I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend Terry lately.
Terry and I spent a lot of time on the fields and streams of Central Texas growing up. I shot my first dove on a hunting trip with Terry, and over the years, we spent countless days and nights hunting, catching fish, shooting, camping, staring at the stars, and just hanging out.
He was the kind of person everybody wanted to be around – easy to laugh, slow to anger, and he epitomized the ideal of a cool, laid-back, badass guy who could do whatever he set his mind to do.
After graduating from TSTI with honors, he had his pick of job offers from around the world, but he ended up settling close to home at the Texas coast, working in the petrochemical industry, all the while honing his saltwater fishing skills and inviting my wife and me to head coastward.
But beneath the surface, Terry was constantly, silently, and cruelly being chased by monsters. Eventually, they caught up with him and destroyed him.
There’s been a lot of news in the past year about sexual predators and their victims, including politicians, powerful news media personalities, athletes, and most recently, a despicable movie producer, who took advantage of their power to satisfy their sexual urges.
Not every victim of sexual assault or harassment is a woman, and if everybody spoke up – men and women alike – anybody who had ever been victimized, we’d all be sickeningly surprised at how many of us have been unwilling statistics. For the record, I am part of that group, too. I’ve been stalked and pursued by predators, and it ain’t flattering, fun, or funny.
Terry wasn’t the kind of guy you’d ever guess would be a victim. He was highly accomplished in the martial arts at a time when you couldn’t become a black belt by just purchasing upgrades. He also had sniper-like shooting skills, he could build or fix about anything, had an uncanny ability to find and catch the only hungry fish in a pond, and could match culinary skills with about any chef you can name.
“Weak” isn’t even included on the list of words you’d use to describe him. From the outside looking in, Terry Green seemed like somebody who had it made, and in a lot of ways, he did. But one day when he was young, a group of older neighborhood boys decided they’d take advantage of him, overpowering and forever haunting him about what he was forced to go through.
The abuse continued for a while, and he tried to forget about it, but it profoundly affected him for the rest of his life. Terry once told me during a casual conversation that he would never be able to connect to anybody in a romantic way. Upon reflection, he never had a girlfriend as long as I knew him – despite several women who came to me and asked for insight on why he turned away their advances and hints. Back then, I didn’t know his story, so I had no advice to give them.
Terry’s life turned even more tragic about 15 years ago. He had fallen into a state of mental illness that was fueled by his monsters combined with substance abuse. He lost his job and pretty much stayed home all day watching television and drinking liquor and eating a variety of pills.
He would occasionally call and talk, and as his depression and self-sedation got more intense, he sometimes mentioned suicide as a way out of his despair. It was during these talks that he told me about when he was sexually abused as a kid.
By the time my wife and I drove down to Katy to haul him and his stuff up to Waco, he was hollowed out. He had become the weird old man in the neighborhood, and only occasionally would we see the old Terry shine through.
A couple of months after coming back home, he had gotten a job and was regaining himself; but one weekend, he decided to travel down the road to his old neighborhood for a friend’s annual crawfish boil, and after spending a day and night of eating and drinking, the hosts wouldn’t let him drive away.
He spent the night at their house, and the next morning, one of their sons told them that Terry had molested him during the night. Terry didn’t deny it – he only told me he couldn’t remember if he had done anything or not.
His subsequent legal and substance abuse battles sent him spiraling further downward. His probation officer dropped in to find violations on a number of occasions, and he spent some more time in jail.
When he got out, he explicitly told me he would never go back to jail again. I knew what that meant, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
Not long after failing to heed his probation officer’s final warning, Terry sat inside his house while law enforcement officers knocked on his door to take him back to jail.
But he didn’t go.
Terry died a villain in many people’s eyes, but there’s a hell of a lot more to his story than what unfolded in the last year of his life. He never made excuses for his behavior, and I’m not, either – he abused a child. But, at the same time, he was once a child irreparably damaged by those bastards who scarred his soul.
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