When I met Graham I was a fourteen year-old straight-A student who had already skipped a year in school, winning academic awards while playing AAA hockey and receiving athletic awards. A goalie, I had the lowest goals against average in our league while playing on a team that sometimes, but not always, advanced in the playoffs. I was scouted and recruited for both junior and college hockey. I didn’t go to parties, the guys I played hockey with were a year behind me and at different schools, and I kept to myself. As a friend said, I didn’t fit in with the geeks because I was a jock, and I didn’t fit in with the jocks because I was a geek.
I was me. I was fourteen turning fifteen, gangly, even then almost six and a half feet tall. I was alone. All I wanted was acceptance, somewhere, in some group, someplace where I would fit in, where I would be understood. My goal was to go to an Ivy League school and play hockey, like my idol, Ken Dryden.
And then along came Graham. The hockey coach who was a teacher. The local star coach who was revolutionizing the game with his theories of Soviet and Swedish systems, who was on his way to taking his Midget AAA team to the national championships while bringing an academic focus to the game. With me he focused on my academic dreams as much as, if not more than, the hockey dreams. He was everything I could have wanted in a mentor. I, the scholar-athlete, was everything he, the teacher with a Masters in English (as he would tell us - only later did we learn he didn’t even get his B.A. until he took courses while in jail after his first convictions) could have wanted. He told me he wanted to bring me up to his Midget team, two years older than my Bantam team, for the national championships. What he really wanted was something else.
He groomed me. He didn’t touch me for months, but he made my world his. He told me he could get me into Princeton through his contacts. He worked with me, encouraged me, told me what I could do, told me that I was talented, and with a bit of a push, I could achieve my goals, academic and athletic. He told me that I had to keep his help secret, for various reasons that now seem stupid but then seemed real, as if he held all power over the walls which were closing in on me. And then he got me, and I thought that I had nobody to go to for help. He kept me under his spell by threatening to tell people I was gay, to tell the people at school that I was a problem, that my Ivy League dream would evaporate, that I wasn’t deserving. Of course, as it turns out he had no contacts at Princeton, and I got in on my own in spite of him, not because of him. But he had me, and the abuse continued.
The physical abuse continued until I went away to Princeton. The mental abuse, it never ended. The dark thoughts, the answers to the questions, were always there.
People must see me as weak. I must be some sort of joke. I am not the strong, tall, intelligent, athlete people see on the outside. I am a fraud. What you see isn’t real. I am a failure, and I deserve failure, not success. I will show you I am a failure, worthless and weak. I deserve to be punished. I am somebody who doesn’t deserve to live.
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