"I was working in a factory and got to know Fred. He was a caring, working class, warm, portly person who would help anyone. He had children who he doted on.
He wore blue overalls and smoked a pipe.
One day he spoke about his marriage. The day his wife was dying in the hospital. For a long time, he had suspected his wife was having an affair with a guy called Tommy.
It seems, that at death, the alternative lives people live can be revealed. Consider the scene. He sat there with his wife, comforting her through her final hours, after years of marriage and child-rearing together.
She shouted from her deathbed, 'Tommy is that you. Where are you, Tommy?' The nurse coming in and out, comforting her, knew her husband's name was Fred. She said nothing but quietly went about her business.
So it carried on. 'Tommy are you there? Come to me now Tommy!' He stayed there by the bed, stoic and unmoving.
'Tommy, Tommy-is that you?'
So he bore the pain. Ate it down while ministering to his wife in her final moments on this earth.
Her final moment came. 'Tommy hold my hand' Fred held her hand.
A commonplace death. He was her husband yet pretending to be her secret lover to ease her passing.
When he told me I had the feeling that he had disclosed to no one else but can't be sure. The interaction was out of the blue. It occurred while we two workers stood next to stacks of steel in a vast anonymous factory.
Such are the secrets of people's lives. The surprise was the quiet impulsivity of the disclosure. I was a co-worker yet a stranger in some ways.
I felt ennobled by what he told me. A sad flake of his life that he endured and tried to do the right thing. Must be the same with many secrets that are hard to bear, yet harder to keep hidden."
"I was about 12 when my grandma laid a huge shocker on me. I was wanting something from a store we were in, and I guess to shut me up, she decided to tell me that's she was not my real grandmother. It worked for sure. My mom was understandably ticked off, and I was more confused than anything.
Being the curious child I was, I wanted to meet her, which is where the second shocker came in. I did meet my real grandmother and discovered she's a complete nutcase. She lives in a wheelchair, not because she needs one, but because it gets her sympathy. She's addicted to smack and delusional in a religious way. You cannot wear the color red around her without her accusing you of being Satan, for example. I see why she was kept a secret from us kids.
I only met her twice, and have never had an interest in seeing her again. She may biologically be my grandmother, but she's definitely not a grandma to me. My grandma may have pulled a complete jerk move by telling me in such a way, but she's grown much nicer in her old age, and we now get along well."
"My wife and I were living in a South American country when someone introduced us to a young lady who was about 25 years old. She was deaf, and the people who introduced her to us wanted us to communicate with her because she could read lips and sign language, but knew only English. We did not know sign language, but my wife spent a lot of time with her and took her places, helped her buy some things, and told the family she was staying with some of the things she needed to tell them. My wife and I also translated some things from Spanish so she could understand what they needed her to do.
We were perplexed as to how a young Hispanic lady from New York who was deaf and knew no Spanish ended up in a Spanish language country with distant relatives. She could only communicate with us by writing on a tablet.
Slowly, we learned that she had been living with some closer relatives in New York City, though we never learned what had happened to her parents. In the course of our conversations, we discovered that a man in the family she was within New York had killed a woman, and our friend had seen it happen. She was only a teenager at the time and was apparently the only one who was a witness to the crime. The man had managed to get her out of the country, and then cut off all contact with her.
We took her to a deaf learning center, hoping to help her develop communication skills, but they didn't seem to be much help. We also contacted people in our own embassy in that country, telling them that we suspected she had been a witness to a crime in the US, and seeing what we could do to get her back to New York.
Our embassy officials felt like she was just a national wanting to emigrate to the United States, and despite the fact that she knew no Spanish, the embassy rejected her story that she was an American citizen or at least a resident who had grown up there. She had no papers, and no way of proving any identity, and further work might have made trouble for her in her current country of residence.
Her family in the Latin American country had no idea what had happened or at least feigned ignorance and considered her a burden to care for since she could not speak their language.
We were determined to get her back to New York, and in those days before the internet, contacted the State Department and the NYPD, hoping for help, which we never got.
In the meantime, she suddenly 'disappeared.' I don't think she was harmed. They told us that 'family' in another city in the country had asked her to move there, so she had been moved from the smaller coastal town where we lived, to a larger seaport city over a hundred miles away.
