My Aspirational Pimp/Rapist Is Dead
First spoiler: he didn’t actually rape me. Although a ‘virgin,’ I gave myself to him willingly, as I describe in my book Our Song: a Memoir of Love and Race. Second spoiler: what he did could be considered worse.
I met Curtis (a pseudonym) at a teen nightclub after high school ended, and he later pursued me at a summer concert series. Like me, he was going to college in the Fall. He was attractive and sure of himself. As I write in the book, “I thought broad shoulders and a confident swagger were the mark of a man.” He pushed me to have sex with him, and eventually I did. To be honest, I was tired of not knowing what “it” was all about. Doing “it” with him didn’t enlighten me. It was quick, painful, and ultimately dismissive toward me. Sadly, I understood that I had just been used.
Until he wrote to me from college: “Believe it or not, I still dig the hell out of you.” The “believe it or not” made me think that perhaps he knew he should’ve treated me better. The “I still dig the hell out of you” was flattering to my wavery self-esteem. I questioned whether maybe I had misunderstood something about the situation. He invited me to visit him at his school. Because my close friend also went there, I decided to go see them both.
I had not misunderstood the situation. Curtis made little time for me, just enough to have sex. And although he had promised it would get better, it didn’t. I knew I had been manipulated again and that I had to forget about him.
So where does rape enter the picture? I was still visiting with my friend when she received a phone call, then: “It’s for you!?” What? Who even knew I was there? It turned out to be a man named Will who said that he knew Curtis. He wanted to meet because he had something important to tell me. I was skeptical, but I met with him.
What a shock when Will said that Curtis had offered me up to his friends—for a gangbang! When Will said no, the others did, too. So the planned gangbang never happened, but no thanks to Curtis. If Will gave me more details, I don’t remember them. My head was spinning from the news. Like other girls my age, I’d had a few encounters with guys that were not so nice. But never one that seemed so unabashedly evil.
Fast forward over five decades, during which I rarely thought of Curtis…
What made me google him now? Even when I’d been writing my book, with its description of what happened between us, I hadn’t been moved to do so. But this week I was in a writing challenge (5 stories in 5 days!) I wrote one of them about the teen nightclub where we’d met. And that triggered a curiosity to know if Curtis was even still alive.
I believe I found him. His name is pretty common, but here’s my evidence. A man the same age as us, in his home city where I met him. Who went by the same nickname as his. Who had attended a private high school, as he had. Who had gone to the college where I’d been to see him. Who was in the same fraternity. And of two photos I found, one looked exactly as I would have pictured him as an older man, including his notably high forehead. The other one was less clear but also sported a concealing cap and moustache.
The internet showed me that Curtis died a few years ago from cancer. Not so surprising in our age group. But here’s what was a surprise. He had been a decorated police officer! Known widely in his city for two things:
- A shootout with a suspect in which he saved himself and his partner, both already wounded, by killing the shooter.
- A reputation as an officer who believed in community policing, good communication and caring concern for the citizens—and who solved violent crimes.
Boy, was it hard to reconcile those things with the Curtis I had known.
How do you think you would do that?
I could tell myself that they just weren’t the same guy, but that feels evasive – and disingenuous – to me.
I could consider the possibility that his noble side did not extend to women. Reports differ as to whether he had a wife or a girlfriend, but he was survived by one of those as well as kids and grandkids. It would be interesting to know what female relatives thought. As well as female colleagues and female friends, if any. No way to know, without trying to delve into his family, which I have no desire to do. Nor would I want to throw shade on others’ memories of him.
Or I could try to imagine that his experiences in college, including with me, caused him to re-evaluate whether that was the man he wanted to be. If Will and the other men saying no was a lesson to him. If somehow he developed empathy where there had seemed to be none. Will told me that Curtis may have had a humbling experience with a fellow student – a woman he was crazy about who did not return his affection. Did she use him? Reject him? Send him back to school?
That last paragraph is the way that I’ve decided to look at it. So I hold no resentment in my heart. Like every relationship I’ve had, that one taught me some things. I hope Curtis was a changed man who looked back on his behavior with regret, and who used it to grow, to have a good life with meaningful relationships. Because that is exactly what happened for me – and I’m thankful.
Who could be mean to this girl?