I had been party to a gay bashing that had turned violent, a lot more violent than I had expected. I was one of those people who felt poorly about treatment I’ve received but never saw it from the other side like this. I justified lashing out at people like sports officials, opponents, boys and girls who had teased me and I graduated, so to speak, into graffiti and vandalism. But in November things went wrong as the violence got out of hand for even me, plus I got caught.
There were about four cars of us and five of them, not carloads but individuals, the ‘them’ were gay, transgendered kids from our school. They had a habit of walking together before or after dances or events on Friday night. I figured they would run and we’d chase them with most getting away and we’d hassle the ones we caught. The only one I knew well is Randy and at 6’ 2” and being a starting end for the football team he would be the surest one to get away.
I’m, Brad 5’9” and weighed 135 pounds at the beginning of school. While I have gotten into fights they have all been one on one or sometimes me jumping in on the side of a friend.
Last September I had been beaten up by two bigger guys, so I took to being in a group so it would never happen again. That night in November was my second time when we fought with someone. The previous time it was us, one carload of five getting after two guys, one who got away and the other whose shirt got ripped, he was pushed down and we beat on him until he cried. I wasn’t proud of it but I didn’t feel bad either.
This time, two cars of us pulled alongside of them and two carloads waited until they ran. I was in the group that got out, but to my surprise the two gay girls, yes I know now to call them lesbians or just by their names. Well they and one guy ran. The gals ran between some buildings and houses on the next block; one of them was hit with a rock and once they were safe went to the hospital. The big surprise for me was Randy didn’t run.
Marvin tried to run but was quickly stopped. There were seven of us, two of the guys took Marvin to the side. I yelled at Randy to try running, I would have even let him get passed me. Instead Randy looked at me and said, “You wouldn’t be doing this if there weren’t more of you, you’re a punk.” He shouldn’t have said that so I ran at him to knock him down. Well, I didn’t knock him down but I did bump him into two others.
I didn’t know one of them had a small bat and he hit Randy in the leg and another guy had a small knife and he cut Randy. Once someone said blood; I fell next to Randy telling the others, “Get away.” I guess Randy had been hit and kicked a time or two. He was grimacing and holding his leg with his cut hand which made things look really bad.
I stayed with Randy and Marvin until the cops were turning onto the street. As I try to run Randy took hold of my wrist and I got caught. Eight of us would get caught and charged. One police sergeant told us that night, “If you hadn’t injured them like you did, I could have let us off with a warning.” ‘Really (?), I’ll be in trouble at home, but I doubt that would be so for Bart or Jake.’
Many people are horrified that it happened in our community. Friends, people at school and neighbors are horrified because I’ve always been seen as a good guy, “One they would never suspect.” I’m right about being in more trouble at home. I’ve been grounded until my court appearance and may be after if I’m not in juvenile detention. I had a part-time job that I am still working at but all my pay has been going to Randy and Bridgette for expenses not covered by insurance.
I would have lost my job, if I remained visible to the public. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it; I’m able to work in the stock area receiving supplies for trucks and doing janitor jobs out of sight.
My court appearance comes up the second week of January and the only suspense should be what my sentence will be. It is known that I am pleading guilty. My parents were hoping I would get a plea agreement. My lawyer says that wasn’t likely since my deposition pretty much documented the District Attorney’s case against Jake, Bart and me.
I am a little surprised that Claude, Robin, Bridgette, Marvin and Randy are all here. None of them has been willing to talk to me since the incident. I even tried to stop at the Thomas’ to see Randy after he was home from the hospital and another time with my parents.
The Judge asked me to stand and he is to read the charges against me. “Bradley Lincoln, just this morning I have received notice that you are now being charged as an adult. The charges are terrorizing, bodily injury with the use of weapons. Since the charges have been changed from those committed by a juvenile to that of an adult, I would entertain a request for a continuance; how do you plea?”
I look back to my parents; I’m scared as I was already worried about my treatment in a Juvenile Detention Center. My Mom’s crying and Dad is focused on her. I quickly look over to Randy and the others. The Judge asks again, “Bradley, how do you plead?”
