How do I tell him? How much do I tell him?
I always intended to tell my godson about the things that happened to me. I see no reason to keep it from him. So much of who I am today comes from bonding with him. He deserves to know. However, the last thing I expected was to have that conversation this past weekend. Correction, the last thing I expected was that the death of a musician and one of his best songs would spur that discussion.
Prince died last Thursday. My foster father is a massive Prince fan, so our home was filled with Prince’s music over the weekend. My foster father has original vinyl pressings of Prince’s first three albums. No one was allowed to touch them, especially no one under the age of twenty. That seems petty, but he had a practical reason: none of them had ever held a vinyl record before, let alone put one on to play. The scratching potential alone was not worth the risk.
On Sunday we made it a day of Prince’s music. Like any true fan, my foster father has multiple versions of the albums, so he moved from the more fragile vinyl records to his digital collection. Since everyone was in a good mood and singing along with the songs, I decided to join in as well.
Some of the songs I had not heard in years, like Scarlet Pussy and Partyman (the best part with the latter song is that everyone but my foster father only knew the lyrics up to the point where the song ends in Batman). I am a fan of Prince’s music, primarily his music from the eighties. I always liked his videos and the few performances I got to see on television. He was a showman in the truest sense.
However, I also have an unpleasant memory involving one of his songs. That song, of course, would be the one my godson asked me to sing.
I quite like Do Me Baby. It is one of my favorite Prince songs. But I do not like hearing it or singing it. My siblings and my friends knew why, but my godson did not. When the song came on I felt the emotion teasing up. Had no one said anything I likely could have made it through the song without a problem. However, when my godson asked me to sing in that playful way he tends to ask, it took me back to the moment over twenty years ago.
Just as quickly as my godson asked me to sing, I zoned out. I shut down everything inside. Everyone saw it. My godson could only flash his trademark smirk and say, “What?”
It took him a moment to register what happen. His “what?” went from joking to concern, but I kept my promise. I promised to sing whenever he asked me to and that was no exception. It turns out that my falsetto is higher than I thought, yet nowhere near Prince’s range.
I felt the memories crawling around as I sang. Focusing on controlling my voice settled them down. I have not listened to the song in years, but I remembered all the words. When I finished, my godson took me aside to another room. He asked, “What’d I do?”
I told him.
When I was little, my father once had me sing along with Do Me Baby as he performed sex acts on me. He seemed intent on following the escalation of the lyrics. As they became more direct, he became more direct. In full disclosure, I do not remember everything about what happened. The part that is most clear, or perhaps the part I dwelt on the most, is the end of the song. At the end of the song, Prince and the woman have sex. My father had me re-enact this scene with him. I find speaking parts in songs to be hard to remember, but to my father’s credit he knew all the words.
My description to my godson was more blunt and detailed. At the time, my emotions were locked down, so the tact I would normally use to gauge people’s reaction was gone. I gave him the very descriptive version and watched him tear up but not cry.
I told him that if there was anything he wanted to know he could ask. It seemed a good idea at the time. He is old enough now that I do not need to couch the language or dance around a description. He is also old enough now to want to know, and he has skirted around the topic several times in the past months.
I always intended tell my godson whatever he wanted to know. Yet it was strange being in that moment. Part of me wanted him to know if for no other reason than to help him understand why I am the way I am. Part of me wanted him to know because I think he can handle it.
But there is a part of me that does not want him to know. It is not a matter of protecting him. It is that I do not want anyone to know those things about me. I do not want people to know the things I did. They may say they understand or they will not judge. They may say “it wasn’t your fault” or “they made you do it”. That does not change what I did or how people would respond.
All they will hear is that I put this in my mouth or I drank that or this other thing. How do I explain liking some of it? How do I explain the pride I felt being told I was “the best cocksucker” among my brothers? Will anyone seek context when I say that I would push my brothers or cousins aside and say “Get outta here! You don’t know what you’re doing?” Will it matter that I was barely eight or nine? Or will they only see the act and wonder how disgusting I have to be even think something like that?
I know my godson would not think those things, yet as he asked his questions, I fought with the embarrassment. Much of what he wanted to know was general: did I hate the people who hurt me, did it always hurt, how old was I when such-a-such happened.
He was curious about humorous situations. He has heard part of the story about a certain man who had a penchant for incredibly premature ejaculation. I told my godson the more graphic version, which set him off into giggles. Never before or since that man has anyone ever come before getting my pants off.
The conversation drifted back into more serious questions. He wanted to know why I never told. He asked about my parents and grandfather. He asked what I thought would have happened if I stayed with my family. He asked what was worst thing that ever happened.
The entire time he asked and I answered, he sat there were tears in his eyes, but he did not cry. Instead he did the opposite. He began to pull his emotions back. I was zoned out enough to be able to see it from a removed position. That control was something he picked up from me. At the time I thought only of how curious it was that he knew how to do it. At present, I am not sure what to make of it. Of all the things to accidentally teach him (and I hope it is something I taught him rather than something he learned from experience), I never wanted to teach him control his emotions the same way I do. It was bizarre watching him zoning out. It makes me wonder if that is what people see when I do it It is unnerving to watch.
He managed to get through most of it rather controlled until he caught me in too candid a moment. He asked me how I felt about what happened. By that point I did not pay attention to what I said or how I said it. I simply answered his questions.
I looked him straight in the eye and described being beaten and raped and toyed with it. I told him about the things I did and the things I was made to do to others. I told him about the things I hated, found funny, and even enjoyed.
I told him about forcing myself not to feel only to have the adults in my family break through that and make me feel just to torture it out of me later.
I told him about they used my brothers and cousins and I against each other, how some much of what happened to them happened because of what I would and would not do.
I told him about hurting so much that I wanted to die and then realizing that was too good for someone like me.
I kept looking at my godson and told him as casually as I would tell him the time that I deserved it.
Only one time before I have seen someone crack the way my godson did. I told a friend in a similar situation that I deserved the abuse. It was not simply that he cried; it was that he got it. He understood. I am not joking. I am not saying it to vent.
I mean it.
When I said that to my friend, I watched him snap control back and catch himself before he broke down. My godson was not so quick to keep from crying, but he did have a better retort.
“You really think that?” he said.
Then he punched me very hard. I rarely see him that angry and I think he held back on the punch, but my shoulder still hurts three days later.
He stayed close, which made me a little nervous because he has knocked people unconscious before. “There’s still some good in you,” he said. He leaned in and hugged me. “But not much.”
I will concede the latter. It does take quite an asshole to make one of the people you love the most cry. I seem to be incredibly good at it, particularly when I am not trying to do it. And I suppose I see his point, although it does not change how I feel.
It was not a conversation I wanted to have at that particular moment, but I am glad it happened. I do not know if he will ask me any more questions. I will answer them honestly if he does. Chances are I will be in a more relaxed mood and less likely to say something so blunt that it would prompt him to punch me again.