I sat on the corner of Front Street and Merrick Avenue. Behind me, the small 7/11 parking lot filled and emptied with cars of different customers that quickly moved in and out of the store.
Across the street, the old service station on the northeast corner was going through a modernization for its new owners.
On the southwest corner, the Waldbaum’s parking lot was busy. Fleet bank was closed, but the stationery store was still open. So were Rose’s Pizza and the kosher deli. The pharmacy was doing its usual business hours, and beside the pharmacy was MAB Liquor.
Earlier, an employee sent me away with a loud warning. He grabbed me by the collar of my denim jacket, clenched his grip, and caught the long strands of my straggly hair.
He said, “Get the fuck out of here, dirt bag!”
Then he warned, “And stop asking people to but you booze.”
I was just a teenage kid then. I was lost in my own hassle of trying to find myself and prove to everyone else that I knew what I was doing.
The sun was going down over my small town. An orange glow from the evening sky roamed across the tall grass and the empty brown trees in the vacant lot on the northwest corner of the intersection.
The traffic lights gently swayed in the subtle winds and the streetlamps were waiting for the sunset to finish. It was the tail end of winter and the cold weather began to loosen its grip. I was alone, but more so because I had burned too many bridges and found myself between groups of friends.
My clothes reeked from cigarettes and weed. My eyes were bloodshot and half closed. I finally convinced someone to buy a six-pack for me. I think the beer was Old Milwaukee because it was cheapest.
In truth, I never liked beer. I never liked the taste, but then again, I never drank for the taste. I saw drinking as a vehicle to get me to where I wanted to be. I saw drinking or any other mind-altering substance as a mechanism of balance, and after several attempts of, “Excuse me, but do you think you could buy me some beer,” I finally found someone to help me achieve that balance.
The person who helped me was a locally known mental case. Pee-Wee was from the neighborhood. He was mentally ill; however, he was well enough to earn his driver’s license. Pee-Wee’s real name was Andy, or Andrew. He was odd looking. He was tall and thin with closely trimmed red hair on a mostly bald head.
He wore a strange khaki colored baseball hat with an extra-long brim. He kept cotton balls stuffed in his ears and his Adam’s apple poked out from the center of his throat.
Same as Pee-Wee was rumored to be a pedophile, it was also rumored he used to masturbate behind the bowling alley across the street from the East Meadow Public Library and the town’s Fire House. But no one ever saw him do any of these things.
He was probably capable of defending himself physically; however mentally, Pee-Wee had the awareness of a teenager on drugs, which is why he always hung around the different groups of teenage kids in the town.
Pee-wee was an outcast, but at the time, even he had more friend s than I did.
I decided to take my last three stolen pills of Ritalin. Ritalin was a low-end speed high, but included with alcohol and weed, the head was somewhat decent.
In the peaks and valleys of teenage life, I suppose this was one of my low points. I crossed the street and headed into the various trails in the vacant lot. And as light left the sky, I lit a smoke, exhaled my first drag, and then I moved in to the tall grass to hide from the world…
There is an old photograph of me on my refrigerator. I am not sure where it came from or how I found it, but this is one of the few photographs I have of my awkward stages.
In the photo I am standing behind a table with a group of people at someone’s Bar Mitzvah. And in the Jewish community, a Bar Mitzvah is held for a young boy when he turns 13 years-old, and in the eyes of the religion, that boy is now considered a man.
I was around 14 at the time. My hair had yet to grow very long, but it was on its way. I vaguely recall stealing cups of red wine after the Bar Mitzvah service, and I pulled the same trick at the reception hall.
Later, I was invited to an after party at the Bar Mitzvah boy’s house. There were a bunch of us in the basement and we played spin the bottle. Then we played seven minutes in heaven, which meant a boy and a girl were to go in the closet and fool around for seven minutes.
But the seven minutes never lasted that long, and the girls we played with had a different version of heaven.
