Maxxy wanted me to write this. My name’s Josh, just turned 20, skinny kid with moppish black hair. And this is my story…mostly.
I was born in Phildelphia in October 1992. Asian mum who was constantly scared til she ran off and dad was the worst sort of short man ever. 5’3 and full of attitude, he was a cop to make things worse. I learned early on to never give any real information out.
By the time I was eight I’d had enough of getting hit. I was already just as tall as him almost but that wasn’t stopping it. So I made a sort of ten year plan. My best friend Jamie helped.
When my parents were out we got dad’s camera. Took tons of pics and video I’m pretty sure is gonna be hard to explain for him when I go in tomorrow. Especially with years of it, not many ways you can explain naked pics of your eight, nine, ten, eleven…year old son. I had stuffed animals in there too. Nice touch I thought.
Sad part is that’s all faked. I wish he’d done that, wish he’d insisted on giving me a bath because that would have at least meant he cared. Instead I got the shit beat out of me for the fourteen years I lived there.
Jamie was my best friend since forever. Blonde kid with the sort of attitude you can’t believe, makes you feel at once like the world ends tomorrow but at the same time makes you feel safe. By age ten we were smoking joints, by thirteen it was vodka jello shots. We’d done like ten of those on that warm summer evening when he just kissed me. I was shocked and pushed him away before I pulled him back. I liked this. It was my first time kissing and cos I cared about him it was great.
It went on from there. His parents were clueless or didn’t care that I slept over like four nights a week and those were always nights I looked forward to. It was so weird at first but somehow nice, I just flopped in his bed and yeah we did more and more but the best part was always he put his arm over me when he slept. I never felt so safe. He kissed me right in front of his parents and the worst that happened was an awkward silence. Then his mum pulled me aside later and said we were cute together. That made me cry. So yeah they knew.
And I was a super happy kid and made the mistake of telling my mom. She was excited for me but then dad showed up and he’d heard enough of the convo to go all asshole and he’s not gonna have a fairy for a son and he almost hit me but I got the drop. I whacked him good, now he’s seeing what the karate classes he made me go to are good for. Good cop, you’re gonna get your ass kicked by your 14 year old kid. I decked him with again with his bottle of Chardonnay — he always drank that at home but it was whisky with the cops at their bar. I kinda expected the bottle to shatter like in the movies but that didn’t happen. Just got myself soaked and him completely out on the floor. My mom screamed something in Vietnamese and ran out the door with a suitcase. Pretty much knew I’d never see her again.
I showed up at Jamie’s looking like hell and that was the best hug and kiss ever. Right on the porch, right in front of his parents and the world. I was safe. Dad didn’t know his real name or address, I’d long since made sure I never gave him useable info. They actually gave me bourbon, god nasty shit but it stopped me from shaking.
“I love you,” I blurted right out. Jamie blushed but he said it back.
But I knew dad was gonna come after me. He’d explain all the shit away with falling on ice or something and he’d do his cop thing and find me. But not if I found him first. It just took one call.
Wake up, not sure if still drunk or just hungover. And it sucks cos I’m out of cigs. Stumble to the store. And even though it’s so much effort to be social I like it cos they’re all nice and shit. Good people.
A face I thought I’d never see again stumbled into my life yesterday. Probably my first love before I even knew what that was, to me as a little kid he was just a boy I loved to hang around with. A lot. And I guess cos we were just kids back then no one thought it was strange we liked to take a bath together, hell, I didn’t even put any meaning to it except I just knew I wanted to. Not that we did much of anything. I just knew.
There is the phase every boy has where for most it goes from ‘ewww’ to ‘ahhh’ when they see a girl. Just not for me. Or him, apparently.
I get a knock on my door at like nine at night and there he is and it all comes back.
“Fuck” was all I could manage for a minute cos it all came rushing back, only now it’s not like me as a little kid who doesn’t get what he’s feeling, this is Matthew, Matty and now I understand all the shit i felt and he’s just as cute as ever even though he looks worn out, dirty hair, rings around his eyes, and he doesn’t really have to say shit cos I know the only way he would go through all he did to actually track me down means this is his endgame, his first friend ever might be his last and he just hopes it will be.