“Your Honor, I probably should ask for the continuance as I am scared, but it’s been hard to wait and be in court today. I acknowledge I am guilty.”
The District Attorney stands and asks, “Your Honor may I approach the bench with a request of the victims and the complaintives.” He is granted the request and takes up a large envelope that he gives to the judge. The Attorney steps back.
The Judge reads and then states, “I am going to ask that Bradley be placed in custody until 2:00 p.m. so I might consider this most unusual request.” Since I had only been in jail part of one night, it is spooky being taken to the jail today. Some of the men already in jail have fun at my expense. Officer Jurgens says, “Sorry kid, but these aren’t the convicted criminals you will see in prison, these are fairly tame.”
It was 10:30 when I’m put in my cell and 1:30 when they are to come to take me back. I’d been given a fish sandwich and other food on a tray for lunch but no utensils. Officer Jurgens tells me, “If you even look like you are loosening your belt or going to harm yourself, I will take your belt and have someone staying right next to you.” I don’t eat anything and I have trouble holding down my breakfast. Having Officer Jurgens take me back to court is kind of a relief.
I’m standing in court as Judge Daniels enters. “Bradley have you seen the movie Gandhi recently?”
I tell him, “We saw the movie in December as part of our world history class.”
“I would like to meet with the Defendant and the lawyers involved in this case in my chambers.”
Back in the judge’s chamber room we meet and Judge Daniels speaks, “Bradley the people you have hurt are seeking to extend an olive branch of sorts. Before I consider making a ruling on it I want to know if you would be willing to accept the following agreement:”
“As part of sentencing, the five of us would like to convey to Bradley, face to face the hurt he has caused us. We would like a formal agreement whereby he be our friend and act accordingly for the following year. That he be willing to be Randy Thomas’ boyfriend and act accordingly for the coming year. This would include holding hands and allowing Randy to put his arm around Bradley’s waist and to go on dates and study together as possible and beneficial to five students. This would not require Bradley to kiss Randy or allow touching considered inappropriate based on their friendship at the time or contrary contact or displays of personal affection according to school policy on the display of public displays of affection. Lastly, that Bradley would be given five years of probation and the requirement of obtaining counseling as approved by the court; this would be in place of any time he be sentenced to serve for these crimes.”
Bradley are you willing to accept this agreement if it would be offered to you in lieu of the sentence of imprisonment?”
“I would be willing to consider and accept it, pending the hearing of my sentence and if I find the imprisonment more severe.”
Judge Daniels says, “I will place the sentence I am prepared to pass on you into this envelope and give it to the bailiff for when we meet in court. You are excused until court reconvenes in thirty minutes. Any objections by the defense or prosecution should be made at that time.
I am allowed to use a restroom and then I am with my lawyer and family as we go back in the courtroom. My defense lawyer has shared the terms of the possible agreement with my parents. My Mom, Gloria Lincoln, shares. “Bradley, whatever the sentence I want you to accept this agreement. Whatever you have not come to understand about your actions you would in the following year. I don’t want you going to prison.”
Dad speaks, “Son I think you do well to consider the sentence and take the lesser of the two. Both sentences are against you interest; hopefully you would be sentenced to a medium security prison and protected from harm."
My brother and sister decide to remain quiet.
People file back into court along with several reporters and one television camera. “Will everyone rise for the Honorable Judge Daniels?”
The Judge sits, as does everyone else in court save my lawyer and me. “Bradley Lincoln, you have been offered an alternative to serving the sentence I am ready to pass judgment upon you for the crimes you committed on November of last year. My sentence in light of treating you as an adult is as follows: I am required to sentence you to no less than seven years for the crimes of hate and reckless and mischievous harm you have caused to which you have pled guilty. I hereby sentence you to ten years in no less than a medium security prison with the following requirement of probation of five years if you are paroled before serving your full sentence.”
