Aaron, the time-traveling purple alien – a sad blast from the past
“I got a story ain’t got no moral…let the bad guys win every once in awhile…”
Billy Preston, “Will it Go ‘Round in Circles”
(Aaron’s name and a few other details have been changed out of respect for the privacy of all involved.)
In the late 1980s, I worked with children who lived in a group home. They ranged in age from eight to twelve, and most came from abusive backgrounds. Aaron was one of those children: eight or nine years old, a sweet, tow-headed, funny, fiercely loyal little boy, with loving mischief and a unique abundance of childhood magic soothing and lighting his wounded soul.
I say his soul was wounded because we strongly suspected Aaron was the victim of sexual abuse, most likely by his mother and older brother. In fact, there were signs that he, this fatherless boy, may have been a product of incest himself. He was not always completely right in the head, as they say down South.
In those days, there were few safeguards to protect a vulnerable young boy from a potentially abusive mother until all parental rights were permanently severed. So, unbelievably, he would occasionally be permitted to visit his family for a weekend, an unsupervised trip mandated by the state. He’d depart, alight with happiness, lovingly, trustingly holding his mother’s hand.
His mother would have been at home in the movie Men in Black. She had those kind of unnerving, reptilian skittering eyes that have trouble masking the “thought snakes” that infest some people’s troubled brains. Someone had undoubtedly hurt her as well, and left evil in their wake. She lacked Aaron’s sweetness, to put it mildly.
After each visit, Aaron would return, seemingly physically unharmed but sullen, uncharacteristically angry, and utterly detached from reality. In the days that followed, he’d usually act out, pulling a boy’s pants down at recess or trying to get one of the girls alone to do more. He was in intense therapy, as were many of the children. However, therapy was a poor defense against a toxic family that taught him such abhorrent and destructive behavior meant love.
Of course, Aaron’s world was not entirely connected to ours at the best of times. His occasionally surreal existence was not without its funny moments. Once, when I took him for an MRI, he told the doctor with complete seriousness that the procedure would not work. According to Aaron, he was an alien, and his blood was purple. Since his internal system was completely different from everyone else’s, the MRI would be a waste of the doctor’s time. Furthermore, Aaron’s “people” would not allow the procedure to take place and they would “disappear” him if he entered the MRI machine.
Throughout the procedure, Aaron conversed loudly and incoherently in what he said was his planet’s language. He thoroughly unnerved the technician, to the point where I got the giggles. We were all rather disappointed to find Aaron’s internal workings were much the same as the rest of us humans.
Another time, we visited a battleship that had been in active service during World War II. Navy personnel were giving tours to student groups, so we brought our little band to see the big ship. Aaron nearly floated aboard that day, so excited his shoes barely touched the deck.
The tour guide, resplendent in his uniform, started to point out the finer points of the battleship but Aaron beat him to the punch. Excitedly, he rattled off a series of questions and comments. “These are 50 cal guns, aren’t they!” “This is an Iowa class battleship, right?” and other esoteric points.
His eager questions silenced the sailor’s practiced monologue, who simply stared at Aaron, agape. He said, “Son, how do you know so much about this ship?” Aaron replied, solemnly, “I was in the war, you know?” Amused, the sailor said, “Which one?” Aaron nonchalantly said, “World War Two, of course!” and skipped off to check out the turrets. The sailor looked at me and said quietly, “That boy is eerie.”
Eerie he was. But he was also sweet, loving, and viscerally betrayed by those who should have fiercely protected him. As inappropriately sexually aware as he was, I remember him primarily as profoundly confused. He knew that he was different, yet he never really understood what, exactly, was wrong.
The last time I saw Aaron was at a parade. I’d left the job with the group home a few months before and moved to a different state. Back to visit for Mardi Gras, which is celebrated across the Gulf Coast, I was dressed in a formal strapless gown because I was going to the dance that followed the parade.
I heard my name and turned to see the group of children I’d grown so close to during the years I worked with them. They were supervised by a couple of aides I knew. The children ran to me, Aaron the fastest. He leapt into my arms, gave me a fierce hug…and pulled down my dress. Long accustomed to his ways, I blocked his assault. Such was the mixed blessing of Aaron. I left knowing it was unlikely I’d ever see any of them again, and I haven’t.
I wondered over the years what became of each of them. Of course, I had no way of keeping up, especially in those pre-Internet, pre-cell phone days. So it came as a sad surprise when I found out last week that Aaron, these nearly thirty years later, was recently convicted on three counts of sexually-related crimes. He is serving three life sentences.
He has quite a few children now. It is possible that one or more of them were his victims, though I do not know for certain.
I feel sure Aaron’s victims justifiably see him as a predator. I feel equally sure that he, too, was a victim. He may be legally capable of knowing right from wrong, but he never really had a chance to internalize that definition. His family burnt their version of love, their twisted version of right and wrong, into his being.
The never-ending vicious cycle of turning child abuse victims into perpetrators is evil in its purest form. Hopefully, some day soon, we can learn how to prevent such horrible things from occurring to helpless children and permanently break this abomination.
Aaron, there was so much goodness in you, and I hope that goodness remains. I hope those fantastical purple-blooded aliens are still part of your life.
Most of all, I hope your victims can find peace for themselves and, if they do, forgiveness for you one day. You so readily forgave your family for harming you. You loved them anyway. That love and forgiveness is your authentic goodness and I hope it remains with you always.
It’s a hard road you’re on, and I hope you find grace and peace along your journey. God bless you, Aaron.