I should have know that a single man with a collection of cameras and camcorders had something to hide.
The first time I caught sight of the tripod in the corner of his bedroom, the light bulb switched on in my head.
A little voice screamed, “Something’s not right! RUN!”
But I hushed it. I told her to be quiet, that it was an unfounded assumption. I chalked it up to paranoia.
I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to go there.
She whispered, “What is he doing with a tripod? What would he need that for?” and I hushed her again.
“Why does a single man without children need all of that photo equipment?” She wondered.
And then I wondered too.
But I pushed that wonder away, I pushed the thought that there might be anything questionable about this man, this perfect, perfect man…
And one day, I saw a strange message on the computer. A little box popped up in the corner of my browser screen and it said, “Are you alone? Is she there? Can you talk?”
And my heart sank. My stomach, however, lurched and I felt the beads of sweat begin to form on my forehead.
What was that? I was new to the World Wide Web and mainly used it to buy things off of eBay and to send emails, so this little communication – I had no idea where it came from.
So I clicked on it.
A little box opened up on my screen, a little larger than the first one that had appeared so suddenly. It said AOL at the top and it looked similar to an email conversation…
I put two and two together and realized that this is what I had heard people refer to as AIM. Chat. AOL.
I felt sick.
I responded, “I’m here alone.” Because really, that wasn’t a lie.
After about an hour of listening to this person talk about school and her parents and her dog, it occurred to me that this was not a woman. This was a girl.
And my 38 year old boyfriend had no reason to be talking to a girl.
So I began investigating. I followed the link from the “chat session” to his email. Knowing how naive I was about the Web, he had saved every single last one of his passwords and his email easily opened…and what unfolded before me made me run to the bathroom to vomit.
There are some things that can not be unseen.
Girls. Not women. Not ladies. Not adults.
Only those children were not doing childish things. And they weren’t doing those things alone.
My boyfriend. In every single photo.
I only glanced briefly at them because it was disgustingly obvious what it was as soon as I saw it. I would guess they were about 13 or 14.
I sat there and I cried. I cried and I cried and I cried.
And then, I went on a rampage through his house. I picked up each camera, one by one, and smashed them. I jumped up and down on them, as hard as I could, until I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were never going to be used again.
And then I called the F.B.I.
* * *
While today’s prompt over at the Red Dress Club was to write a fictional piece, inspired by the above photo, I went a little off skelter with my post. Unfortunately, the only thing fictional about this post is the part about the cameras. There were no cameras. There was, however, a hard drive chock full of pictures, and I did indeed call the F.B.I. and they were more than happy to mirror the images on the hard drive and open a formal investigation.
As much as it saddens me, formal charges were never brought against my ex-boyfriend and he probably continues to prey on vulnerable teenage girls to this day.