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May-10-2013 18:50printcomments

Special Feature: Secrets From High School; Remembering Two Colossal Lies

We all have these memories. Those of us who had hearts anyhow.

Theresa Griffin, aged 15-years-old, circa, 1981, photo by Dorsey Griffin.
Theresa Griffin, aged 15-years-old, circa, 1981, photo by Dorsey Griffin.

(PORTLAND, OR) - High School. Who remembers it fondly or without some form of amused chagrin at how awkward it was for us? Who can say it was an entirely positive experience, from which we grew and developed, (like all our dorky counselors promised us we would) to become successful, well adjusted and contributing adult members of society?

Little Theresa Griffin, aged 10, in 1976.
Glamour was always paramount... Photo
by Margaret Griffin.

And what about the less fortunate kids, who were relentlessly picked on? The ones who fit into no social group, or accepted social subculture? The poor white kids. The poor Indian kids. The poor black kids. The ones who were not able to "fake it" and were the constant butt of jokes or the victim of cruel pranks and abuse?

Do you remember their forlorn faces? Or the defeated way they carried themselves, with their shoulders rounded, in a downward slope, fearing the next onslaught of ridicule or bullying? Do you recall how you could tell, (with the uncanny intuition of a teenager) how they hoped to just disappear into the swarming sea of laughing, frantic, pimple-studded faces crowding the halls?

Perhaps you remember them? The one's who struggled so vainly and under so much duress that it nearly broke your heart to witness their daily suffering? Yes, we all have those memories. Those of us who had hearts anyhow. I'm not talking about the bullies, and there were female as well as male bullies too. I'm talking about the regular kids; the kids with a developed sense of empathy and compassion. Like me.

We all tend to remember the unfortunate ones, who poked our hearts with their sad eyes, making us feel guilty when we avoided them, for fear it would ruin our "reputation." The one's we may have tried to help, by giving them some clothing or make-up advice or simple encouragement, usually with little results. The one's who couldn't seem to assume that needed veil of deception, the way we could. Who couldn't survive and who sometimes did not survive, as we came to find out, later on in life.


Little Theresa Griffin, aged 10, summer of 1976,
in my new halter top and gold satin shorts...
Photo by Margaret Griffin.

High school, in Portland Oregon, at Lincoln High, during "the Greed Decade" of the 1980's was a contradictory, isolating and often lonely experience for me. Though I was able to fool the vast majority of people into thinking my home-life was better than it was, (and I was a relatively attractive girl) I felt like a fraud nearly the whole time. I struggled constantly, to find clothing that was "in style," a name brand if I was lucky and to stay in an adequate supply of make-up and perfume.

Being the 7th of 9, Irish catholic children was not easy. It became a dynamic infused with many diverse and complex social stressors. One of the most glaring being the consistent lack of adequate money for all the things we needed, such as clothes and shoes. A lack of money that never seemed to change, no matter how hard my Father or Mother worked. I was not the only child in my family to struggle in this way. It was a constant source of struggle for all my brothers and sisters.

Despite this issue, I was able to go about my time in class, relatively unnoticed, and that of course, was by design. I was one of the "middle kids" as I liked to call them. I was not rich, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was not 'poor' either; or at least I was not poor looking, as there was a difference.

I was well liked. I minded my own business and did not actively look for trouble. I spoke well in class group discussion (English class) and people knew I was smart, even though I was sometimes put in the "dumb" classes. This had more to do with the fact that I didn't try and got average to poor grades, than any concrete intellectual lacking on my part. I had a detached level of cool. I didn't try too hard. I was never overeager towards anyone, this included students and teachers. I kept people at a distance in order to create and maintain a feeling of dignity.

Lincoln high school was not an easy school to be a part of, particularly in the middle 1980's when everything depended on whether or not you wore designer clothing. When everything depended on where you lived, what your parents did for a living and what sports or other extracurricular activities you were involved in. Particularly if it involved skiing. Skiing is expensive you see. Only 'rich' people ski.

Sitting as it does, on the bottom of the SW hills, on Salmon street, Lincoln High school was where a large majority of well-to-do SW Portland white kids attended and in the brutal, soulless and materialistic 1980's, if you didn't look the part, you were nothing.

Looking the part, meant clothes. Plain and simple. Just clothes, but preferably designer clothes. Shoes, jeans, tops, Mini-skirts, and accessories. You could be dirt poor, as some of the black kids were, who bused in from North and NE Portland but if they 'looked good' it didn't matter. They looked good! And most of the black kids did. Their parents seemed to make it a priority. For myself, I never looked superbly dressed but I didn't look poor either. I was clean and well groomed. My clothes were not falling apart. I didn't stink. I didn't have excessive acne.

Which brings me to this stories main point. The need to deceive, in order to look the part. It is paramount; this need to lie in high school. You lie about your family. You lie about your history. You lie about your mother's college education, if she had one. You lie about everything, all in order to save face, which is more important than anything. Saving Face. Those were the unspoken key words of High School Survival that no kid would ever utter, but were keenly alive in all our minds.

And lying was something I'd grown up doing. I was good at it. In my family, if you told the truth, you got screamed at or worse. We all learned early on that lying was a needed part of survival in the Griffin household. I saw my brothers lie to my mother, my sisters lie to my father and I assumed the role of a liar too, as effortlessly as water drifting over a stone. It would take me decades to consciously decide to observe only the truth, as I understood it.

The day came like any other, it was not an unusual day in any way. I went to my classes, trudged along quietly, bored, depressed, numb. I promised I would "apply" myself more and get better grades, as my counselor had recently begged me to. I finished my meager lunch, of tuna sandwich and apple juice, sitting with a couple of black girls (Yolanda and Cheryl) I sometimes hung with in the loud cafeteria. After the lunch bell rang, to tell us to go back to class, I went to my locker to retrieve a book.

As I walked to my English class, the final bell rang. I would be a minute or so late. But as I rounded the corner, headed near the auditorium, my younger sister Bronnie ran right into me. She was hunched over, her legs bent and she was crying. She whimpered quietly and was holding her head with both hands. It seemed like she was looking for me, or so I thought, as she rushed into me. I put my hand on her shoulder, leaning into her, "What happened?!" I demanded quietly. She couldn't answer at first and I saw she was acutely embarrassed. I told her, "Lets go over here, so you can tell me what happened."

I walked with her to a corner of the hall, where we could get some privacy and again I asked her what happened. She still stood, hunched over, legs slightly bent, mortified with embarrassment. "This senior boy" she choked out, "he put me in a head lock and punched me in the temple five times!" I took her head in my hands and looked her over. I could see the reddened skin of her right temple beginning to swell, there were four visible compression marks where she had been struck. In an instant I was furious and I could feel my heart start to pound in my chest.

This was what I had feared. That eventually Bronnie, as an incoming Freshman, would get into some kind of trouble and would get beat up. She was over-eager with nearly everyone and reputed to be your typical Freshman "spazz." This according to two girls we had known since grade school, who complained to me of her nervous energy, shaking their heads. One girl, a dark-haired, dark-eyed Beauty, named Cherise had complained to me often back in grade school, asking me repeatedly, "Why can't she just be more like you? You're so relaxed and calm."

Theresa Griffin, aged 14, 1980, and already beginning to show the tell-tale
signs of a vindictive streak.
Photo by Margaret Griffin, who always told me I was "beautiful."

I tolerated Cherise's complaints, (because I understood her frustration) as long as they didn't become mean-spirited, or callous, explaining that Bronnie was "just trying to be popular." Adding after a moment, "And you know how hard that is" I remarked. I was trying to deflect the stress and awkwardness of the moment with a joke but I was serious too. Being "popular" was every kids desire, every kids torment, and every kids dilemma.

I understood Bronnie's desire to be "popular" only all too well. It had translated into Bronnie being too socially eager and annoying other students. One girl, also a freshman, a lovely bi-racial Indian girl, with long black hair and large, sad brown eyes (who worked as a model for the Nordstrom's department store) had threatened to "beat up" Bronnie, sometime earlier. (This same girl would commit suicide by jumping off the Vista Bridge years later in the late 1980's, after struggling with heroin addiction).

One afternoon, not long after she was at Lincoln, Bronnie approached me, almost in tears, because this much taller girl named Candice had threatened to harm her. "Will you talk to her for me?" she begged. I didn't want to do it, but I had no choice. I had to protect Bronnie. It had always been my role, assigned to me by my father as a very small child.

Later that afternoon, I walked right up to Candice, in the main hall, got right in her face and told her "You need to leave my little sister alone!"

"I know you don't like her" I told her, "but that doesn't give you the right to tell her you're going to beat her up either!" We stood facing each other, the very dark and very lovely Candice staring down her nose at me, and me staring up at her. Adamant and un-moving, I looked her straight in the eyes, not faltering. She knew I was older and a grade ahead, so she didn't challenge me and after a moment, I could tell she had gotten the message. She took a step back, mumbling "Whatever." At that point, I casually walked away, glad that the encounter was over and surprised that a girl who was at least five inches taller than me had backed down so quickly.

And so as Bronnie stood there, in the hall that day, trying not to cry, after having been assaulted by the senior boy, I told her firmly, "We have to go to the principals office and tell!" I held her shoulder with my hand, trying in my awkward way to comfort her. She seemed to protest, shaking her head, saying she didn't want to, but I insisted and walked her, with my arm holding her shoulder protectively to the principals office.

I walked in and announced to the three secretaries, "A senior boy just assaulted my sister! One of the women stood up and came to the counter. "Are you the one who got hit?" she asked, with a worried grimace on her face. The woman seemed to know this was something that had already happened. My sister nodded. Just then the vice-principal, also a retired football coach lumbered into the room. A tall, good looking, muscular man in his early 40's he seemed tired of his job and fed up. He ran his hands through his thick shock of dark curly hair as he approached us.

"Are you the girl who was hit? There's some talk in the halls that a girl was hit. Was that you?" Bronnie nodded again. "Okay, now who are you in all this?" he asked me, though he knew me already. "I'm her older sister" I responded. "Okay, I need to talk to a couple of kids in the hall here, so you two come into my office and stay there till I get back, okay?" We both nodded wordlessly and stepped into his office, only a few feet from the main office counter.

Siblings together, Galen, far left, Bernard, center, Bronnie, far right, Theresa front,
with nephew Rudy to the right, 1981, at the old family home on Thurman Street.
Gathered in front of our mother's Piano. Photo by Margaret Griffin.