We did learn that money had changed hands, some of it from the United States. We were living in a country far away from home with four children and feared some type of retribution if we talked too much.
Over 25 years have passed now, and I never knew what became of her. But from what I put together, it appears she witnessed a murder in New York City, and a family member (maybe a stepfather), rather than killing her, sent her to another country, paying the family to take her, no questions asked, and when some Americans began to uncover the story, they had her moved one more time, and more money changed hands.
I hope she was okay. She was the innocent victim of a murder and cover-up, and it's possible that the guilty parties are still running free today. She lost her country, family, and a familiar environment, solely because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and somewhat handicapped and incapable of seeking the right help.
I only hope there is some kind of justice for the people who put her through this."
"I was working for a chain of English conversation schools in Tokyo. They had offices at every major subway station in town. One day, I volunteered to fill in at the Ginza school for an evening.
I got there at around 3:15 p.m., so I could prepare notes for my six lessons in advance (These are one-on-one lessons, and the clients/adult students pick you from the company computer). My first available lesson slot was at 4 p.m., but no one had reserved it. However, as I was in my little cubicle, preparing, a last-minute booking occurred, and I got a client a mere ten minutes before the lesson was supposed to begin.
I checked his student number and looked him up on the computer. Fortunately, this client liked a '50/50' lesson - for the first 20 minutes, we use the textbook; for the last 20 minutes, we have a conversation on some subject of his interest. In this case, he was not a beginner; he was a fairly fluent individual who could express himself.
At 4 p.m., the client came to my booth.
We shook hands (it is a 'foreign' environment, so we don't greet each other with traditional Japanese bowing) and introduced ourselves. He looked to be in his early 50s; he had silver hair and was of medium build.
He was methodical and took control of the lesson pace. He asked me to tell him when it was halfway through the lesson.
Fortunately, I was familiar with that textbook, so I already knew the textbook lesson he wanted to study. The first half of the lesson was done with no problem, and I made some suggestions. Strangely, he seemed impatient with my suggestions, and I wondered if he was dissatisfied with my teaching.
At the halfway point, he checked the clock on the computer browser, closed his textbook. The 'textbook' half was over.
Please keep in mind that the Japanese place was a high level of importance on service, and I kept my honest opinions to myself on many occasions.
So I was trying hard to fight my honest reactions when this man (a professor, I think) began the 'conversation' part of the lesson with this:
'I need your advice. I am being blackmailed.'
At first, I was surprised because few students use uncommon vocabulary like 'blackmailed' (I hadn't been that surprised since a high school student unexpectedly used the word 'fascist' to describe author, Yukio Mishima). And second, I immediately had fears that I was about to get involved in organized crime.
I asked him to tell me the story. Here's the short version:
He was married, but he was having an affair on the side with a Russian woman who, I gather, was 'this close' to being a lady of the night. He paid her money to support herself and had been for a while, but that's not the blackmail part.
Recently, she demanded extra money so she could sponsor her brother's visa. The fee was substantial, and the professor balked. After repeated refusals of this request, the Russian woman (We'll call her Natasha) played her ace-in-the-hole: 'If you don't sponsor my brother, I will tell your wife about us!'
We talked about this problem for a while, and he told me: The deadline is tonight!
So, he was going home in less than an hour to face this woman and his wife over the affair.
I posed a few questions: would he leave his wife for this woman? Was she staying in the country illegally? Should he report her to immigration and have her deported back to Russia?
The lesson was almost over, and it dawned on me: This guy is not behaving the way blackmail victims do in the movies and on TV. He was smiling and not at all flustered. He might as well have been telling me about what his grandson did at school.
'I hope this turns out okay,' I said, rather solemnly.
He seemed surprised. 'I'm enjoying this!' he chirped.
You're enjoying being blackmailed?? I thought. You must be bored at work.
Then the 'bell' rang and we parted company. Since I never taught at the Ginza office after that, I have no idea how the Professor turned out."
"I came to the U.S. from India for higher education 10 years ago and was studying in New York. I became good friends with one of the Indian guys. He was an extrovert, charming, and quite progressive. He used to talk about his girlfriend (a tremendous dancer), who was in India, and how serious he was about her. But every time he would be chatting with his girlfriend on the computer (there were no smartphones then), and I would come by, he would turn off that window. I always found that amusing and intriguing, but did not question him cause I didn't want to intrude.
