Today is day 6 of 28.
The writing has been hard for me, which is why I missed yesterday’s entry. But at last, I think I got my first night’s sleep since I’ve been here. I was able to purchase a set of earplugs from the commissary to muffle the sound of my roommate’s snoring. John has been good though. He remains mostly quiet when we are in the room. I suppose neither of us like to talk much especially in the morning. We did speak a little last night though about different places we used to score in Alphabet City.
Yesterday was rough on me. I knew this would happen though. I knew it was only a matter of time before the group turned its focus on me. They asked me how I felt about a few things. I told them I don’t really feel much about anything. I explained that I don’t really have feelings and quickly, they all turned on me, pushing me and getting underneath my skin.
Cowboy laughed like a wise ass and kept jeering at me. I swear he was trying to get me to lift up out of my chair to strangle him. And I could have too.
The group is been run by Helene. She has been a counselor for a long, long time. Helene is a big woman, hairy-lipped, and difficult for me to look at. It is hard for me to see her as an addict or understanding alcoholic because I see her as a bitch. It is hard for me to see her as anything other than how she appears to me, which is big, ugly, and aggressive.
She showed a picture of her to the group once. The picture sits on her desk too. She was a young flower-child in her previous life. But the picture is so different that it is hard to recognize her. She was pretty once. Not anymore though. She is ugly to me now and after group, she was even more ugly than before.
Every one of them leaned on me, trying to get me to open up, and trying to purge me. I wanted them all to stop. Eventually, I screamed back to which Helene asked me, “Why are you screaming?”
“I’m screaming because you fucking people are pissing me off!”
“You mean you’re angry?” asked Helene.
“Yeah, I’m angry! Are you happy now?”
And then Helene sent in a zinger.
“But I thought you said you don’t have any feelings.”
I wanted to kill her . . .
The State police came to escort a young man named Brian yesterday. Same as me and so many others in Mountainside, Brian was remanded here by the courts. He was young too. I think Brian was somewhere around the age of 18. He was 18 and facing 8-10 years. All he had to do was complete treatment. But to Brian, prison seemed like a better option.
I was told Brian was confronted in his group. I was told they leaned on him pretty hard and Brian couldn’t take it. After group, Brian walked over to the main office and said, “This place just isn’t for me.” Then he demanded his cigarettes back, walked outside, and he lit up a smoke.
I shook my head because I liked Brian. He covered for my dinner shift in the kitchen. And I promised to cover his shift the next day. I couldn’t believe him. All Brian had to do was finish his time here. But no. Brian couldn’t take it.
Brian was smart but he was socially uncomfortable. He was tall and slightly thin with long, shaggy blonde hair that reached down to the top of his shoulders.
He had blue eyes and a thin face. Brian had a few scars on his arms and the remnant cuts in his arm from self-inflicted abuse. He was a “Boy’s home” kid, a runaway, and he’d been kicked around his entire life.
Poor bastard . . .
Brian was quiet, intimidated by everyone, and afraid of his own shadow. Why did they have to push him in group? Why? This kid is one step short of suicide. Why would they corner the him? It just doesn’t make sense.
I was outside when Brian lit up. We were over by the flagpole together in the center of the front lawn. I sat on the planter around the flagpole while Brian stood with his baggy blue jeans, ripped and tattered. with flaky white strings dangling from the kneecaps. His red and white flannel shirt was opened at the top. The shirt was untucked, and one sleeve was rolled up higher than the other. His white Chuck Taylor sneakers had certainly seen better days. He was a decent kid, decent looking, and seen enough, I assume Brian’s looks were going to be changed as soon as he walked on the tier for the first time.
Brian took in his first drag from his Marlboro Red cigarette and then blew out the smoke hard enough to accentuate his frustration. I saw him perfectly. He was standing in the afternoon sunlight just before the sun began to descend. The sun was on its way down behind the tree-lined mountains to the west of us. Everything was quiet —in fact, everything was too quiet, or surreal even.
