I was waiting at an airport in Raleigh North Carolina on a flight that had been delayed for several hours. I was anxious to come home and anxious to see my family. I had so much to write about and much to do but the airport gods intercepted my plans while experiencing a series of mechanical problems. Needless to say, all I could do is wait. Meanwhile at the gate, some of the other passengers complained. Some sat quietly or talked amongst themselves. Others like me took to their own ways of occupying the wait time.
The occupied seats around mine were somewhat filled with travelers, but the flight was not overly crowded by any means. However, whether quietly or outwardly upset, everyone was anxious for takeoff.
I don’t mind airports. Instead, I like the idea of travel. I like the dream I have of flying around the country and interacting with different people and speaking in different states. I like the views from the large windows of the airport. I like watching the planes pull in and out as I imagine them flying to some faraway destination with me in first class (of course) and heading towards a speaking commitment in a place like say North Dakota or maybe Wyoming.
As I began penning my thoughts in a notebook; I wrote about the emotional spiral of my short trip. I was emptying my thoughts on a page to decompress and regain a semblance of sanity when a woman sat nearby.
She was older. Nurse-like. Her nearly shoulder-length hair was grayish and parted from the side. She wore a thin pair of silvery wire-rimmed glasses with a silver chain that ran from behind her ears and around the back of her neck to let her glasses dangle. She was fuller-figured, very kind, southern, and certainly talkative.
I noticed she was speaking out loud, as if to be heard and interact with someone to pass the time. However, I kept my face on the page so i could write my thoughts and clear my head. At least, that was the plan.
After several attempts to gain my attention, the older woman noticed that artwork on my arm and mentioned, “You certainly have a lot of interesting colors on your arm.”
I smiled respectfully and agreed. “Yes, mam.”
She could see that I was writing—and perhaps she was trying to look over my shoulder to see what my pen scribbled on the page. It was clear she was curious and slightly intrusive, but she was friendly and kind, which took away the imposition of a nosy stranger.
“Are you on here on vacation,” asked the woman.
“No, mam,” I replied.
And this was true. I was not there on vacation, but more, I flew down on personal business to help a 17 year-old girl find treatment and straighten out a few legal aspects in her life. This was a special case for reasons I will save for another time. However, I will explain the trip was draining.
My flight down was no better than my flight home. I was delayed not once, but twice, and then placed on another flight at another airport, driven from LaGuardia to J.F.K, which turned out to be a mistake. Next, I was pushed onto another flight and fortunately bumped to first class because of my patience and the urgency of my trip.
Also, through my negotiations, I was granted a free night’s stay at a hotel at my destination. As for the details and reasons for my stay, these were too personal and too intense to share with the old woman who continued to inquire.
Besides, all she wanted was someone to talk to. And since each time I tried to write my thoughts, it seemed the least I could do was oblige her with a friendly conversation.
My trip was brief and overnight. I flew down to visit a treatment facility, speak with the young girl, and try somehow to ascertain and determine an ongoing treatment plan as an effort to help the family. The plan was to gain a strategic aftercare program, including intense outpatient, one on one counseling, and set up a medical evaluation for some of the emotional disorders.
I was tired from my trip. I was tired from my lack of sleep. I was hungry, but since the food options at my hotel and in the airport did not match my change in diet—my choices of food were somewhat limited.
The old woman being kind and lonesome spoke on and on about random insignificant things. She spoke about her family and her husband remarking, “May God rest his soul,” after each mention—and she said those words each time, enduring the pain of loss for a loved one each time she mentioned him by name or by title, signifying the sign of the cross on her chest in divine loyalty to God and her husband (May God rest his soul.)
She told me stories about why God made a pigs tail curled like a curlicue and talked about her Church groups. On occasion, I would catch her eyes wandering along my arms to notice my tattoos. It was clear she was trying to figure me out, which is funny because I think I’m still trying to figure me out.
“So what kind of business brings you down to North Carolina,” asked the kind woman.
“I came down for a visit,” I replied.
“Friend or family,” asked the woman with a great big smile. I assume she expected an entertaining story, which it could have been. I could have lied. I could have said anything but I was too tired for lies and too tired to address the truth behind my visit.
“I came down to visit someone in the hospital,”
“Oh,” replied the woman. Her facial expressions switched from happy to concern. And once again, she showed respect in Holy attitude mentioning that she would pray for me,
“Is it serious?”
“It was,” I explained. “But it’s okay now.”
