It was late and cold. I found myself walking with someone I had never met before. He was leading me toward a small brownstone that was burnt and abandoned. The doors and windows were boarded up. The concrete steps leading up to the front door was littered with trash, old paper bags, newspapers, beer cans, and broken bottles. I had never been here before, This was Brooklyn, I think. I was in East New York, if I’m not mistaken.
The man I was with was someone from the street. His eyes were wired like electric demons but his face was somehow distorted to me. His skin was dark as night. But his eyes; his eyes were haunting me. I remember him leading me towards the side of the building and in through a side door that was broken open.
I followed the stranger inside. The room was dark but I could see the outlines of dark figures lurking inside. I knew I didn’t want to be here. Then again, this is what happens on drug runs. You find yourself in places you don’t want to be.
The building was condemned and unsafe. But the main floor was home to the homeless. This place was a shooting gallery on to several different street junkies and shelter for the drunks that looked to get away from the street.
On my way into the brownstone, I saw an old woman wrapped in several coats. She had a strange wrap around her head.
Her eyes glared at me, angry, aggressively, as if I were trespassing in her home, which in a sense, I really was.
I wasn’t sure what she was doing at first glance but when my eyes adjusted to the ugly darkness, I could see that she was sitting on a bucket, relieving herself as she would in a toilet.
This was the worst place I had ever seen before. Moving in, I noticed there was a hole in the middle of the floor. This went straight down to the cellar. To me though, I saw this hole as a pit of despair. To me, I saw this pit as hole for people like us, the soulless and lost. I saw this hole as a symbol of depravity. This was a pit for us, the sickly, awaiting to die while living on the verge of tragic lonely deaths.
I was led by the stranger up the a flight of stairs that was off to the right side of the room. He motioned to me to keep quiet by pointing his finger upwards across his lips.
I had no idea where we were going. I had no idea why I was following this man up the stairs.
I could feel the steps creaking beneath my feet as if the wood planks were almost sponge like and weak beneath the weight of my body. I didn’t want to follow anymore, but still, I followed the strange man into a room at the top of the steps.
We walked inside. He closed the door behind him. I could tell that he was sick. He was dope sick, sweating and mad, while suffering from an unbearable withdrawal. He looked as if he wanted to jump out of his skin.
Again, the stranger motioned for me to be quiet by pointing his finger upwards across his lips. I could see this man a bit more clearly now. He was haunting to me. He was bony with dark features, nappy-headed and covered in several jackets.
Suddenly, a loud crash sounded in the floor below us. Someone had broken through. There were gunshots. People screamed. Someone was at the door, banging, and trying to push their way in.
I heard the gunshots but there was no place for me to hide. The only means of escape we had was a broken window that lead to a fire escape.
I climbed out and headed up towards the roof. There were cars out in the street and police lights swirling against the red brick buildings. I went up to the roof and hid but the stranger followed me.
I could tell there was something wrong with him but I didn’t know what. I never saw the bullet push through the door. I never heard the man call out. I never heard him say a word. He just followed me.
He sat next to me with his back up against the half-wall that surrounded the rooftop. He sat on his ass with his knees up to his chest. His eyes were still and his mouth hung open. The moonlight was made his blood glisten in black against the fabric in the man’s coat. I saw the hole i his chest the same as I saw the hole in the floor downstairs. This was his tragic end and I would be forced to witness it.
I’m not sure why I checked his pockets. I supposed I was looking to see if I could find a bag or something to help me get high.
Instead, I found a picture of a little girl with the words “For my Daddy,” written in script across the top. The picture was aged and beaten and the face of the girl was unclear to me.
I could hear that someone was coming. I could hear the gunshots but there was no way for me to escape. At best, I would be shot and killed.
At worst, I would be arrested. This means I would be taken into custody, forced to sweat out my sickness, and separated from the one thing that could make me whole again.
I had to run.
I had to get away.
I had a strange man’s blood on my hands, so definitely, I had to get away.
I looked over the wall to see what was happening below. I knew it was only a matter of time before the police made their way up to the roof.
