I was the oldest of all the cousins so I was the lucky one. I pretty much got to do what I wanted. I could eat what my aunt was having and share some Pepsi instead of what the other kids were having–this gross boxed macaroni and cheese mixed with Spaghettios concoction they all loved. I could stay inside and watch Days of Our Lives when the younger kids had to go out and play.

I was kind of in on gossip and dirty jokes. I heard her talk on the phone with her friends so I knew who was pregnant by who, who was a druggie, who was getting divorced. Some of these people were real and some were characters on soaps. One time I was brushing my teeth and my aunt and uncle joked about what all that “cream” around my mouth looked like. I knew it was a dirty joke but didn’t exactly get it. When I was 14, I secretly got to have wine coolers with my aunt at the beach. I was treated as older at my aunt’s so I liked going there.

Once, my aunt and us kids had come back from being out somewhere and my uncle was asleep on the couch. My aunt kicked a dirty magazine under the couch and said to me, “Ugh, he must’ve been playing with himself again.”

On Sunday, my uncle would drop my aunt and the other kids off at church and my sister and I would ride around in the back of the pick up truck wherever he went. He didn’t attend church and we weren’t forced to go when we visited. There was a couch installed up against the cab so we sat facing the traffic behind us. We sometimes got ice-creams and had to try to keep our hair from blowing in it.

I sometimes turned around so my hair would blow back away from my face. Through the window, I could see what he was doing as he drove. Usually he smoked weed from a homemade bong he made from a glass Mason jar and copper piping. One time, though, he had his pants undone and was stroking himself. I turned back around and pretended I didn’t see anything.

This started to happen frequently–or maybe it always had but I just happened to notice–and I have to admit I would usually try to steal a glance because it was a little fascinating although scary. Sometimes he caught me with his eyes in the rearview mirror and I’d quickly look away. He never stopped what he was doing even though he noticed me. I should probably mention I was 7 or 8 at the time.

One time when I was 8 or 9, I got to stay up late and watch–I don’t even remember now–might have been The Tonight Show. Some late show. I didn’t really pay much attention at that age. I just knew I was the lucky one because I got to stay up late. I shared the couch and blanket with my uncle. I was at one end, he was at the other. I settled down to get comfy with the blanket pulled half way over my head.

There was curious movement under the blanket so I rolled over and pulled it up over my head like I was going to sleep. I opened my eyes under the blanket and there he was, robe wide open, stroking himself. I closed my eyes and didn’t move. I yawned and tried to breath slow and steady and pretend to be asleep. I slowly opened my eyes again slightly because again, it was fascinating.

His belly was trim, hairless and tan. I watched his calloused mechanic’s hand slide up and down. I was afraid of getting caught but couldn’t stop watching. His thing stood straight up and his nuts bounced as he rhythmically tugged at it. I was entranced and soon my eyes were wide open again. All of a sudden, the other end of the blanket flicked up and I saw his face. He just kind of smirked at me and kept stroking himself. I tried to shut my eyes quickly and pretend to be sleeping.

After some time, I pulled my head out of the blanket and rolled back the other way facing the TV as I yawned, my eyes still closed. After a few minutes, he got up and went out to the kitchen for something so I decided to go sit in the arm chair across the room, which directly faced the kitchen.

When he reappeared in the entryway, I was shocked to see his robe still wide open as if that was completely normal to just walk around in front of a kid with your robe wide open. There he stood in all his glory getting ready to head back into the living room. I tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him and locked my eyes on the TV. But instead of going back to the couch, he came straight over to where I was sitting, put one foot up on an arm of the chair, and started stroking it right in front of my face. I remember turning and burying my face in the seat of the chair as I whisper-yelled “stop, go away!” not too loud because I didn’t want to wake anyone else up. When I sat back up again he had gone upstairs to bed.

Not long after that, I got woken up one night and wasn’t sure what woke me but the next morning, he was laughing telling my aunt about how I was sleeping with my mouth wide open and snoring when he got up with the baby, so he stuck my cousin’s baby bottle in my mouth. What a hoot.

From a very young age, I was exposed to sexuality whether it was my father’s huge box (like I think a washing machine came in it) of not only Playboy but Hustler and Penthouse collections in the bathroom or waiting in the next room while my mother had a hookup.

The earliest I can remember, I was probably four when I got in trouble for chasing a boy around trying to get him to show me his junk and I remember stuffing my undies to see what it would look like. So I know I had exposure to something very young. I did not have brothers and I was the oldest child in the family before all of the cousins came along.

Through the years, I watched my mother’s boyfriend walking around the house naked after she thought we were asleep (very small open house). I saw them having sex. I was awkwardly present years later when she brought various hookups into the home and into her bedroom.

Just to note other random things, naked boyfriend was also the one who put a fist through our TV and tied our dog to a tree and shot it to death in front of us. He was a habitual offender alcoholic who drove around all the time without a license, always had weed in the house which, whatever, so did my father and pretty much everybody. Naked guy also had pervy friends and relatives. One of his best friends was a supposed family man with wife and kids who was later convicted and imprisoned for having kidnapped, raped and murdered a girl he picked up hitchhiking, if I remember right.

It was during the era of this boyfriend my aunt had us over a lot on vacations and during the summer, probably to keep us away from all of this. Little did she know…

Years later, the next era, we had a stepfather who tried to hit on me when he found out I was sexuality active with my boyfriend (who suddenly broke up with me soon after). At some point my aunt was advocating for me when he also showed up at her house drunk, hoping to get some. My poor aunt, while convincing my mother her husband was a perv, never knew her own husband was one, too. And worse. Well, maybe worse. I don’t know. I had heard stories about my stepfather early on from his stepsister and heard things since then, too.

In any case, eventually my uncle met Karma. He was killed in a motorcycle crash. I wished for years he would die and it finally happened one morning when he ran into the back end of a garbage truck or dump truck in the blinding sun. I think I was 15 or 16. I can’t remember going to the actual funeral but I had to go to his wake and pretend to be sad. This guy’s obituary said he was well-liked by all who knew him, he was a good hard worker, good family man, was building the family home on savings and when he died, the neighborhood rallied together to raise money and help finish the home. Notably, he also used to volunteer for the Boys Club of America I believe it was.

Just a regular guy. Scary, huh? Because I knew what he did while little girls watched. Sometimes I felt like it was my fault because I was the curious one and would intentionally sneek a peek. He was just doing his thing and I was the voyeur. But Karma knows what’s right and wrong. The kicker was it wasn’t just the death itself, but Karma had seen to it the garbage truck ripped that stroking arm of his clean off.

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