J How were your phone calls?
B One was so unusual, my report was the first one I ever had to turn over and continue writing on the back. The caller said, "Can you really talk about any subject?" I said yes. He said, "Are you sure? Anything?"
J Haha. Do you ever start to wonder to yourself?
B I figure if it's legitimate, I'm ready to listen. Otherwise it's just another dirty phone call, and that's routine, too. But a call like this arouses your human feelings.
J Like what I'm about to hear, you mean?
B Maybe you won't want to hear. It was about incest. . . .
J Fire away.
B He was a guy forty-three who came from a poor family and had six sisters, and they lived in a small house with only two bedrooms. When he was nine, his mother began letting an older sister sleep in the same bed with him. As he grew older, he'd wake up and find he was lying with his arms around her.
One thing led to another, and the upshot was a long story with details like their moving to a bigger house where they did have their own bedrooms, but he noticed she would leave her door open. By this time he was 14 or 15.
J How old was she?
B Several years older. She wasn't married until she was 20‑something, so this went on during her 20s while he was in his teens. [No kidding]. He said, "You know, you go to a priest, and you confess you've done something you're ashamed of, so you get absolution and feel much better. Then you go out and do the same thing all over again.”
He'd been feeling particularly guilty since she'd gotten married, and now he was married, and he didn't know what to do.
J What do you mean, he didn't know what to do? Was he asking you what to do?
B It was difficult for him to stop something that had gone on for so many years, but at the same time he was troubled by guilt. That’s why he made the call.
J You mean he wanted to continue being with his sister after she was married?
B He had been. She'd been married for several years.
J And she's still seeing him?
B Yes, and her husband and his wife don't know anything about it. He's 43 now, and I feel sorry for him. Here's something that started when he was 9 or 10 years old, and it's been burdening him with guilt all his life. So I said, I can't tell you what to do, I can only—..
J You mean they're both married, and they're still seeing each other, brother and sister?
B Right. He said I feel better just talking to you. I think I'll go to my priest and tell him. He’d reached the point where he couldn't stand the guilt any more. He's made the decision that he wants to break it off, and it will help him stick to it if he confesses.
J I can't imagine this. I absolutely can't imagine it. I mean, I can't imagine it because I had one sister. I don't know if it makes a difference if you have six.
B You have a whole bunch of kids all sleeping together in the same bed, and kids. . .brothers and sisters are apt to have sex play. The situation may not be that uncommon.
J Well, I used to sleep with her. She used to insist on it. She was afraid all the time, my sister was.
B So you slept in the same bed.
J Well, yeah. I can't put an age on it, but there was absolutely no...you know. I don't see how people can look at their sister like that.
B Well, he was only 9 when it started.
J I know, but when he comes to the age of reason....
B The age of reason, but also the age of his burgeoning sexuality. He gets to be 12, 13, and here he is in bed every night with this girl who's developing her own desires.
J You'd think it would end when they both got married, though, wouldn't you? So how'd you leave it?
B We left it that he felt much better, and he was going to talk to his priest. The very fact that he called us showed that he'd been tortured by guilt all his life.
J Not enough, though.
B Enough so that he hasn't been able to live a normal life.
J He hasn't wanted to.
B But you can't condemn someone who got addicted to something like that when he was a kid.
J I love the word. No, if that's what he is, I can't condemn him. I was listening to the Watergate things on the way over. Have you been listening?
B I’ve heard quite a bit. . . . [tape runs out]