When I was in my late 20’s I lived in an apartment across the street from the Atlantic Ocean in Central, New Jersey. It was an amazing time. I was newly single, young, ambitious and full of energy. I worked hard. I had a full time job, a part time job and college courses. I was disciplined and stayed focused on my goals. I recognized that I had the time and energy in this phase of life and that things would likely change at some point, so I persevered.
Somehow, I managed to find time for a social life and I made some close friends. Many of which I’m still in contact with today, some 20 years later. We would celebrate birthdays together, take turns hosting parties, we went dancing in clubs and roller bladed together on Friday nights. It was a time I look back at with fondness. It’s a mid/late twenties I would want for my kids a dozen years from now. Those memories got somewhat tainted this weekend.
I got a Facebook message from one of my close friends from that time period. She informed me that she had some gossip that I would be interested in. I didn’t see the message for a few hours and when I did two people entered my mind….one was an ex-boyfriend who I found out did time in federal prison for embezzlement…the other was my old neighbor, Paul. I’ll save the ex for another post.
Paul lived in the apartment above mine and he was a bit of an odd duck. He would never confirm his age but we had him pegged at least ten years older than the rest of us. He worked for the government as an Engineer and was also going to grad school. He was from Ireland and had lived in the United States for a large chunk of his life. He had a sister that was married with a couple of kids and a mom that drifted between Ireland and the US. While we were neighbors, he introduced me to a couple of his girlfriends. None of those relationships lasted very long, a few months at most.
He threw off a creepy vibe which was hard to pinpoint. Several of us thought he was possibly gay and not ready to come out. However, he would also leer at me and other females sometimes which was awkward and puzzling. He made suggestive comments at times that I just brushed off. It wasn’t ever going to happen. There were also plenty of times when we had interesting conversations. He was an intelligent, creative person with varied interests and lots of friends. He wasn’t all bad.
After hearing from our mutual friend, I googled his name and read a link to a newspaper article. Paul was arrested last month for viewing and sharing pornographic images of children. I don’t know if he has ever touched a child in an inappropriate way, I don’t have any further information. It’s just sickening and disheartening for those children and their families. This is a crime and an impulse that I just can not wrap my brain around. It is so destructive and vile.
As much as I hate the crime, I took a moment to think of the criminal. This person was kind to me on many occasions. I considered him a friend all those years ago. And while I knew there was something off, I chalked it off as not urgent. Was he acting out then? Did he harm his nieces? Was he abused as a child? Questions that will likely never get answered.