As soon as he walked away and Bronnie and I were sitting in the two chairs, facing his desk, I leaned over to my left, where she sat and whispered, "what do I say?" She understood my meaning immediately, smiling in a relived way. She leaned into me and quickly told me what to say: That she had read an article this boy had written a week earlier, from the Cardinal Times, (the Lincoln High school newspaper) where he was a featured writer, about how"spastic freshman were" and that she had teased him about it while in one of the halls, near the Cafeteria. He had called her a "dumb bitch" and she had then tossed two French fries at his feet. He responded by sprinting across the hall, putting her in a head lock and pounding her temple, with five quick punches, as the only way, apparently, that he knew of, to communicate with a bright, sassy freshman, who had found his story offensive and hit a nerve with her comment.

I noticed the vice principal was taking some time and had been gone about 10 minutes, so I stood up and walked to the window of his office door. I strained to look through the window, raising up on my tip-toes, so I could see him. Through the main office windows I could see he was approaching one kid after another in the hall, and there were several. At least 15-20 kids. They all seemed excited, wide-eyed and afraid. Each time he approached a kid, he would speak to them for a brief moment and they would shake their heads no. One after another. No. No. No. No. My eyes narrowed knowingly, as the knowledge of this ancient dynamic began to sink in. Cowardice!

Not one kid would come forward, even if they had seen the assault! They were all too scared. The boys parents were both lawyers, they were "rich" and lived on "the hill." The kids were all too intimidated to go against the system; the system as they understood it. The unspoken 'class system' that is a very real part of American society, particularly in the materialistic 1980's. But not me. I would do anything to protect a family member and if that meant lie for them, then so be it. I was ready and I was happy to be ready! Happy to lie!

When the vice principal came back into the room, he looked grim. He walked across the room and sat down in his chair at the desk. He looked directly at me, his amber brown eyes large and serious, with long droopy black eye-lashes. He leaned forward and patted the table with his large calloused hand, resting his long white arm on the desk top. "Okay, I need you to tell me the truth of what happened. What did you see?" he asked quietly.

I told him I'd been rounding the corner, and I saw at the far end of the hall, near the hall that leads to the cafeteria, a much larger boy hitting my sister, while holding her in a headlock. I told the vice-principal that I yelled, "Hey!" and had run towards the boy, just as he seemed to decide to let my sister go and jog off. I looked the vice-principal right in the eyes, the picture of complete compliant innocence, my face blank, my eyes wide, innocent, truthful.

"You're absolutely sure that's what you saw?" He asked me, seeming doubtful. "Yes! Well, you can take a look at her temple for yourself if you want! Its bruised and swelling!" I retorted, feigning anger. "Okay, just relax." He said. "This is just really important, that I know exactly what happened, okay?"

"I just told you what happened!" I challenged. It was then his face relaxed. The vice-principal assumed an expression of complete resignation. "Okay!" he said, more to himself than to us."Okay, then I guess that's it." The tone in his voice and the look on his face said it all. It was out of his hands. Whatever happened now, was clearly beyond his control. He stood up and told me there would be "no need to involve the police." The boy would be "taken care of." Bronnie would need to be examined by the school nurse, he told us, who had been notified and was waiting nearby. Bronnie would also be let out of school early, he informed us both,and he would call our father Dorsey. I could go back to class, he told me, as he pulled out the pink pad, to write an excuse for being tardy.

After he handed me the slip, he stood wearily, his head down, and motioned, with a slight impatience, with his left hand, palm up, for us to precede him out the door. I looked up at him smiling flirtatiously as I passed, trying to regain his favor. He'd always liked me and was one of the few male faculty members I crushed on. He seemed to understand, in his tired fed-up way and simply said, "Okay Theresa, you get to class now."

Bronnie and I looked at each other, for an instant, as we filed out the door. Bronnie more than me seemed relieved and satisfied by the vice-principals verdict. Justice would be done. This lousy jerk of a rich-boy would be dealt with. As we slowly walked into the halls, loitering for a moment, with Bronnie waiting to see the nurse, we saw four freshman boys crowded together. "I just heard he's gonna get EXPELLED man! Can you believe it? This is fucking Sweet!" one of them exclaimed.

Another boy started jumping up and down, as if he was five-years-old, hopping and kicking his legs out, seemingly overjoyed at the prospect of this rich boy getting expelled. The tide had turned and how willingly the cowards all embraced this new change. Bronnie and I looked at each other solemnly and the barest hint of a tiny smile played out on our faces, as the message was passed telepathically from one to the other. We had pulled it off. Together, we had pulled it off. This rich boy would remember not to mess with a Griffin. At the very least, he would remember your name. Griffin! We had dealt with him. End of story!

Expelled, three weeks from formal graduation! It was poetic justice and he'd done it to himself by assaulting my sister in potentially a very dangerous manner, by pounding her delicate temple. A small, petite girl, weighing just under 120 pounds. The disregard for human life; the blatant violence of the assault was inexcusable! This punk would deserve EVERY ounce of humiliation he would suffer! I was only too pleased to help him along on that fun path of shame and future embarrassment! I was completely unrepentant at having lied. This was justice in my mind. Pure and simple. Justice!

I have often wondered, in the years since that tumultuous day at Lincoln High school, if what I did was wrong. Was it wrong of me to lie about something I didn't actually see? Other kids had said, they'd "heard" that this boy had hit a girl, punched her several times in the head. In the temple no less! They had even named the boy, that they "heard" did this, but of course no one actually saw < anything! No one was willing to be honest about what had transpired. No one was willing or courageous enough to assume the role of witness. Only I could summon the courage to step up to the plate, and it required that I lie in order to do it.

The truth however, is that there was never one moment when I didn't believe my sister. She told me who the boy was--she told me his name--and she told me what he had done. And I'd seen the evidence of it. A red swelling temple and four compression marks, indicating impact, and her distraught, traumatized little face, all screwed up in embarrassment, pain, and humiliation.

But I wonder, still, what would have happened if I'd have told the truth? That I didn't see the actual assault? Frankly, I know what the result would have been. Nothing would have happened. And the boy would have gotten away with a vicious assault, that could have done horrible potential damage to a small girl, who had done NOTHING to deserve such a vicious, brutal, misogynistic attack!

The likelihood is that if I'd told the vice-principal the truth, that I had not witnessed the actual assault, there would probably have been very little that any of the school administrators could have done, or would have done, given the fact that not one person would come forward to assume the role of witness. After all, the victim was only some "spazzy" freshman girl right? And his parents were both lawyers, right? Right.


Around the time of my sisters assault, I was going through my own teen-aged turmoil: I'd recently gotten pregnant by a football player, who would later become the captain of the football team. Not much of an achievement considering Lincoln regularly lost to the Grant Generals and other schools all during the 1980's.

But I miscarried at almost five weeks with what would have been his baby. Recovering from a natural miscarriage, weak, depressed and probably anemic also, I'd recently survived a hellish secret I could share with virtually no one.

It was a traumatic and terrifying ordeal I kept from both my parents and all my family members as well. With the sole exception of my oldest sister Margaret, I could tell no one, as the prospect of disappointing my parents, particularly my mother, represented my most colossal fear.

Shortly, before my sisters assault, I had tried to tell Bronnie, after school let out one day. We walked down the narrow winding asphalt road, which led to Salmon street and the huge, ancient walnut tree that stood there. We stopped in the middle and I tried to formulate the words. I tried but couldn't and just ended up bursting into silent tears on the walkway. "What's wrong?"

Tom walking through the halls. Tom Wager was a tall, blond, not-too-bright athlete, with a moon face, deep-set green eyes and ruddy chipmunk cheeks. He played on the basketball team, the football team and was also a very promising baseball player, having played since he was a small child. Despite his funny looking face, however, there was something about him that was highly magnetic and seductive.

Bronnie had heard many of my recollections about Tom since grade school. She well knew the stories of what had happened, but she could never understand how hard it was for me to let the idea of him go. "I don't know WHAT you ever saw in him. He's ugly! He looks like Lurch from the Adams Family!"

She had looked around that day, as I stood, with my head bowed, wiping away the tears, afraid, I could tell, of being embarrassed and told me we should continue walking. I could sense her impatience, after all, what would happen if someone saw? The other kids might talk. I never brought it up again after that, knowing also that if I told her, everyone else in our family would know.


My mother was the one person I could never disappoint, by having her find out the truth. She had been the only genuine source of parental support I'd ever had. She paid for several years of expensive ballet lessons, buying point shoes for me, when I began to dance on Toe. She had paid for my ballet expenses when my father refused to. After years of training, after I'd finally been allowed to dance on pointe, (something of an exciting time in my young life) my mother told me I needed to ask my father to pay for my first pair of Freed pointe shoes, which were only $25, since she was the one paying for all my lessons and gear. My father refused to pay for them and I had to beg him for over an hour, before he finally relented and gave me the measly $25.

After that, my mother once again resumed paying for all my lessons, slippers, leotards, leg warmers and pointe shoes. I was stunned at my father's selfishness, as he had supported my younger sister for decades, spending literally thousands of dollars for violins and thousands of dollars for violin lessons for her. It surprised and disgusted me that he would refuse to pay, even for a moment, the paltry $25 for my first pair of pointe shoes. A happy accomplishment that was diminished somehow, by his lack of interest, enthusiasm or validation.

My mother had always struggled to get me nice clothes, on a very limited income. She worked full-time in the "Book Department" at Frederick and Nelson's Department store on 5th Avenue in Downtown Portland. She was my whole world, and I would have been devastated if she'd ever discovered that I'd gotten pregnant, while using a form of birth control, no less.

So I told no one, except my oldest sister, who was the one person I could completely trust with a deadly secret. After calling Margaret, on the house phone and begging to see her, I bused over to her home. I told her I'd missed my period, a few weeks after spending the afternoon with a boy I'd known since 6th grade. She took me to Planned Parenthood in SE Portland and pretended to be my Aunt, asking them to perform a free pregnancy test, using a fake name for me.

When it came back positive, she walked with me to a local park, as I stumbled alongside her weeping quietly. While sitting on a bench, watching her young son Rudy, play and run, I felt weak-kneed with fear and anxiety. She understood what I was going through she told me firmly and offered to help, if I'd let her. She told me I could tell no one that she had helped me, least of all our parents. I nodded brokenly, trying not to dissolve into tears again, and saying little.

