When I was a young kid, I had a friend who, along with my parents, taught me the lesson that to be a good person, you need to lie sometimes. To protect feelings. To show you care. To have friends at all. My friend, RJ, was six years old, the same as me, when we met. He had fuzzy black hair and dark skin (he was black, but I didn’t look at people as white or black yet). He was one of about a dozen kids that lived in the same apartment complex. Not long after we started playing together, he got extremely attached. Every day, he would knock on my door and ask my mom if I could come play.

At first I was flattered to have someone like me so much. It was rare I had a friend at all, much less one that really liked me. We would play various games, the usual: tag, hide and seek, jacks, or make pretend. The more time I spent with him, the more he seemed to want from me. There were some days where we played the kissing game, which basically just involved him kissing me on the lips. One day, after such a kissing game session, he professed his love for me, in as much as a six year old can.

“Lex…” he said hesitantly.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, getting concerned. He looked sad all of a sudden. He often looked sad, but this was different.

“I really like you. I like you so much. Nobody spends time with me like you do. You are great. Thank you for being my friend,” he told me, turning a darker shade in the cheeks as he did so. Unfortunately, the full meaning of his words were completely lost on me.

“I like you too!” I said with more enthusiasm than I felt, trying to alleviate the obvious fear on his face. To be completely honest, I was beginning to get annoyed with him. Every single day, he would knock on my door, and there were many days I would rather have spent with Jeremy, an older boy I had strong feelings for. I ignored this feeling of wanting to spend less time with him and instead continued, “You don’t have to thank me for playing with you. I like to.” My mom always told me white lies were okay if it was to protect someone’s feelings.

“Am I your best friend?” he asked. Jeremy came to mind instantly. RJ most certainly was not my best friend. But, white lies were okay, and he looked so scared and anxious. I still felt dirty when I responded.

“Yes. You are my best friend,” I answered, lying like I’d never lied before.

He smiled at me, still looking embarrassed, but not as scared. Something was still coming. “Would you come to my birthday party?” he asked. “My mom is going to be there, and I’m scared. I don’t remember her, but I’m supposed to love her, I guess.” I really, really didn’t want to go.

“Of course!” I said. “I’ll ask my mom.” This protecting people’s feelings business was hard work.

I had been procrastinating a couple days when it came to the asking my mom when I got caught in my white lie of proposed best friendship. I was playing catch with Jeremy and having an absolute ball hanging out with him. I remember being so happy that day. In a moment of passion, I confessed excitedly to Jeremy how he is my best friend ever.

Unfortunately, RJ happened to be standing behind me at the time a few yards away, and I didn’t realize he was there. I heard a whimper, turned, and locked eyes with him. He was on the verge of tears, eyes glistening as they do, mouth in proper pouting form. I had really fucked the pooch on this one. Oh my, protecting feelings really is hard stuff.

Feeling terrible, I hesitantly brought up the party to my mom later that day. “You can go to the party. That poor boy, only now meeting his mom,” she said with pity in her voice.

“I don’t really want to. I don’t like parties and I see him all the time and I don’t know.”

“It would mean so much to him for you to go though. Don’t be mean. You can go to the party for a few minutes to support your friend. It’s the right thing to do,” she lectured. I felt ashamed for even trying to get out of going when I told RJ I would, particularly after my little blunder. Still, he was monopolizing my time, and I didn’t like it, but that didn’t mean I could break my word. But if my mom had said I couldn’t go, I’d have a solid excuse. No such luck, just a guilt-trip.

So I went to the party. I saw his mom take him into his arms. She cried like it was the happiest reunion ever. He was clearly just going with the motions. He didn’t know this woman, and didn’t know how to feel about her. But he played along pretty well, I thought. And as much as I could, I tried to be strong for him by giving him a smile whenever he looked to me, and keeping an eye on him even when others were distracted with cake or talk or play.

It was my responsibility to be there for him, and I was going to do a good job of it, even if my heart wasn’t really in it. I did feel bad for him. I wanted better for him. But I still didn’t want to be there. At all.

