually I did, but I didn't want to do it. Calling Alice seemed like a defeat. But I didn't have another appointment with her until Tuesday afternoon and the thought of spending another night like the last three was even worse than the humiliation of admitting to her that maybe there was something wrong that I couldn't fix by myself.

She told me to come in at four. I was there at 3:30 and hung around the clinic until it was time for my appointment. When I finally got ushered into her, she took one look at me and stood.

"My God! Baby, what's happened to you?"

She took my hand and led me over to the cracked leather couch and then sat down beside me. "Tell me about it."

I did. I told her about Betsy's visit and then finding out about Elliot. I described the dreams in detail, even though even thinking about them gave me the cold sweats. Eventually I was done and I waited to hear what Alice would say about the whole thing.

"Tell me about what happened the night you were raped."

I exploded. This was such bullshit! Jesus Christ, somebody turn off that Goddamned record!

I jumped up and started to pace the room, screaming at the top of my lungs. I wanted to break something... anything. Smash it into smithereens, just the way I felt my life had been smashed.

Alice just sat there. I finally shut up, not because I was done, but because my throat was so dry I couldn't talk anymore. She got up and walked over to her desk. She grabbed a prescription pad and scribbled something on it and handed the slip to me.

"That should help you sleep. There's only 7 pills and no refills, so try to make them last. I won't renew the prescription."

She stopped talking then and seemed to forget I was in the room. I stood there, feeling foolish. What was she doing? She looked up and saw me.

"You can go now if you want," she said, nodding towards the door.

"Uh, okay," I grabbed my jacket. "Should I stop at the desk and make another appointment."

"Do you want another appointment?" she said, raising an eyebrow.

"Don't you think I need one?" I was so confused. Last week I would have been thrilled if she cut me loose. Now it seemed like the worst thing that could happen.

She sighed and leaned back in her chair. "Baby, I think you need lots of appointments. But you could sit here till Hell freezes over, and it wouldn't get either of us anywhere if you're not willing to open up to me."

I was immediately apologetic. "Look, I'm sorry about yelling. I promise I won't do it again."

She shook her head. "Oh fuck that!"

My head shot up, I'd never heard Alice swear before.

"Go ahead and yell, scream, break the goddamn furniture. I don't give a damn. But make sure while you're doing it, that you're actually saying something!"

I stood there, unblinking. "I don't know what you mean."

"Bullshit," she said, eyeing me wearily. "Michael, you know exactly what I mean. I can see it every time you lie to me... everytime you lie to yourself."

I tightened my jaw. "Look," I said, "maybe you're right. I don't need this shit. I don't need you, I don't need anybody." I turned to go but she stopped me before I made it to the door.


It was like she'd zapped me with a ray gun. I froze. And then, I started to cry. I hadn't cried since the night Joe left, but now I was sobbing. I felt more alone than I ever had in my entire life. Even at the worst with Elliot, there had been hope. Now, I didn't have any left.

Joe was gone, Betsy was leaving in 5 days, my family was all the way in Pennsylvania and wouldn't know what to do anyway. My friends? Well, they had their own lives. At 21, I wasn't sure I could say that about myself anymore. I cried for a long time, and Alice made no move to stop me.

When I finally did, all she said was, "Are you ready to get started?"

I turned and looked at her. I couldn't remember now why I'd thought of her as the grandmotherly type. Now she looked like a drill sergeant. I had two choices, I reasoned: I could walk out the door, go get my script filled and go to sleep; or I could sit down and see if I could start to get my life back together. I sat down.

"Good," Alice said, with a grim smile. "Now it's time to begin."

The next couple of weeks were the most difficult I'd ever know. Any physical pain I'd ever had been nothing to the mental anguish I was subjecting myself to on a daily basis. All my energy, all my focus was on that one hour a day I spent in Alice's office. The rest of the time I was on autopilot. Classes were over. The celebrations had begun. I wasn't part of that. I worked, I ate, I even slept - thanks to Alice's little pills, which she did renew when it looked like I was going to need them for a while longer.

Other than that, I waited. For 23 hours a day, I waited to go back to see her. I was up to five times a week, but she assured me that was only temporary. I wasn't sure if that made me happy or not.

