It was long ago but then again, long ago is where all of our old memories come from. We were much younger, of course. And this was me. I was young, crazy, and wild, which, with all three ingredients being equal, the combination was dangerous. I was one of the loud ones from the town. I was one of the mischievous and the troubled, anxious to live as fast as I could, and ambitious to dare it all and defy the odds. And his was fun to me. It was fun to defy the powers that be. It was fun to piss off authority. It was fun to disrupt school or do things, like say, pull the fire alarm or get a few smoke in before class.
True, it is safe to say that I was troubled and lost. It would also be safe to say the same thing about some of my friends. We all had our own problems that came complete with our own secret strains of pain and anguish.
Like other kids from the town (or from any other town, for that matter) everyone has experience with their own kind of family dysfunction. More accurately, or perhaps I should say more importantly, one could argue that the reason behind my behavioral crisis is a clear reflection of deeper routed problem, which is probably so.
However, if you would have asked me or anyone from my so-called crowd, we would have smiled at you with our inebriated smiles or cut you a look that only comes from the wild revolting teen. And when trying to be reached, we would have denied the psychotherapy babble and said, “To hell with you.”
Yes, it is true to say there were underlying issues with me. Then again, everyone has underlying issues. Only, I never knew that. We all have problems and we all had doubts. We all have insecurities and struggles; however, I never knew others had feelings like mine. At least, not really.
I thought I was the only one to feel as desperate as I did. I was different, you see, and no matter who tried to talk to me or help, no one could reach me because my case was simply unsolvable. As I saw it, I was too hopeless so I chose to act out at the top of my lungs.
I did things like gather in vacant lots or in empty parking lots with the other knuckleheads from my town. We gathered behind the playgrounds of the schools. We had scars. We had long hair and and our own reasons to be pissed off.
In some cases, a few of us had what was called “A jacket,” which mean that we had a record of juvenile arrests that would follow us into our adult lifestyle.
Marlboro reds were the cigarettes of choice. I was loud and acted out but it would have been fine to be left alone somewhere to enjoy myself, high as high could be, with bloodshot eyes fallen halfway shut and the world placed safely away at more than just an arm’s distance..
I was eager to laugh and to revolt and eager to be loyal to my own special brand of revolution. I was part of a crowd that was tragic and beautiful. We were unforgivably young and uninformed. Yet, with regard to being young and uninformed; if someone were to ask, we would have sworn to know it all. And of course, we knew it all. We were a bunch of crazy kids. which meant we knew everything without apology.
We were the wandering ones that walked from one side of town to the other. And sure, we had our own little hiding spots. Sure, we found ourselves on the roofs of schools, too drunk to climb back down. We found ourselves in the local arcades or we hung around the park at Prospect. We gathered at The Stores on Newbridge. We had our own cliques and we formed our own bonds.
One evening, I recall a sunset that went down while we spent time behind the old church on East Meadow Avenue. This is the one with the old cemetery behind it, —and we hid in the back between the graves and away from prying eyes. We passed a few smokes around. We passed a few beers too. And we howled and we laughed and in all honesty, we had absolutely no clue as to what we were doing.
I remember us as we were with bitterness now. I remember the names that are only left in memory, with one of which being recent, like say, my old friend Mike whose loss just came about a few short weeks ago.
I look back gratefully, however, as I recall the forms of our sabotage and I laugh because of what we survived. I laugh about the nights when our teenage ideas came to mind with a “What could go wrong,” mentality.
I shake my head when I think back to me being as I was, smaller than most, thin, and sickly. I was afraid of my own shadow, but yet, I pretended to be brave. I tried to portray myself as tough but the truth is everyone knew I was far from it. However, whenever my bravery fell short, I allowed myself to hide behind a chemical reaction to mask my appearance, which eventually, dissolved me into a slow falling nod.
But I digress.
I still recall the good times before the bad times. I remember the good times with the bad kids; and if I am to call them the bad kids, then I will refer to them with a kindhearted memory because I was one of them.
Yes, I say I was one of them, and to us, our town was our little kingdom, in which we were the prince and princess. We were the kings and queens, depending upon our place in the social spectrum.
God, I was so lost and so eager to find my way. I was always looking for something. I just wanted to feel. I wanted to feel things that I believed someone like me would never feel. I wanted to feel better.
I wanted to feel accomplished. I wanted to feel appreciated and unafraid. I wanted to stand out on my own for better reasons instead of my usual reasons, which were never positive.
I wanted to write to you and tell you these things but I never had the understanding nor the vocabulary to describe me. I always wanted to write but I never thought someone like you would ever read anything written from someone like me. And as a result, I believed I had nothing. All I had was my secret methods to help keep me going.
I have a memory of me from back then. My bedroom was the one, upstairs, and to the left. I had a front window facing a main street called Merrick Avenue and a side window, which led out to the roof above the garage.
I recall climbing out onto the roof during late night bouts with insomnia. As well, I have memories of long strange trips during the light night hours where the psychedelics took hold of me and my mind was to colorful to sleep.
I sat up on the top of my roof; my eyes as they say, were like Lucy in the skies, and I sat there to watch the cars drive passed my home and feel the cool wind blow through my hair and across my face. I recall the lights shining brightly from the nearby Nassau Coliseum. Sometimes I could hear the cheers coming from the Hofstra Stadium, which was also nearby. I would sit up there for hours and look out across the top of my town. And sometimes, I would find relief in my quiet isolation. I would light a cigarette and exhale my smoke into the nighttime air. I would often sip from a small flask filled with gin, which is not to say that I liked or appreciated the taste of gin, because the truth is the gin I drank was cheap and terrible. However, it was something that was stolen and since it was free and readily available, gin was my choice of drink.
