A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
This is a letter I received from Jack Retasket. The words are entirely his. — S.D.
9:54 pm, April 15, 2006, Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Umatilla, Oregon
It is spring, warm. I live on the fifth story of the school, really the attic, so most of the light comes in through a dozen or so dormers. My bed is in the light and the bathrooms are inside of the right angle. I loved to look out the dormers. I could see town across the river, four train tracks and two-lane roads. I saw my good friend Douglass from Chase trying to get to a soccer game. I miss him. One winter he just stepped in front of the train in Chase. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what people thought, them zipping around the metropolis in those fancy cars and a city full of light….
The dorm holds nearly one hundred and seventy five of us. The building is shaped like the letter L, but with both sides equal, the girls on the other side. There are two ways out, the fire escape and the stairwell…. Our dorm is shared with first to fourth grades called the juniors. The next level was the intermediators, 5th to 8th. And seniors below that….
The people who are not ordained were teachers, disciplinarians, or workers. They are in the mission field from Europe and Ireland as well as Britain, training us to assimilate into society. Some have boys, maybe girls that attend our school, and are living in nice homes on school property. The two families I need to speak of are the Openhiemers and Palzois from Germany.
The abuse came about in steps. When you walk down, the levels have hallways both directions, with a disciplinarian on each level. On the third floor is where Brother Shirley lives in a medium-sized room adjacent the stair well.
There are two Openhiemers boys and one Palzoi.39 Demanding, obnoxious and overpowering, they are allowed on each level to do whatever, mostly harassing us juniors and smaller intermediators. They are nasty and gang-up to harass. They are mean.
One day I was coming downstairs and they were on the third floor and wouldn’t let me pass, they pushed me around into the void beneath the stairs, started to hold me down and tickle me. Pretty quick I’m on my knees and two took turns to pretend they are fucking me. In about five minutes Brother Shirley catches them. He scolds them and slaps me, it feels like it’s my fault. He wore black robes unless he went to town. Earlier he’d pat my head or mess up my hair, everyone tried to avoid him. Within a few days he would pull me against him, I knew he didn’t wear pants, because he’d moved me around in front of him and I could feel him hard. It feels like he is seeking me out. I felt dirty. Everyone called him Hawkeye. He was everywhere and missed nothing. I hated him, he’s probably about forty, bald on top. The hair on the sides was shiny from the stuff he put on it and slicked back. Pock marks, bushy eye brows, evil-looking squinted eyes behind glass. It is difficult to tell where he is looking. I wasn’t the only one he harassed. But it feels like it’s my fault. When he started I thought he was playing around, I felt less scared. The first time I hate that he rubs himself. I could feel him about the middle of my back. He’d stop when he heard people, he’d push me away and tell me to get up or downstairs, this was in the hallway….
When he caught those boys I think twice, he asked what they were doing and if I liked it. I’m just scared.
Brother Murphy has a small room with windows to see the dorm. He is from Scotland. He would read us a chapter of different tales standing on a chair under the light. I liked his accent. Our beds touch from head to toe, bunched tight, where he could walk through and wake us up two at a time, because we’d wet the bed. Brother McAllister who’d be there in the morning would make us wrap our wet sheets around our head with nothing else on and make us stand in front of everyone. He’d ridicule us. I hated it because I wet the bed more often than some. They make sure everyone knows if I did wrong, but nobody, what no one, laughed or mocked us, they just felt sorry for us. If you fight you have to wear gloves and box in front of everyone. When we’re both exhausted and given up, they’d make us keep punching. That happened in our inside room where we had cubbies to keep coat, boots and stuff. My number was 54 and printed on everything we wear, jeans and a flannel shirt, that were washed Saturdays. I hated that part too because afterwards I began to shit my pants and would take the underwear under the gym through a torn vent. When clothes came back I’d have to make up lies about what happened to them and most of the time I’d just say I didn’t know. It was ugly because it was hard sometimes really hard not to do that in my jeans and always feel like I stink.