I happened to transfer to another school after a year, and one day we were catching up by texting, and that's when he told me out of nowhere. He said everything he mentioned about his girlfriend was true, except for the gender! He said he was gay. But for some reason he couldn't tell me. I always had an inkling of doubt because he would keep asking me about my opinion on gay people. I wondered why he was so interested in what I thought, but then I rationalized that he was probably only curious because we were in New York, which was quite different from where we had come. I always maintained that every person has a right to live by his choice, although I did not understand how one cannot be attracted to girls. My sense is that opening up to a fellow non-gay Indian is perhaps tough because we tend to be quite judgmental about such things. I was perfectly fine with him being gay but was a bit disappointed that he couldn't tell me earlier.
We lost touch from there because I became busy with graduate school, but we recently caught up. He is now openly gay and has a boyfriend. Unfortunately, his father passed away a few years ago. But his mother supports his decision, which I believe is inspirational and bold for any Indian mother, especially who lives in India."
"A few years ago, my female cousin (let's call her J) was always in a relationship, one after that other. It was like she never wanted to be single, so she moved on from boys to boys.
Anyways, she, another cousin of ours (male - let's call him M) and I were pretty close. We would always hang out whenever we could, and would always plan school breaks even if school just started. I noticed that M and J were way too close to be cousins (snuggling in bed, one gets way too worried about the other one), but it didn't bother as much. I thought it's probably because of the fact that they're cousins. A few years later, we started drifting apart due to getting older and a busier life.
One day, our family had a big gathering. Of course, everyone tried to catch up with everybody as much as we could. I noticed that M and J were obviously trying to avoid each other. So as not to spoil the pleasant gathering, I did not say anything. However, I spoke to J a few days after that. She told me that the reason they were trying their hardest to avoid each other was because they just broke up.
Cousins... Romantic relationship... Breaking up...
I'm not going to elaborate more, but yeah."
"We are three siblings, I am the oldest with two younger brothers. I had an older sister who died in a tragic accident as a teenager more than a decade ago. When she was alive, she used to display symptoms of autism/abnormal social behaviors.
My mother, during a moment of weakness, revealed that if not for the financial conditions during the early days of my father's career, the family may have been larger. Which didn't make sense until she revealed that my father had made her go through four abortions since he wasn't financially stable at that time.
She also revealed that with my oldest sister, they tried a different method of terminating pregnancy which was obviously unsuccessful. My late sister's abnormal mental conditions can be attributed to the failed abortion attempt.
My parents had brought us up beautifully and I hold nothing against them. But it is definitely a family secret."
"Once upon a time, I shared a ski lift with a distinguished gentleman in Utah. And for those who don't know, ski-lift rides can be awkward experiences on their own; you are sharing a small bench for as long as 15 minutes in silence.
But silence was a gift I would not enjoy that day. When this regal fellow, who smelled of harsh drinks (at 10 a.m.) and was full of energy dropped into the seat next to me, I realized it was going to be a long ride.
He was a close-talker who immediately began detailing his exploits with last night's woman of the night. At one point, he had me hold his ski poles so that he could get his phone out to show me graphic pictures of both of them together. It was all the more bizarre because this guy was 50-ish years old, apparently, a wasted frat guy was living inside his body.
I reached critical mass when he started telling me about an STD he got months prior. I remember looking down and contemplating if I could survive the fall."
"My sister and I grew up knowing that we had an older brother who died in infancy when the nurse who was caring for him dropped him. My father had hired a nurse to care for him when my mother suffered hemorrhaging after they returned home after the birth. We knew this was a source of pain for our parents, and it wasn't often discussed.
This occurred in 1931. My sister was born in 1940, and I followed in 1949.
In the '90s, I attended a family reunion of my mother's family and thought to ask an uncle where my brother was buried. He suddenly became emotional and said, 'Your poor mother, the nurse killed him!' He proceeded to tell me that the nurse throttled my infant brother on his temples with her shoe. The shoe imprint was clear at the autopsy.
When I investigated further with other relatives, I discovered that everyone knew the true story but had kept it secret to spare my mother. I also realized that when my mother was dying, she started to tell me by saying that when the baby died my father became obsessed with justice and was spending all his time at the county attorney's office. She begged him to come home for her, and he did. I think she wanted to tell me but couldn't face my questions or reopening her wounds especially, in her weakened condition. I respect that completely.
