THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOUR CHILDHOOD MENTOR IS ARRESTED FOR SEX CRIMES
A somewhat jumbled chronology
- •In 1995, you're in his third grade classAnd it turns out your mom went to college with him! And he's awesome! He uses fantasy sports to teach math, he gets the class on WPLJ's morning show, he has a mock trial (featuring your attorney father as the judge), he teaches 5th grade math concepts and your class is even better at them than the 5th graders.
- •In 2005, he's arrested by FBI agents as part of a sex tourism stingAccording to the charges, he made arrangements for a trip to Costa Rica, where he would have sex with 12-year old prostitutes. Turns out the "travel agent" he worked with was, in fact, an FBI agent. As he was boarding the plane to Costa RIca, the FBI raided it and arrested him and the other passengers, all of whom had been caught in the sting.
- •In 1995, you learn that he loves all the same things you doYou discover from him that you can love sports and comics with equal fervor and still be considered a totally normal, cool guy. Turns out that even after you get married and have kids, you can still read comics! This was mindblowing information. Key foreshadowing note: his favorite superhero is the Incredible Hulk, a normal guy with the capacity to become an unrecognizable rage monster. Sometimes reality is too on-the-nose in its metaphors.
- •In 2004, he gets divorced and loses custody of his teenage childrenAnd it's a really nasty divorce. His wife had been cheating on him and pre-emptively got a restraining order. Your dad, the attorney, hooks him up with a divorce lawyer, who unsuccessfully tries to get him to compromise on some points, but your mentor is relentless and fueled with righteous anger. He will fight until the finish. He loses and his lawyer later says he's "never seen someone unravel so completely, so quickly during a divorce." You really hate his wife now.
- •In 1995, he gets fired from your schoolAll the things that made him such a hit with your classmates and their parents pissed the hell out of everyone else. The other third grade classes' parents were furious their kids weren't learning at the same level, and the 5th grade teachers were horrified that he had horned in on their territory and done a better job on the same material with younger students. The administration wimps out and fires him and, though there was a ton of resistance led by your parents, the decision is final.
- •In 2005, your whole family is in denialYour mom thinks he was just trying to get a really good travel deal. You think that's probably true. After all, he hadn't DONE anything and you know he wouldn't have. This is just some trumped-up bullshit. Meanwhile, after his arrest was reported in the local paper, some of your friends ask you if you were taught by that molester guy. Holding back stinging tears, you launch into an impassioned defense that likely makes no sense. You wonder if people think he molested you, and that pisses you off
- •In the mid 1990s to early 2000s, he becomes your all-purpose tutorAfter being fired by your school, he gets a job in another town and wins several "Teacher of the Year" awards. He tutors you (and your brother and other former students) in math, writing, everything until high school. He takes you out to the movies and ice cream with his daughters. You even babysit his daughters. Your parents go out socially with him and his wife. He gets a candle at your bar mitzvah.
- •In 2005, denial is no longer possibleYour dad listens to taped conversations with the mentor and "the travel agent," where he explicitly asks for 12 year old prostitutes and details what sexual acts he'd like to do with them (both of his daughters are barely older than 12 at this point). You learn that he had packed condoms in his suitcase. You realize he's clearly lost his mind and are frustrated that there is no opportunity for insanity defense. You still believe he wouldn't have done it. He gets sentenced to 5 years in prison.
- •In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, he gives you unbeatable confidence in your writing abilitiesHe tells friends and colleagues about this student of his that is writing some amazing stuff. He connects you with a pro football player who's looking for help writing an autobiography, and you start the project at the age of 16! He uses another connection to try to get you a job writing for the WWF. You think it's a little crazy, but clearly this guy is putting himself on the line for you and you don't let him down. You start to believe your writing is worth sharing with others
- •In 2015, you wonder what happenedYou feel guilt about never writing him in prison, but you were just a kid protecting yourself. When you Google him, he's not on Facebook and somehow not a registered sex offender, but you find a resume that says he became an assistant manager at Home Depot. It also says he taught G.E.D. classes in prison. You wonder about his daughters and their adult lives. You realize you are the person you are in part because of this man most would call a monster. You don't know what to do with that.