Who had done this to me? she wanted to know. I told her his name. Was he a good person, she wanted to know? I lied, saying yes, he was a very fine boy. She promised me, she could help me get an abortion, and that we had "more than enough time" to arrange it.

She promised me she would never tell anyone. That this would always be "something" she "kept" to herself. Her pity and understanding was something I cherished. Her matter-of-fact way of dealing with the situation and how she never once judged me was also something I genuinely valued. I was frantic with worry; frantic that I would be exposed and so grateful for her advice and counsel. She had been in the same boat, she told me, several times before and had been able to "take care of it." I would survive this she promised me, with her help.

The need for an abortion never came. Several weeks into the pregnancy, late at night I miscarried. Since finding out that I was pregnant, I cried every night for several weeks. Silently, I wept into my pillow, until with exhaustion, I finally fell asleep. I prayed for God to help me. To do something to take me out of this situation. The cramping in my mid-section, panic and fear must have worked some sort of stress induced miracle. It wasn't meant to be.

Laying in bed all weekend, with a bloody towel between my legs confirmed to me that no baby would be the result of my ill-chosen tryst with the Jock from school, who couldn't have cared less about me. The "baby" was dead. And I had been delivered. I was free! It was a blessing.

One online website I looked into, detailing research into "spontaneous miscarriage" states that"90% of women, ranging in age from 17-34, with elevated levels of the stress-induced hormone, Cortisol, during the first weeks of pregnancy, will experience spontaneous miscarriage. Researchers claim that the body may recognize the elevated levels of cortisol as an "alarm" that conditions are unfavorable for pregnancy."

But at the time the miscarriage happened, it seemed like some sort of act of God. Words cannot express how grateful I was to be out of hot water and done with it all. I could walk away and pursue my own future. I had been given a second chance.


Tom Wager, (a pseudonym) had come to Chapman Elementary when I was in 6th and he in 7th grade. The year was 1979 and he was a recent transplant from Illinois. I was almost 14, he was almost 15. As I'd been at Chapman Elementary since Kindergarten, and would indeed graduate from the school in the 8th grade, I was a long-time student at the school and knew everyone, including the social pecking order and where I stood in that time honored dynamic; somewhere near the middle or bottom, depending on whom you might ask.

Tom was a lumbering, blond, green-eyed, golden skinned man-child, who had captivated me from nearly the first day of Shop class, when we met, on that first day of school in early September. He was the typical "new kid" in school but he had the body of a man and I found him intriguing as a result. When we naturally clashed, due to our physical attraction to each other, I found myself, not only thrilled by his presence but frightened also. He was inscrutable and secretive, which confused me.

Theresa Griffin, aged 14, 1980, full of naive dreams...
Photo by Margaret Griffin

Tom was drawn to my playful exuberance and witty sarcasm, as I often sassed the Shop teacher Mr. Potts, and others, laughing and running around the shop room, happy to be having fun and making things with my hands. I found his quiet mystery compelling. He displayed a charisma that was both menacing, attractive and highly masculine. There were depths to him I couldn't penetrate and he seemed to possess a confidence in himself that drew me to him. At 14, he stood almost six-feet tall and weighed close to 160 pounds. Compared to my short five-foot three inch frame and 115 pound body, he was unlike any other boy I'd ever known.

We spent that first and only class we would have together, glaring at each other, poking fun, insulting each other and generally giving the other a hard time. Except that Tom was able, due to his larger size to do other things, that frankly frustrated and upset me. He would walk by me and pinch my butt. He would flick paper clips and rubber bands at my back-side so hard, I'd jump, yelping in pain.

He'd stroll by me and rap his large bony knuckles on my butt and thighs, so hard, he would leave marks, all while remaining perfectly inscrutable, claiming it was not he but someone else who had done it, even when I had seen him do it. I was usually incensed! I would march up to him, wide-eyed with fury. "I SAW you do it Tom! Don't deny it, I saw you!" and he would just calmly stand there and deny it, smiling down at me, as if he were indulging a spoiled child. It was maddening.

But I was also flattered at his attention and as he was the new boy in school, intrigued that he found me attractive enough to harass and torment.

He captured the interest of other people at the school too. Some people liked him, others hated him, generally other boys who were jealous of his superior size. People made fun of his awkward lumbering walk. More than one person compared him to "Lurch" from the Adams Family TV series. Kids even made fun of his plain 'Sears' style beige corduroy pants, and plain generic Tee shirts that he always wore. One girl I was friends with called him, "the Hayseed from Illinois." I had laughed at their cruel comments, never confiding to anyone that I secretly crushed on him, and agreed with them that he was indeed a dork.

In time he got my home phone number, from a fellow classmate, (because I refused to give it to him fearing he would think I was "easy" which was something all us girls constantly worried about). Our reputations. No girl wanted to be known as a "slut" or "easy." He called me, one afternoon, asking me to come visit him and against my better judgment I met him a few times in his parents tiny, cracker-box house, near Wallace Park in NW Portland. He told me to go around to the back, and when I quietly rapped on the back door window, he let me in. I found this acutely insulting, as if he were letting in "the help" but said nothing in protest

We walked down to his dusty basement, with him shushing me and telling me to be quiet as we walked down he stairs. I realized his family was upstairs and did not know about my presence. I looked around in dismay, wondering why we were in a dark, dusty basement and then realized sadly that he slept in a corner, with four old bed-spreads hung around his simple metal-frame bed, to simulate walls or create some semblance of privacy. There was no head-board or foot-board to the bed and the bedding, though clean, looked old and second hand.

I instantly felt sorry for him, when I saw where he slept. Even I had my own bedroom, with an antique, cast-iron, single bed-frame adorned with four genuine glossy brass knobs. A bed that had belonged to my father, made in the 1920's. My bedroom had pretty wall paper on the walls, with pink and peach colored flowers and my antique bed was not only beautiful but also valuable.

The bed was covered with a beautiful bedspread, with tiny white and blue flowers. Every morning, before school, I happily made my bed, pleased as I was with the new bed spread. It moved so easily under my fingers, and made my bed look like something out of a Victoria magazine, replete with lace and crinkled dust ruffle. My mother had proudly given the bed spread set to me, purchased with her store discount, from the Fredrick & Nelson's department store where she worked, and so it seemed odd and sad to me that Tom had his "room" in a dim, dusty basement, instead of a regular bedroom.

Though I was only 13, almost 14, and he was only 14, almost 15, we made out a few times. In his dim dark basement we discovered the thrill of our physical bodies, and the erotic power of mutual attraction, kissing each other deeply, frantically holding each other, completely lost to the outside world, and only aware of each other. But the message he communicated to me was clear. I was not someone he wanted to advertise he was spending time with. He liked me; obviously--he thought I was attractive, he wouldn't have called me if he hadn't, but I was also someone he considered, for whatever reason, to be a social inferior.

In a nutshell, I was his dirty little secret.

Being that we were both so young, and I would not have known how to formulate the words, I never confronted him about his unfair and inaccurate attitude towards me. He was certainly not any better off than me, socially or economically, as we lived in the same general area, which was the lower flats of NW Portland. The lower income area, commonly called "the Flats." Yet, when he quietly sneered to me, one afternoon, after making-out with me for over an hour, "You don't need to go blabbing all over the school about what we do together" I'd just nodded in silence and tried to quell his fears that I'd blow the whistle on him. "I won't say anything" I finally promised him quietly. All that mattered to me was that he continue to kiss me, and hold me with his long gorilla arms in his little basement corner.

The bed spreads hung around his bed, and in the dim light they drifted slightly as we moved on the bed. The smell of clean laundry lingered fragrantly in the air. His sweet, young mouth and perfect strong body was something I was becoming addicted to. I felt powerless against the dizzying feeling of delirious intoxication that he gave me.

We were both incredibly young and it was all so fresh and new, this thing we were doing; holding each other, kissing each other deeply, squeezing each other, encased in a dim, smoky sensuality. He was so much bigger than me, so much taller, with the body of a man, that I felt unable to resist him. There was something about him what was alluring and seductive. His hands were enormous and strong, compared to mine, and his biceps and thighs rounded and well developed. He outweighed me by at least 50 pounds and when he pulled me to him, I just slid right up and into his arms with ease. He was an alluring man-child, and when he was not being a sarcastic jerk in Shop class, poking fun at me, trying to look up my skirt, or rapping my butt with his bony knuckles, he could be a most attentive, tender and affectionate lover, who never pressed his advantage or made me feel unsafe. He would kiss the tip of my nose, smile at me and make me feel loved, wanted and appreciated.

After several make-out sessions, and the end of the first term of school, our shop class was over and strangely, he stopped calling me. Instantly I felt bereft.

I had been indoctrinated by my parents, particularly my father, to believe that a "lady" never pursued a boy. I couldn't call him, that would have been aggressive and unladylike, according to my father. I spent the rest of the school year thinking about Tom, missing him and wondering why he'd stopped calling me. It couldn't have been because I was unkempt or dirty, I was always clean and fresh. I wore a little makeup, I wore a little perfume, my clothes were okay. It couldn't be because I had a bad "reputation" either as I didn't make out with any other boys. And I was independent, playful and outgoing.

That he was afraid someone might find out about us came to my mind, and it became apparent he didn't want anyone to know we had been together, for fear that they would judge him probably. I never really understood why he stopped calling, but the fact is he was willing to give me up, and therefore, more than likely, he simply had other options to pursue.

In the girls bathroom, toward the end of the school year, I saw that a girl had written, on the wall, near the front, southern facing door, "Tom Wager is cute" I was incensed that another girl would write something like that and weak with swirling jealousy. I stood there, alone in the large restroom, wide-eyed and in a rage, glowering at the words, wanting to know who had written them. I later, causally asked around and eventually found out it was a new girl. A"scummy" blond girl, who had recently transferred to the school and didn't stay long. A girl who wore too much make-up and had a bad reputation as a "loose slut." A couple of days later, I scribbled over the girls words, with a black Sharpie pen, making the letters indecipherable, and then wrote below the scrawl in an angry hand, "Tom Wager is ugly!" I felt vindicated when I saw my big capital letters, in black ink, above the other girls small pencil script, which I'd destroyed. I walked off, feeling smug, angry and sad.