I cannot recall how we chose turns or partners, but I was allowed my turn with a girl that was well-formed for our age. She was much taller than I was, but I was short, so most people were taller than me. She wore a sweater, but no bra. I knew this because she let me play with her decent sized chest.
There was no closet. So in this case, we were on the unfinished side of an otherwise finished basement.
I remember her skin was fair and her nipples were light pink.
I do not recall if she was my age, older, or younger.
I cannot recall her name.
All I remember is her chest…
I used to sit on the roof of my house and stare out into the vacant lot, which was across the street from my home on Merrick Avenue. In the distance, I could see the lights from the Nassau Coliseum, and I could sometimes hear the cheers from the college stadium, which was approximately the same distance away.
My favorite time to do this was during the summer sunsets. I would watch the cars pass on my somewhat busy street. I would look out across the rooftops of the homes in my town and everything was quiet.
I sat on the peak of my house, which softened from the hours of sunlight and the summer heat. I sipped gin, but not because I liked it.
I sipped gin because it was all I had and I had plenty of it.
Someone I knew had jugs of it in their basement, and since no one in his family ever drank gin, it was easy for him to steal the jugs.
And some of those jugs ended up in my bedroom closet
I was never a good drinker. And by good, I mean highly functional. I was never smooth or cool. I was a scrawny, longhaired kid, that could never hold his liquor.
I was awkward, but the alcohol balanced the scale. Alcohol was the counterweight, but I could never find myself at that perfect spot between good and drunk. I would always vomit. And it was hard to get a girl’s attention with vomit on my chin.
Sometimes, I would get drunk and talk to myself in the mirror. Sometimes, I sat on the roof and talked to God. I saw life, and the way I looked, felt, and behaved as unfair.
I wanted to be different, but I was unsure how. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to fit. I wanted girls to like me and I wanted to walk away from people without feeling as if they were talking about me.
I wanted balance, but the scales of my life always seemed to be tipped too far in one direction. On one end of the scales was emotion, and the other was my counterweights.
On one side of the scales were the uncomfortable truths and my own misconceptions and insecurities. On the other was my counterweight of lies and the fake images of who I tried to be.
I lied. I made up stories to help me seem more interesting, or cool. I acted out to grab attention, and when that failed, I acted worse.
As a kid, I sat in several different therapy sessions. I underwent testing at school; I was subjected to different labels like emotionally disturbed…and I hated that one most.
The fact is I was frustrated. I wanted to fit, but I couldn’t. I wanted to do well in school, but I could never grasp the lessons in my classrooms.
I wanted to be good in sports, but I was too small and uncoordinated. I wanted friends, but I was too uncomfortable in my own skin—so I had to balance myself.
Everyone has a breaking point. When I hit mine, I was over the edge. When I hit my breaking point, I figured if I cannot build friendships, then I would destroy them. If I could not fit in with the crowds, then I would demolish them with hatred
See, addiction and alcoholism have no regard for age, race, color, or creed.
It feeds on depression and uses it as fuel, which turns into internal voices that slowly destroy the inner walls of our sanity.
And I wanted to be good….I really did
I wanted to stop what I was doing….but I couldn’t
Sunlight came from beneath the curtains in my room. The windows were open enough to let the morning breeze chill the room with the cold breath if winter. I had not gone outside for nearly two days. All I needed was closed in my room. Everything I wanted was with me, and everyone outside of my room was an enemy.
I had just spent several hours crawling along the floor in a panic. My lips were burned with patches of white blisters from smoking a glass pipe.
And had my lips not been numbed by the cocaine gods, I might have felt the sting when my glass pipe cracked from the heat and burst in my face.
This happened more than once, and each time the pipe cracked, it broke, and its end moved closer to my face.
The front tips of my long hair were singed from the dancing flame of my cigarette lighter. I noticed this when I saw my reflection in my bedroom mirror.
My eyes were wide opened as if my nerves were electrified. My skin was pale, and the back lengths of my hair were clumped together in sweaty strands.