Some days, after that, when he came to the door, I would ask my mom to tell him I was sick and couldn’t play, or grounded, or anything. Even back then, I only had so much social energy in me, and he had kind of freaked me out when he asked if we were best friends. And I still felt guilty lying about it, but he also put me in a tough spot. It all was so intense. I didn’t understand what he wanted from me, and I wasn’t as invested in him as he was me which made me feel worse. One day though, my mom guilt-tripped me, once again, into going to play with him.

“Now Lex, you know how hard his life has been. No mom around, a dad in jail, and a grandmother who I’m pretty sure is abusive. Go out and play with him for a little while. He really likes you,” she said. Remembering the times I’d seen his grandmother openly whip him with a cane in front of me for very little reason and the recent party with his mom, I felt like a complete piece of selfish dog shit.

So I went out and played with him. It started out like any other day of playing around with toys or playing hide and seek. He was kind of quiet though. I found myself wondering if he was still upset with me. Then he got a glimmer in his eye.

“Hey are you up to play a new game?” RJ asked me.

“Sure, what is it?” I was always interested in learning new games. Though I got a weird feeling about the way he asked me. It was like he was asking me to do something we could get in trouble for. But I was feeling adventurous (mostly guilty), so I went along with it.

“We need to hide first, so come back here,” he said, leading me to a relatively private area behind the buildings and some bushes. “Okay, now take your pants off.”

This made me blush instantly. I never played doctor or anything like that before. I kept my privates private like a good boy. And I wondered what kind of game we could possibly play where my pants had to be off. But I obeyed and took off my jeans. “Do I have to take off my underwear too?” I asked meekly.

“No, not if you don’t want to,” he replied with genuine kindness in his voice. I had the feeling someone had forced him to take off his pants before and instantly felt pity for him, though I didn’t fully understand why. “Now lay down on your belly.” I obeyed, getting my shirt all dirty. He never asked me to remove my shirt after all. But my whitey tighties were glowing in the sunlight with shadows of leaves and trees speckling the scene. I looked over my shoulder to see what he was doing. He took off his shirt first, then he removed his pants, and finally, he surprised me by taking off his underwear. His penis was erect and bounced up and down as he pulled his underpants to his knees. He gave my body a full scan, licked his lips, and then he mounted me.

For a time, he humped my underwear, rubbed himself all over my butt and kissed my neck. He reached up my shirt and touched me all sorts of places I had never been touched outside of a bath by my parents: my nipples, my armpits, my belly button, my hip bone. Then he pulled my underwear down just enough to put his penis right on my anus, and humped there, intermittently and painfully making it inside.

He said some truly odd things as well, which now make enough sense as parroting of what was said to him, most likely, as a victim of pedophilic molestation including: “My beautiful boy”, “Dirty faggot”, “You feel so good”, “Good little bitch”, “I love you”, “Take it slut”, “I’ll always be inside you”, and similar things. It was all very confusing and odd. What was a faggot? Slut was a bad word. Bitch was a bad word. But he loved me? What? It felt good and bad all at the same time. I had no idea what to think.

When the pain got a little too intense at one point, something odd and yet not unfamiliar occurred where, at this point in my memory, I remember seeing him on top of me, like I was leaning against a nearby wall and keeping a watch over what was going on. When this happened, the pain stopped, and I became quite analytical about the whole thing. In hindsight, I can see I had disassociated to avoid the pain and entered into an almost scientific curiosity about the experience to avoid all the emotions bubbling up.

It was a peculiar experience, but I was so very curious by this game and what the point of it was. He quickened his humping, digging deeper into me as much as he dared, and then a moan escaped him like he just felt something incredible. Like tasting the most delicious candy, or sinking into a nice warm bath, but more intense. Out of breath, he collapsed on top of me for awhile, probably only a few minutes, but it felt like a long time. I was confused and fascinated. And my butt was tingly and sore. Dirt seemed to be everywhere. I wiped off as best I could and put my pants back on.

Then we heard my mom calling for me to come in for dinner. I turned over and we looked each other in the eyes, and I understood immediately that this is not something I could ever tell anyone. It would mean his life would become even worse, and besides that, it was embarrassing and scary to think of telling my parents. My dad had said things about boys doing intimate things together with their penises and butts. I was convinced they would be extremely angry with me. My parents had told me about sex already, but I only had a rudimentary understanding of it realistically. It had something to do with penises (peepees) and vaginas (coozies), but I don’t remember them mentioning anything about butts really, so this didn’t register as sexual to me at the time. Prior to that day, I had never kept anything from my parents intentionally. And after that day, I became determined to experience whatever it was RJ had while humping me. So started my venture into masturbation, though I didn’t have my first remembered orgasm for a couple of years.