When Tom graduated to 8th grade, and I to 7th grade, I spent the entire year, trying to avoid him in the halls. It made me heartsick to see him lumbering through the halls, with his tall man-body, walking with that strange feline grace, or catch his odd, simmering gaze, full of sexual and erotic promise.

As he only lived five blocks from my house, which was located on 24th and Thurman, a house at least twice as large as his tiny home, I could not help but run into him in the neighborhood, on a fairly regular basis. Once, as I spoke to a friend in a pay phone, on 18th and Thurman street, arranging a movie date, I had an eerie feeling that someone was watching me. I turned directly around and a block south, standing across from the Post Office, Tom stood silently, watching me like a spider, with his hands in his pockets, remaining completely motionless. I looked at him, bewildered, uncertain what he was doing or why he was just standing there, but also feeling that strange, heart-skipping magnetism that only he could evoke.

After saying goodbye to my friend and slamming down the telephone receiver, I stuck my nose in the air and walked off in a huff. As his image disappeared from my peripheral vision and I walked East, toward home, I tried not to cry, biting my lip to quell the tears that were always just below the surface, ready to erupt.

Tom was my first love.

He was the first boy I'd fallen hopelessly and crazily in love with. He made my heart pound and my knees weak. He made me feel more alive than I've ever felt before or since. And even after all this time, (some 34 years) I've never been able to recapture that intense feeling of dizzy, wild attraction. I presume it was part of being so young and the thrill of youthful discovery that led to that feeling of newness and intensity, because I've never felt it since, to quite that level of raw, animal excitement.

Nothing could console me, however, during that last year at Chapman. I pined for Tom, secretly, all during 8th grade, within the hidden confines of my mind and heart, looking forward to the time I was at Lincoln as a freshman, just so I could see him occasionally, walking through the halls, because now months would pass and I wouldn't see him in the neighborhood.


Shortly before I started my freshman year at Lincoln, during the hot summer break. I'd gotten on a Trimet bus, heading up 23rd Avenue to meet a friend at Nordstrom department store for lunch. There, standing by the Quality Pie Shop stood Tom, in his ever-present beige corduroy pants and white Converse sneakers, a white Tee shirt gripped loosely in his right hand. I sat on the bus, as it slowly ambled past, watching him as he stood causally outside the restaurant, not seeing me, and I ached at the sight of him.

He looked perfect. His smooth hairless chest and flat belly shone a dusty gold and his perfectly formed body, looked exactly like the statue of David at the Galleria Dell' Accadmia, in Florence, Italy.

As I sat on the bus, watching him, fingering my silver clutch purse resting in my lap, my fingernails freshly painted with apricot frost polish, the longing I felt for Tom was visceral, deep and melancholy. He stood, as if waiting for a ride, bored, leaning against the building, with his thick shock of golden blond hair, lifting slightly in the summer wind. The image of him standing there, burnt itself on my brain and I never forgot how lovely and natural he'd looked, every gold cell springing, put on display. An image of health, youth and masculine beauty that lingered in my consciousness for years after.


Eventually, the time came and I was enrolled at Lincoln High school. Going from 9 years in a grammar school, (from Kindergarten to 8th grade) at Chapman, and into high school, was a sobering experience. It took a while to get used to how big the school was, to find my class rooms and to make a small number of friends. And there Tom was, lumbering through the halls again.

I was still angry at how he'd treated me in grade school, so when I saw him, I generally stuck my nose in the air, flipped my long brunette hair and never took the risk of trying to talk to him. I rejected him, before he could reject me. A timeless dynamic of self preservation.

I spent my entire first year at Lincoln avoiding him, (yet secretly hoping to see him) and most of my sophomore year avoiding him, until the last part of my sophomore year. I was 16 and he 17, when he seemed to look at me with more interest. During my sophomore year, I took more time with my appearance and made even more of an effort with my make up. I dyed my long hair black, I wore cherry-red lipstick, dark brown mascara and peachy face powder. I painted my filed nails in apricot or pink frost nail polish. Tom seemed to notice. He glanced at me longer, and toward the end of the year, he approached me in the main hall and talked to me briefly. I could tell he was nervous, afraid I would not respond, but I found it hard to be blatantly rude and so I spoke to him.

I was naturally suspicious and did not respond as readily, but eventually I felt I should let bygones be bygones. Its what I had been taught, as a Catholic. To forgive and forget. Soon, the simple talking turned to our previous playful flirtation of grade school and after once again, getting my phone number from a mutual friend, he called me one night.

We talked on the phone several times and anxious as I was to resume our past intimacy, I continued to flirt and encourage him, giggling into the phone, being playful. The flirting became more blatant. We asked each other pointedly direct questions. I asked him if he was still a virgin. He told me that no, he was not, that he was "experienced" now. And he asked me, in a moment of tender recollection, "Do you remember what we used to do together?"

Of course I did. How could I not remember?

"I remember" I said simply. "Of course, I remember," "Yeah" he remarked quietly.

After a few days of talking on the phone, and towards the end of the school year, he asked if I'd like to spend some time with him at his house. I said yes, feeling a tickle of fear and apprehension in my mid-section. I spent a whole afternoon making myself beautiful for the appointed date. I showered, shaved my legs, put lightly scented body lotion all over my body, and did a nice subtle make-up, with frosted peach, instead of cherry-red lipstick.

I put on my new turquoise flared mini-skirt, new pink lace panties, sleeveless white top and low heeled braided brown leather sandals. A touch of perfume sealed the deal. I walked to his tan-colored house in NW Portland and knocked on the front door, feeling confident and knowing I looked great.

At the time, I didn't understand that me coming to his home was clearly the wrong thing to do. Even then, years after the "sexual revolution" of the 1960's, it was still the wrong thing do do. But I was a "modern girl" I thought to myself. I could handle his invitation. He'd "respect me" in the morning I naively presumed. I was soon to learn that "the rules" never change!

After leaving Lincoln, & transferring to Grant. Spending time
with my boyfriend Sammy. Kelly Point Park, 1983. The black hair
dye from Lincoln was growing out. Photo by "Sammy."

Tom had been waiting for me, as he answered the door. He greeted me politely and invited me in with a welcoming wave of his hand. Then he gave a formal-seeming tour of the downstairs, as if he felt he was obligated to do so, as a proper host would. He showed me the living room, the kitchen, the dining room, all nicely decorated in shades of tan and beige and I marveled at how extremely tiny his house was. He asked me if I'd like something to drink. I declined. Then he asked if we should go upstairs. I followed him up the cramped, narrow stairwell. I found myself in what appeared to be his parents bedroom. The bed was unmade and there were frumpy looking 'adult' clothes scattered here and there but everything was clean, with white, beige and tan bedding. This would do, I felt, as I looked around. I knew what was coming.

He walked over to the side of the bed and sat on the edge, patting the rumpled sheet next to him. He wanted me to come sit near him. I stood defiantly, not moving for a short moment and then finally fell laughing, onto the bed and into his arms. It seemed that no time had elapsed since the last time we'd held each other. We kissed deeply and eventually after making out for some time, he wanted sex. I knew he would and had prepared myself. Though some might say, I moved too quickly, I was desperate to reconnect with him. Desperate to feel the thrill of being in his arms again. I presumed he was not a virgin, as he'd told me he was not on the telephone. I had already had my first consensual sexual experience with a boy and had for all intents and purposes lost my virginity only a couple of months before, so I knew what to expect.

While I lay under him and we had sex, I was able to determine that this probably was indeed, his first time. He couldn't 'keep it up' and I had to keep helping him, which I did silently and without comment. Finally, after getting the hang of it, in only a few minutes, his body shuddered in orgasm. I didn't, but that was not unexpected. He was a boy and I knew he wouldn't be able to make me come.

It was wonderful however, while we made love, to caress his hard, broad shoulders, and muscular arms, while watching his long, full organ move in and out of me. "God, you're so big"I whispered, knowing he would love to hear such a flattering comment. He smiled deliriously, closing his eyes, lost in the sensuality of the moment.

Tom was young and gorgeous. His dusty gold color was intoxicating, his jewel-like green eyes, multi-faceted and beautiful and I felt delirious knowing we were finally going 'all the way.' I felt like I could do anything for Tom and maybe, just maybe, we actually might have a future together. Maybe I could be his girlfriend now, I wondered to myself. Only time would demonstrate to me, the complete naivety of that simple and impossible hope.

We lay in the bed, recovering, and held each other. "Do you want to take a shower together?"Tom asked me. "I've already had one today, but another one won't hurt" I said playfully, as I hopped up. We walked into the bathroom, stepping into the shower stall and stood giggling under the warm water. We soaped ourselves, rinsed off and washed our hair again. Our bodies were both so young and perfect, there was no self consciousness or awkwardness, at least not on my side.

He had asked me before we made love, if I was "ashamed" of my body, "like so many other girls are" he added. "I'm not ashamed of my body at all" I stated, "I just don't like it very much. I wish it was more perfect" I explained cheerfully. "I'm not ashamed of being naked for example, here with you..." I explained to him, smiling playfully. His awareness of things like body-image and personal shame, made me think he was enlightened but I could not have been more wrong.


Tom was not enlightened at all. He was your typical Catholic boy, who equates a good-girl with hating sex and a bad-girl with liking sex. The "Madonna/Whore Syndrome" is what its called. I was your typical bad-girl in his simple mind. I had liked it and liking it for a girl was a sin. When he was on top of me, I'd wiggled and squirmed, spread my legs open as far as I could, gasped, whimpered and made lots of noise. I could tell he was thrilled being with me. I could tell he was thrilled at my touch, at the way I clung to him, especially when his young body shuddered in orgasm, but later, apparently, he would feel that "shame" he'd asked me about earlier.

Part of his shame and self loathing was directly tied, I think, to our Catholic heritage and roots. His family ancestry is Polish, my family Scots/Irish and English, with both families raised Catholic. Learning about the "sins of the flesh" were common elements to both our upbringings. Sexual shame and repression are part and parcel to being raised well. And of course sex was something people didn't talk about, even then, in the late 1970's and early 1980's, it was still a taboo subject.

After Tom had moved to Portland, in 1979, he and his family attended the same Churches my family attended: St Mary's Cathedral and St Patrick's Cathedral, both located in NW Portland. The difference was that my family had been parishioners my whole life, starting when I was an infant and he and his family were new to town.

In a territorial sense, I felt like my space had been violated. He was always everywhere it seemed, even in Church on Sunday.