“Now I ask you young man would you be willing to abide by the suggestion received by the Court in lieu of the sentence I have passed upon you?”
I am terribly shaken by the sentence and while I feel it is harsh my lawyer had shared the sentence could be up to fifteen years in maximum security where I would hopefully be placed in isolation for my own safety. But even that would be very dangerous to my mental health.
My voice is shaky and tears can’t be held back, “Your Honor, I accept the agreement understanding those I have offended are being gracious and merciful to me.” I fall back into my seat crying with my hands covering my face. I am hoping that the agreement is a done deal and settled.
Judge Daniels says, “Seeing the young adults and the parents of those offended and those of the defendant, I will individually request each of you to declare your willingness to accept this agreement. Bridgett Cameron’s parents and Randy Thomas’ parents voice their displeasure with the kindness their daughter and son are showing. But they do agree to abide by the agreement as does the other parents. My Mom agrees as does my father after a moment of hesitation.”
“Bradley, I hope your remorse is sincere and I warn you against wavering in your compliance. You are likely to experience ridicule and judgment from various people; I consider that as part of the consequences of your actions. The guidelines and parameters of compliance and what is appropriate to expect of you will be spelled out by the court within thirty days. Your agreement will begin upon your leaving the court today.
The judge permits Claude, Robin, Bridgette, Marvin and Randy to proceed with their face to face remarks to me. Feeling their disdain for my actions and the hurt especially beyond their physical injuries make me wonder why they offered their agreement. Marvin in many ways was even more moving in his remarks than Bridgett or Randy. Randy's speaking hurt me deeply because of the friend I hurt and his asking me to be his boyfriend.
Randy’s Mother asks to speak to the court, but already at 6:00 p.m. Judge Daniels denies her request. Since I am a minor, my parents are required to sign my agreement with me.
I’m surprised with the end of the trial, Randy, Marvin and Bridgett come up to me and wait for my parents to finish hugging me. I extend my hand to shake hands with them but Randy’s arms fly open for a hug. I am not quite ready for it but I hear my Mom. “Just start accepting their friendship now.” Randy warmly hugs me and I believe he kissed the top of my head. Marvin shakes my hand. Bridgett puts her hands on each of my shoulders, waits for me to look her in the eyes. “Don’t expect this to be easy, but I am glad you agreed to it.” With that said, she pulls me into a hug. The guy who I am, I would have rather been the one embracing her, but I know she doesn't see me that way.
Marvin says, “I am Jewish and my parents would like you and whoever desires to go to eat with us now as a sign of enemies uniting in an agreement as friends at peace.” I’m exhausted and do not want to go, but Marvin’s mom says, “Others need not come Bradley, but I believe you need to honor your agreement to befriend Marvin.” I look to Mom and Dad. I know Dad is uncomfortable. “I will go with you Brad,” I hear Mom speaking behind me and feel her hand on my shoulder.
As we leave the court room a camera is smack in my face as the reporter places her microphone in front of me. “Bradley, what do you honestly think about being required to be friends to lesbians and gay boys you were part of attacking?” Mom’s hand is again upon my shoulder and Dad tells me to move. I stop, “Besides being a lot nicer than the alternative. Randy and I were friends and most everyone in school likes and respect him as well as the others.”
“Yes but you weren’t seen as his boyfriend then. What do you think about going on a date with him?”
“I am not sure what I feel about it or how I’ll handle it. I agreed to it and somehow I need to make my word good again.” I felt Mom’s tug so I walk away and don’t respond to any more questions.
Mom, Cathy and I go to the restaurant the Huffman’s select. Randy, Robin and her parents join us there. Cathy, my older sister and she had come back from college to be here for me. After we ordered, Mr. Huffman suggests we individually pray before our meal. Cathy speaks up, “My family is comfortable if you would say a prayer for us.” Robin’s family and Randy all agree.
