It was early 2012. I had just started a job waiting tables at a popular chain restaurant. It was my first time being out on the floor by myself. I was a little overwhelmed, but I got through it. As the day wound down to a close and the customers emptied out, I went to the back and began cleaning stuff.
I didn’t know anybody yet, so I got very uncomfortable as I watched an argument develop between one of the cooks and the dishwasher. Looking back now, it’s funny how stereotypical their insults were, but at the time I was standing by myself afraid to move by them. “I don’t care what you think, motherfucker!” “Don’t call me motherfucker, motherfucker!”
It wasn’t so much the words, it was the volume of the words and the build of the men yelling. The dishwasher, in particular, had a rather booming voice and was well over 6 feet tall. He intimidated me.
As is the case with a job like that, you eventually get used to your surroundings and become friends with your coworkers. There are degrees to those friendships. I think we all know the differences between acquaintances and friends. The dishwasher was an acquaintance of mine.
As I got more comfortable around him, the intimidation factor went away. He was a gentle giant. He liked to be loud and goofy. He talked about working out a lot and was always performing feats of strength; lifting enormous stacks of plates and whatnot. Any time a girl asked me to lift something for her and I didn’t think I could do it, I would tell her to ask the dishwasher. If they were intimidated by him or unsure, I would assure her that the dishwasher would be happy to show off how strong he was.
The dishwasher and I became Facebook friends. We slowly learned more about each other. He had a long-term girlfriend and some kids. He also liked professional wrestling, so we had a mutual interest.
He had an odd sense of humor. Some were put off by it, but I thought he was funny and I liked being around him. He would occasionally invite me over to his place to “get smoked out.” Had that been a hobby of mine, maybe I would have. Aside from working together and liking wrestling, we really had nothing in common.
I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone the other night. I came across a newspaper article with a sad-looking guy’s mugshot staring at me. I thought that it looked like the dishwasher. I clicked the link. I couldn’t believe what I saw.
It was the dishwasher’s mugshot. He had been arrested and charged with a plethora of sexual abuse charges against a minor. Dumbfounded is a good word in this situation. I just couldn’t believe it; 37 counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, 37 counts of sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, and one count of sexual assault in the first degree. I looked those terms up – basically “abuse” is touching and “assault” is more than touching.
I don’t know how to feel about this. I have known him for years. People have been quick to demonize and castigate this man. Is he evil or is he sick? Does he need counseling or does he need what several Facebook commenters implied: to just be left alone in jail and not worry about whatever happens to him?
And, of course, there’s the possibility that all 75 charges aren’t true. We have a legal system for a reason. Innocent until proven guilty. You know the rest.
People talk about what a nice guy he is. And while I won’t deny that, you never know what somebody is into sexually. A fun look at that is “She looks so cute and innocent, I can’t believe she likes to be tied up.” On that same token, “He’s such a nice guy, I can’t believe he’s been charged with 75 counts of some of the worst things imaginable.”
I guess this is a lesson that while you may think you know somebody, you really don’t. Even if those charges aren’t true, something fucked up has to be going on in his life for this to even become an issue. One thing that has stuck out in my conversations about this was one guy who said to me “I met the kid a couple times. He seemed normal.”
What is normal? How many people walking the streets right now are hiding some sort of dark secret? We think we know people but we really don’t. Don’t ever forget that.