(I usually use real names on here, on the basis that *I* come off worse than anyone, so other people can't really complain. Not so here, for reasons which I should think would be obvious, so meet Ricardo.)
When I was a wee nipper my Mother was friendly (not like that, heads out of the gutter!) with a bloke called Ricardo. He wasn't a resident of the worlds friendliest street, like us, but he lived not far away and would often be at our house. The reason being that he was somewhat ostracised by the rest of the estate and we were the only people who didn't treat him like scum.
Personally I think that in his situation; not that I would ever be in his situation, I hasten to add; I would most likely have moved away and made a fresh start. For whatever reason; be it financial constraints, or the fact that he was born and raised in that area and didn't want to be chased off; he refused to leave.
So what was his situation? What was the reason for his being something of an outcast? Well, a few years earlier he had been convicted and sent to prison, albeit for a short sentence, for having sex with an under age girl. Boooo! Pervert! Paedo! Etc.
Here's the aspect of what he did; and bear with me here; that means I've always felt sorry for him. He was in his late teens, and the girl in question was 15. The relationship was a long one, to the extent that she was basically living in his house toward the end. Her parents were aware of, and approved of, the relationship. He was a regular drinking buddy of her father and brothers. Yes, he was breaking the law, and I'm not saying I approve of what was going on, but it was accepted by all involved.
Then they broke up. You can see where this is going, right?
Suddenly she and her parents were crying all sorts of foul, he was under investigation by the police, and his friends and neighbours; who had known him for years and were fully aware of the relationship in question; were disowning him.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, this is all his version of events, right? And of course he's going to skew things in his favour. Well, yes, he was the one who told me the story. But all the neighbours who remembered the situation confirmed it. No-one denied that what he was saying was true, no-one denied that they had been perfectly fine with it when it was happening, but still they all refused to have anything to do with him. Because he was a paedo and a perv.
How many of the people on that estate were throwing abuse at him because they genuinely believed he had done something wrong? And how many were doing it because of a knee jerk 'he shagged a kid!!!' response to an emotive legal term? Worse yet, how many were using the fact that others were doing that as an excuse to do the same; we can treat this guy like shit, so we will treat him like shit?
Here's the thing; I absolutely don't think he was entirely without blame. If nothing else, he was stupid. But anyone who thinks that teenagers on either side of the age of consent don't have sexual relationships has got their head buried in the sand. And anyone who thinks that such relationships should lead to prison sentences and a lifetime of abuse, is no friend of mine.
Had I been a few years older I would perhaps (definitely would) have pointed out that this made them, not to put too fine a point on it, a pack of hypocrites. I didn't though, because I was young, scared of most of these people, and didn't know what hypocrite meant.
Of course, I wasn't a few years older. I was a little kid, and I was slightly bemused by the whole affair. In fact, I should think that it's only because of what happened a few years later that the incident has stuck in my memory at all.
But that's a story for another day.
Yes, I bet you thought I had a point to make or that the story was building to some kind of redemptive crescendo, with him being accepted back into society. Fools! Considering the kind of estate we were living on you're lucky I'm not telling you about him being beaten into a coma and his house burned down. No, I just wanted to bring Ricardo up whilst I was writing about this particular time in my life, so he didn't come out of nowhere when his true place in my tale is revealed. It's no happier for him than this part was.
Stay tuned folks.