“I don’t really want to talk about here. It’s not a good idea,” Ronnie said and shot another paranoid look around the bar.
“We’re the only people here. Let’s just talk about it.”
“I don’t know man, heavy.”
Ronnie shook his head again. The gears in my head turned. I reached over and finally grabbed hold of the drink Ronnie ordered for me. Took a hearty swig. It was even worse than I thought it would be.
“Cinnamon, whiskey and Coke. I’ll hand it to you for probably being the first person in the world who would think that would be a good fucking combination.”
We both laughed.
“There’s a lot of shit you don’t know man. Heavy shit,” Ronnie said once he finished laughing. “I was pretty good friends with Chase when he died. I don’t think many people know that.”
“From Crave, you two hung out together a lot at Crave Churches?”
“We did. He was a cool kid. Little younger than me, but we were tight. Bonded over the fucked up shit that happened.”
“What fucked up shit?”
“I’ve never really told anyone about this shit. No one asks me shit around here, but we go way back, man. I got molested at Crave. So did Chase. Shit. Molested aint even the right word. That’s not fair. We got fuckin raped, man.”
The silent space in between two Bob Seger songs on the jukebox picked a really bad time to pop up. Ronnie and eye sat there silent, staring into our “F & Cs.”
“Started when I was about eight. Chase too.”
“Who did it?”
“One of the priests. He’s long dead though. Died not too long after Chase. Hopefully the fucker didn’t find him in heaven, but that priest wasn’t the only one. Ones would come in from other towns and stuff. We didn’t really know what was going on.”
“You still go to that place? Your mom said that’s where you were today when I went over.”
“I just say I’m going there because she likes that. Really I just go here or to get fucked up with some guys I know up in Union City. Guys who got raped too,” Ronnie laughed. “I go to Crave from time to time just to make sure those guys don’t think I’m going to rat them out. Wouldn’t want to know what they would do if they thought I might do that.”
“You think all that stuff had something to do with Chase dying though?”
“Could, but I don’t know. All the shit was so dark, I wouldn’t be shocked if Chase just decided it was too much. I’ll tell you what though. Chase was into some deeper shit than me. He was always on those chat rooms at the church computer labs.”
“What do you mean?”
“The churches were doing everything they could to get teenagers to hang out there. They all had these computer labs with Internet, back when that was a really big deal. Chase practically lived in those labs. I went on there a few times with him, but it was scary as shit. He would be in these romance chat rooms talking with married guys up in Chicago, Detroit and shit. He was in deep. I would be very curious to see what exactly what going on with him and that stuff back in the day. The answers might be all there.”
“They still have these computer labs.”
Ronnie finished his drink and let out a laugh.
“Yeah. Still do. Still have those shitty ass 90s computers too.”
It was the first time in my life I was glad I was an IT guy. A fire burned inside myself when I drove back to my dad’s house in the night after dropping Ronnie off on his mom’s doorstep with him drunkenly mumbling something about how we were “like brothers” over and over again.
My IT coincidence was followed up by another stroke of luck when I discovered in my luggage that I had packed one of my Frontier IT red polo shirts from work. The change in direction of my trip my dad’s revelations and Ronnie’s confessions created meant the stale polo would be the perfect disguise for what I was going to try and pull off.