After our little trysts in grade school, it became very hard to see him sitting with his father near the altar of St Mary's Cathedral, on the left-hand side of the church. My mother and younger brother and I would sit in the forth or fifth center aisle seat, to the left of the nave. I would often catch Tom looking over at me and sometimes he'd catch me looking over at him. Seeing him in Church was confusing and upsetting. After a while, I begged my mother to let me stay at home, never telling her the real reason I didn't want to attend. She refused of course.

And like proverbial "sinners" Tom and his father always left directly following communion, a big No-No in the Catholic Church. My mother would shake her head disapprovingly when she saw them trying to leave through the West-side entrance/exit unnoticed. Eventually I made it a rule to completely ignore Tom in Church, which I did, but not always successfully.

But after that eventful day, near the end of my sophomore year at Lincoln high school, with Tom and I "knowing" each other in the biblical sense, he simply didn't call. He would pretend, apparently, that the day never happened and would eventually spread a cruel rumor all through Lincoln High School about me. And that false, untrue rumor would become the reason I'd transfer to Grant High school across town, where no one would know me. Where I would 'disappear into the swarming sea of laughing, frantic, pimple studded faces' and try to forget.

I always knew the story of the girl who gets conned by the jock. I'd read stories about such things in Readers Digest, Red Book and the Ladies Home Journal. Stories of an eager young girl wanting to connect with the swaggering jock at school. I knew the dangers of trusting such a person. A person like Tom, who could lie and con, deceive and use others with no second thought as to how it might effect or hurt them.

I had always promised myself, I would never be so stupid and yet, there I was. I had become that girl. I'd been conned. For whatever reason, Tom thought I was less than the other girls.

No matter how clean, attractive or wholesome I made myself up to be, he still could not get past where I lived or my low social status. I was pretty, in an impish, petite sort of way, but I was not a Beauty Queen. He wanted better.

He'd used me to lose his virginity and that had been my only purpose. He'd lied to me on the phone, saying he had missed our friendship and missed me.

He'd told me his "intentions" were"honorable" when I suspiciously asked him why he wanted me to come to his home that afternoon. He had asked me, as if he were truly offended, "You don't think I'd take advantage of you do you?!" And I had stupidly believed him.

Several days after he hadn't called me, after we'd spent that first afternoon together, I called his house, but only once. I called and left a message with his father, a message for him to call me back. He never did, so I didn't push it. I could see the writing on the wall.


The most painful part of his tricking and then dumping me came a few weeks later, when "Ines" the new German Exchange student, with the long mane of wild, wavy blond hair was now spotted with Tom, walking next to him in the halls, laughing and smiling up at him. The rumor circulated like wild-fire that they were "going out" now and she was his "girlfriend." I felt crushed. I cried at night, into my pillow for over a week. I had been stupid, trusting, naive and a complete chump. I had trusted a liar and a con artist. I had trusted Tom, when I knew deep down that he was fickle and cruel, essentially a shallow social climber!

I also knew Ines. We had morning Choir class together. She was a quiet, arrogant German exchange student, with a thick German torso, thunder thighs and a huge bubble butt. Her one beauty was her hair. It hung to her waist in long unwieldy tendrils and was the color of spun gold. Ines thought she was far prettier and more desirable than she actually was and most of the girls in Choir class, tolerated her tiresome attitude of pissy superiority because we knew she was a foreign exchange student, far from her homeland of Germany and probably lonely as a result.

The rumor was that when Ines had told people her name was Ines, pronounced "Eeenis" and because the word sounded so similar to PENIS or ANUS, she had been encouraged by a teacher at Lincoln to tell people to call her Inez instead, so she wouldn't get teased. Everyone knew the story and most of the students laughed about it, secretly, behind her back.

During this time, several weeks after I'd been used by Tom to lose his virginity, and he and Ines were now "going out" the choir class prepared to do a recital performance at the Hilton Hotel. This was towards the end of the school year, and I would be among six girls to sing a solo, which would not include Ines, who was not good enough to sing a solo. About two days before the recital, Ines turned around and looked over at me, sitting in the tier above her, and asked quietly in a bitchy voice "You're not go-ink to vear dose shoes are you?" The shoes I was wearing were high heeled, tan and called Famolare's...

A typical pair of Famolare shoes, from the late 70's, early 80's...

They were not ugly shoes, they were not even worn. I had gotten nothing but compliments from several other girls about the shoes, who called them "vintage" so her comment didn't make any sense.

The other kids got quiet for a minute and watched me. Those were fightin words! I smiled venomously at Ines and didn't answer, instead deflecting her comment by turning to my left, flipping my dark hair at her, and cheerfully talking to the girl beside me. I blew her off. She turned back around, flipping her mane of wild blond hair over her right shoulder and the other kids and I snickered at her as she sat with her huge butt bulging out the back of the chair. She tried to cross her bulky legs but was unable to and merely crossed her ankles instead, pretending to read the music that she held in her lap.

One of the girls I was friends with, a girl named Katie, laughed and said loud enough for Ines to hear, "She needs to worry about her own dumb look. Jeans and Tee shirts every day gets old fast! And have you seen HER shoes?!" We all laughed again. Ines wore worn-out Hiking boots and beat-up old shoes most of us girls would never be caught dead in! I leaned into Katie and we laughed with renewed enthusiasm.

Later, after class let out, I asked Katie what the problem with Ines was. She sighed and took me aside, near the Auditorium. "Well, its gotten around that you and Tom Wager were like, you know, like, boyfriend and girlfriend, when you guys went to Chapman? So Ines is kind of jealous of that. That you knew him for longer or something." Katie waited for my replay, hoping for something juicy I could tell her. I said nothing.

I just smiled good naturedly and laughed. "She doesn't have anything to worry about. I'm not interested in that Neanderthal. He's a moron, just ask around" I causally remarked. "Well, I heard he's like a straight A student and gets really good grades" Katie responded.

"That could be true" I agreed blandly, "but he's still not very bright and he's not very nice either. I could tell you stories. I know Tom pretty well..." my voice trailed off...

No one could tell how hard it was for me to pretend to be cool, to pretend that this didn't bother me. I was that skilled at maintaining the mask of deception. No one could see how painful it was to deny the reality of my sadness, when only a few weeks prior, Tom and I had been tangled up in bed together, lost in the wonderland of our youthful bodies, so perfect and smooth and firm. I wondered if Tom had told Ines something unflattering about me. I wondered if he'd told her I was some kind of "slut" that he'd fucked or something. Or if he'd made the proverbial excuse all cheating men seem to make, when they say..."She meant NOTHING to me!" I could only wonder, never knowing exactly...


The Night of the recital loomed and I wondered if Tom would be there, since it was common knowledge that he and Ines were now together. I had practiced the short solo several times after class, with the Choir teacher. She encouraged me and told me how sweet my soprano voice sounded, encouraging me to get private opera lessons, and telling me I had "rare potential." I loved her praise and tried even harder to do well.

The night of the recital came, at the downtown Hilton Hotel. I began singing my solo and then, less than a minute later, I noticed Tom, standing in the back of the room, behind the 60 or so people who had gathered to hear us sing. As he now stood six feet two inches, he towered over the rest of the people. Strangely, I felt too scared to falter, and soon my solo was over. I had done well. But why did he have to be there? Why couldn't he have spared me this? Why did he have to ruin this happy accomplishment for me?

After singing several songs, as a group, the entire choir retired to a room nearby for juice and cookies, to celebrate the end of the recital. I tried to avoid Ines and Tom. But he seemed to want to get close to me, so he could show off. Wherever I was, he seemed to be close by.

At one point, he sidled up towards me, with Ines on his arm, asking her brightly, as he leaned into her, giving me an unencumbered view of his face, "Would you like me to get you something to drink?" Ever the perfect gentleman.

His phoniness was sickening, and the way he played it up, an Oscar winning performance. Then Ines looked over at me and it seemed to me that her eyes gloated with cold satisfaction. I gazed at nothing in particular, looking away, smiling placidly, and tried to ignore her pointed stare. The truth was, I felt sick. I was nearing the end of all my endurance.

When Ines finally turned her back to me, I looked for Katie, who was watching me from across the room. She slowly walked up and put her arm around my shoulder, a concerned look on her face, steering me away from them. She could tell how hard this struggle was for me. She could tell I had not told her everything and this was a painful situation for me. "Its okay Theresa" she whispered, "just sit over here with me."

I sat with Katie and then waited for the rest of the choir to leave. She had wanted to know more I knew, but I'd never felt comfortable enough to really confide in any of the girls I knew. If I'd told even one girl, about my history with Tom, it would have spread around the school like wildfire. When she pressed me for more details, I told her it was nothing important, and I just couldn't talk about it.

Avoiding Tom was becoming impossible. I wasn't sure how much longer I would be able to maintain the needed facade of indifference. Going to school and seeing Tom walk through the halls was becoming too difficult. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride and assuming a blank, placid appearance of tranquil contentment was becoming nearly impossible, when what I really wanted to do was hide in the girls restroom and cry into my hands, hidden behind a locked stall.

The veil of deception I was so used to wearing was beginning to break away. It was like a heavy mask that I could no longer maintain. It was beginning to crack and disintegrate; the fissures weakening the integrity of the structure. The weight of the sadness was making me sick and weak. The hurt I felt, the disillusionment--the dismay at his lies, at the way he'd been so casual about using me, and then tossing me away, at how naive I'd been. It was slowly eating away my resolve to persevere at Lincoln High School.

My fear that Tom would spread a rumor, my fear of the future and what it might bring were beginning to weigh on me like a ton. Something would reach a tipping point, I knew. But how would that happen? And what would it be, to create that tipping point?

It came sooner than I thought it would.

Avoiding Tom and Ines became my daily challenge. I stopped using halls I normally used. I started using back stairwells, and taking the long way to my classes. I started spending my entire lunch break in the library in the hopes that I wouldn't see them. And that worked, for the most part. Until one day, when I had safely ensconced myself in the very back of the Lincoln Library, with all the regular nerds and rejects. I was sitting in the back, reading a book on Ballet, trying to think of something else when I heard a familiar low voice. It was Tom, talking quietly. I looked up and he and Ines walked within feet of me. I sat at the bottom of one of the stacks, with my legs crossed Indian style, a pile of books in my lap.