And I don’t really care why or if this is an endgame, and I guess it’s like this with all the first friends ever for people, idk, but he just smiles at me and I drag him inside.
He’s so cold and shaking so I make him a cuppa and he nods when I ask if he wants some vodka in it. Three hits. Some E? Sure, he nods. I put a blanky over him and give him his tea.
It’s been a good five minutes and he hasn’t said a thing and then I start to sort out he’s paying super close attention to my every move. I move my hands and his eyes are following them like he thinks I’m trying to say something.
And fuck, I just realize right then. The last time I saw him he was thirteen, and his parents were creating a warzone. And then I just didn’t see him, which had me crying in my sleep at night.
He can’t hear. Someone did this to him. And I’m pretty sure who because his old man tried to hit me once and got laid out. I was a pretty big kid, Matt wasn’t.
He sips his tea, and I can see tears in his eyes. So I gesture to get his attention and use the only sign I know to say something I wish I’d been grown up enough to years ago.
Middle two fingers down, rest up. And he just smiles at me and yeah we’re different people cos of all the shit since then… but not really.
People don’t really change.
He’s safe here and I don’t know where this goes but we’re all damaged in this world and some more than others and I seem to be a magnet for it, which is okay or not really okay because it’s only the ones with damage that I understand.
We killed the bottle last night but fuck so many memories. It’s so weird cos every memory of me and him is so different when I see it now, I’m like fuck Maxie you should have known that Matty was trying to let you know something you were too immature to get. Who wouldn’t have gotten it when he wanted to practice kissing a girl like a dozen times?
And maybe it’s enough that I didn’t stop him, I wanted him to. But maybe if I’d figured shit out this wouldn’t have happened to him.
Never mind, he’s here now and it’s been a long time since it felt so nice to have someone just hold me all night.
He insisted on coming with to the store and holding hands the whole way. Sure we got stares but I kinda like that and fuck anyone who has a problem there. What did Camus say?
“I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.”
So much I remember. When I look in the mirror now it’s still near possible to see the spark that was me. Through the tired, bloodshot, exhausted eyes.
To see what happened, well too much really happened and while I didn’t have control over what did happen it was the spark. Just the spark. Set off the powderkeg and explosion that has become my life.
I don’t really know if that spark is still there. Everyone starts life it and maybe it grows into a flame like it did for me for a while but there’s constantly people trying to douse it. Just because they’re pissed off that I can program better than they can even if I’m totally smashed. And at some point you get sick of people throwing water on you. You get tired of being someone worthy of that attention. You go from being Peter Pan to being Captain Hook with a freaking alligator, well several, chasing you.
Everyone I loved, I gave all I had to. And all of them destroyed it. All I ever wanted was a boy I could just be with, where sex or affection was simple and not awkward. And I’m totally incapable of that because I only seek out the most complicated and damaged ones because everyone else bores me. The curse of being smart is curiousity. I want a boy that exhausts me with crazy and calms me with the loving cuddles that I want to sleep with every night. I want the silver of sex where it’s just normal, I want the platinum of love where it isn’t even a question. I want the stupid giggly hug in front of a frosted over store window with a falling-down cupid, I want the touch that stings because it’s too cold but he loves me, the cold hug and the cheerful snowball fight where we end up rolling in snow and not even feeling cold when he tackles me because it may be zero out but in us it’s always warm.
To answer a question posited in a movie: Yes, winter is a very cold place if you have no one that loves you.
The ghosts. Oh the fucking ghosts. And I remember all this shit cos I know that Jude Maxwell Shaw was born in Elizabeth County, NJ on November 7th, 1989, a colic baby of just 5.27 pounds with a temperature of 93.5 degrees and no apparent eyesight or hearing until three weeks later. And for about three years after they ascribed that to aspbergers. I remember all this from papers I’ve seen that I found and was not supposed to and confronting Cody when I was fourteen after he nearly set my dad’s den on fire and yeah it woulda all gone up in flames if this industrious scrawny eighty pound kid hadn’t slipped between firefighters too brawny to grapple him and strangely enough ducked his own dad and I just remember standing there in my briefs holding the shit in my sooty hands, ‘dad I saved it, I saved it’ before I started reading. I was so proud until then. Until then Jude Maxwell Shaw was destined to begin at the Saviour Home for Boys somewhere in Cali, a place I never heard of again until they were shut down for raping kids years later.