Strange though, as much as I pretended to know everything, the truth is I knew I didn’t know anything. I was painfully young and thoroughly frightened. But I tried to play it off. I really did. And this is not to say that we didn’t have a few laughs because we did. More often, we had our laughs at someone else’s expense. We had our share of laughs at benches beside the tennis courts. My friend Teensy remembers that bench. I know because he told me so. He told me about him and that bench and the memories he had of him and his skateboard.
But this is a prime example of the split between kids and crowds. The park is, I mean. This is where kids from the town hung out but we were split up by different divisions of “Cool.”
I have a memory of me passed out one night in the tot-lot playground for little kids. This is a small, fended in playground at the opposite side of Prospect and away from most of the crowd.
I remember a girl came in. She was one from an opposite popular crowd. She was crying about something, which had to do with something between her and her boyfriend. But more importantly, I knew whatever it was; it had nothing to do with me.
I just needed it to stay that way.
When the girl came in, she came in crying and sat at one of the benches near the concrete chess tables. I could hear her crying and sobbing, which is why I wanted to leave as quickly as possible. I wanted to leave before someone came to find her and mistook me for part of the problem.
The girl didn’t see me at first. She didn’t know I was nodded out on the park bench near the granite table with the chessboard tabletop.
Rather than say anything, I tried to slither from the bench and make my way to gosomeplace else.
She saw me though and I paused for a minute. I was in no shape to discuss much of anything. She looked at me and although I wanted to move, I was caught in the dilemma of wanting to say or do the right thing. But I also wanted to save my own ass at the same time. She was embarrassed that I saw her crying. I was uncomfortable to see this too.
I apologized for being in her way. The girl wiped the tears from her eyes and told me, “It’s okay.”
I remember thinking she must have felt desperate at the time. Otherwise, she would never even look at me, let alone say anything to me. She was a girl that held a popular position in a much different crowd. We were on different ends of the social spectrum. She was one of the pretty ones. She was an athlete’s girl and whether I was or wasn’t friend with this particular athlete, I sure as hell did not want to become this athlete’s enemy.
I went to walk away but I paused when I should have kept going. I should have walked away but there was a piece of me that needed to ask her if she was okay. There was a shred of decency in me that wished better for her and a piece that felt the need to show a semblance of empathy, which I did, to which she responded in somewhat of an angry, self-preserving way to dismiss me.
I never wanted to be her enemy and I didn’t know why i had to be. . . I never wanted anything from her at all.
Least of all; I never wanted the usual things a young teenage kid like me would want from a young teenage girl like her. I never understood why we were on different ends of the popularity line and I never knew why someone like her from her crowd could never be friends with someone like me from mine. The only time someone like her would talk to me was to buy something like weed or maybe a few trips or a small bag of coke, which I would have passed off as fake, and one of them might have pretended to get high; meanwhile, I cut up aspirin and threw in a little dose of the real thing, just to make their tongue feel numb. But this wasn’t about that.
The girl was crying; and she was sadly beautiful with the light from the park streetlamps glimmering against the tears that slowly rolled down her cheeks. She had olive skin and dark hair, tied up, and kept high in a ponytail on the back of her head. Her lips were perfect. I remember that. Her face was like something that reminded me of a photograph I once saw in school of an ancient Mayan princess with almond shaped eyes, soft, and beautiful. As I saw it, she was the prettiest girl in town.
She shook her head at me to show that she was unsatisfied for being where I was. But I knew she wanted to tell me something. “I’m gonna get out of your way,” I told her.
“That’s okay,” she said. “You were here first.”
I was too high, too scared, and too confused to make a move or decision. I was also too afraid of an upcoming beating by her boyfriend for not minding my own business.
“What’s that like,” she asked me.
“What’s what like?”
“That stuff you do. I always wanted to know what’s that stuff was like,”
She never knew what I was on. She knew it was more than the usual though. She knew that I was out of it and that I could barely keep my head on my shoulders.
I was in disbelief. “I don’t know,” I answered.
The girl knew me well enough. She knew me for what I was. I was one of the burnouts of my town. I was considered by many as a junkie, a loser, or a dirt-bag, longhaired and lost, and voted to be one of the town’s most likely to be unsuccessful. I could not believe that someone like her with all of her friends and all of her popularity would ever consider a more deliberate drug use. And why would she?
“It’s not for you,” I said to cure her curiosity.
“Oh, but it’s good for you?” She responded.
She was angry but she wasn’t being mean. She was just wanted to know, and for that moment, we spoke without the distinction between us and our crowds.
“Why do you do it?”
The truth is I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, what was I supposed to say? Should I have told her the truth? Should I have told her that I didn’t think I could ever play the game straight? Should I have said the real story, which was that I felt so bad about myself that even the downside of my drug was better than the best upside of my life on a normal basis.
How could she possibly understand? How could anyone. But not her.
No way. There was no way she could think or feel as desperate as me. There was no possible way that her, a girl with all the advantages, could ever think or feel the same way as me. But I was wrong
We talked for a while but I had to go vomit, which pretty much ended our conversation. I could see two of her girlfriends approaching so I knew it was time for me to leave. She was appreciative though.
We never spoke again. As a matter of fact, we never even acknowledged each other after that. However, still, she was a girl from the town. She was a girl from an opposite crowd, but yet, surprisingly, she and I felt the same way about a lot of things.
I never considered that others thought or felt the same way as me. I thought I was the only one.
Then again, that was me at the time
This was the perception of young kid on heroin