Earlier that day, I walked through the door of an inpatient facility, which varied in cases that ranged from teenage drugs and alcohol use, to runaways, to self-harm, and issues with suicide. My client was there for the all of the above. She was young—or closer to baby-like, but yet she had already seen so much in her short life. She had reasons to be angry and reasons to be insecure. She was of mixed race with split parents that came from two different backgrounds. She had undergone sexual inappropriateness at a young age, experimented young, used drugs young, drank young, and by her own hand—she nearly died young.
I was escorted by a large nurse in white uniform. She was a southern woman too with dark black skin, very heavyset, large-busted, and very warm and endearing. She placed her hand on my shoulder explaining, “She has been waiting to see you!”
I sat in a room, waiting for the young girl, and looked around at the artwork on the walls. I could smell the familiar institutionalized smell of the facility. I could hear the announcements calling out instructions through speakers that spread throughout the floor.
At first, I felt my own stir of fears. I struggled with my own recollections of “Flight deck,” and psych wards with people walking by, half-zonked by medication and some of them doing the old Thorazine shuffle—feet barely lifting from the floor as they walk passed, eyes half-shut, and mouth dangling slightly open as if to express a minimal state of consciousness. This facility was different from my hospital interactions, but yet there were still a few similarities, which were enough to remind me of my own struggles.
I thought about the evaluation questions asked by each new clinician and doctor. I thought about the repetitiveness of the questions, which tends to become annoying and bothersome. I thought about the client and clinician interaction and considered the things I liked most and least about this relationship. I had plans on what to say. I had an idea for my plan of attack—but when the young girl walked through the door—all of my plans leaked from the same way a tub of water loses to a drain. In the moment, all I could see was a little girl that did not believe life was worth living.
The girl is short. She is young and certainly too young for the life she was trying to live. She was already branded with her own tattoos. One of which was a marking worn by a well-known gang.
I know she wanted to be tough. I know she would have rather been different from who she was. I also knew that she saw no other way out. It was not to die so much as it was no other way to stop the world from moving the way it does. She knew this would hurt those who loved her. She knew this would be hard, but to her, eventually, they would heal. However, in her eyes, she would never heal.
Instead of teaching or trying any of the coaching methods I learned, which I never rarely use anyway, —I decided to sit plainly and remove the know-it-all attitude that comes out when an adult speaks to a teenager. Instead, I spoke in a mutual way and expressed a painfully truthful story from my own past.
The little girl watched as my eyes teared. I explained exactly what I thought when I prepared to meet my end.
I couldn’t see any other way out. I didn’t think I fit in here. I was tired of always feeling like I had to struggle. I was tired of the way people talked to me and the way I felt afterwards. Most of all, I was tired of feeling uncomfortable.
I just needed to rest. I needed a moment to myself. I needed to catch a break, but no matter what I tried, nothing ever stopped, and no matter how I wished the world would slow down for a second, —the world just kept on spinning.
Traffic lights worked in spite of tragedy. There was no regard for me (or so it seemed.) No matter how I felt, life around me kept moving along. But me, no, I felt stuck and there was no relief in sight. And sure, drugs and certain other behaviors might solve the sadness and symptoms for a short period of time, but eventually, the high wears off, the sexual expressions lose their genius, and even the redemption of a quick brief win loses the same way water loses to a drain.
I defined a moment of my history in which I was imposed upon in a way that no one should ever impose themselves on a small young boy. I talked about my inability to connect with others and the feeling of emptiness; or that detached feeling, as if no matter what I tried to do, I could never be “Part of,” or fit in.
I explained about my feelings of hopeless loneliness and the terminally unique problems I had, which I had thought we problems and feelings that only happen to me.
Part of the hospital’s policy is a nurse on duty has to be in the room when outside visitors come in to visit. Needless to say, aside from me and the young girl, the nurse was crying as well.
In the room were three different people from three different backgrounds, and yet, we all understood and we all related to one another. We were not so different.
I am sure this would have been too much of a story for the friendly old woman at the airport. But, I am also sure that she would have listened if I chose to talk and with divine loyalty, the kind old woman would have signified the sign of the cross on her chest and said the words, “May God Bless.”
The reason I write this to you in open forum is because in light of recent events someone famous and successful made the tragic decision to take their own life.
In times like this, I know, it seems that no one understands. And I’m not saying that “I DO” understand. But I am saying that I want to. I’m saying that although the worst seems to hover above like a dark cloud—I’m saying that you are not as alone as circumstances might imply.
So to you, I say this: My prayers are always on your side
And so am I if you need me . . .
all you have to do is call