Whispered bits of conversation echoed in my ear, even as I blasted Memphis May Fire on the Queens bound train.
“Knew one day he would…”
“What about his girlfriend…”
Coming up from the underground staircase, my phone immediately vibrated. A voicemail. “Chase, it’s your dad. Got your call; I’m on my way. Are you alright? Call, let me know. Your voice; it worried me.”
Buzzing Charity’s apartment, the main door was unlocked in seconds. She was expecting me. I called her first so that she could call her father so he had enough time to get there.
“My father is on his way. He called about ten minutes ago, said he was on the highway.” Charity said as we held hands on her couch.
I sat there clutching her fragile hand, her warmth comforting me a little. Another buzz ten minutes later. “Must be my dad.” Charity hit the buzzer. My father knocked on the door a minute later.
“Chase you in here?” He called out with a voice cracked with parental concern. “Living room dad.”
He came in and scooped me into his arms then looked into my eyes. “Is everything alright, son?”
All I could do to stifle a cry was bury my face in the crook of his neck. He cradled me like an infant and it made me wish he had done just this so many years ago. That I had been born from him rather than being found, saved.
Dad choked back his own flood of emotions while cooing my name. “Everything’s gonna be okay, Chase.” His voice reassuring but the reality loomed much darker. I knew I was innocent. But men crying sexual assault were never believed. The outcry of rape itself not taken seriously enough in this country, the society we live in a joke countless victims will never be in on.
The apartment door locks turned, metal hitting wood, then a slam. “Charity!” The booming voice of Carl Banks vibrated throughout the apartment. In the living room, he stopped at the doorless hinge. With his daughter tightly grasped he said “is everything alright? Is there something wrong with the baby?”
Charity wiped her nose as she sniffled. “The baby is fine, daddy. But my baby isn’t.” Only then did he notice my father and I in the middle of the room holding one another. But the worry never left his voice. “What’s the matter, Chase?”
Releasing myself from dad I wiped an eye and backed away enough for them to have full view. “Please, take a seat. I think you’ll need it.”
Dad and Carl exchanged a glance while Charity lightly held my hand and then joined the two men on the couch.
I took a deep breath. “Dad, Charity, remember a couple days ago I drove up to The Hamptons for that study session?”
“Of course, son. You came back in the middle of the night. Your mother and I were not expecting you back till the morning.” Dad said. I turned to Charity who simply nodded.
“Well, see, I would have stayed the night. But something happened that made me bail early.”
“Tell me, Chase. Whatever it is. You have my support. All of ours.” He extended a hand towards Carl and Charity who nodded.
Another deep breath. “Marshal, the guy whose house it was, had some….illegal substances…that I indulged in.” My eyes shifted from each person. A flash of shock from my father but still worried. Authoritative nodding from Carl but never wavering from concern. Shy glances from Charity.
“I couldn’t sleep so I took a walk through the house. Marshal has a set of batting cages and a mound in his basement. It was…impressive. So I went in and took the mound, so to speak. Then in came one of my classmates- Denise Maxwell.”
I paused to glance at Charity who looked up and in her eyes could see gears turning in her head; a plethora of images must be forming on the idea alone.
“Denise was still intoxicated when she approached me. She…put her hands on me. I tried backing away but she was so insistent. So I kind of shoved her away, resulting in her falling. That’s when I grabbed my stuff and headed home.
“Today at school, two officers came to talk to me. They’re saying Denise is accusing me of sexual assault, and I,” my voiced trailed as I found myself back in dad’s arms sprawled on the floor.
“I don’t know what to do. I’m so,”
“It’s alright, Chase. It’s going to be alright.”
“No. No it won’t. The police, they’re gonna-”
“We’ll figure it out, Chase.”
“Dad, they’re going to look into my past. This is gonna get out.”
Dad’s face lit up with realization. He clutched me tighter, stroked my hair. I separated from his grasped. “I asked Charity to call you, Mr. Banks, because I wanted some kind of legal counsel. I know you’re not a lawyer but you’re all I’ve got.”
Carl nodded while saying, “what’re the cop’s names?”
“Nora and Smith. Not sure what my school’s district is, so,”
“I’ll take care of that don’t you worry. As for the cops; I’ll make some calls and see what they have on the case so far. My advice is…well, I wish I knew what to say. I’ve only ever dealt with female victims of sexual assault and rape,” he paused to clutch Charity’s hand. “But from what I’ve seen, men don’t come forward and when they do, it’s not taken seriously. Not even when women come forward. It’s frustrating. It…it makes me feel helpless.”
Carl turned to my father. “Michael, get Chase the best lawyer you can find.” He turned to me. “When telling this story make sure to never falter in the events. Keep the timeline precise, clear, and consistent. Every. Time. Can’t recall how many cases I’ve seen be tossed because of inconsistencies. Got it?”
His voice was stern but as fatherly as possible. I always admired Carl, thought of him as family sometimes, and his tone resonated the same comfort like that of my own father.
“You mentioned something about your past getting out; what do you mean by that?” Carl asked. He was the only one in the room not familiar to the past I’ve been trying so hard to keep secret. But due to the circumstances I had to let him know. So I did. At the end, he took my hand and then wrapped his burly arms around me.
Carl and I shook hands again. Then, he and my father shook hands while I embraced Charity. “I love you, bubbie.” I kissed her forehead and followed dad to the door.