Tom looked to his left and saw me. He froze and his face looked stricken. Wide-eyed and for the life of him, very guilty looking. A kind of 'deer in the highlights' look. Ines did not turn around, so I don't think she saw me. My eyes locked with Tom's for a brief moment. I looked up at him blankly, with no judgment or emotion and before he could turn away, I looked back down at my book. Then I could sense them moving away. I looked back up, to see him steering her away, his left hand resting lightly on the small of her back. Upon reflection, I realized his stricken look was probably just fear that Ines would see me. It was clear she felt threatened by me and had been jealous of our previous history together. But he'd been able to steer her away in the nick of time.

Tom and the beautiful foreign exchange student. He certainly had done well! He'd landed the snooty German girl, who thought she was better than everyone else. Bravo Tom! Movin on UP!

I looked down at my book again and felt that feeling return. That bereft feeling of complete emptiness. That ache that you get in the center of your chest. That painful feeling when you feel a kind of bottomless sadness that won't go away, and two fat tears welled up in my eyes and slid quickly down my cheeks.

I casually wiped them away with the back of my cotton, peach-colored, V neck sweater, readjusting myself slightly, on the hard carpeted floor, to read my book more comfortably.


The following week, as I stood beside my locker, at the end of the day, stuffing it with books and pee-chee folders, I saw a girl I'd noticed before. She was a freshman that I'd seen in the halls. A poor girl who always wore dirty jeans and shirts with greasy food stains on them. She was not pretty and in fact, quite ugly, with disjointed features, terrible pimply skin and greasy medium brown hair that she always had in a tight pony tail. The sneer on her face made her seem even uglier.

She was a poor girl, a girl the popular girls would call "scummy" but she was determined. I heard through the grapevine, that she came to every class, turned in her assignments, was never absent and got good grades. She was the kind of person with an ax to grind and she looked the part too. She would graduate and go onto college no doubt, through Hell or high water. But I often wondered how 'happy' she would end up. She seemed so very incredibly angry. As she was a freshman and I was a sophomore we did not associate, but I had observed her from afar. She was a fascinating girl to watch.

I looked over at her blandly, my eyebrows raised in boredom, and then returned to my task of stuffing my locker. As I stood, with my head bent, listening intently, I heard her whisper hoarsely to her overweight friend, "That girl over there, she's a slut. I heard she has a disease." She said it loud enough for me to hear. That was the point. And as she walked away, smug and pleased with herself, laughing a mean-spirited laugh, I tried to pretend it didn't matter. My face was expressionless, as if I hadn't heard her comment, while I continued to put things in my locker, but my heart was pounding and I was in a state of instant panic. I knew the origins of the rumor. There was only one person who could have started it. Tom Wager.

Then I understood the strange looks I'd been getting for the previous few days. Kids I had never had problems with before. Kids I didn't even know had been pointing at me and whispering things to each other. It hadn't been my imagination. I was too perceptive and alert to not notice this sudden change. No one else had the courage to actually say something but the poor ugly girl did. And I was grateful, because now at least I knew the truth.

I knew there was no way I could stay at Lincoln. I would have to transfer out. The realization hit me as coldly and as rationally as a rain storm hits a fisherman. It was just that simple. I had to leave. There was nothing I could come back to. There was nothing left to come back to, and I'd be damned if I was going to end up a chased reject, tormented and teased by miserable sadist teenagers. I was smart enough to accept defeat as I knew it. Tom had won. He'd run me out. I guess that was what he wanted and now he'd have it. Soon I'd be gone.


The next day, I went to see my tired, burnt-out counselor. He'd always taken an interest in me and had begged me repeatedly to get to my classes and try harder. I would skip class about once every two weeks, and ride Trimet buses, looking out the window, trying to find some semblance of peace. He had spent most of my sophomore year, begging me to take my studies more seriously. "You're so bright Theresa, if you only applied yourself, you could be a straight A student!" he would tell me pleadingly. "And if you just show up, you'll get a passing grade."

I had tried to do better, if only to please him, as neither of my parents seemed to have the energy to care about my academic success and whether or not I did well, but I could never see the point of it. What did it matter?

Was college really something I wanted? What I truly wanted seemed trivial and old-fashioned. What I wanted was to be married, with a husband. So "provincial" people said then, when the topic of marriage came up.

Women should strive for more, we were constantly told. Forget about marriage, go to college and become a "career woman!" We were 'Northern' women, we had better options. We could have more, we were told; by the television, the radio and every other news media outlet. But what I wanted was traditional. It made me an oddball of sorts. While all the other girls talked about college, I dreamed about being a wife.

The day I went to see my academic adviser I felt completely numb. What the ugly poor girl had said to her friend confirmed my ugliest fears about Tom. That he was cruel and shallow and he would throw me under the bus without a second thought. And that he was a calculating social climber who could only think of himself.

I went into the office and asked to see my counselor. The secretary told me he would be arriving shortly. After a few moments, he invited me into his office and told me to sit in the brown leather chair opposite his desk and that he'd return in a moment. As I sat waiting, I noticed a letter sitting on top of a pile of papers. Something caught my eye and I leaned over to get a closer look. The name on the bottom, Tom Wager. It was a letter to a college.

He was only a Junior but already he was getting help from his counselor, also my counselor, to get him into a good school. Of course! I lifted up the paper and there was another letter under it, to a different school. There were a total of four letters to different institutions of higher learning. I gingerly set the letters back on the pile of papers, aware of their importance and what they signified.

Even as I sat in my counselors office, to talk to him about transferring out, I could not escape Tom's shadow-like influence. It crept over me like an insidious spiders web. There he was in black and white on the stack of papers in front of me. The irony of it seemed macabre and bizarre. I leaned back into my seat, looking up at the ceiling and bit my lower lip viciously, to quell the tears, always bubbling just below the surface. I felt angry and sad and yet, the comic irony of the situation made me want to giggle too. How could things possibly get any crazier than this?

I focused on my lip. If I bit my lower lip hard enough, I'd feel calm again and the risk of crying would go away. Just a little more, just a little harder. There. There now. I would be able to maintain the mask just a little longer. I had to survive this meeting with my counselor, without dissolving into tears. I had to.

As I told my counselor that I wanted to transfer out to Grant, his demeanor changed. He sighed and seemed let down. He wanted to know why I wanted this transfer. I told him a boy I'd gone "on a date with" had spread a rumor about me and some of the kids were now talking about me, saying I was a "slut." His face fell as I told him, he sighed heavily. "Its not just that they're saying I'm a slut, but they're saying I have a "disease" too" I squeaked pathetically. "It's not true. I don't have any diseases!" I confided earnestly, looking down at my hands folded in my lap.

I could tell by his exhausted demeanor, he'd been down this familiar road before. He looked up at the ceiling and then he slowly became incensed. He straightened up. He inhaled and exhaled deeply. He wanted to know who it was. "Who is this boy Theresa? You tell me his name! I want to know! I'll go and talk to him myself!" he threatened! How could I tell him it was Tom Wager? The nice blond athlete whose letters of college introduction sat at the top of a pile of papers on his desk? I knew I couldn't. Wild horses wouldn't have been able to get me to talk. Never. Never.

Because part of me knew I could never cause trouble for Tom. It would be easier for me to leave Lincoln and start fresh somewhere else. Tom was at heart, a poor kid like me. I knew deep down, after seeing his pathetic sleeping quarters, in that dusty basement, that he suffered, just as I did. That he had hopes and dreams just as I did and that he was as controlled by his insecurities as I was by mine.

He might have parents who were more interested in how he performed at school, he might have a family more invested in him going to college, but he still lived in the Flats of NW Portland and like me, he wanted better things for himself.

Though it may sound bizarre and a form of misplaced loyalty, there was a part of me that refused to cause trouble for Tom, because I understood him better than he knew. I understood the dynamics of lacking and how lacking and going without can affect all of us.

Tom wore the mask of deception just as I did. He lied, just like I had, all in an effort to protect himself from the attacks of others. How well I understood that dynamic! So, as I sat in the leather chair, opposite my academic adviser at Lincoln high school, nothing could induce me to give a name to the boy who had so devastated my reputation with a cruel, untrue rumor.

I refused to tell my counselor his name and finally after all the arrangement's for my transfer were made, I stood up to leave. My counselor, bless his old heart, seemed heartbroken. He stood looking at me, as if I were going into a den of lions, as if all the heartache of the world stood right in front of him. He placed his hand on my left shoulder and tried to smile. "You hang in there at Grant Theresa, you'll do well I think."

"Thank you" I replied quietly, "for everything you've tried to do for me" I added, as a bashful afterthought. I thought he might cry at that point, his eyes looked so pained, as I turned and left the room. It was over. Finally, I could leave all thought of Tom and Lincoln behind me. I still had classes to go to, but what was the point? I would be at Grant the next day. I walked out the front doors of the school, deciding I'd skip and ride Trimet buses for the rest of the day. As I walked East, down Salmon street alone, tears made their way down my cheeks, while pedestrians looked at me curiously. Who was the cute little brunette teen-aged girl walking down the street and crying, they must have wondered to themselves. A young businessman asked me, in a concerned fashion, "Miss, are you okay?" I kept walking and didn't answer.


I started full-time night classes at Grant High School and eventually earned my high school diploma. The students at Grant were lower income, more down to earth and sometimes just plain stupid. It was an adjustment, but at least I wasn't at Lincoln, being tormented by cruel, miserable kids who were all generally struggling themselves. At least I didn't have to see Tom Wager, skulking through the halls, looking for his next female conquest/victim.

My suspicions that Tom had used me, solely to lose his virginity were confirmed to me when at the age of 22, five years later, and while married to my first husband, Kenny, my younger sister called me, upset and angry, to tell me she had run into a good friend of mine on the bus, from years ago. A tall, handsome, canary-yellow haired boy named Rowdy. She said Rowdy told her he'd always been "in-love with your sister Theresa" while in high school and that he had wished we'd gotten together. He also said that Tom Wager had told him, some time before, that he'd lost his virginity to me during high school. Rowdy said that Tom had joked about it, saying "She was really loud and aggressive in bed. Overall, a good lay" as if he were rating a piece of meat.

As Rowdy was a kind person who would never say something cruel about someone, Tom's words had offended him and had seemed unnecessarily callous. I always knew that Tom used me for that sole purpose, to lose his virginity, but hearing my sister tell me what she did, was proof of the kind of person Tom was. Not a good person by any stretch, not kind, not decent.

