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Lowercase T | 2015 | House Mad


A fine thing to be talking about angels in this day when common thieves smash the holy rosaries of their victims in the street?  

-Jack Kerouac

Of Beasts and Bars

I ask Daniel how breakfast with Holly was.

"Fine," he says. "Dan Jurow is back in jail."

We had heard months ago that he was out pending trial, though we heard nothing more. Aside from Googling his name once, I doubt any of us looked for more information about him, content to leave him in the past. I wonder if he violated the terms of his bail and what exactly these term might be. I imagine he would be barred from using a computer and certainly from spending any time near places where children congregate, but admit to not knowing particulars in cases like this.

"I bet he solicited the same fake thirteen year old," Amber quips.

"Yeah," I say, "he was all, 'Hey, baby! I'm out on bail. We should hook up before the Man locks me up again.'"

"I'm not sure why," Daniel says, "but he is locked up."

I shrug. One never thinks one is going to know an accused sexual predator.

"Holly says that a lot of their mutual friends read your article about him," Daniel says. I tense. I have burned several bridges, strained a dozen relationships, and offended a few with my writing. Though I admit to no longer seeing much value to my former relationship with Dan Jurow-he was at best the boisterous and somewhat conceited lover of Holly-I still do not want the anger of those who care about him. It is possible others have seen a side of him I never did and they should not pay the price for his crime.

"They liked it," Daniel continues, unaware of my worry. "They thought it was fair. I guess even his mother pretty much has disowned him."

The evening digresses from this update, but the panic it instilled in me doesn't full leave. That night, Dan Jurow visits me in dreams. We are at a zoo, either because a trip to the Bronx Zoo was the only time we spent time with him without Holly or because I imagine him around bars and animals now. In the dream, he follows me, his smile Patrick Bateman bright and vacant. He wants to be my friend, as I am certain he would not in life. This is more unsettling than his fury, his hatred. I want to pity him because a part of me feels that he just doesn't understand the gravity of what he did, what he wanted to do. With that one act (at least the one for which he was arrested), he branded himself. He may not have been a good person, but he did not have a record as the closest thing our society has to a monster.

A few weeks ago, headlines blared that one of my former students brutally raped a girl. I flew into a rage, disgusted and guilty. I know my job is only to teach them English and hopefully toss in a few implicit lessons on the benefits to living a less criminal existence. I roll my eyes when they steal cars, when they are caught doing drugs again. This is shortsighted stupidity and its harm is ultimately far smaller to society than it is to them. Brutal rape is beneath contempt or reprieve.

Some people at my job take a different view toward the rape. They blame the girl for putting herself in the position where she could be kidnapped, tortured, and abused. If it is not her fault, it is certainly the fault of her friend, who left her one himself brutalized by the gang before abandoning her there on pain of having his family killed. They do not care to ascribe much blame to our former resident. To their way of thinking, we had a barely docile animal under our care. Once his time expired and we released him, he resumed being a feral. We cannot blame him for gang rape and torture when we didn't teach him better.

I know that I have had at least two habitual sexual offenders in my classroom. I have recounted before that I know people now serving time in prison for murder. On particularly bad day, I look at my students and all I see are the people they are going to victimize, the people I am not empowered to save.

Perhaps I would feel similarly responsible had Dan Jurow's thirteen-year-old victim been real, had he actually harmed a child. I do not believe Dan Jurow would not have been party to a brutal gang rape, like my former student. He is appetitive, but I do not feel he is violent. I may be splitting hairs, but I find myself better suited to the task given my day job teaching adjudicated minors and my vocation as author. I ignore the sin to help the sinner, then I spend all evening justifying the acts of demons so that they may seem to my readers more like misguided angels.

Soon after this night, one of Dan's former computer repair clients posts a response on the prior article about him, more or less saying that the Dan I described does not match up with the one he knew. No one is quite how we expect them, even if far less onerous circumstances. I am certain Dan knew enough to keep the less desirable aspects of his personality away from the people who gave him money, so long as they did not also expect affection or devotion from him. This man wants me to contact him so we can talk, but I don't understand the point. I have said all I needed to on the subject on Dan's soul. He is inherently selfish-which isn't specifically a sin-and implicitly willing to trespass societal and moral boundaries to get his wants met-which is a sin. I am not the one who needs to hear a defense of Dan Jurow's character.

The law doesn't give life sentences for attempted statutory rape. Dan will one day be free, having paid his debt to society and maybe gotten therapy enough. There is a small chance that, years from now, I may run into him on the street. Each week day, I look broken, mentally unbalanced young men in the eyes and tell myself I can see a future for them. I don't hate them, though only a few make that compassion easy. I don't hate Dan either, though I don't know that I would want to face him if I saw him walking down the street. Amber says that she would ignore him. In his shoes, she thinks he would probably ignore us too, not the least because I have a tendency to write publicly.

Ultimately, my approach may be hoping that, when next I see someone whose appetites I could not redirect to something wholesome or constructive (whether or not it was my obligation to do this), they have learned how to fit into society instead of being conditioned to bars as prisoner or beast. What is the point of any of much of what I do if I cannot believe in redemption? Even and especially if I sneer at someone's actions, I want to believe that I am some small part of a system that can give them a chance at an honest life and prevent them from victimizing others.

Soon in Xenology: More timely entries?

last watched: Garfunkel and Oates
reading: Our Sentence Is Up
listening: Sia

Lowercase T | 2015 | House Mad

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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