Losing The Hate (part 3)

THE PHOTO SHOOT

The next day at school Ropeman asked me if the following Saturday would be okay to take the photographs. I told him that would be great and excitedly ranted about how much I was looking forward to doing them. He patted me on the shoulder and smiled, saying that if at all possible I should bring a few items of clothing. When I asked what it was I should wear, he simply replied, “Whatever you look good in.”
After what seemed to be an absolute lifetime, Saturday morning finally arrived and I was ready and waiting outside the school gates, clutching a carrier bag my mother had filled with various items of clothing. It was only a matter of minutes before Ropeman pulled up in his car, beaming his usual smile and gesturing for me to get into the front seat, “Morning young man, you all set and raring to go then?”
“You bet,” I answered, “I got some jeans an’ T-shirts, Mum ironed me school uniform an’ all.”
“Excellent, lets rock an’ roll then.” He seemed to be as excited as I was, explaining that we would be doing the shoot at his flat, saying it made more sense since his equipment was stored there.
The drive only took about twenty minutes, and as I got out of the car an unfamiliar sound of gravel crunched under my feet. A huge Victorian house seemed to peer down, almost beckoning me with it’s large “window-eyes,” inviting me to enter it’s mouth; and as I continued to gaze at the sheer magnitude of the building I felt his hand rest on my shoulder, “It’s not all mine I’m afraid.”
When I looked up at Ropeman, I noticed he was almost beaming, a smile plastered across his chubby face. Without hesitating I smiled too, still feeling fortunate and tremendously excited.

We walked side by side across the drive, up the enormous stone steps and entered the gigantic front door. Any onlooker who may have happened to glance our way could easily have mistaken us for father and son.
Inside was an unexpectedly small hallway with a winding staircase leading up to the first floor. Ropeman gestured me towards an inner door opposite the stairs. He led me down a narrow passageway that opened out into an impressive lounge. The room was littered with bookcases, but my eyes were immediately drawn to the lighting and tripod that dominated the centre of the living space. Ropeman left me alone while he sorted out some cold drinks. When he returned I could hardly believe my eyes; he was carrying two glasses of beer. I put the glass to my lips and took a huge mouthful.
“You take your time with that young man; there’ll be hell to pay if I take you home tidily.”

I was ten years old.

He suggested that we begin straight away and I was told to sit on the sofa, ignoring the camera as best as my excitement would allow. Maybe about six or seven shots were taken when, as cheerful as ever, Ropeman asked me to take off my top. He explained that it would add to the image of me relaxing at home.
The request made me feel quite embarrassed, but ignoring the sudden wave of apprehension sweeping over me, I agreed and removed my T-shirt.
A dozen or so more pictures were taken before we took a short break. He offered me more beer. We chatted about school and what I got up to during the evening with my friends, Peter Simpson and Mark Milner. They were also his students, and the thought crossed my mind how envious they would be when they found out I had spent the day at Ropeman's home, drinking beer no less.
Once the small talk was all but done, he piped up with what was quite obviously the next part of his elaborate plan, “What do you think of stretching out on the sofa, as if you were asleep? Think you can do that?”
“Yeah, be easy,” I said with false bravado as another wave of apprehension took hold.
And it was there, as I lay on the settee that my journey into hell began.

I remember feeling as though a thousand eyes were staring at me; and at that moment I truly hated the camera more than anything in the entire world.
When Ropeman instructed me to pull my jeans up as far as they would go, my young mind had no idea that the next shot would be centered on my private parts.
Minutes later my photo was being taken with me wearing nothing but my underpants, again, pulled up as far as they would go.


Take it away, take it away,
Smash it or burn it, that Saturday.
Tear it and rip it,
Take the memory away,
I long to forget that Saturday.
Leave me, leave me, and leave me alone,
No more photos, just take me home.
Don’t give me smiles,
An’ I don’t want your beer,
Don’t ask me to *****,
Don’t fill me with fear.
I hate you, I hate you.
You horrible man.

I often wonder how many lives may have been destroyed by my silence, how many tears were shed because I did not have the strength to tell anyone what he’d done to me?
Sometimes, when my mind travels back to those horrific years, reliving the anguish and torment, desperately trying to understand why he did those things, I wonder if my fear of speaking out indirectly sealed another child’s fate. When, ******** to the waist, while standing in the middle of his lounge with nothing but my briefs on, was I helping to lay the blueprints of someone else’s future? Sealing another young person's nightmare at the hands of a vile and twisted creature?
I know that in the cold light of day, I’m in no way to blame for anything, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling these emotions.

God, how I wish that my silence hadn’t been quite so damned silent.

While Ropeman was driving me home, which was around lunchtime, he expressed how successful the morning had been, but asked me to keep it to myself, telling me that he didn’t want the surprise for the parent evening being spoilt.
When I asked if we needed to do any more, he winked at me, “It certainly wouldn’t do any harm to have another session.”
My heart sank.
The car pulled up a couple of hundred yards away from my house and quite unexpectedly, Ropeman thrust a ten pound note into my hand.

Putting the cash into my pocket, it never occurred to me that I was going to have to lie to mum and dad, or conceal the money completely. As if reading my mind, the last words that Ropeman said to me that afternoon were, “Tell you what, the money and the beer, that’ll be our little secret too.”
I nodded in agreement and got out of the car.
Had I not remained silent, the cash would have added concrete to my claim, enforcing the fact that he was trying to bribe me into keeping “tight lipped” about his “grooming procedure.” At the time I really didn’t need to think about what I was going to do; there was absolutely no way I was brave enough to mention any of this to my family, and besides, he hadn’t hurt me .had he?
Saturday afternoons always saw my parents and me visiting my aunt and uncle, where my father would enjoy an evening of cribbage whilst my mother sat in the lounge nattering with her sister, Kitty. They lived on the notorious North Peckham estate, which was only a half hour drive from our house. It was during the course of the journey that I intended to tell mum and dad my first lie.

As the car roared into life and we drove away from our house, my mother asked how the morning with Mr. Ropeman had gone. Knowing that this was my chance to tell her what had happened, and aware that I didn’t need any proof in the eyes of my parents, I simply replied, “Yeah it was really good. He said that I did well too. I think he wants me to do some more for the display too, get some real goodens.”
“Good, did you meet his wife as well?” enquired my mum.
“I, I don’t think he’s married. It was just him and me today.”
My whole body felt as though it was suddenly being consumed by the back seat of the car, like some grotesque alien was intent on devouring me. Or had that been this morning?
In any case, without thinking the lie flew from my lips, “D’you know me mate at school, Trevor? Trevor Goddard?”
“How much?” interjected my father.
“No, no it’s nothing like that! I forgot to tell you yesterday! He said I can go to his house for tea on Monday! Can I go? Please?”
By the time I’d finished the lie, I was sitting forward in my seat like a dog expecting a bone, “Please, can I?”
It was decided I could go.

After school on Monday afternoon I walked to the local railway station and purchased a return ticket to London Bridge. I hovered around the entrance to the London Dungeon for about half an hour, but decided not to try to get in. I bought some sweets from a newsagent instead .for the train ride home. Once back in my own area, I took a gentle stroll to my friend Peter’s house and asked him to look after the rest of the money for me, telling him I’d stolen it from my Mum’s rent tin.

Another lie.

SyeP SyeP
41-45, M
Jan 8, 2013