I’m initially uncomfortable when Randy asks Cathy if he can switch with her and sit next to me. Randy is mostly interested in just visiting with me, telling what he likes. He shows me his hand that was cut and how it has healed. I ask about his broken leg and he tells me it was severe but had stayed in line. The biggest problem is that there was a crack from the break that went up to the knee. Something about the growth plate might be affected if he grew noticeably.
During the dinner Marvin asks, “Did you understand our reference alluding to Gandhi and the movie?” I could see Robin and Randy nodding in affirmation of his question.
“I think you’re referring to the man I believe he was Hindu and he or others had killed the parents of a very young Muslim child and he came to ask Gandhi what he should do. Gandhi said he should raise the boy as own child but raise the boy as Muslim.” I pause in thought, “I think you are challenging me in my friendship with you and as a boyfriend to Randy to learn what it means to ‘be’ as one identifying as gay and lesbian.”
Robin challenges Cathy, “Could you express Brad’s challenge if he were you and you were to be my girlfriend?”
Cathy speaks up saying, “Wow that’s powerful. If you were one of my friends and I found I was falling in love with you. Well I know we’re both female with so much the same but now I’d be challenge to embrace my identity as a lesbian as well as you as my girlfriend. Parts I think neat because most women get frustrated by how many men think. I would share many of the same senses of sensuality and gender identity. But I am sure I would be challenged to see you and me anew as well as the dynamics of our relationship. Like Brad it would be challenging.”
“I think the real Brad is a neat guy, so I’m interested in how my brother will be a friend and boyfriend.” Randy and Robin understood all she said way better than me or even Marvin, I think.
Megan Thomas speaks up, “It is not as simple as sweet Brad reading a book on Blacks and thinking he’s Black. Even if someone spits on Bradley it will only mean he has a taste of others seeing him as gay, transgendered or a criminal. It won’t be same as Randy being gay.” There’s a mothers hurt and anger being expressed as well as a challenge to understand that I won’t understand.
The meal is good and most of the time visiting is enjoyable enough, but it weighs heavy capping the day as it has been.
< ~ ~ O ~ ~ >
It is 9:30 when we leave the restaurant and Cathy asks me, “Brad, did you know that you were acting submissive to Randy and Bridgett?” Mom tells her, “I think the expression should be passive, but that is how your brother generally acts unless he is putting on an attitude.” I don’t fully agree or understand what they mean. Cath will be heading back to college in the morning so she stays up to visit with me.
“Brad what do you plan to do when Randy wants to hold your hand, give you a kiss or date you?” “Sis I don’t really want to think about that.”
“Well I think you should think about it before other people are around you and it happens. Remember you didn’t think before when you went along with something stupid and hurtful.” It felt Cathy hit me below the belt, but it makes me think she knows what she is saying.
“Cathy what do you think I should do? I’ve only kissed two girls. I wonder what girls are going to think of me when they see Randy holding my hand?”
“Aren’t you afraid what guys will think?”
“Sure I will be but I don’t hope to date any of them.” Cathy laughs at the thinking of her youngest brother. “My first problem will probably be whether Leann and Rick will still be my friends.”
“Brad the lone suggestion I will give you, if you and Randy kiss is to keep your lips together.”
“O yuck Sis, did you really have to say that?”
“Well do you remember I dated Rob Morgan? I wasn’t ready when he kissed me and I got his slobbering tongue.”
“Sis you are grossing me out. As far as Randy is concerned I will tell him I won’t ever be kissing him especially on the lips.”
I had a dream, Sara giggles, “Robin asked if she and I could double date with you and Randy.”
“You wouldn’t,” I say and then wonder about her silence. I’m pretty sure she is just teasing. Despite a warm shower I hadn’t sleep well.
The next morning I am up and ready by usual time and almost out the door when the doorbell rings. It is Randy he’s come to take me to school. Robin and Bridgett are in the car waiting. “O’ I was going to walk.” Randy smiles, I thought I would like to give you a ride to and from school when I can.” I say good-bye to my Mom and Cathy. Mom will give Brian a ride to the middles school.
