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Paperback Writer | 2010 | Wingman and Cloisered Lad

09.04.10 1:11 p.m.

It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.  

-Albert Einstein


Harm None

(Pronouns used to protect the innocent.)

I met him in my mid-teens. He had posted a profile to a once popular on-line witchcraft directory. I think I was most impressed simply that he lived nearby, what I would now classify as walking distance, at a time when I began to identify myself more by my religion. We met in front of a Dunkin Donuts down the street from his apartment. According to the police reports, he must have been in his late twenties or early thirties then. I recall knowing the age he then told me was a lie - I believe he said he was older by a decade - but I brushed inconsistencies away. He often retold a story about his stint in the Navy of encountering a South American shaman, who healed him from some injury Western medicine could not fix (a broken back?) and then taught him the ways of shamanism. To a teenager, this all seemed credible enough to be fascinating.

He was one of the first Pagans I trusted, one of the few with whom I would practice my religion. I remember a moonlit ritual on a cliff overlooking the Hudson, my then-girlfriend Coley acting as the maiden, when it seemed simpler to let theological doubts dissolve in the water.

Another time, I met him at a park-and-ride and then went hiking with his friends to do a ritual on a mountain plateau, our altar cakes plain doughnuts from a gas station that I still recall tasting somehow sacred. His friends were always younger, college students, which put me at ease. It shouldn't have, especially knowing what I know now, but it did. Why does someone so old want to curry the company of someone half his age? It was more ego gratifying to assume I was special and mature.

I was at his wedding years later. I don't remember much of it, just his tiny stepdaughter being involved in the ceremony. He gave her a small token - a ring or necklace - and pledged that he would take care of her and be a good father to her. I truly hope she was too young then to remember this oath.

His soon-to-be ex-wife contacted me days ago, telling me what terms to search for to get the district attorney's report rather than simply telling me the facts. She knew that I had to see it for myself or else it could just be hearsay. He had solicited underage girls via Craigslist, seeking to make porn, which led to an FBI sting operation. After catching him about to meet up with a "fifteen-year-old girl", the feds uncovered a cache of child porn on his computer and a prior sexual relationship with a sixteen-year-old. They also found the tape the police asked his ex to watch, a visibly drugged woman being raped. Though it wasn't her, the victim is an acquaintance of mine with whom I'd been to a few open circles. As I tell others he met through me of his twenty-three year prison sentence, a few mention that they, too, were his victims.

He reportedly "found God" while in prison awaiting sentencing, which makes me even more disgusted. Disgusted that he truly thinks this proclamation erases his sin. Disgusted that he was a rapist invoking the names I honor, but believes he can hide under the name Yahweh and be clean now. Disgusted he besmirches me by association (I checked the one social network on which we were connected and see that all of his pictures have been turned to static, but that he was still on my friends list). Disgusted that even his religion was fake, was maybe designed solely to allow him access to victims (as his victims seem to have been exclusively Pagan girls with image issues). He abused my community, defiled young people, then claimed that he is now playing for another team and his abuses under Paganism shouldn't count against him because he wasn't "saved" until he had corrupted others.

His ex says that he has the attitude that, since his new God forgives his transgressions, she is being a little petty not following suit. She does not let him have any contact with her daughter, intercepting birthday cards sent from prison. He was never really her father and has no right to involve her in this. Her daughter, now a spunky and adorable teen, has little memory of him and seems unfazed by his excision from their life. Her mother isn't going to tell her what he did unless it comes up, which is undoubtedly for the best. Let the daughter be untouched by his crimes, let her come from this atrocity clean.

However little it is fair to feel this way given the harm he has done to innumerable many - those he directly harmed and those who will have to fight to bring the healing for his sins while he languishes in a cell feeling self-righteous - I feel betrayed. Here was a man in whom I had invested some trust and he apparently used me for continued infiltration, so he could get closer to young Pagan women. He made me part of the web he used to ensnare his victims and I was never the wiser. Part of it is survivor's guilt, that this was happening around me and I came out unscathed. Part of it is the awareness that comes from working with young women, the skittishness that infuses their every interaction when they have been sexually abused. For some, it is a trauma they confront every day of their lives, so some creep without impulse control could violate them.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job.

last watched: How I Met Your Mother
reading: Bridge Across Forever
listening: Edith Piaf

Paperback Writer | 2010 | Wingman and Cloisered Lad

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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