Little secret no more
Do you still remember our little secret? I do.
It was 1997. I was five then, fragile and naive; you were 13 and pimply, thanks to your raging hormones. Spending the summer vacation at our apartment in the province, you patiently taught me how to firmly hold a Nintendo Game Boy and to control “Mario,” timing his jumps correctly to collect coins and dodge enemies. That’s how you won my trust.
I remember you stroking my head whenever I obliged your occasional request for a peck on your cheek. We would bathe together, sleep next to each other. Nothing unusual there. We, after all, were both boys. The eldest among my paternal cousins, you were my “Kuya,” my supposed protector.
I did not, however, understand why one day, you, out of nowhere, pressed your lips against mine — an act I only saw (through my fingers covering my face) lovers in soap operas do, in scenes that my siblings and I were forbidden to watch. I did not comprehend why, when we were showering together, you suddenly started rubbing my body with soap even when I told you I could already do it myself. It did not make sense why, in the middle of the night, you roused me by grabbing my hand and slipping it forcefully into your trousers (or yours into mine), while my parents slept soundly in the other room.
Then yet to reach the age of reason and ignorant of what was right and wrong, I was confused about what you were doing to me, and why. Yet, you assured me that we were just “playing.” With your right index finger pressing against your pointing lips, you convinced me that those “games” were our little secret — sealed and never to be shared with anyone. You said little boys were supposed to behave well and follow orders. Otherwise, “Hindi na tayo bati at hindi na tayo maglalaro ulit,” because “Magagalit si kuya.” Your piercing stare, matched by your thick and raised eyebrows (more frightening than Mom’s) and your stern voice (more masculine and authoritative than Dad’s) were enough to make me obey. Not to mention, you were taller, bigger, way stronger than I was.
These secret games became more frequent when our families began living under the same roof for a couple of months.
You once tricked me into believing that what came out from the “lollipop” attached to your body was milk, which I immediately spat out into the kitchen sink — only to learn years later in our science class that while it does contribute to propagating mankind, it does not make one’s bones stronger.
Whenever we played video games in your room, I was preconditioned enough to know that something else would happen the moment you locked the door. You would even intentionally turn up the TV volume as a ploy, remember?
At other times, you made me watch “bold movies’’ and told me we should imitate what the two naked heterosexuals making weird sounds were doing, to no avail. You fooled me that potato chips, dirty ice cream, or access to your gaming consoles were a fair trade in exchange for my mouth, hands, thighs, the little wiener dangling between them, and my silence.
Our little secret persisted even after our families had decided to live in separate houses. Until one night in 2005 at our cousin’s home when I felt your probing hand at it again. Only this time I resisted, pried it off my shorts, turned sideways with my back facing you, covered myself with a blanket from head to toe, and hugged the bolster as tightly as I could.
Were you surprised by my defiance that you never bothered me from then on? That was me finally drawing the line. That was me saying no more to your manipulation and deception, and making a stand: My body is not an object with which to satisfy your lust. That was me finally coming to my senses about the abomination you’ve been corrupting me to engage in for the last eight years: incest, in case you still did not know.
I tried pretending as if nothing had happened and shifted my focus to academics, eventually making it through college with flying colors. But not even my achievements could repair the damage our little secret had inflicted on me. I don’t recall shedding a tear for it at all, but I was hurting and broken inside.
Isn’t it ironic that you were the one who must be punished, but it was I who suffered in silence, from unwanted flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and even anxieties triggered by doors being locked?
I never told anyone about it as I feared being met with disbelief (“Hindi nga?), judgment (“Baka naman ginusto mo rin”), or worse, victim-blaming (“Hindi ka pumalag? Kalalaki mong tao”). These toxic stereotypical comments permeating our bravado-obsessed culture—which wrongly presumes that boys and men will never be vulnerable—are the last things my shattered soul would want to hear. I reckoned that the humiliation it would have brought our womanizer-dominated clan was not worth it, either.
Thankfully, my college subjects helped me rationalize my responses to your provocations. I learned that as a child, I didn’t fully understand what I was consenting to. As you had prematurely unleashed my need for instant gratification, I was unaware you were repeatedly violating me because I felt drawn to the involuntary, pleasurable sensations you had made me believe were okay.
Still, being molested by you did not make me less of a man. What matters is not what I lost, but the control I’ve regained and the man I have become—not because of it, but in spite of it. Slowly, I learned to forgive myself, realizing that it was never my fault and my shame but yours. My hatred for you, meanwhile, turned into apathy. In my book, you were a character who no longer existed.
I did not see you for quite some time, until two Christmases ago at a family reunion. Yes, I still couldn’t look you straight in the eye and your presence still made me uneasy. But I knew I had to face you if I wanted to overcome the past, which I refuse to define me. Having grown taller, bigger, and stronger than you, I could have even punched you in the face right then and there, just to get even.
But all these thoughts vanished when I saw, for the first time, your three-month-old firstborn, sleeping. It’s a little strange thinking that you were now a father given your promiscuity, especially with women. As I cradled him, I smiled, reminded myself that he is not you, then silently prayed that he would not only change you for the better, but also neither experience what you had put me through nor grow up to be anything like you.
They say one has moved on from something if one can freely talk it out. Maybe, by acknowledging that you abused me, I can finally make peace with my past knowing that my truth—and your lies—are now out in the open.
* * *
The writer, 29, wishes that the children’s books “Ako ay May Titi” and “Ako ay May Kiki” were already in print when he was younger, as these books might have taught him that a kid’s private part is not supposed to be part of a secret game. He may be reached at [email protected]
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