Why didn't our parents tell us when we were older? I think they had to compartmentalize those events to go on as well as making us feel safe as children."
"I have been the bearer of many secrets in my life. Here are the most surprising.
Two women, on separate occasions, randomly blurted being intimately abused by their father. It was probably more shocking than surprising.
My sidekick in high school told me her real mother was a lady of the night and her dad was one of her mom's customers.
My best adult friend told me he stole a credit card and went shopping at Barneys. He spent over $20,000 in about an hour. Same friend a decade later revealed having attempted suicide only to wake up the next day. I would have liked to have seen my face at that moment. The final secrets had to do with his partners: one was an alcoholic, the other HIV-positive. He hid these facts from me fearing judgment and disapproval.
A middle-aged woman admitted to being an alcoholic and never learning how to take care of herself, so she stays married.
A new friend told me her husband 'gave' her cervical cancer from his multiple affairs, and was dumping her and their 2-year-old.
An old roomie reveals he is in love with me. I thought it was a lame attempt to get a green card. If he was from Europe, I might have considered it.
I dated a cop. He told me things about fellow police officers' activities that were mind-numbing, on the SECOND DATE.
The last man I dated had PTSD. He was in Afghanistan for eight years. He admitted having taken a photo holding a human head. He also described in detail some of what he'd done; people he killed. These were secrets spilled after drinking bouts.
I could go on, but now I am sad. So many revelations. I never thought about them all at one time."
"This happened 40 years ago. One morning, when I was about 16 or so, over toast and coffee, I was asking my great-aunt about her life near Odessa (in Ukraine, a western part of the Russian Empire at the time) before she and her younger siblings came to the U.S. She was the oldest of seven kids. She was about 15 when they came to the U.S. Without much emotion, she proceeded to tell me the story of walking home from school one day when she was about 12. The time frame would have been right around 1910. A group of teenage boys formed a circle around her and started pushing her back and forth between them - sort of like bouncing a ball with each other. They began calling her names and talking about her being Jewish - the boys in the group were not Jewish. The epithets and name calling escalated as did their pushing and shoving. Eventually, the shoving became violent enough that she was pushed to the ground. The boys began kicking her from all sides.
Ribs, head, legs, back, chest, face; anywhere they could land a blow. She doesn't remember what happened next. She told me she probably became unconscious from the beating. It seems the noise attracted the attention of an adult who broke up the impromptu pogrom and rescued my great-aunt from being kicked to death. She was beaten within an inch of her life simply because she was Jewish. She told me it was quite a few weeks before she could sit up or walk again.
The story ended as abruptly as it started as I sat there dumbfounded. I was face to face with someone who had been a victim of unfounded hatred and human cruelty. No longer an abstract idea, I now understood it all at a different level."
"My best friend in high school was a Slovenian guy. We were tight, hung out all the time, and talked about everything. We were two peas in a pod.
We got into a lot of shenanigans together. We went to underground parties in abandoned factory buildings, snuck into the backstage VIP areas of nightclubs, and raved at music festivals. He was my partner in crime.
When I finished high school, I moved abroad to study while he stayed to become a sound engineer. About one year later, I returned to visit my best bud.
We were eating burgers at some restaurant when he began to tell me about some obscure music festival he went to in a Bulgarian forest. He was raving about the great music, the good vibes, and so on. Then the conversation took a surprising turn.
The festival was awesome, man. They even had a sauna.
They had a sauna in the middle of the forest?
Yeah! I was chilling in there with some guys, and then we gave each other favors.
That's coo.You what?
We blew each other off.
You blew each other?
They blew you?
Yes, we all did.
Um...okay. Cool. How was it?
It was great!
Wow. Okay... So you're gay?
Well, I'm bi. I like to fool around with guys, but I also like girls.
Okay... Well... I'm happy for you, man.
Thanks! I haven't told anyone this. You're the first.
I'm just happy that you're happy, buddy. I just can't believe I never knew.
I guess your gaydar isn't as good as you say!
Yeah, I better get it checked.
I still can't believe that I never suspected my closest friend to play for both teams, but I was happy and touched that he opened up to me. And I still chuckle at how he deliberately told me his secret in such a shocking way. Just to see my reaction. I expect nothing less from my best friend."
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