I grew up in and around Vevay, Ind. I’ve only been back there a few times since my mother’s death in the summer of 2000, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still follow the local news.
Vevay’s weekly newspaper has a Web site, which is how I learned of Goodie’s death. That’s what we sometimes called him, so I’m going to leave it at that. His real name won’t be mentioned here.
Goodie was a heavyset kid I went to school with over 40 years ago. He had black hair, big ears and a large nose with blackheads all over it. Throughout grade school and high school, he didn’t fit in well with the rest of the kids. I also was a misfit, and when another misfit, my best friend John, wasn’t around, I would sometimes hang out with Goodie.
He was a dull guy, didn’t make good grades and seldom had anything interesting to say. He was a year ahead of me in school but had no friends in his own class. John and I felt sorry for him. Again, like him, we didn’t fit in with the rest. Oddballs, we thought, needed to stick together.
Grade school turned into high school. Goodie was still around but mostly in the background. That changed in early May of 1971. It was the last day of high school. John wasn’t there, so I had Goodie to pal around with. That palling around led to him almost sexually assaulting me in a high school restroom.
Most classes were canceled that day. Goodie was in a great mood as he soon would be graduating. In the early afternoon, we both needed to use the restroom. It was empty of other students. As we started to leave, he asked me a question I’ll never forget.
“Hey, can I cop a feel?” he asked. I didn’t understand what he meant and just looked at him.
“Cop a feel,” he said, “touch your privates, your penis.”
“No!” I said, almost screaming.
“Come on,” he said. “What’s it going to hurt?”
Goodie was much bigger than me, but I was quick. I shoved him aside and left that restroom running down the hallway. I found the exit doors in the back of the high school, ran to the parking lot and jumped into my 1959 Chevy and drove away. My heart was racing.
I never told my parents what happened. How do you bring something like that up? I didn’t know what I had just experienced. I was still a virgin at the time and didn’t know anything about sexual behavior, straight or not straight. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.
While I didn’t tell my parents, a week or so later, while hanging out with John, I told him what had happened. To my shock, he told me the same thing had happened to him with Goodie on a ride home from a high school basketball game some months earlier.
Goodie was driving and John said as they approached his parent’s house, Goodie pulled the car over to the side of the road. Goodie asked John the same question he had asked me in the high school restroom. John said he tried to make light of it, told him no, then got out of Goodie’s car and walked the rest of the way home thinking it would be safer.
Like me, John didn’t tell his parents. We both decided to keep it to ourselves. We were kids, both misfits, and despite what Goodie had done, he was a misfit, too. Again, kids like us needed to stick together.
Now, 40 years later, looking at his obituary online, there was no mention of Goodie ever having a wife, kids, a partner or even any family he might have left behind. It simply stated he had died of cancer and where the funeral service would be. It sounded like he had nobody in his life. After reading the obituary, I felt sad. I wondered if anybody really knew him.
I don’t know for sure of Goodie’s sexual orientation, don’t know if he was gay, straight, bisexual or something else. What I do know is that 40 years ago, southern Indiana wasn’t exactly a hotbed of sexual freedom. Being “different” back then wasn’t talked about. In 1971, if you weren’t straight, that closet door remained shut or even locked. Maybe that’s why Goodie’s question or request to me and John came out all sideways. He didn’t know how to act, didn’t know what to do about being different.
It’s no longer 1971. Four decades later, even here in conservative Cincinnati, sexual preferences can be discussed openly and are more tolerated. Now, diversity is celebrated rather than scorned. That’s the way it should be.
Thinking back to that last day of high school in Vevay all those years ago and not reporting the incident to anyone still feels like the right decision. If it happened today, in 2011, it would be a different story.
Today, with a more open attitude toward sexual preferences, potential sexual attacks in high school restrooms, in automobiles after high school basketball games or anyplace else should definitely be reported either to a parent, a high school principal or the police. Today, those attacks would suggest a larger problem rather than pent up sexual frustration.
If I was a kid today, Goodie's words and actions couldn’t go unexplained. He’d be reported.