As I walked inside, my mom chastised me for getting my shirt so dirty and told me to change and wash up before dinner. “What were you doing, wrestling in the dirt?”

“I just fell. Not hurt though. Sorry.”

“So long as you had fun, baby,” she said while stirring pasta. I thought about that for a second. Had I had fun?

“I did,” I said, not entirely sure if it was the truth or another lie.

While cleaning up, I realized I had never felt dirty quite in this way before. A part of me liked it: having a secret, something I wasn’t supposed to know or have done. A part of me felt that what we did was wrong somehow, but I couldn’t for the life of me reason why, but I figured I would avoid anything like that in the future just in case.

To be safe, I distanced myself from RJ after that. Even if my mom tried to guilt me, I rarely answered his calls to play anymore. And not long after that, we moved abruptly, which ended my relationship with RJ. I never did try to reach out afterward, and I never heard from him again.

In a way, he was like my first boyfriend. I wish I had known this at the time. But the only person I felt anything for at the time was Jeremy, but that’s another story. I will always remember RJ as the sad little boy I felt guilty for not liking more, or as much as he needed. He did deserve to be liked, but he was so desperate for attention, he was draining. I hope he has a better life now than he had back then. Somehow, I doubt it, but I do hope he does. Technically, I lost my virginity to him, though I didn’t realize that for many years.

For better or worse, that experience changed me. I never looked at things quite the same afterward, and having learned to lie, I proceeded to lie to myself for many years. Having one secret, a taboo topic, I craved more, and it all became a game of how much I could get away with without anyone noticing… thus, some weirder kinks and secretiveness developed over the years.

Reflecting on what I just wrote, it feels like I never even had a chance at a healthy perspective on friendship, sex, and authenticity. I was six. And that was only one of all manner of bullshit going down at the time. No chance at all until I was older. I kept away from anyone I liked even more than those I didn’t like, to keep myself from experiencing anything like that again.

This little experience lead into shame of sexuality, distrust of my parents to accept me, premature sexual preoccupation, difficulty being open with partners in my adult life, and attraction to romantic partners who are clingy and need help (often replaying the same scenario of giving more than I could to spare their feelings and later being punished, somehow, for it). I have absolutely no tolerance for verbal trashtalk, and am skeptical of affectionate statements made during intercourse partially due to this. I literally cannot be sexually attracted to black men 99% of the time because I find it difficult to trust them, I just get reminded of RJ whether I like it or not and whether it is fair or not. And of course, anytime I am in this position with a partner, I find myself disassociating at the littlest bit of discomfort, emotionally or physically.

This has lead into some situations going farther than they needed to, where I didn’t want it, but didn’t feel like I could say no, because “I owe him”, “I’ll deal with it, so long as he’s happy”, “It will be over fast enough”, “Better this than to fight”, or “Better this, at least he’ll still like me” which landed me into numerous circumstances where I was, essentially, raped. The fault for this though wasn’t truly on any of the partners involved. It was just that I truly didn’t know how to own it. Sometimes sex was good, and sometimes, I just had to watch from a corner of the room until it was over and clean-up the mess later.

This is how I learned to lie. To others to protect them. To myself to avoid pain. And to physically lay in submission for whomever needed my body to pleasure and comfort themselves. This was my place. To be honest meant to cause pain. To resist a man who clearly wanted sex meant to reject him, and to not pay the debts accrued for my dishonesty. To be a good friend, a good partner, and a good person who took responsibility for my impact on others, to make-up for any wrongs I may have done, and to show I care enough to make this sacrifice, I had no choice but to let it happen.

“This is what I deserve.”

“I hope it makes him happy this time.”

 – Image pulled from https://quotefancy.com/quote/982233/Jodi-Picoult-Part-of-growing-up-was-learning-not-to-be-quite-that-honest-learning-when-it

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