This has been sitting in my drafts for days now… Why? I’m not entirely sure… Why do I need to tell this story, this way? I’ve no idea… But? I do. So? Here goes…

When I was five or six, my parents sent me to spend my summers with my mother’s maternal Aunt, Gran’s sister, and her Italian husband. Their story is interesting, in that they never had any children — I was later told she couldn’t — and that they met in the early years of awareness before WWII…He’d escaped Mussolini, she escaped Hitler. Both came to America, and neither spoke English. But? They fell in love, nonetheless, and spent the next fifty years together.

The first time I came to spend the summer with them, they took me to her brother’s work-in-progress summer home, in the suburbs of the Kingston area of New York State. It was remote then, even more so than now, not hardly near a city, and his house was a danger zone for a girl of only five. We didn’t go there again.

The following summer was spent in their home in suburban Westchester, in a modest home they shared with a tenant who’d been their second floor occupant for nearly twenty years… A man in his forties, with longish dark hair, a scruffy beard, and a quiet voice. I was told I was to NEVER go near his room, and I didn’t.

Not that year.

The next summer was busy with preparations for my baby sister’s arrival the following winter, so I didn’t go to my Aunt and Uncle. They came to us. Which was more of a problem than a help. I do believe they’d tried. Uncle Pietro was as mellow as they came. Tante Pauline? Not so much.

During my eighth summer, I went back. And this time, I was asked to clean the entirety of the second floor, including his room... And, now…

Now, I understand why I was told to never enter there.

Floor to ceiling, stacks upon stacks, on every surface. Playboy. Penthouse. Forum. Hustler, in fewer quantities — I counted. Not that I remember anymore what the numbers were, but, I can tell you there were hundreds, if not thousands of those magazines stacked all over the room. I’d never seen anything like those magazines before, and I’ve never seen anything like that collection again. I wasn’t traumatized, tho... I was fascinated. What was this about? Nudity was unheard of in our house. We never discussed sex in any way… As a matter of fact, the following year, my parents purchased a set of books for my sister, who’d just started menstruating, so that she’d understand the basic facts.

Which she didn’t get from the books, because she didn’t understand what she’d read… but, that’s another story!

Anyway, me, being me…? I started reading. Day after day, I would go upstairs on the pretense of cleaning, and I would be reading. One day, he came home and found me, lying on his bed, reading. And I honestly don’t remember what happened after that… I only know I was sent home the next day, with my Aunt in tears, and my mother very angry. I didn’t return for another five years.

My older sister told me years ago that she thought I’d been molested when I was a child, but, she didn’t know by whom… Maybe. But I don’t think so.

Can you find me in all those red heads? I was 9 or 10 in that picture…

I can’t believe that my Aunt would have sent me up there, risking my innocence with someone she’d known for twenty years, without believing I was safe. She KNEW what he had in that room. She’d been cleaning it for him for twenty years… She’d watched the collection grow… And yet, she sent me home the next day in tears, and whatever had happened? My mother was furious at her Aunt, my Gran spent a great deal of time on the phone with her sister in the days after I got home, and I was always sent from the room while they talked.

I don’t know. It’s clear that he was a bachelor, very into porn of a variety of levels… A collector.

Why would she send me up there…?

She had to know his proclivities… But? Does that mean he’d direct that pent up sexual energy towards a child? Not necessarily.

I don’t believe that every person who is into porn is also into pedophilia. Not by a long shot.

And I think that a part of the reason why I am always so willing to find the good in people that seem to be by society’s standards completely “untrustworthy” is perhaps, because of that man.

Because I don’t honestly believe that anything happened of a sexual nature between us. Or, perhaps, that’s better stated that I don’t want to believe anything of a sexual nature happened.

I don’t remember being scared. I remember being confused as to why everyone was so upset that I had been reading those magazines, other than the fact that I’d been told not to touch them.

Well, how do you clean them if you can’t touch them..? And so what if you spend some time reading an article here and there… No matter the subject. (Oh, be QUIET!)

I want to believe that what happened is that my Aunt was scandalized because I was reading his magazines, and sent me away to keep me “safe” from their/his influence. I want to believe that my mother was angry because my Aunt was more concerned with the specks of dust that might accumulate than with keeping me away from the stacks of porn this man kept.

I want to believe that this tenant simply escorted me from his room, informed my Aunt what I had been doing, and reading, and nothing more happened between us.

But I honestly don’t know.

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