I hadn’t seen Seph in days. And yeah it’s just me and Nick and that’s prolly for the best cos we don’t know each other really so it’s just hey wanna fuck cool and hey I need to be held cool and he’s great at both. I don’t need to pour my life out to him and I’m not sure he doesn’t already know more than I did. Seph drifted in last night just for a bit after Nick had crashed out in the other room, I vaguely remember a kiss and him whispering ‘In time’ and I wake up to this…
And this is where I feel so amateur. Cos the internet is pretty awesome if you wanna discover anything about anyone since 1990-something. But older than that, well, it gets kinda murky.
There was no recorded incidence of disappearing boys as far as I could find in 2003 even though I remember that clear as day. I Googled it to hell and back. I mean I could see if it were 3 or 4 kids gone missing, maybe that slipped under the radar but I’m remembering being scared cos there was like five times that gone missing. And in my dreams last night I remember how I heard about it, it was an old-fashioned radio like I’ve only ever seen in movies. And then I wake up to this crumpled scrap of browned paper in my hands.
- Dateline : December, 1929 – In the heat of a crippling depression and a cruel winter coming on, this small New Jersey township known for nothing more than honest folk and the invention of crabappiecake is now home to a new horror: since late August’s tragedy of a schoolbus rolling off a bridge they have lost 29 children. The peculiar nature of the situation has prompted the State Government to call on assistance from the Federal Government in an unprecedented move. While it has not been publicly disclosed, this reporter estimates the township had just 79 boys of school age as of the last matriculation and since August’s trip 49 have either perished or gone missing. Of the estimated 87 girls of school age, there has been just one fatality and one injury attributed to a rotted apple tree. This reporter is taking liberties here because it is the only township since the Civil War to have lost over half of its young male population and it is also the only township where just last October two boys aged sixteen and seventeen were caught in what can only be described as an intimate act and subsequently were found murdered with no explanation. There was no investigation and now State Officials have been called on to solve the case. This reporter may be penning his last phrases as such but while he is repelled by that original action there are no such things as coincidences and it is very possible we have a town bent on its own justice and on its own terms. God help us if this is the country we are to become, we are no better than the Confederacy should this become the new rule of law.
I’m not a bad person. Someone needs help, if I can, usually I help them.
So this is gonna be rambling cos all kindsa shit is coming back now and fuck if Seph and Nick aren’t giving me the space well I gotta really stop referring to them as one boy cos my boyfriend is dead or must be and Nick is just maybe what mighta been. Thanks, Bobby Burnes, saddest words and all like that’s in my head every day.
It rained a fuckload that fall I remember and all the kids knew something had happened between me and him and yeah it’s just one more teen suicide to everyone.
Unless you actually cared. For about a week I held it together after and my parents threw all kinds of support at me and I kept rejecting it cos well I was a teenager and despite their trying they had no clue what was really fucking with my head.
A bad fall gave way to a worse Spring because the boys in my town started disappearing.
It was way too cold for March in NJ and I was walking home from school so excited cos I got a 40 from an older kid. And then this guy flashed a badge at me and told me to stop but something was real wrong so I just ran, he jumped at me and missed and went off the edge of what I knew as Sucker’s Plummet, the place where the rich Ivy kids from Princeton tried to seduce local boys for cash and sometimes slipped on the leaves.
Iunno. I saw the badge clear as fuck and it wasn’t fake, I also think now I saw Joseph which made me jump and probably the guy didn’t see that coming cos I ducked right which looks like the worst fall when if you duck left you’re totally fucked, construction shit everywhere. I saw the cop gasping and shit and almost tried to help but I got close and he grabbed my dick. I mean fuck’s sake there’s fucking concrete rebar right through him, he’s spitting up blood, then grabs my dick??
So yeah a week later they wrapped up two mysteries in one, the mysterious drifter killing the kids got the cop going after him who sacrificed himself for the children of my town and all was safe for the boys again.
‘Howd you know?’ I remember asking Joseph later.
‘He was… dad.’