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At the time of my attack I was living as a pauper, specifically a florist's assistant, twenty-two and a year out of college. I must have seemed an easy prey that night by comparison to those kids, me a dandy in my chinos and loafers. My intent for appearance, not that I was aware of one, would have been another slant altogether: an oversized button-down to shield my vanilla-plump self. If anything, slumped in the shadows of the bar, I’m sequestered in the camouflage of a voyeur, a plainclothesman, the very opposite of the prevailing, often outlandish gear. Black jeans tight as pantyhose, the orchestrated basket about as normal on a guy as the thimble-sized nipples. Clamps, Tex says, they use to balloon them the better to twist and shout. Squeamish at squashing a bug, at such a notion I flinch.

But golly I’m enjoying the show. Notice me! and I do. I hope they are having the fun I can almost share by proxy. Not a nelly in sight, it’s all suave smoking, long exhales. The blue chambray shirts on men whose pecs are not gym-pumped are sometimes unbuttoned to the navel. Now to me that’s sexy, advertising carefree dash more than muscle. Muscle you can make, as does Tex. Dash, nurtured or a gift of nature, I can only speculate.


I turn the corner into a shabby-genteel street, less well-lit, bordering the park. Slightly creepy but I assume this section to be safe being so active for cruising in The Hollows, tucked into the adjacent evergreens. Out of the bar, striding along, thinking of flowers, the business Romeo still enjoys, back to myself, by myself, the latest Updike bedside if not a nice boy-man, I can picture crowing to Tex: Well, I was there. I made the scene albeit Thursday not Friday or Saturday, but the weekend in sight, a frisson of anticipation cutting through the smog of cigarettes. Eye contact, Tex; I actually set sites on a fine-looking fellow, no question that he lobbed me a sympathetic dart in the melee, a maybe, not tonight, no never the first to drop defenses but at least a maybe-next-time, didn’t I notice you, he could say; doesn’t everyone—admit it Tex, you, too—reel through a maelstrom of emotions on the hunt, overwhelming the obvious absurdities just by being present; staying positive, not listening to the nay-saying engrained about the twisted wreckage gays make of sex, its perversion for most folks in the first place… No, me the nerd pansy—literal pansy/flower queen as you endearingly call me, is near to strutting at this point in site of my tiny encapsulating Toyota…

One at each elbow, they grab me from behind, their fists locked like jaws of a pit bull.

“C’mon, fag, you want some action tonight? Not in that nursery rhyme.”


Fuckin’ heavy fag,” the burly kid grunts, the one making the most effort.

Flailing, I lunge for branches, am stabbed in return by twigs in my stomach, armpits, soft parts. This isn’t happening. They are fast, gaining ground. Ink-black undergrowth.

“Buddy I’m trying,” from the leaner one.

“Not there yet! Not hidden enough!”

They just want a blow-job. They’re terrified. This the only way, only place.

No sooner do we stop than they tie my feet. Rope from a plastic bag. Duct tape over my mouth and around my wrists. I am fighting to see, use my eyes to plead. You don’t need to do this. Do what? My mind is screaming. What, what?

“How about an ‘F’?” says tough kid. “F for faggot. No, and fairy! A double F!” He has a razor, hands a nail to timid kid squatting on my knees so I can’t move. Tough kid rips open my shirt, buttons fly. He flicks the razor across a nipple. “What a porker! You call this man-flesh? Christ.”

Stop! The single word explodes in my brain. Stop.


“If only my scarring was just physical,” I said recently to my pal Tex, approaching the eighteenth anniversary of the attack. “Fortunately I have my garden--my house of worship, which is all-consuming.”

“Exactly my point,” countered Tex dishing up an egg-white omelet. “Emily Dickinson redux.”

This I take as the reverse of castigation, the unequivocal affection linking best friends, unlike for lovers, friends accepting one another warts and all. “I'll plant the azalea I brought you,” is my reply. “Last thing you have time for.”

Presently my nose is shoved into lilacs at their peak. I pretty much know with the April showers just concluded and the intermittent sun in this part of central New England how to regard the buds, their timetable for cracking open, the first blast of their elixir which will last hopefully a week with the fragrance full-blown. Today, early May, I'm near drunk with this perfume.

Next I check the new lilac varieties. I'm a wholesale grower. No boss, no messy business, just fingernails forever packed with the good earth.


Of course the attack rears its ugly head with every shower, every soaping of my upper chest, fingers grazing the raised double Fs. They look like a scrape, a simple bruise I suppose. No one’s ever noticed, not that I’ve allowed many the opportunity. “Dirtier sheets in a convent,” says Tex.