Later that night, I sat on the edge of my bed, with my hands crumpled in my lap, surprised at the instant feeling of hurt that I felt and hung my head and cried. It still hurt, even five years later, it still hurt to remember.

Time seemed to soften my feelings toward Tom. We had only been kids. I needed to forgive him for how callous he had been towards me. I needed to forgive him period. And the reality was, he didn't even know half of the truth of what I'd gone through. Not even half of it, for I had never told him.

I ran into him a couple of times, in the early 1990's, when I was married to my 2nd husband and proudly carrying our new baby daughter. Tom and I were civil, we tried to be polite, but the reality was, I didn't have much to say to him and it was awkward, before we finally said goodbye.


In the middle of 2011, I saw Tom's name pop up on Facebook. I had been on Facebook since January of 2009 and was an old hat at traversing the social media service. I looked and could see Tom had exactly 13 friends, so I sent him a friend request and in one single private message to him, I encouraged him to look at my friends list, with over 460 friends, to see who he might remember from back in the day, when we attended grade school and high school together. I had friends from grade school and high school on my friends list, as well as family, extended family and people I knew from my years in ballet. I warned him to be careful, that Facebook was full of strange people, con artists, liars and lots of freaks. I told him to be careful about the kind of information he posted on his profile and to generally be wary.

I also noticed to my chagrin that Ines, his old German-exchange-student-girlfriend from Lincoln was on his Facebook friends list too. I could see she had never married, was still single and had never had children. When I asked him in that first Facebook message why he had created the account, he told me it was "Only so I can stay in contact with my friends from Germany." Ines also lived in Germany and apparently, Germany was a country he had visited on several previous occasions. Of course it was I thought to myself bemusedly.

After the first week, of being "Facebook friends" during which I did not contact him further, he began to instant message me, almost every night, and we began to chat. I never once sought him out or contacted him for a chat, he always approached me.

I'd be writing a graduate paper, for PSU and the graduate program I'm currently enrolled in and he'd send a message saying,"You again huh?" or "What, are you on again?" It was clear, he wanted to start up with the old banter and sarcasm. I was reluctant to reignite the old rapport we had had, but willing to chat about mundane topics. He told me he was married, for many years, with three young children and was "very happy" with his longtime wife and brood of three kids.

We chatted nearly every night, about parenthood, our general memories of high school, struggling to pay the bills, the masters degree I was currently working on, my writing and my website and a plethora of other topics for well over two months. Then one night, as I was checking my Facebook status, I noticed his profile pop up and I clicked on it. The words"Add friend" loomed on the screen. He had "de-friended" me. It was something I'd thought about the whole time we were face-book friends, that eventually, he would do it, knowing as I did, how fickle he could be. I was not surprised.

But it was more than simple fickleness. I instinctively felt Tom had become jealous of me. Certain comments he'd made in our chat sessions made me wonder if he felt inadequate in comparison. "I can't believe some of the people you have on your friends list!" he told me one night admiringly. I explained that most of my Facebook friends were local media persons, Law enforcement persons and writers, artists and poets of all descriptions. I explained that my Facebook friends were chosen very carefully. That I was "very selective" about who was on my friends list, and that I was not a "collector" as so many people on Facebook can tend to be. Since I'd had strange situations arise in the past, with odd, unbalanced people, who appeared mentally unstable, I was now very protective of whom I associated with, via Facebook.

I was also able to ascertain, quite easily really, that me finally going on to college and graduating with four undergraduate degrees, as a double major/minor was something of a surprise to Tom. I don't think it was at all what he expected. Learning I was a graduate student at PSU, completing a masters degree and a published writer as well, with a personal website must also have blown his proverbial mind! I derived a certain amount of satisfaction at his obvious insecurity. He was jealous of my accomplishments and it amused me. The tables of social prestige and personal achievement had turned and it was quite apparent, he couldn't handle it. Tom's full-time job at a local factory making silicon chips apparently was not all he had hoped for, (given his college education) and he rarely mentioned it with any sort of pride of ownership, so to speak.


When he wrote, during one of our first chats together, "I was afraid I'd lost you to NW Portland"I was secretly incensed! The comment was incredibly condescending and patronizing, disguised as concern but really a blatant insult. I knew exactly what he was alluding to. He thought I might end up some drug addled loser or maybe even a prostitute somewhere, giving homeless bums blow-jobs on Burnside Street for $7 or a pack of smokes!

His low opinion of me was nothing of my family? Apparently he didn't. He didn't know, for example, that my father was educated at Seattle University and had been a war hero in WW2 earning a Bronze Star for meritorious achievement while on duty as an Army Staff Sgt in the jungles of New Guinea. Apparently, Tom didn't know that 'Daddy' read the classics, like Greek mythology and poetry, and that he made his nine children read poetry too. Apparently, he didn't know that Daddy worked as an Engineer at Providence hospital. Unlike Tom's father, who worked in a Toy Factory making dolls speaking mechanisms!

Apparently Tom didn't know that my mother was also college educated and a make-up artist in her spare time with the Portland Opera, an avid reader of Literature, and a fan of classical music, who encouraged all of her children to listen to classical music too! The bottom line was Tom knew nothing about me or my family! He had simply never been interested enough to ask.

But was he really that dumb? Could someone really be that stupid I wondered to myself? So, when he took me off his friends list, I was not surprised, but I was determined! To finally settle the score once and for all. I would tell him the truth about what he'd done to me and throw all caution to the wind. Nearly, thirty years later, I would finally tell him the truth about his toxic impact and effect on my young life!

My former PSU therapist, the late Dr. Gene Hawkinson, told me something I already knew, during one of our sessions in 2006. That "the power of a letter" can heal a wound and restore a broken heart like nothing else can. That the power of a letter can be one of the most empowering things a person can do for themselves, when they have been egregiously damaged or harmed by someone else's thoughtless cruelty or indifference. I made the decision then and there, while looking at the computer screen with the words "Add Friend" looming out at me, that I was finally going to write Tom a letter and tell him exactly what he'd done to me (from my perspective) and exactly what I thought of him. I would tell him everything I'd ever wanted to get off my chest once and for all.

And so I began to write. I worked on the letter for over a month. Finally, at 16 pages and with not one typo or misspelled word, I sent the letter to Tom, July 10th, 2011. I sent it to his email in a Word attachment, and a hard-copy to his home in a big manila envelope. I cared not one iota if his wife read it. In fact, I hoped she would. It would probably confirm many of her own fears and frustrations regarding Tom's secrecy, selfishness and stubborn refusal to look at his own character defects with any level of honest acceptance.

I told him about how he'd made me feel in grade school, using me for make out sessions and then acting like he was too good to be seen with me in public. I told him about how he'd lied to me in high school, tricked me into having sex with him, and how due to the horrible rumor he'd started, that I was a "slut" who had a "disease" I had basically been forced to transfer out of Lincoln High school and transfer over to Grant. I told him everything I'd wanted to say to him for over 30 years and hadn't.

I told him that he was a shallow, hurtful, social climber with a clear drinking problem, and was a potential danger to the general public. He had admitted he drank too much beer in a private chat and that he would speed in his car if he was in a hurry, having acquired numerous speeding tickets.

I told him I never wanted to speak to him again and that if he ever saw me in either Portland, Beaverton or Aloha, that he would do well not to approach me or attempt to engage with me. I told him that this last fiasco was the final straw for me. Never again.

Writing the letter was incredibly freeing. It was incredibly uplifting. I had taken a secret and I had set it free. I had bravely approached the heavy burden of a shameful thing and I'd let it go. I had offered it up so to speak. I felt wonderful! I felt relieved and wonderfully empowered as if a very heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I went back to my graduate program with renewed enthusiasm. I approached my role as a mother to my adult daughter with renewed happiness and appreciation and gratefully faced the rest of my life and my many goals and ambitions with strengthened resolve.


I often wonder about the deception dynamic and why it persists in humanity and the modern world. I wonder about both the positive and negative fruits of deception, for clearly there are both. I wonder how people reconcile the two forms and how they justify blatant deception when it becomes a part of their own lives, particularly when it does not succeed for them.

The telling of two separate stories, the unveiling of two "secrets" from high school, in this lengthy narrative, both examine, to some degree, deception and what it can mean when people lie to each other. In sharing the story about my younger sisters assault and the social and economic class divisions that existed in our school at that time, I showed my own ability to lie for what I believed to be the greater good, as I understood it. I demonstrated why I could justify deception, based in large part on those very class divisions and my own sense of what I thought justice could be. I shared my reaffirmed sense that I did the right thing, in that particular case, and would gladly do it again if the need ever presented itself.

One repercussion of the attack on my younger sister was that my late father, Dorsey Griffin, was furious that his youngest daughter had been assaulted and he reacted quickly and proactively. "Only a boy of innate cowardice would strike a girl like that!" he told me angrily when we discussed what happened on the phone later. He went on to call the police, file a report and then later contacted an attorney. He sued the family. The parents, both lawyers, had to pay for an extremely expensive CAT scan on my sisters head, to make sure she had not suffered serious cranial or brain damage. The parents were also forced to pay for several months of expensive psychotherapy with a psychotherapist. Its unclear but my father may also have sued for punitive damages as well.

But what we all heard about in the family was that, they, {the parents} had to pay for Bronnie's "medical bills" and months of her therapy costs as well. Daddy made sure that he secured justice for Bronnie in his own way, and ultimately he was very successful in doing so.

In sharing my story about Tom Wager, I illustrated the kind of deception that involves, to a certain degree, a particular level of malice and weakness of character to exist. Some may say, I wrote this narrative to "get revenge." Others will say, I did it as self-affirmation and a stab at justice. Perhaps the truth is, its a little of both.

Clearly, the experience that most effected me as a young teen-aged girl was not my sisters assault, but rather what I experienced because of Tom Wager's proclivity to engage in deceit by spreading an untrue, cruel and factually incorrect rumor about me. It shaped my life in some very profound ways and created the passionate, curious and highly imperfect adult woman that I am today.

It was a prolonged and painful experience I would rather have avoided, for obvious reasons, but It was also character forming in several positive ways. It shaped who I would later become and how I would approach my life and my belief systems. And in the long run, it impacted Tomas well.

After doing a mundane Google search of Tom's full name, a few months after mailing my letter to his home, I discovered that he'd been arrested twice, only a few short months after our initial contact on Facebook in 2011. Sometime after he'd received the letter, something terrible had occurred to drastically alter his family-life. The veil of domestic tranquility had been lifted, to reveal something very different existing in its place.

