“Everyone Knows”

Everyone at Bishop High knows which Brothers you can’t be caught alone with. The older students play many pranks on the younger boys, but they are dead serious about this.

The giveaway is if the Brothers get all friendly and come out from behind their desks. If it’s school business—a “D” on a test or messing around in class—they don’t come out from behind their desks. They want the authority of the desk in front of them.

But if they come out from behind their desk all friendly and smiling, they want something from you, and you’ve got to think fast.

The first thing you think is, How can I be so stupid? But it’s not your fault.

It’s been hammered into you all your life to listen to the Brothers, these holy emissaries of God. So when Brother Ignatius says, “Mr. Smith, could you stay back a moment, please?” and you tug at the sleeve of your best friend’s blazer to implore him to wait up and Brother Ignatius says, “No, Mr. Smith, just you,” you have to listen.

They always seem to know the ones who have to listen.

Then you think two things almost at the same time. You think you have to stay between him and the door, and you think you can’t look him in the eye. If you don’t look him in the eye, he can’t draw you in. If you don’t look him in the eye, you can pretend he’s not there, and you can pretend you’re not there. You can pretend that neither of you are there, and this is not happening.

That doesn’t mean you close your eyes and you’re off the hook. Unh-Unh. You keep your eyes open. You keep your eyes open and you keep them on the black polished shoes. The black polished shoes give him away. You watch the black polished shoes and you watch the hands. At first you watch the shoes more than the hands. As the shoes scuff closer, you watch the hands. You watch the shoes and the hands, and while you’re watching the shoes and the hands, the cologne brings tears to your eyes. The cologne masks the alcohol and brings tears to your eyes. It is the cologne that brings tears to your eyes.

There are the grabbers like Brother Martin, who step and strike, and there are the petters like Brother Ignatius, who, before you know it, is rubbing your arm, and before you know that, is patting the top of your hand, saying, “I’m sure you understand,” with such yearning you almost do understand.
If you’ve managed to stay between him and the door, you have one last chance to duck and run, calling out, “’Night, Brother,” to the figure now slumped against the desk. You almost feel sorry for him.

If, however, you are distracted by the black polished shoes and the hands and the cologne that brings tears to your eyes, and he slips between you and the door, you’re done for. Any attempt to get past him now puts you right where he wants you to be.

If you’re lucky, it’s over the clothes. Brother Ignatius grabs your hand and puts it on the front of his pants, and you make your hand go numb and you think about the scratchy cloth, not what’s growing beneath it.

But Brother Martin unzips before he pulls your hand toward him. He unzips with the hand not locked onto your arm and pulls your hand toward him. He pulls your hand toward him and puts it where he’s unzipped and there’s no cloth for cover. You try to make your hand go numb, but you can’t, because there’s no cloth for cover. That’s when you close your eyes and close your hand and try to think of nothing at all.

Afterwards, you don’t tell anyone, but everyone knows. They don’t say they know, but you know they know. You don’t let on you know, but they know. Everyone knows, but no one speaks of it. No one speaks of it, but everyone knows, and this is how you live with yourself. This is how everyone lives with themselves.

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About Charles Grosel

An editor, writer, and poet, Charles Grosel lives in Arizona. He has published stories in Western Humanities Review, Red Cedar Review, Water-Stone, and The MacGuffin as well as poems in Slate, The Threepenny Review, Poet Lore, and Harpur Palate, among others. To pay the bills, Charles owns the communications firm, Write for Success.