There was no one else in the house but me. There was no one but me, the paranoid whispers, and the crazy sounds that come with overnight drug binges.
My bedroom door was held shut by my dresser drawers as well as the chair from beneath my desk. My front window was covered with a tapestry of Jim Morrison; my side window was covered by vertical blinds, and I tried my best to conceal myself from the rest of God’s creation.
I kept the windows covered but I allowed for a sliver, so I could see outside and check on the imaginary voices. My house was only empty because my parents were on vacation. They were thousands of miles away, but that never stopped me from checking the front window each time I heard the sound of a car door. And each sound I heard meant someone was home. And every sound I heard caused me to practice my escape plan.
I took sips of gin to cure the cocaine itch, but what I needed was more weight to counteract the heaviness of my downward crash. What I needed was another trip into the atmosphere. I needed a blast, or a hit, as I called it.
The crack demons had their way with me. I was hooked and dependent on the straight line between weight and weightlessness. After striking the lighter and putting the flame against my pipe, the tiny boulders of crack began to sizzle, and then I would inhale the smoke.
Upon entering my system, I held the numbingly bitter taste in my mouth, and I kept the smoke inside me until its resource was finished. I held the smoke in until the chemical flooded my body and then it carried me into a different state of existence.
I was energized and overcharged. My heartbeat sped and my chest numbed. I exhaled and sound was interrupted by the steady ring in my ear. After my system separated the chemical from smoke, and my body detached, I exhaled and felt myself unhinge ….it was beautiful.
But the beauty is quick and all I wanted was another terrible minute of its purity.
I sipped gin to quiet the crack demons, but the gin made me vomit. Fortunately, I was able to vomit through my side window and onto the slanted roof above my parent’s garage. However, the side window was also my escape route should the paranoid whispers be right.
If the paranoia was right, I would exit the side window, possibly sliding down the stream of fresh puke, climb down from the roof, and then I would leap over a strategy of backyard fences that took years for me to perfect.
Then I heard voices again….
I heard the sound of laughter passing my house. I crept across my hardwood floor, staying beneath the bottom window ledge to keep from being seen. I was pale faced with bluish-white lips. I was strung out and paranoid, but I would be damned if I let anyone take me away.
I lifted the bottom of the Jim Morrison tapestry, but only enough so I could see out and no one else could see in.
This time the voices were real. The laughter was from a small group of local kids. I knew their faces, but not their names. I knew them from the neighborhood, but not as friends. I knew them as the uncool or insignificant kids in the school cafeteria.
I used to hate them for no other reason than their social uselessness. They were socially unknown, or at least, they were unknown to the popular crowds. I hated them because their physical awkwardness was obvious. They were an embodiment of my fears. I hated them because they were not good or bad; they were the in between. They were virtually faceless or unnoticed. And to me, there was nothing worse than being unnoticeable.
I thought a life like theirs would be nothing more than dull. I believed their weekends and nightlife were uneventful and lonely.
“Who the hell would want to be like them?”
And yet, there I was, painfully alone, and enclosed in my room with a barricade in front of my bedroom door.
My stomach growled from the lack of food, and my heartbeat drummed like an empty beat inside a hollow cave.
This was just before my bottom
I helped you once.
Told me you wanted to kick
Said you wanted what I have
and you were willing to go to any lengths to get it.
But that didn’t last
The names of your friends are different now
and the faces switched
but you haven’t…
Your old excuses have become typical
The shape of your eyes changed
and the glimmer has slowly dwindled into half-bright,
once brilliant shadows of what they used to be.
You stayed victim to your own lies
and flushed them out with the shove of a pin
into the portholes of your veins.
Saw you on 35th Street the other day
knees half bent
your eyes shut
the methadone genies were there to weigh you down
and counteract the unbalanced scales of your life.
I used to feel bad when I saw you
I used to feel responsible
….but not anymore
the way you are cements me to the way I am now