The late 1980’s were a time in my life I normally don’t care to remember. My mother and I had moved away from my grandparents’ house. Theirs was the only home I knew. Mother had a bad habit of making poor decisions in men, and so for a while we bounced around from place to place. I even recall being at one school only for a week before we were on the lam once again.
We ended up in San Antonio, TX. Finally, we settled into our very first apartment. It was good to have a place of our own for a change. In time, however, Mother found a new scumbag and he moved in.
Gene was a former Army Ranger who had been a civilian for about two and a half years at the time. He was very muscular, with long black hair and long sideburns. You could compare him to Glenn Danzig. Gene began to boss me around, trying to play “Father”. He felt I needed some discipline and began to beat me. When it got worse and he began to choke me and throw me around the room for not taking out the trash and other minor offenses, I spent as much time away from home as possible. I made several friends just so I could be somewhere other than at home.
I made this one friend in particular, Dwayne.
Dwayne was the oldest of five children. His family was very religious. They lived about a mile or so from me. We would meet up and skate in the area all day during the summer. We would take turns staying at each other’s houses. We would listen to music and talk about girls and skateboarding. It turned out that Dwayne’s father grew up with Gene. Great. Small world, huh?
On the corner of Dwayne’s street was a house with an awesome half-pipe in the backyard. Dwayne said that his friend Chago lived there and gave permission to all the skaters around there to use it, even when he was at work, as long as you wore a helmet. Seemed a bit odd to me but who was I to pass up a free half-pipe? We took turns skating it everyday. Man, we had a blast.
One day, I met Chago, a older Mexican man around fifty. He was balding and wore glasses. He seemed a bit nerdy. Dwayne mentioned that you could order skateboard decks and any other skating supplies from him. Chago also built quarter-pipes for the neighborhood kids. Still, something wasn’t right about him to me. You know that feeling you get when you meet somebody. Every fiber in your being tells you to stay away. However, being a kid in search of fun, I ignored my gut and went ahead and skated with Dwayne when Chago was at work during the daytime. I made sure to leave before he returned home.
As we met up with more and more skaters that summer, it turned out that a lot of these kids knew Chago. One kid said,
“Chago? That old pervert? Yeah, he lures kids to his place, gives them skateboards and other gifts, and then molests them.”
I was shocked to hear about this, yet it confirmed my gut feeling about Chago being off somehow. It just didn’t add up. Why would a single older man be into skateboarding and befriend a bunch of teenage boys? It all made sense now.
Toward the end of the summer, I left town to visit my grandparents in Arkansas. I was gone for two weeks. It was good to get away. I came back refreshed. I had told my grandparents about Gene and his abuse. They came back with me to confront him and kick him out. I knew my grandfather was a Korean War Vet and could handle Gene if things got ugly. Things were beginning to look up for us. With Gene out of the picture, I went to go visit my best friend.
When Dwayne answered the door, he looked down at the ground a lot and his once lively spirit seemed broken. I had noticed the new quarter-pipe in his driveway and also noticed his new skateboard. Immediately, I asked him if Chago gave him the skateboard and the quarter-pipe. Indeed he had. After Dwayne confirmed my suspicion, I asked him,
“Did Chago hurt you for all of this stuff?”
Now, we were thirteen and we used profanity amongst each other. In this case, I made an exception and tried to be sensitive to my friend. He didn’t give a “Yes” or “No” answer, just a sad look to the ground. He didn’t have to tell me; I already knew. It was a quiet and awkward moment. What do you say to your best friend when you find out that he has gone through something like this? All while I was away. I carried a lot of guilt for a long time but I realize now that it wasn’t my fault.
We skated in his driveway on the quarter-pipe for a few hours and then I skated back home. The whole time Dwayne was quiet.
I finally made my way home. School was about to start in a few days. Dwayne never came back to my house and I didn’t go back to his that weekend. I just didn’t know what to say. When school started that following Monday, I expected to run into Dwayne in the hallway or around before school. I would tell him that I would never tell anybody and that I’m still his friend no matter what.
He was not at school.
After school, I ran home, grabbed my board and skated to Dwayne’s house. Nobody was home. The next day, there was still no sign of him. I asked some of our skating buddies if they knew anything. Nobody did. Again, after school, I skated to Dwayne’s house. I met up with his dad outside. They were moving. I asked if Dwayne was home. His dad said he wasn’t home and that they would be moving back to their old neighborhood. Hearing this did sadden me. Inside, though, I felt a bit of anger towards Chago.
About two or 3 months later, I heard on the news and read in the paper that someone had murdered Chago. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat inside his home. Skateboarding equipment had been stolen along with money and other items he had in the house. I kept up with the story for a while but there was never an arrest made. It was made public that he was a registered child molester, which is why there was never an arrest in the case.
Soon after Chago’s murder, I began having nightmares that he was trying to lure me into his house. I remember once looking into his house and feeling queasy as he inviting me in. I declined of course. I recall red velvet covering everything. It was creepy. Luckily, my gut instinct saved me that day. Eventually the nightmares stopped.
We moved to the small town of Devine, TX, about a year later I met a fellow skater from San Antonio who knew Chago. I didn’t ask him if he knew Chago, although I suspected as such. I didn’t mention anymore about it again.
Years went by and I graduated from Devine High School in ’95. Lived a crazy life, went through girlfriends, went through good times and bad, suffered losses. Got married, moved to the town of Lytle and had a beautiful daughter. At my long-time job where I serve as manager, we had a hiring period a few years back. Two men came in to apply. One was older and one was in his early 30’s maybe. I recognized them as Dwayne’s father and Dwayne’s younger brother. I reminded them of who I was and they seemed to vaguely remember me – his dad more-so than his brother. When I asked about Dwayne, they looked at each other with sad expressions.
Dwayne’s dad began to speak with hesitation. He told the sad news that Dwayne was dead. He had gone into a deep depression after the incident. He underwent therapy for several years. Still he became withdrawn from everything and everyone. Never coming to terms with what happened to him, he began to go out at night, nobody knew where. He had recurring nightmares about Chago chasing him and reliving the molestation. His mental state grew worse as he claimed that Chago was haunting him and would hurt him at night. Eventually, at the age of eighteen, he shot himself.
Hearing this news ruined the rest of my day. I went home and told my wife everything. She did her best to cheer me up… the things that wives will do to cheer us up…
Still from time to time, I wonder just who it was that murdered Chago in his house. It could have been anybody. He made a lot of enemies I’m sure, and some parents are likely to have found out. It still makes me wonder about Dwayne and his family. I can’t help but become a bit saddened when I remember his tragic true story. Tonight, I shall toast a drink to Dwayne. Here’s to you my old friend… I hope you found the peace you so longed for.