I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of years, a lot more in recent months because it’s important. Fear has driven me to keep quiet until now. Fear of ending up on Oprah was a small, but funny part of it but the real fear is of persecution after the fact, or of being raped again. What I’m about to write is going to piss off a lot of people. Special groups will more than likely want to attack me and victims who make what happened to them the center of their existence will want to tear me to shreds. The institution where it happened would go nuts but it’ll go unnamed so I’ll be safe there. Just know it was a university, a college, where they require you to live on campus to “get the full experience that college life has to offer”. Funny, that. I’ve seen this rape after the rape happen. Lived through it and if I’m right, all of the aforementioned groups will come at it from a self-preservation angle. I will be shown to be flawed or the aberration so they can protect their funds or victimhood. That’s how this rolls, you’re not supposed to be able to recover from something as heinous as rape. The main one I’m worried about is the victims groups, especially women. While my experience almost killed me, I eventually recovered from it as completely as I believe is possible. I did something with my experience rather than let it dictate who I became, and I did it without the system… Here’s how that works: “What you went through wasn’t really a rape, it was something else (less than), which is why it still doesn’t haunt you like it does me”. And that’s only the part of the iceberg that got the titanic… While I understand that notion, it gets worse but I’ll save the surprise.
The impetus to my post was another from Ryan Doherty’s Hut, entitled “Why Rape is Hilarious“, featuring a YouTube video of an older fellow talking about how he is pressured to believe that his statutory rape by a teacher at thirteen is funny or cool because the teacher was hot and the old, “I wish that had happened to me” thoughts conjured by Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher. Well, I’d take a hot teacher over what happened to me but we’ll get to that momentarily. In the case of the hot teacher, I’ll simply say this: I haven’t walked in that man’s shoes so I don’t know why his situation has him messed up after all of these years but if it’s bothering him, my opinion doesn’t matter, even a little bit. He’s got an issue to deal with and I hope he does.
That said, here’s my story, short and simple. I’ve written plenty about my alcoholism, I’ve got a whole page on this blog devoted to those posts. In a few of them, I alluded to spinning out in my second year of college but I never explained why. Here goes. I was in my second year of college and I’d been drinking heavily since my second week of the first year. I had a pretty good network of friends who kept me well stocked and I held a job so I could afford it. If I hadn’t mentioned it before, I’m a good-looking guy. I was having relations with my floor’s Resident Assistant (she wasn’t hot but she wasn’t not either, she was just kinda cool). Long about the middle of the year, I was underperforming but passing. My dorm roommate, whom the university assigned to me, and I got hammered and stoned one night and I passed out. Turned out, his girlfriend (who regularly stayed the night) was a beard. He liked the boys. I was in the middle of an awesome dream starring a hot, very blonde actress who will go unnamed and who was, um, performing a Monica on me… That’s when I woke up to find that it wasn’t a blonde, she wasn’t hot and she wasn’t a she. Yeah, it sucked. Ooh, poor choice there. In any event, it’s kind of funny what happens when a normal fella contemplates killing another person for real. Some just go for it (I had a pocket knife in the drawer by the head of my bed, it would have been quite easy, if messy), I just couldn’t do it. I was hammered and probably still high and I knew damn good and well that I’d end up in prison. So I rolled over. I thought about my options, what I’d do with my stash to get rid of it when the cops came, etc. Then he tried to come at me again, apparently thinking I’d gone back to sleep… I completely freaking lost it.
Reports were filed, charges were brought, deals were made and I was left on my own. That treatment that women complain about when they’re dealing with a rape, from those in the system, yeah I got that. “Let him cop a plea, you don’t want to get dragged into court”. “Your drug use will be brought up and investigated (pot), you could be charged with possession”, yada, yada, yada. Once I agreed to the deal they were gone. No counseling, no “here, call this number in case you feel like chewing on the barrel of a gun”, no nothing.
I completely checked out. In the next year and six months I would find myself in court facing serious time on something completely unrelated but entirely connected, kicked out of college, hopelessly addicted and one step away from homeless. In short, I went from Animal House to Leaving Las Vegas in about a year and a half. Thankfully I was too chicken to actually end it permanently, though I thought about it. A LOT.
I found salvation in recovering from alcoholism, in the original Twelve Step program and in a higher power that I call God. I quit drinking and dealt with the rape, in time, by working the steps at it and talking through it with other, trusted, recovering drunks. Eventually the nightmares stopped and I was able to come to the realization that sometimes bad things happen to good people and make my peace with it. It took a lot of prayer, clichés, acceptance and forgiveness but that night no longer dictates who I am. It no longer has any power over what I choose to do or who I choose to be. I’ll never be the innocent kid I was before it happened but I wouldn’t want to be… Too many good things have come out of that one despicable night. Out of all the thousands of ways I could have turned that into the beginning of the end, I won.
So no, it wasn’t hilarious but it wasn’t the end either. Even if it seemed like it at the time.
And yes, I was pressured too. Gay people are a politically protected group don’t ya know (and yes they were back then too). Imagine what would happen if a bunch of rapes in university dorms made the light of day… After all, it is the university’s fault – they chose my roommate. Now what happens if you have to start segregating gay guys because they can’t be trusted to keep their mitts off the fresh dorm meat? Oh, that’s such a sweet slippery slope. James Carville gimme a holler and walk me through that one will ya?
It’s actually very simple: Bad things sometimes happen to good people. I can choose to die over it, choose to be a victim for the rest of my life or get over it. I just have to remember three things (in a particular order): Getting over it means I get to be happy again. Dying is a permanent solution to a temporary problem… Choosing to be a victim means, one way or another (at least the way I see it), I’ll be shackled to that mess for the rest of my life. Those last two options are for the birds.
So, the main point to this post, the one thing I wanted to get across, is that a happy life after a traumatic experience was possible. I just had to be willing to do the work on myself to get to a point where I could forgive and let live. It’s not easy and it’s probably not fair (I love that word), but I’d rather be happy than shackled or dead.
I’ve wondered, often over the last (almost) three years, if my love for all things cycling would fade. Whether we’re talking about playing in the dirt or cruising down the road as if my Lycra shorts are on fire, I’m happy. I’ve harbored the fear that I might lose it and grow bored, as happened with running. I’m coming up on 1,500 posts on this blog, the majority of them relate in some way to riding a bicycle and I’m working on 15,000 miles in that time (not bad for a working fella). I’ve tinkered on my bikes more times than I can count. Bi-weekly chain cleanings, new tires, new clothes, even picked up a couple of new bikes. It was the two new bikes that had me nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of grannies on rocking chairs. What would happen when I ran out of stuff to tinker with or change on my old bikes? What would happen when I finally walked into the bike shop and said, “Nah, I don’t need anything, just stopped by to say hi”?
I am there. And I’m just as enamored with cycling as the day I rode my 3700 home.
I used to wonder, when I was just a young buck, if I’d get into sports cars as a midlife crisis, maybe get an earring or grow a ponytail (only Sean Connery can pull that off). Maybe I’d chase a 20-something filly around, laying waste to my marriage, life and dignity like they do in DC… Imagine my happy surprise when I straddled my new Venge for the first time and thought, “Nope, no laying waste necessary, this’ll do just fine”. Cycling is perfect for the midlife crisis when I think about it. Between my wife and I we have six excellent bikes, one for any occasion and adding the cost of them up, I come in at less than half the price of a single decent sports car and the bikes run on fat, not my wallet…
Nothing beats time in the saddle. Cycling is near impervious to bad moods and bad times. In fact, a good ride goes a long way to helping me correct the attitude and to righting the things that lead to an unhappy me.