One of the more interesting parts of my story is that I returned to the neighborhood I grew up in. And while much of the place has changed, most of the important landmarks have remained as they were.
The East Meadow water tower still pokes into the underbelly of the sky and so do the glass buildings and the hospital on Hempstead turnpike.
The schools look as they did when I was young, at least the outside does, and the bowling alley is still there. Prospect Pool remains unchanged, but the Meadow Dairy across the street has seen its share of different owners.
As far as I am concerned, it is fair to say that my life has moved in a complete circle.
Upon the early years of my return, I thought it would be interesting to walk through the East Meadow Public Library. The building looks no different from my childhood memory and the inside looks as it did when I was in kindergarten.
Nothing has changed; the furniture was the same as when I was a little boy. The isles of wooden book shelves were the same color of light tan. The ceiling tiles are as I remembered them, and so is the overhead lighting.
I opened a conversation with a woman behind the help desk, which also remained unaltered. She was kind with short, curly hair. She often laughed, and laughed loudly.
“So you grew up here,” she asked.
“How long ago did you move away?”
I had to think about that question. I left my town one month before my 17th birthday. I returned at the age of 18 after facing the consequences of my behavior, but I moved away again at 19.
I have lived in different sections of New York, but regardless to how far I moved away, I always returned to visit.
So in a sense, there is a part of me that never left.
The librarian asked, “Did you graduate from the high school.”
I answered, “No. I moved away just before I turned 17.”
Standing behind the help desk, which was cluttered with index cards, old books, and scattered magazines, the librarian crunched her eyebrows, almost looking unsure of why (of all places) I would come back to visit the library.
“You moved away when you were 17 and you came back to visit the library?”
“Don’t get me wrong,” she added. “But you don’t really look like a library type of guy.”
I suppose she was referring to my appearance. At the time, I was wearing a long pair of cargo shorts and a white A-framed tee-shirt (or a wife-beater, as it’s called).
She pointed at the tattoos sleeved on my arms, shoulders, back, and chest.
“Did all of that take a long time?”
“It took a little while,” I answered.
“Did it hurt?”
Again, I had to laugh because I field this question more than most.
“Anytime someone pushes needles into your skin….it’s gonna hurt. But some places hurt more than others”
She was very kind to me. Her large eyeglasses took up much of her face and bridged over a small, pig-like nose. She had very pale skin and wore an oversized, blue shirt, which fit strangely over her body.
“But seriously,” asked the librarian. “What brings you here?”
“Well, to be honest, I was thrown out the last time I was here, so I guess I wanted to come back and see if the place looked the same”
“Why were you thrown out?”
“I was a different kind of kid back then.”
“But what were you doing that they made you leave?”
“I don’t remember it too clearly,” I explained. “But I think I ran through the isles while carrying the satanic bible under my arm and screamed, ‘Hail Satan,” or something like that.”
In fact, this was the exact reason. I was red-faced and my eyes were half shut. I reeked from pot-smoke and my pupils were enlarged, due to the side effects of LSD. And in my mental state, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to scream through the small rows of mild-mannered people, eager to quietly lose themselves in fiction, and shout about the devil.
The librarian appeared shocked.
“Oh…wow…I guess they would make you leave for something like that. But then why are you here now?”
“I want a library card,” I told her
“You want a library card! Is that it?”
I briefly explained about my return to the neighborhood and my ambitions to become a writer. At the time, I had just received a contract for one of my short stories.
“You should give a lecture here.”
“Yes, you. We can set something up for a Thursday night.”
That was the first time anyone ever referred to me as an author.
The attendance was small. Most were from a nearby old age home, and all of them asked about my choice to become heavily tattooed. There were some friends in the audience, and of course, there was my mother. She sat in the back row, shouting instructions of what I should say, and telling me to read some of my poetry.
In a time before this, I was a longhaired kid. And there I was, years later, returning as a grown man. In a sense, I traveled the world and came back again. My journey was not easy, to say the least. But I am very proud of where I come from.
This morning, I took a ride through my town ti find some breakfast. I battled with two different ideas. One was a locally famous breakfast sandwich called, “The Big Guy,” and the other was a bagel from a bagel place. But in a quick decision, I turned into the parking lot of the bagel place. The owners are the same as when I worked there back in 1987…..that’s 27 years ago, if I’m counting.
Yes, I chose to come back to the place where it all started….
And I’m proud of every move I’ve made since then