I am curious if other writers out there have a favorite chapter and one that they did not like at all. Not necessarily in the writing but as part of the storyline. Perhaps it is the unavoidable death of a beloved character that you really don’t want to kill off but, their death is what the story requires. It’s what the story demanded even though it’s not what you, as the author, wanted to happen.
For me, this is the chapter of Blassius. Ugh. The guy that everyone hates. Literally, everyone, including me. He is a predator, not just a sexual one, but on other levels of his consciousness as well. He is always looking to take something or someone down for his own benefit. But here’s the weird thing about predation by humans — perhaps at some point in our human evolution we were true predators, driven by our need to feed ourselves. Predatory animals do not hunt for the sheer fun of it. They may practice hunting, the way sharks have been observed to toy around with seals, but in the strict ecological and biological sense, predation is reserved for food. It is my opinion that humans are the only ones who have evolved other forms of predatory behavior. With the advent of cultivation and domestication, the average modern day human is far removed from its true predatory ways. However, in its place has evolved other forms of predatory behavior. Sexual predation, economic predation, social predation — behaviors that are not intrinsic to humankind but learned from somewhere. In the case of Blassius, somewhere very dark.
His story came to me without much real thought on my part. In that regard, I now know what I have heard some author’s say about the words writing themselves. It was stream of consciousness writing that poured its grisly self out. The narrative of his life as Billy was so fluid I finished it in a matter of hours. They were intense and difficult hours but it made me cringe how easily it all seemed to come out. Why? Am I sick and perverted? Have I watched one too many forensic crime scene shows? Billy’s story, I think, is rooted in something I saw as a teenager that had changed me in a very fundamental way. I almost forgot about it, until I had to write Blassius.
I was in my late teens dating a musician whose band had just finished playing a concert. It was a fantastic show, everyone’s energy was jumping through the roof and we were all famished at 3:00 AM. We needed to wind down and eat. The band’s drummer and his girlfriend invited us for katsudon at this authentic hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant called Dosanko. Perfect! The four of us piled into his car and off we went. The thing about Dosanko is that it was located in the “red light” district or the main seat of the city’s prostitution at the time. I had never been before and neither had the drummer’s girlfriend and we begged him to take a slight detour to cruise down the main artery where all the action was. He refused at first, trying to convince us that it was not something we girls would want to see. But we won out and so off we went down the congested avenue. As with most 18-19 year olds, I thought I had everything all figured out and, in short, I was full of judgmental crap. More specifically, in our society, you look down on the “dancing girls”, sure they might be victims of circumstance but come on, you can’t earn a more dignified living? I expected to see what I saw in the movies (of course!) — audaciously confident women wielding their wares like it was nobody’s business and racking up the bucks while they were at it. And finally, finally! I would get to see them … and judge them … and somehow make me feel better about myself? I suppose that was the point, in the end, right? Traffic was slow and so we had every opportunity to gawk and ogle at the goings on outside. Immediately my stomach turned. The bars were essentially open air tents where the stage is surrounded by tables and there might be a proper bar off to one side. Being completely open, we could see straight through to the stage where overly made up young women tried to dance provocatively while their faces projected elsewhere. Some looked bored, some were surly, some looked lost. In all cases, their bodies may have been on the stage but their minds were clearly somewhere else. The jeering and leering was loud even over the overlapping music as we crawled past one bar after another. And then I started to observe the people on the street. The middle aged, pot-bellied foreigners, the college student gawkers, the younger foreigners … it didn’t matter, they all looked the same — eager, hormonal, pumped up for their big night. And then, I saw her and it is not an exaggeration to say that I was not the same person after that moment. In the crowd I picked up on a woman with a girl of about ten years old, small, skinny with jet black stick straight hair, cut into a little girl’s bob with bangs straight across her forehead. I thought to myself “What on earth is that kid doing out here in the middle of the night?” until I realized that the woman was putting makeup on the little girl’s face. Makeup on a child at 3:00 AM. Figure it out. I was sick, livid, ashamed. I wanted to jump out and grab her, take her home, my parents couldn’t say no. She was helpless and so was I, both bound by a world of different rules. And she was not the only one. I started noticing all these children standing around, boys, girls, vacant and waiting. My stomach wretched. All I could do was close my eyes, look away and cry. A lot of good that did this little girl. All my tears and prayers and sympathy did nothing for her. By the time I was safe in my bed later on that morning, where would she be? Where would all those children be? The universe had put me in my place. While I cannot fathom a parent’s decision to willingly and knowingly place their child into such a horrible life, in the world of pain and suffering, what do I really know? I know nothing.
Billy/Blassius is that little girl to a great extent. I was in tears when I finished Billy’s narrative. I felt the same helplessness, uselessness I felt that night. It wasn’t right, but that is how he became a predator. If he is easy for you to hate, then I will have accomplished my job. But try not to judge him too harshly. He was a victim once. The revenge on his mother and Chief Adler was easier to write. As a biologist I couldn’t not resist the idea of slow and painful. I’m sorry if it offended you or grossed you out or made you want to skip over the pages. Someone had to stick up for him. Blassius, to me, represents the cycle of human ills. Humans find comfort and a sense of being in what is familiar, even if it is something so wrong. Victims of alcoholic parents become alcoholics themselves or marry alcoholics. The daughter of an abusive father finds herself in as abusive relationship. And the son becomes an abuser himself. When humans are victimized, we have the tendency to transform into the perpetrator who creates another string of victims, hence perpetuating pain and suffering until someone is able to break the cycle. In one study, we found that as many as 80% of women trafficked from Eastern European countries become recruiters themselves, once they return home. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
In the US alone, an estimated 300,000 children are prostituted across all 50 states. Around the world, two million (2,000,000!) children wind up in the child sex trafficking industry that is worth $32Billion a year. If you are considering making a donation over the holidays, please consider giving to an organization that works to rescue and rehabilitate these children. Please help break the cycle.