What do you do when your private life becomes public knowledge?
When your deepest secrets rise to the surface?
How do you deal with the aftermath of it?
How do you survive humiliation?
That’s how my morning started: Me, late for work, recklessly racing on the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue, trying not to bump into someone or get run over by a car; all that while being bombarded by phone calls from Hilda. I had to turn in the photos I’ve been working on at our usual Friday meeting, and I was already half an hour late because my bus decided not to show up on time. I didn’t pick up the phone since I was getting closer to the building, but now I wish I did since it would’ve minimized the shock that I was about to experience once I stepped foot inside the office. When I first came in and saw how everyone in the room was quiet, I thought that something terrible had happened to somebody or that a crisis had occurred, but little did I know that I was the one at the center of the chaotic event that took place earlier in the morning when employees started showing up for work. The second thing I immediately noticed were the papers. Dozens and dozens of papers scattered everywhere around the floor. I picked one up, and as the eyes around me all shifted in my direction, making me feel all kinds of uncomfortable emotions, I finally saw it. My face. My body. Naked. Totally exposed. I let out a loud gasp, and as I started picking up more and more papers that exposed my entire past life as a webcam performer and escort, I almost felt like I was about to faint. I collected all the papers and ripped some from my co-workers’ hands. But there were too many. They were all sent through the office’s main printer machine that was literally overflowing with printed photos that could’ve only come from one place: my own computer. I felt an impulsive need to turn and run away, disappear from the world. I can’t stand the idea of people knowing about my private life because I know how judgmental they can be. Not to mention how frustrating it was to try and figure out who was behind that act. As far as I know, I don’t have any real enemies, and I’ve never told anyone about my past life or the fake name I used back then. No one except one person: Adriana. I don’t know how she managed to pull that act off, but I’m sure she’s the one behind this because I remember her telling me about this woman she outed at her day job because she was prettier than her and so the agency they both worked for would give her most of its clients. Then there’s the way we left things. Why would someone go that far and coarse trouble just because I turned them down for sex is beyond me. This kind of behavior is very extreme. The unfortunate part is that I can’t prove it’s her either, and there’s no point in looking further into the matter because the damage has already been done.
Throughout the whole ordeal, I managed to remain calm and collected. Ellen dragged me away from the prying eyes and into the restroom. She didn’t ask any questions, and just stood there next to me while I slowly and desperately tried to regain my breath. When I couldn’t, she grabbed my hand and guided me inside one of the stalls, made me sit down on the toilet seat with my back straight up and made me put my arms on my armrests. She asked me to take a deep, slow breath in through my nose, holding it for a few seconds then breathing out slowly through my mouth. I repeated that enough times until I felt better. Once I was back outside, I casually walked back to my desk, pretending the day was just like any other usual day, but that wasn’t possible. Being caught off guard isn’t something I can put up with, and although it felt like a volcano was raging inside of me telling me to fight and raise hell, I knew more than ever that I needed to hold it together and remain professional. As soon as I sat on my chair and took out my laptop from my backpack, Anna showed up in front of me and told me that Hilda wanted to see me in her office. As I predicted, she wasn’t pleased. She wasn’t pleased because of different reasons, the first one being the disruptive nature of the incident causing a lot of employees to lose focus, and turning the serious and productive work environment of the whole entire floor into a circus led by jokes, laughter and gossip. I was publicly ridiculed and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. What Hilda was mostly shocked to discover though, was that I was Trevor Domvik. Even with years separating us from the day I sent her an email with photos attached of Stephen and Claudia, she still remembered the name very vividly, and didn’t seem to be too happy about it. What was even more upsetting to me was the fact she had to see all my explicit, naked photos which also led her to confirm her doubts regarding whether or not I was actually involved in prostitution the day we crossed paths at The Riverfront Hotel back in 2015. Unlike Ellen, Hilda persistently assailed me with endless questions that I wasn’t ready nor willing to answer. I asked to be given time off work, and left her office.
No one goes through life without being humiliated at some point. I was humiliated and made fun of various times back in school, but it was never as big and life-changing as this. This was intensely painful and debilitating I never thought I’d be able to survive it. But I did. I guess I’ve grown up to be more resilient than I used to be. Terrible setbacks don’t affect me anymore. Being exposed was liberating for me. And I know now that I need to affirm for both myself and the people in my life, who I am and what I stand for. I won’t allow being judged or degraded because of my past. This hasn’t destroyed me. It made me stronger.