When it’s too hot we could wear shorts and I was running down stairs and got caught. First Brother Shirley bent over and scolded me, he made me go into his room. I thought I’d be spanked by his razor sharpening strap on my hands and arm that hurt, if you try to pull your hands out of the way you got two more, if you swore or spoke in your language the steel cut your tongue, he made me face the wall in front of his big ugly chair that was brown and like crushed velvet only longer. There was a bowl of marbles he took from kids on the shelf on my left. The other was the wall the door was on. He began yelling at me, told me I’m in trouble and would be punished. That room smelt bad. If you move you are going to get it. He always keeps the strap by the door so we see it. Then he took it down and hit me, that’s for running when you know not to. This one is for what you did under the stairs. You know what I’m talking about. Why did you do it? Do you like that because it makes you feel good? That’s wrong. When he hit me I nearly fell off the chair, then he told me to drop my shorts and get up on the chair. Where’s your underwear, you have to wear them all the time. He hit me for that, then he started asking and talking about what happened under the stairs and spanks me hard. It hurt bad because I didn’t have my underwear. I started crying hard. He grabbed my ankle, the left one really hard and told me I better shut up, be quiet unless you want more. Then he rubbed my butt where he hit me, almost like he was sorry. Then he talked about the stairs. You want me to do that so you learn a lesson. I was crying hard but quiet as I could, the kind when my body is jerking and can hardly breathe, sounds move like the swells of the ocean and so did my thoughts. Objects seem ten times their size and were right in my face. It was hard to hear what he was saying, my hands slipped off the back of the seat because they were wet, he yelled at me for that, he said get back up be quiet or I give you more. It’s hard not to slip when I jerked he grabbed me by my hips and Shut up you like what you did under the stairs. Then he started to rub my hips and butt, his hands were big and hairy, and wet.
He was quiet for a while, when he talked it was like a yelling whisper. I could hear when he hung the strap back up, because there are steel strips in the belt for when you finish sharpening…. He was getting some lotion by his sink. I tried to run for the door and tripped because my pants were around my legs. Now he locked the door. He spit on his hands and rubbed it on the tip, then he poured some yellowish lotion on his hand and began to stroke himself, then he made me do it, it was warm and hard, my hands were shaking and seemed too small to reach around him, he grabbed my hand and squeezed till it hurt, my wrist was in the wrong position, I hurt myself trying to pull away, he wouldn’t let me go and just stroked harder and faster. I’m not even eight. I think I was chattering. I told you to obey me why didn’t you?…. I’m scared to no end, I can’t even cry. You always make God mad, obey us or you’ll burn in hell forever. I finally yelled but he just grabbed my mouth shut and said Now you’re asking for it he spun me around bent me over the armchair and spit on his hands, he tipped me way forward and spread my cheeks and poured lotion on me and around my bottom then put my knees on the arm rest and bent me over hard, I was scared and could barely hear him, he kept talking about the stairs and started to push against me, at first slow then harder, he was really hard I said I want to go, I won’t do…. He made me promise or it will be worse. Be quiet, remember your promise or I’ll get your brother. His robe was gone and he leaned on me and moved like he wanted to feel everywhere with his cock. I was freaking by then he was quiet and said be quiet stop breathing like that. I can remember I held my breath hard to be quiet when I put my head down I could see his big white hairy legs. If you tell you’ll really get hurt. All this time he’s dragging his cock all over my butt and legs. He said you’d better not tell if you know what’s good for you.