The sessions didn't make me happy, that was for damn sure. I started to bring my own box of Kleenex, because I was so guilty about going through so many of hers. I screamed, I yelled, I raged at the night, and Alice - good to her word - didn't give a damn. She sat there and listened as I ticked off every injustice I'd ever felt, every dirty secret I ever kept. Through it all she never criticized or censored me. She didn't need to. I did enough of that myself.

It was weird, but once I'd agreed to talk, she never again asked me the question that had set me off in the first place. She never mentioned the rape. Instead, she asked about everything else, past and present.
I wasn't sure why this was so. At first I was glad she'd stopped needling me about it, but after a while it started to bug me. One night I couldn't stand it anymore and I asked her why she'd stopped.

"Can't you figure that out for yourself, baby?" She asked in that maddening psychologist way that drove me crazy at the same time I was learning to depend on it so much.

I thought for a minute. "You were waiting for me to bring it up myself."

She nodded. "I knew you were a smart boy," she said, "and now that youhave brought it up..." She raised her eyebrows and smiled. "Tell me about the night you were raped."

My heart started to pound, but I told her. I started to cry, but I told her. I kept on going, describing every little detail of the room, the equipment, the pain. I told her about waiting for Joe, trying to hold on, trying to be strong. When I was done, I was proud and I thought Alice would be too.

"And how were you feeling?"

My face blanched. "What?"

"You told me a lot, Mike, but you never told me how it felt."

"Jesus Christ, how do you think it felt? It hurt, goddamn it! The whips, the knives..." I made a helpless gesture.

"I'm sure it did, but what about the rest of it?"

"There is no rest of it!"

She shook her head. "Don't bullshit me again, baby. We've been through this before. Remember? Elliot fucked you, he stuck a dildo up your ass and then later his cock, and he fucked you. So how did that make you feel?"

"Go to hell!" I snarled.

She got up and walked around her desk and faced me. "You were helpless. You couldn't do anything to stop him. He fucked you. How did that feel? Tell me Mike. Goddamn it, tell me!"

"IT FELT GOOD!!" I screamed and the tears that had stopped started harder then ever. I choked on them as I continued. "Jesus Christ, it felt... good. Are you satisfied?"

"You had an orgasm," she said calmly.

"Yes! Goddamn it, yes," I could barely get the words out. "I tried so hard not to, I didn't want... I couldn't stop myself. Oh God! How could I have been so sick!"

I couldn't go on. I don't know how Alice made it over to me so fast, but she did and I was in her arms in a second. Her body was as comforting as I'd thought it would be. But there wasn't enough comfort in the world for me at that moment. I had done it, let slip my big secret, the thing I'd sworn I'd never tell anyone. Now Alice knew I was as much a pervert as Elliot. I didn't know how she could stand to touch me.

"It's okay, baby, it's all right." Alice's words slowly sunk into my brain.

"No," I said in a hoarse voice. "I should've been stronger! I should've never allowed myself to get in that position in the first place."

Alice pulled back and looked at me skeptically. "Right, you're so tough. Listen to me, Mike: what you felt is absolutely normal."

"Yeah, sure. Rape me - I love it."

"Knock that shit off right now," she snapped. Her voice was so harsh I sat back and looked at her through swollen eyes. "You know better than that. Didn't one of our volunteers come and talk to you at the hospital and tell you about involuntary sexual pleasure?"

I dimly recalled the conversation. "Yes, but..."

"No, don't go there. You're a man. If your prostrate is massaged long enough, and in the right way, you are going to ejaculate. It's a physiological reaction - that's all there is to it. Elliot knew that; it was one of his issues of power. He used that to degrade you, make you feel worthless. He was playing a game, and this was his way of
stacking the deck. Don't be a schmuck and let him win."

She continued to talk and I argued back. At some point it started to sink in that maybe she had a point. I'm not saying I believed her yet, but somewhere in the back of my brain, a little voice was telling me I should maybe listen and start giving myself a break. It was almost 7 by the time I said goodbye to Alice. The staff had gone home except for the folks on the crisis phones. Alice followed me out to the parking lot and over to her own car. I thought of something as she unlocked her door and sat inside.

"You knew, didn't you?" I asked. "All this time, you knew that this was what was really bothering me."

She shrugged. "I guessed. I wasn't sure, but it was a pretty good bet. You're not the first male rape victim I've counseled. This is actually pretty common. It happens with females, too, but not as often. You, however, were a textbook case."

I was perplexed. "How so?"

"Look at you, baby. You're tall, strong, handsome, macho..."

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