You’d think I’d have a body by now, well not like Tex, the gym rat. No one sees my body, not even years ago at the rare assignation in the near-dark. But I’m hardly a couch potato. I’m amazed at my coolie labor, like hauling this mountain laurel to my pickup.

Still can’t throw a ball. “Look,” pontificates Tex. “Such nonsense. They have openly gay kids in school. On high school teams. Star athletes, affinity clubs.” And here he pinches lips, pausing about to pounce. “You internalized this shit from the get-go. Of course you’re able-bodied. You just took refuge, like any latent homo child with half a brain, into self-protecting isolation.”


The two of us are now forty years old. Tex is buried even deeper with his leadership role at the Northdale AIDS Center. Still single, he'll drive when he can the half hour to my sylvan retreat for a solid meal and the latest round of our unending conversation. Not so long ago the subject of my travesty, that “blatant crime and its lack of prosecution,” resurfaced.

“Rudy, it's still there, like your scar. It's not too late to go public even though you turned out to be just one of thousands for the guys tracking this stuff. Think what your particular attack means to others and not just our gay brothers flailing and forging away. What do the people today in the lives of these cowards know of this person in their midst? What price if any have the cowards themselves already paid? Don’t you feel a smidgeon of lingering responsibility here? And who knows? You could be re-liberated, Rudy Dallmann, and come out for real!”


I did have a difficult thing, an event, it didn’t last very long…so many years ago…”

“It could use an airing,” says Jack.

“Oh, it has been, forever. Ask Tex.”

Tex is slumped into his sling-back chair. Not withdrawn, not withholding, but aiming his eyes into mine, to steady me, to encourage me to continue, ready to express disapproval if I do not.

“I was attacked in the public park.”

“You mean beaten?”

“Yes. Pretty awful stabbings. And raped, in a fashion.”

“A sort of rape? Were you penetrated with a penis?”

“That, in my mouth, but…they shoved a wooden handle up my ass, I don’t know if that counts…” Jack leans forward—we’re-in-this-together, a football huddle, and I flinch. Said too much.

“This is unique of course for you, Rudy. Devastating,” says Jack. “Also, I’m afraid it’s terribly commonplace.”

“It’s why you do what you do,” I say, a phony-sounding bid to reclaim my place as courteous co-host.

Jack reacts to this obfuscation by leaning back and crossing legs, refusing to let me off center stage. Both he and Tex are so damnably slumped. My entire body is now rigid as a fist helping a nurse find a vein.

“So, Rudy, what have you done?” says Jack resuming the lead.

“You mean, fight for the cause?”

“Your cause. Not for others. What have you done for yourself to heal other than tie a knot with your wonderful friend Tex? Or to ease the pain, beyond what sounds like tending the most heavenly flower garden?”

“I picture the thugs as just kids, likely battered themselves. To see it from three hundred sixty degrees doesn't excuse it but makes it easier to live with.”

“Did you file a complaint with the police?” Jack asks point-blank. I don’t hear this as accusatory but nor is there a trace of mirth or cushioned concern. In fact I’m sober as a judge at this moment and receive his question as logical as A-B-C.

“I did not go to the police. At the time or afterwards, Tex notwithst—“

“Leave ole Tex out of this.”

For once I return Jack’s neutral gaze with my own.

“But you could take proper legal action,” Jack says. “Better late than never.”

I detail the complaint I filed in Boston and forgot about.

“If only for the record.” Here Jack softens his brow, rangy near-white blond hair ringing his head like the nimbus of an angel.

“For the record,” I repeat, without conviction.


It's been weeks since I found the crime report but I haven’t told Tex.”

“Why?” asks Jack. He is actually adorable, squirming to select the right note of few words. Jack, forty like me, is also single except for his dog, the dog Trixie with the sweet face of a dolphin. And like his dog Jack’s a cuddler, presently wrapped around his mission, me.

“I don’t know. I went to the police for Tex. I'm afraid of his fury. He's like a hornet’s nest hidden under the eaves of my cottage.”

“You feel no fury?”

“It's brewing. I stare at that photo of the boys constantly. I kept the file, it's right on my kitchen table. they'll never know.”

“This has to be at your pace, Rudy. So don't tell Tex yet. But don't withhold it indefinitely as a kind of power you're grabbing. That's not resolution.”

“Of course I recognize them perfectly, near two decades later. The one I called Tough, Albert “Buddy” Briggs is spooked, chubby-cheeked, a child caught in the act, almost pleading for forgiveness. Timid, Stanley Wentworth, a twig of a teen, appears relieved, beyond incrimination, the debacle over and done with. The same suburban high school. I tried Google searches. So far, zilch.” I pause.