Randy offers me his hand and even comes with me to my side of the car. They talk on the way to school and I’m even quiet for me. I do say, “I’m surprised you even want to be seen with me.” Bridgett says “Ditto but we did it anyway.”
Randy patted me on the shoulder, it’s strange. It didn’t feel like I thought. Randy is strong and while he’s kind of gentle it is not like I thought it might be. Yeah, I know he’s strong and in good condition but I’ve been told what it would feel like and it isn’t.
It is only Wednesday and as we pull into the parking lot Randy asks about Friday. “Will you go out with me Friday night? We could either see a late movie or get something to eat after you are off from work.” Seemingly he knows I’m to work from four to eight. We’re now walking into school and while we’re close Randy is not holding my hand or anything.
“I would need to go home and take a quick shower and change; I’m a little grubby after work.” Randy smiles and says, “It’s a date then.” He didn't say it very loud, but several heads turn, I’m pretty sure they heard him. Randy leaves me at my locker and goes. I won’t see him until after lunch in World History.
I’m glad Randy is a junior and we only have the one class together and not even lunch. I go to lunch planning to eat with Rick and Kevin two friends, but they go separate ways from me when Marvin, Gordy and Bridgett show up. No, Gordy is not the guy who ran away that night. I’m not even sure Gordy is gay or anything. Gordon asks, “Have you been hassled any yet?”
“A few names, a few guys and even two girls blocking my path and I don’t know which bumps were intentional. I’m getting psyched out a bit.”
“The time I saw you knocked into the lockers was intended,” said Bridgett. “You were smart not to react back.”
“You mean too afraid? Yes, he was bigger and his friends were with him.”
“Randy’s asking a couple of friends to help protect you,” Gordy says. “I’m one who has agreed.”
“Do you mind if I ask,” I began to say. Gordy cuts me off, “I kinda do, but the answer is no, I’m a friend of Randy’s but you already knew he had some straight friends.” “Zing” I deserved that. “I hope you and your old friends are in the minority, but its weak friends like you who make them seem more.” That wasn’t a ‘zing’ it’s a buzz saw at the knees.
I try to say something, Gordy says, “Shut up for now!”
The next class is World History and Ms. Hahn says Randy and I can sit together if we don’t talk too much. She doesn’t have to worry about me or us, but the students around us and across the room. Ms. Hahn asks, “Does anyone know a local event that matches some of the national and world news going on?”
I think half those who are silent are because they don’t put two and two together. The other half are worried the obvious answer might not be what she wants or they are afraid of our feelings being hurt. Mary Schibb raises her hand, “Brad and hate crimes and discrimination.”
“Now we will talk about it half the period and then we will move on,” Ms Hahn says. “I for one am glad that our watching the Gandhi film proved to be beneficial.” Gordy responds, “In the movie and book we’re not told if the man did as Gandhi suggested. Movies can allude to the ending one wants to hear. Hate is still alive and sick, I gather many times it isn’t successful.”
Mary sets another question, “Is it just because of hatred?” Bill one of the smaller sophomores speaks up, which is unusual. “It is part of the power of violence as well as many who won’t speak up for those without it.” The whole class is silent for over a minute. Ms Hahn asks, “Bill could you explain that?”
“Well the way I see it, Bradley was part of the quiet group until he got beat up; then he joined the violent group and seeking not to go to jail people have taken up Gandhi’s idea.” Again the class is quiet save Ms Hahn; “I’d rather we don’t single out individuals. I guess I should have stated it differently.” It was between Gordy, Bridgett and me who would be called next. “Are you sure, you want to speak Bradley?”
“No, but I kind of need too. Unfortunately Bill is right on correct. My chance to change my story is in my hands. Not to lose what Bill is saying, there are some here who get violent and there are more who tend to stay quiet.”
Bridgett adds “The fact our world will never be perfect is one of the excuses for keeping it that way.”
I haven’t confirmed it, but someone said Ms. Hahn was called into a meeting with Principal Hendrichs and the Superintendent. I text Mom from the boys’ room before I get home…
To be continued…
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