I watched him, a young man, about to throw away a decade of his life.
He was going to lose 10 years. TEN YEARS! If he makes it, that is.
I felt for the kid, which is strange for me to think because it has been a long time since I felt anything for anyone, least of some kid I never said much to and never knew anything about until now.
“You gonna be alright?” I asked.
Brian turned his head to look at me. He was half frustrated and half appreciative that he wasn’t alone for the moment.
“They’re gonna come and take me away soon.”
His eyes were glassy but Brian would not let the emotion slip. What struck me was the stillness of everything around us. Something tragic was underway. Something awful was about to happen, but yet; the sky began to take on the beautiful color of a springtime sunset. The trees moved with the gentle breeze and little birds flew quickly overhead, as if to fly home before the sun went down.
I never felt the stillness of a moment like I did yesterday. I stood in front of a boy, —not a man, just a boy who chose to cut off his nose to spite his face. I watched a child make a decision that would ruin him.
I looked at Brian and I saw me. I saw the choices I made at his age. I saw the luck of fate that brought me here, but yet, Brian was just a kid. He had a chance to get out young. The life Brian lived before wouldn’t have missed him. He could have held on. He should have held on
Brian talked about his childhood. He told meaningless old memories. He talked about being a kid and living in a small town. He talked about hiking in the mountains near his home and fishing with his dad before the abuse started.
“Did you camp when you were a kid?”
“I was never the camping type,” I told him.
“You grew up in the city though, right?”
I answered with a smile. “There aren’t too many places to hike and camp in the Bronx.” And then I began to open up. “My father told me we were gonna g once.”
I looked up at the sky because I felt the emotion coming on. But like Brian, I couldn’t afford to let the emotion slip.
“I was just a little kid then. He told me about some cabin up in the woods somewhere with a lake that had fish bigger than me.”
Brian asked, “Did he ever take you?”
I continued to look at the sky the way a man looks at an empty space when he loses himself in thought. I felt the warmth of the gentle spring breeze.
While shaking my head, I sighed and explained, “I never did much with my father.”
“I always wanted to though. I always wanted to like him and I wanted him to like me. But that never really happened.”
Brian asked, “Did you get closer to him when you got older?”
“No. he died when I was only 15.”
“I’m sorry,” said Brian.”
“Don’t be,” I responded. “My old man was an asshole.”
Just as I finished telling my story to Brian, I saw two blue State Trooper police cars entering the parking lot.
“Here they come,” said Brian.
“Hang in there, kid.”
“Hey Bobby,” asked Brian.
“Do you think you’re gonna be alright?”
“I don’t know, kid. To be honest, I really don’t know about anything right now.”
The officers were coming over with cuffs and shackles.
They were moving in quickly.
“Thanks for talking to me Bobby. I know you don’t say much to anyone, but, still, I just want to say thanks.”
“Take care of yourself, kid.”
The officers asked me to walk away so they could cuff Brian and take him into custody. I did as I was told and I tried not to turn back and look at Brian. I didn’t want to see him that way but I could feel his eyes at the back of my head. I suppose for the moment, I was the only brother Brian ever had.
I had to look though. I had to turn around. I saw them escort Brian over to the car. Brian looked smaller to me when they were taking him away. He looked more like a child to me. He looked this way because he was a child. He was a child about to go off to a place where no child should ever be.
My roommate John was over by the main office this morning. John was on his way to the dining room to get his coffee. But then John came up with a sad face before disappearing in the bathroom for his usual morning routine.
“I just thought you should know that I overheard them talking about Brain in the office.”
“What did you hear,” I asked.
John looked away from me and headed towards the bathroom. Avoiding eye contact, John took on an expression of sadness.
“Brian hung himself in his cell last night.”
Maybe that bitch of a counselor, Helene was right.
I guess I do have feelings . . .