The first arrest had been for a charge of domestic violence, presumably against his long-suffering wife and the mother of his three children. The second charge was listed as interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest, presumably against an order of protection instigated by his estranged wife. In only a few short months his life fell apart and he ended up arrested twice. I examined both online records in sadness and dismay.

After speaking with some mutual school friends, I was told he and his wife split-up and that she left the country, to live elsewhere, taking their children with her. Looking back on our many Facebook chats, I found this sudden change surprising.

He'd told me how "happy" he was and how he and his wife were buying a much larger house, to have more space for his three children to play and near "some quite good schools" he'd told me. He had seemed very intent on convincing me of his profound happiness with his wife and children. And yet, I was always dubious. I was never, at any moment entirely convinced. For the simple reason that those who are genuinely happy never announce it, they live it.

Somehow, I was also not surprised that Tom had been arrested for domestic violence and resisting arrest, or that his wife left him, fleeing to another country and taking their three children with her. It seemed a fitting end to the kind of man he was and had always been. Far too intense, selfish, deceptive and a self-serving narcissist.

I know Tom. We grew up together, and though the child I carried within me, (his child) did not survive, and though I have not lived intimately with him, experienced his bed farts, irritability at home on a Saturday morning, his frequent drunkenness or causal lies; lies spoken through dim smiles and relaxed confidence in his own ability to deceive, I did get to know in a very intimate manner his basic character during a profoundly revealing time in his young life.

Even after all those years of having no contact with him, I could sense intuitively that Tom was very much the same troubled person I had known before. The same sarcastic person who enjoyed engaging in games of verbal volley ball. The same person who enjoyed the game of tit for tat. The same person who enjoyed vying for the thrill of who can exhibit the most power and creativity in the kind of barbs they shoot off, in simple enjoyment of the game, irrespective of who and how it hurts.

Human behavior specialists tell us that our basic character is formed by age six. I believe this to be true. We are as kind, as gentle, or as neurotic and/or cruel as our character allows us to be, for whatever formative reasons shape us. I believe this is true of Tom as well. Its apparent, he's not evolved in any meaningful way. Not really.


I suppose I could continue to feel the low-level animosity towards Tom that I felt for so many years but the truth is, I've finally come to my place of rest with him. As I mentioned earlier in the essay, when Tom and I resumed contact, via our many Facebook chats, he seemed little altered to me.

To my surprise I noticed his thinking processes did not involve any manner of depth or higher level thinking. His spelling was poor, his sentence structure weak. How, I wondered did this man ever earn a college degree? He talked about beer excessively, and how he resented having to work and be a "slave" to house payments. I understood his role as a father to three children must clearly have exhausted him, but it surprised me to learn he had no other outside interests, esoteric or otherwise. He was not involved in any form of creative endeavor, he didn't volunteer his time with a charity of get involved in any form of activity other than going to work at his factory job and coming home to drink countless bottles of cheap beer.

have a beer tonight..or four!

My own father, had sat my four sisters and I down, at one point or another and patiently explained, quite seriously, the dangers of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. He had told me in his most grave tone "a Lady never smokes or drinks beer, Theresa. Do you understand?" I had simply nodded my head in agreement. Disagreeing with Daddy was never an option. And It was one of his pet peeves. Women who drink beer. He disapproved and so we girls were all raised to understand that a "Lady" did not do those things. "There is nothing more unattractive and unfeminine than a drunken woman, falling all over herself or using profanity" he had told me once. It was a form of early social conditioning I never questioned and I just accepted it in a matter-of-fact way. To me, my father knew everything, so I knew, because it came from him, that he must be right.

As a result, I never became involved in drugs, or alcohol. I knew if I had, Daddy would have been disappointed in me, and despite my seeming indifference, avoiding my parents disapproval was very important to me.

The life Tom presented for himself, via those Facebook chats and expressed to me through his own words, seemed pointless, shallow and miserable. When he bragged one night about how he'd gotten out of speeding tickets, due to his "gray hair" and how he had fooled the police, my concern for his values or lack of values grew.

I looked at the photos of him on Facebook, at how his face had changed over time and become bloated, at the thinning hair, balding head and paunchy belly and I felt sad for him. I looked at photos of his large monstrosity of a home, an example of tasteless modern architecture that was both ugly and also too linear to be considered anything more than a poor example of a factory produced premade home thrown together cheaply.

A home that would be purchased by the simple thinking and easily impressed Nouveau Riche of society. A home that he and his wife would purchase and then apparently lose less than a year later. The sheer number of photos of that square box of a home that he'd posted on Facebook had seemed in poor taste, boastful and something a braggart would do. He seemed desperate to prove something.

I began to see, once again, the insecure poor boy I had grown up with in the flats of NW Portland. The boy I had gone to grade school and high school with. The boy who because of his parents lack of money, lived in a cracker-box house and slept in a dusty basement corner with bed spreads surrounding his bed; a makeshift room that must have been demeaning for him, cold, depressing and some kind of proof, in his simple young mind, of some manner of perceived inferiority on his part. Poor Tom I thought to myself. Poor Tom.

Reflecting back on my reasons for not telling my academic adviser about the origins of the cruel rumor Tom started, (which compelled me to leave Lincoln High School) I remembered it had come from a desire to protect him. Sure, he had devastated my young life with his mouth. He had spread a mean-spirited and factually false rumor about me, a rumor he knew was false and even when I could have exacted a certain measure of justice, by telling my adviser the truth, I chose instead to leave Tom to his bright young future, unencumbered by me or the potential for scandal.

And that impulse came from a part of myself that still cared for him.

Despite it all, despite his continued need to play mind games after we reconnected on Facebook in May and June of 2011, and despite his awkward attempts to resume the playful sarcastic rapport that had always formerly existed between us--and despite his blatant emotional immaturity, I believe I still care for Tom. Or perhaps I care only for the memory of Tom. Its hard to say, difficult as it is to dissect and understand the true motivations and impulses of memory and what memory means to each of us individually.

The last section of my July 2011 letter to Tom included this final thought... "And now maybe you’ll think of your two daughters. How would you like them to have to go through what I went through? Do me a favor okay Tom? Make sure your daughters don’t ever have to go through what this daughter went through. Make sure you know what’s going on in their lives. Be present, talk to them. Be involved. Listen to them and look for signs. Because speaking for myself, I can tell you, it was a very sad—very lonely—very painful place to be."

I continued with this final warning. "I live near Beaverton and sometimes go to Aloha to some of the shopping centers there with my Aunt. If you ever see me, do me the courtesy of NEVER, EVER approaching me. Do not stop to say hello! Do not smile at me! Do not nod in my direction. I don't want to know you. You will never be anything other than what you have ever been to me. And that is only a source of pain, sadness and betrayal."

The truth is, I will always care for the memory < of Tom; for the boy who seemed to genuinely like me, as he smiled down at me between kisses, kissing the tip of my nose affectionately, and so solicitous of my comfort, holding me so gently with his long, gorilla arms. The innocence of our past experiences together (making-out in his dusty basement) are still etched in my memory, and sometimes recalled with a certain nostalgia for the past and for the lost exhilaration of my youth.

But because of the insidious and irrevocable passage of time, and the manner that Tom's malformed character has persisted, I will never be able to either trust him or engage in even the most shallow form of superficial friendship with him.

Tom's own insecurities and fears, which informed his character, (much like my insecurities and fears informed my character) also gave him his own unique ways of knowing. And it was Tom's special ways of knowing that created a certain ruthlessness; a ruthlessness that appears to have persisted.

Sleeping in a basement, his simple metal-frame, double-bed surrounded by four tattered, yellowing bedspreads, contributed to an obvious sense of personal deprivation and no doubt resentment, at not having enough. How easily and how well I could relate to that sense of lacking. I had experienced it myself in similar ways, and to a much harsher degree.

That is why I never told my academic adviser the truth about what Tom did to me.

I understood Tom far better than he could ever have realized or suspected. And I gave him that thing that never dies. Pity.

By: Theresa Griffin-Kennedy

Works Cited

Barbey d' Aurevilly, Jules. (1901)

What Never Dies. Manche, France. Translated from the French by Oscar Wilde.

(No portion of this essay may be reproduced without express permission from the author, Theresa Griffin Kennedy)

Theresa Griffin-Kennedy~

Theresa Griffin Kennedy is a writer and social activist, completing a masters degree at Portland State University in Adult Education. Her goal upon completing the degree will be to teach incarcerated offenders creative writing.

With a focus on the middle east and human rights, Ms Kennedy has written articles on the human rights of women in the middle east, the homeless and the mentally ill.

Poetry and the art of the personal essay are also strong focal points and continue to be explored in her writing. Ms Kennedy continues to write, submit her writing and be published.

Any comments, questions or remarks, regarding this work of creative non-fiction can be emailed to

Ms. Theresa Kennedy-DuPay~ - Feel free to peruse my personal website, click the active link down below and enjoy.



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Mina April 17, 2016 2:01 pm (Pacific time)

Hello, I am a stranger who came across your story by accident. Thank you for telling your story. I was in an abusive relationship and I am still damaged by the experience. I have felt shame, sadness and I am currently taking medicine for depression. Your essay has given me hope. Hope that this feeling will pass and that I will be again the successful and confident woman I was before I met Brian. (I call him the Monster, Frankenstein)

O.H. his intitials July 14, 2014 10:57 pm (Pacific time)

I'm a classmate and just finished reading your story. Really interesting, especially for me. I actually lived on 25th and Upshur and knew your sister B. well. I disagree with you about Ines though, and you come off as mean. I had her in my Spanish class with Gomez and she wasn't like you described. Physically she was not BIG, and she was rather Bohemian in appearance which made her stand out at Lincoln. When the news broke about this nice German girl going out with him, most of us thought he choose her because he couldn't date a Lincoln girl and had self esteem issues(true story). No one thought J.O.H. was a brain surgeon, and I mean no one. You may have ben smitten with him, but everyone knew what a fool he was. He was never asked to be on the debate team, or mistaken for an academic. To close, I'm very sorry that happened to you. It's a shame, but thank you for expressing yourself.

Sasha O.f May 12, 2013 1:01 am (Pacific time)

Wow. Real good story. Very moving and honest.

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