Then he spread my cheeks past hurt and put his cock in me. I fell over and just tried to get away. He just jerked me back up. He hurt me like an explosion way inside whenever he moved. I couldn’t breathe, when I tried to yell he whopped the back of my head really hard. It was really hot I’d spit something on his chair when he rammed me, I was choking on nothing, it looked ugly on the chair I don’t know how long he fucked me I could see between my legs and blood was going down. It just hurt so bad and all I could hear was inside my head. I felt ashamed I sweat like crazy, everything hurt everywhere, I just gave up when he finished he pulled out and tried to close me back up by pushing my cheeks together hard. I got bruised. I can’t remember feeling anything but I remember it was like I was hearing and thinking of everything at once. When I tried to get away he yanked me back into the chair. I felt delirious all I could hear then was his ugly voice making sure I wouldn’t tell. He told me to touch his cock, when I wouldn’t he grabbed my hand and wrapped it around him and yelled get myself off of him. It felt really ugly it was ugly and hard and skinny. I put my head down just crying hard but quiet. He grabbed my head and made me look at him, his whole white body looks like he’s an ape or something black and hairy. Then he grabbed my hand around him hard his fingers were big, his hands are big he made my fingers stroke him then he pushed me back in the chair and he looked more evil. He said you see what I mean if you tell I’ll do it more if you tell. Your brother, both of you will get it only worse. Remember your promise or else. He was cleaning himself off with an ugly towel, then he picked up my shorts to finish and threw them at me. I put them on as fast as I could. I was skinny. Then he yanked me right up to his face and said remember what I told you, he let go and I felt like I had no legs, he put me in the chair, sit still. He put pants and shirt on, glared at me every little while, he washed his hands in his sink and gave me his glass with water. I wanted it but couldn’t swallow and it fell out. I hurt so bad everywhere. My butt hurt like screaming, I didn’t think I could walk, felt like he was still in me, my stomach hurt, now nothing would come out. I felt like the water inside me was moving too slow. I sweat so bad it was running off my face, my mouth was dry and hurt I could feel my inside like it’s torn up, it felt like my eyes couldn’t be wet anymore. I felt like a little bug trying to be seen by a giant. Like I was in another world and couldn’t get back. Like it happened a minute ago. I feel strange right now. I’m crying and feel like I’m a little shiny black bug with a weird mouth and tentacles. You can hardly see. Opaque. When it was over I tried hard to think why he did that and the Openhiemers. I had a nail in my cubby and stuck it in the broken light switch to die in our big bath room down stairs. Later I cut my hair weird and scratch my face to look different, when my brother saw me all I could do was lie, fast. Maybe I looked like a girl or maybe I’m different and maybe been born with confused genes, maybe my twin is messed up too. Maybe I was too feminine and they see that even that young. I bleed for awhile and am tender and burning. So am guilty for that, at times I’d be terrified. I’m not even eight…. He tore up my insides, for a while I gave my food away, I couldn’t and didn’t want to shit,… it hurt too bad to wipe myself. I was afraid I walked so weird, that my brother could tell what happened. I stopped bleeding in about four or five days. I threw my underwear under the gym during that time, I’ve had nightmares about that one torn vent, that I would have to crawl and retrieve them, or they would know they were mine when they’d find them, because my number 54 was on them. I almost immediately began to wet my bed. When I messed my pants I still hid them there…
Garry, my older brother, told me if anyone does wrong to me he’d kill them. And the fucker threatened Garry. I have lied to Garry about this for so long, Sharon, I love both of you deeply, maybe he led me to you, to have someone to trust. The lie of a little brother was still the right thing, the option would have been worse, to me.
Weekly, on Saturday, we had to go to confession, I never told the truth, as a matter of fact, I’d lie to get out of there. When I look back, I see this lonely scared skinny kid, that had no place to go if I ran, my parents were stateside, they were to blame, they took my sis and left me to this. Everything I did was revolved around this, like the center of my fucking life. All the while the nuns and priests saw me as altar boy material, that can’t refuse them, so they taught me the rituals, told me it is sacred, I learned the Latin of the Masses, high and low. This numb guilty Catholic boy in these starched angelic lace pullover absolute white shirts worn over a black robe, each time I did it I was to go deeper into hell. I knew that, and could feel him watching me, even though I never looked. What did he think when he saw me, I know, this timid never tell good boy that he had rammed my sin up my ass without any guilt or remorse.
My handwriting here is atrocious, I don’t want to correct, much less to reread this and want to seal it before I do, I know I will have many after thoughts. I’ll write them down. Before I want to say this. I know I’ve used that about the femininity side, as an excuse, I’ve used as an excuse to not feel guilty about my fascination of lingerie, most of all panties, the excuse allowed me to buy panties and use them to masturbate, enjoy and relax. I’ve been alone so much of my life. I love the fantasy, it was a relief but I’ve always ended up feeling guilty. I could be the oddest person you met. I don’t want to scare you away. I’m getting foolish. There is another letter somewhere, this came from your student exercise. Thank you thank you thank you, I can’t show my appreciation enough. I love you so so much, Jack
From The Visit by Sharon Doubiago, published by Wild Ocean Press. Copyright 2015 Sharon Doubiago.