Looking across from one brownstone to the next, I figured my only way out was to jump from one building to another.
As I jumped, I could feel my stomach drop. I jumped and felt myself falling down into a dark alleyway. Then my body shook violently as I let out a scream, and there I was, awake in my bed, alone in my room at Mountainside Lakes.
It was just a dream.
I’ve been having a lot of these lately; the dreams, I mean. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, shaking, and often sweating so much that my sheets are soaked.
So far, they haven’t moved me out of my room but I am told that I am being considered for an early completion.
I had a special session with Jake and Helene yesterday to discuss my early completion. We also talked about my roommate John. Or more accurately, I should say I talked about John.
I told them about John’s morning routine. I told them about the conversations we shared, which were somewhat few, but we were growing closer towards the end. John was an understanding man. He was kind, He often spoke about St, Dismas, the penitent thief. Dismas was John’s favorite. He told about how at the hour of his death, Dismas asked the Son of Man to remember him when Jesus entered into his Kingdom. And John would smile when he explained the answer Dismas received.
“Today, you shall be with me in paradise.”
John talked about a story from Luke 18. But he never preached to me. He just talked about it was all.
He told me about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. John talked about the Pharisee standing in prayer. He told about the tax collector walking passed and how the collector just beat his chest and said “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Meanwhile, The Pharisee was proud of who he was and proud not to be like other people, namely the tax collector.
John knew what it was like to feel like a sinner. He understood what it was like to feel unwanted. He seldom spoke about his days in the priesthood, but with me, John discussed the scriptures that were inspirational to him.
John told me, “Don’t worry about the righteous people telling you how great they are. Just worry about yourself.”
He told me about the tax collector. John told me the tax collector went home more justified before the Lord than the Pharisee.
John would often whisper this to himself, “Bless me Father, a sinner,” as he would move about the room or while folding his clothes.
I was never sure where his guilt came from. I was only told that John was hurt when he was a small boy. I never knew why John was the way he was.
I guess I was just grateful that if John had to die, at least I had the chance to meet him before did it.
Helene and Jake sat across from me. I can say this in no other way. I loved them both. I loved them for their kindness. I loved them for their understanding. I loved Helene because she had almost become motherly to me. There was such beauty to her. I failed to see this at first because I was too busy being caught up in my own hatred.
Jake was good man. He was a great counselor. He never told me what to do or how to do anything. He led me up to my own answers. He called what he did, “Motivational interviewing.” I just called it helpful.
I say again, I loved them both. I admired them equally. I needed them both because I needed them to help me get away from my own poison
Helene explained a little bit about John to settle the rumors that ran through Mountainside, which is common in rehabs. The rumor factory is both laughable and pitiful here, but admittedly, I did enjoy some of the more entertaining rumors (especially the ones about me.)
“John had a terrible childhood,” Helene explained.
“He was abused very badly as a child.”
I knew this about John. I knew that John left the priesthood and entered into a long depression, not speaking or saying a word to anyone for close to seven years. I knew he came from a bad background. He was no stranger to violence and whatever he had seen, it must have been so painful that not even heroin could numb his mental disputes.
What I didn’t know is that in his older days, John saw the man that abused him when he was just a small boy. He physically punished this man by beating him close to death.
I remember talking to John about my life. I told him that I always felt as if I was always off the mark. I always thought that there was something wrong with me. I had no family. I had no real friends. In my eyes, I had nothing.
John would always say, “You have more than you think.”
I never saw me as likable or charismatic but John told me I was wrong.
I mentioned the letter John left underneath the lamp on his nightstand. I told the counselors about what it said and how it took John dying to learn what to means to be alive. I just don’t want to die anymore.
I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to think the way I think or do the things I do. I just don’t know how to replace my old methods with new ones. And that’s the God’s honest truth. I just don’t know what to do.
This is strange of course. Me, being a full-grown man at 56 years of age, but yet I feel so completely incomplete, empty, and childlike.
I just want to feel whole again.
I just want to feel like I can go home and be justified.
Justified . . . just like the tax collector.
Have mercy on me, a sinner