Posted by: Jack Brown | July 27, 2013

It’s Just a Door

Many months ago on this blog I offered a bit of my childhood story regarding the pedophile who worked at my elementary school and the impact that experience had on my life. I don’t share many details for obvious reasons, but there is one I do share: the specific place where everything happened.

It was his janitor’s closet. A small, unassuming little space near the children’s bathrooms where he would “invite” (read: LURE) young unsuspecting boys like myself inside to become guinea pigs for his little experiment in twisted self-gratification. I grew to dread that closet–it was a place of fear and shame, and some of my earliest childhood memories are standing in the hallway, hiding against the wall to see if the door was open or closed. When the coast was clear I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me down to my classroom, praying he wouldn’t see me.

In the intervening years I have often wondered how I would feel if I stood in that place again–how would I react? What would it feel like? Would I be OK? I honestly didn’t know, but then this past week I got to find out. I visited my home town, and paid a visit to my elementary school building. I was shaking a bit as I made my way up the steps to the door, unsure of what was ahead for me.

I have pictured that closet in my dreams and my imagination for almost 40 years. In my mind it had taken on a rather brooding and ominous stature, for behind that door there was darkness and evil unlike any other–evil no child should ever have to experience. Which is why I was utterly shocked and amazed when I walked into that building and saw…just a door. A rather plain-looking, ordinary door. All my curiosity as to how I would feel was fruitless, because in the end I felt, well, nothing.

I was confused to say the least. Where was the evil? Where was the anger? Where was the shame? Where was the climactic moment of self-realization as I came back to the place where it all happened? It just wasn’t there, and what I was left with was a stupid old door and a lot of questions.

I’ve been pondering those questions for a few days now, and I’m sure I will for some time. But I think I have some clarification as to why I was so casually indifferent to the venue of my childhood pain: it was never the building. The closet was just a closet, the door was just a door. The school was that, a school. And in fact there are many happy memories associated with that school. No, it was never the building. It was always him. Evil is not defined by where it takes place but by those who perpetrate it: something I’m sure, for example, any modern-day German could tell you.

There was one other thing about this visit that I am only now beginning to understand. When I got to the school I was hoping to actually go into the closet…to stand in the exact spot where his tortures occurred. But unfortunately the door was locked and couldn’t be opened. I had some words with God about that one: “What? You brought me all the way to this point, and that’s it?” Again, I left with some serious questions to ponder. The door was closed, and I’m sure I’ll never have a chance to stand there again.

But here’s what I’ve just now suddenly realized–when I was a kid, seeing the door shut was an indication that things were safe, there was no danger. And now I can see that the door is shut and will remain shut for me.

The coast is clear. It’s safe to move on.

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