“You're letting them off the hook again. Another source of false power, as if you're the judge.”

“I keep being so angry at myself. Almost a lunatic slice of me that night going alone in a notoriously dicey place. After midnight. A matter of days after the Gay Pride Parade, backlash is to be expected.”

“All the more reason to lash back,” says Jack.


“What the fuck?” shouts Tex over the phone. “You found them! Rude that’s fantastic but you didn’t tell me until now?”

I fill in additional details of the crime report, my initial forays online to learn more.

“Finally, something solid to make a case. I can’t wait—“

“No. Tex,” I say calmly. “I’m handling this.”

“Like hell you will. After another twenty years.”

“Fuck off, Tex!” I now shout back. “I’m working with Jack, much larger issues. One-thing-at-a-time-good-night.”


I've climbed into my pickup heading down to New Jersey to meet Bud Briggs, the man who attacked me when he was sixteen. No Tex, no more vacillating. Immediately, though, I rehearse the conversation.

“We were young and not always making the best decisions—who does as a teenager, and it was a rough part of the city,” for example.

“You and your teenage friend Stan Wentworth beat me up in the park as I was on the way to my car. I’d been in the gay bar a few blocks off. You boys were, too. Maybe you panicked not realizing it was a hangout for homosexuals like me.

“Maybe you’d been experimenting with drugs, something you’d never had before, and you went through the roof.

“I never filed a complaint. It was just after the gay pride parade that year which went through the same neighborhood, and it was very controversial. It came on the heels of that notorious case of the gay wacko who molested and butchered and froze dozens of young boys. Just as the gay rights movement is trying to get off the ground. Who knows what was going through the minds of young guys like you just spreading your wings? I certainly don't want to make you feel guilty this long afterwards. Time heals all wounds. Mine and I hope yours. But if there is any lingering thorn in your side about this, perhaps this brief visit will wipe the books clean for you, too.”

This goes on for a few hours. The closer I get to New Jersey the faster these thoughts serve as distraction.

“The high school had an address but the one online was more recent.”

Then what? So now he’s an adult, early thirties, who knows, the owner of a successful lumber business. So he had this misstep as a kid from which he moved on.

I’m following through on my longstanding promises to Jack and Tex to act upon this opportunity. But it’s for me, not Bud Briggs. Do I really care how life turned out for him?


The neighborhood has obviously declined, but a semblance of pride remains. Elm trees are dead and not replaced but the postage-stamp yards are relatively tidy. A scattering of outdoor Christmas lights, missing bulbs, but still. Neatly-stacked garbage cans flank the pillbox ranch houses, a few freshly painted but mostly not. I pull up to the curb a few houses away as I catch my breath. What if he has a gun? I am going through the motions of untold rehearsals as if cumulatively they have cast imagination into concrete.

There is a small yellow sedan in the drive, the car a victim or cause of a side-swiping. I park behind it and hesitate, engine idling. Has it occurred they intended to kill you but were interrupted by the cop? I put the pickup in reverse, park parallel in front. No, I think. They wanted to brand me like cattle with a lifetime label negating my name and person otherwise. This, too, is a fiction that floats about with all the others composing the fractious, protean memory of my attack.


Surely he has a swimmer’s build. Stop that, Rudy!

The internet with him made it so simple. Stanley Wentworth, 33, competes in the 30-34 age bracket locally, regionally, and nationally in Masters swim meets. This club is his home base, its members allied with New England Masters. Freestyle. 50, 100, 200, 500, 1500, 1650 yards, he places in the top five near home, a few top-ten awards at the short-course nationals.

People are assembling by the pool, the official-looking side fortified with pull buoys, kickboards, paddles of all sorts. They are stretching and joking. Most of the men are wearing those damnably crotch-hiding black leggings, in reactions to gay empowerment and Calvin Klein underpants ads, Tex pontificates. The trunks are titillating as Bermuda shorts. I don’t understand why I’m not nervous. It is very early morning, these people are likely professionals to afford such dues, they go to work. I got up crack of dawn today. I am wildly alert, as if I’m in a play and about to go on stage but I don’t know my lines. What will I say assuming he is here? Why don’t I care? Maybe because this role is not the person I know myself to be. Rudy’s alter-ego. Or an emissary for Jack and Tex, both of them having encouraged me but now they’re astounded that I’m actually doing it, especially after the potential calamity of locating Bud Briggs. They’ve hogged all the emotion out of this. I’m playing my part that’s been scripted to complete the whole business. I’m about to meet Stan Wentworth in the flesh. Literally.