Before moving forward, it is important to understand that everyone is recovering from something in their life. In some cases, the personal battles people face are more severe. Some lose and some live to fight another day. Above all, however, the young losses in this fight are tough losses to see. And please, make no mistake, it is a battle to live sometimes, especially for some people.
Safe to say I have seen this. Safer to say I recall a day in the main foyer of a treatment center where I stood as a witness one of these battles first hand.
I was in the middle of my second treatment placement for a 42-day stretch. This place was different from my first treatment facility, which was only 28 days. I had just done my first 28 at a place in Kerhonkson, New York. This time was spent in an adult facility; however, and what seemed more appropriate for my age, upon completion, I was immediately sent to my next facility with adolescents.
I was cruising though now. At this point, I knew a little about the language in treatment placements. I knew a little more of what to say and how to say it in groups to earn brownie points.
My previous stay was strange to me. The adults were different and playing a much different game. The drug use and drinking was equally deliberate and deadly; however, the duration of the sickness was different. The intent was equal too and so were the crimes and the heinous behaviors/ There was talk about gun play, overdoses and deaths at both establishments. There was essentially no difference, except the age, and again, the duration of pain and sadness was obviously longer at the adult facility. Yet still, the stories were no less painful at my new placement..
I met with other men from different parts of the country at my first facility. They were fathers and brothers and uncles and people from good neighborhoods and bad ones too. I was more like a mascot to them, which was both good and bad because of the attention I received.
However, these were eye-opening times for me. I met a man that was otherwise homeless. He was picking apples for a living. He was the typical, box-car hobo, or wino, and drunk or whatever else people would call him.
I remember the way he spoke was so incredible different from me. He was hard to understand. His accent was deep-south and his skin was dark black. It is important that I regard my ignorance here and make note that I was trained in my hatred and prejudice.
Regretfully, I admit to the teachings I learned about black and white; however, this man was neither black nor white.
He was simply a man that noticed a youngster like me and did not want to me live through the same challenges as him.
This man took me to his room and made me an offer, which to this day, I have never had an offer to reach his level of kindness.
At the time, I was hesitant to move forward to my next facility. I wanted to go home, obviously for all the wrong reasons.
I was thinking about my friends—or should I say I was thinking about my so-called friends and the trips into East New York, Brooklyn. They were out there and meanwhile, I was stuck in placement with legal problems, like a collar around my neck.
I was thinking about finding out how I could get back home to fit back in the action.
Or, maybe I could have played this smarter. Maybe I could have switched things up a little and alter the crowd so I would not find myself in the same desperate places. But why kid myself?
Deep down, I knew that if I went home, I wouldn’t have had the strength or mental fortitude to stay away from the drug vultures that always look to pull you back.
Standing in this man’s room the night before my departure, he quietly went into his drawer and pulled out a pair of brand new blue jeans. He offered them to me. He told me that throughout his entire life, he never owned a pair of brand new blue jeans. He offered them to me as a plea. He told me to take them and make sure I do as they say.
“You don’t want this life,” was his point. He meant this wholeheartedly to the point where he gave me something he never had before, just so I would choose to save myself.
I have written about this several times; however, it is fitting to tell about this now and again because this is part of why I stayed the course.
Safe to say, my experience was different when I went over to the next facility. Everyone was young. Everyone thought they knew everything. Of course, I was no different.
I was midway through when a tall kid came in. He was perhaps the tallest I had ever seen. One of the more noticeable features of this young man was his lazy eye.
Turns out his old man beat him up so badly that it left him facially disfigured. Safe to say he was my friend. Safe to say he went through things in his life that were otherwise unthinkable. Above all, safe to say there was a reason why he planned to kill himself.
My friend was big and strong but the one person he could never defend himself against was the one person that beat him the most. This was his father. In the quiet nights of rehab living, we stayed up a few times and talked in a dark bedroom into the late hours together.
I was always the small kid. I always felt so painfully different. It was alarming to find that my new friend shared the same feelings.
Please understand that I cannot, do not, and will not use any names (at least not accurate names) out of respect for anonymity. However, with all my heart, I can regard this young man as he was to me; he was my friend.
It was crazy to me that he regarded himself as weak when in fact, he was exceptionally strong. He was bullied when he was younger but then he grew somewhat quickly.
Once he grew, he was never bullied again. Also, anyone that bullied him previously was made to suffer for their mistakes.
My friend had scars, each with a different story and each with a resounding sense of pride behind the story. All of his stories regarded his ability to eat and take physical pain, like candy, which made sense to me.
Physical pain makes sense to everyone. Physical pain is an excellent way to manifest the underlying aches of the heart, which is perhaps why I used to cut myself when I was a teen. And same as me, the scars on my friend’s body was a timeline of his pain. These were things that made sense to him. All else was nothing short of a painful mystery, such as “Why was I even born?” or “Why does my father hate me so much?”
My friend was a good kid. He really was. All he wanted was to laugh and have a good time like any kid would.
He craved acceptance. Funny as ever too. He wanted to have a real family. He wanted to be wanted, same as everyone else.
However, to my friend, the people that were supposed to want him most were the ones that wanted him the least. He was abused and neglected in ways I never thought were possible.
He was so hard on himself. Although tall and strong, my friend was not typically or physically beautiful.
This was hard for him to live with. He had a droopy eye—this was a gift from a beating he never forgot. And who knows what else happened to him? Who knows what was real or what was exaggerated in his mind? All I know is I never understood how someone so physically capable could ever be afraid of anyone. All I knew is I never met anyone so ashamed of the way the were. My friend and I used to talk a lot.
One day . . .
There was a visitor for my friend. It was his father. I remember the conversation we had the night before. He talked about killing his father. He talked about his father wanting to kill him. He told me things about himself that no man or child should ever have to admit anyone else.
“One day,” he told me. “I am going to fight back.”
At this point, I think it is only fair to describe the main house at this facility. The place was on a country road in Upstate, New York.
The main house was up in the front of the property. The style was a large, white, center-hall colonial type home with a big entryway with double-doors that led to another entryway, or foyer inside with double-doors.
I suppose this was someone’s home, years ago. The main house was very big and I’m sure it was nice when the main house was young.
Unfortunately age and father time and I’m sure the inhabitants as well were not as kind to the house as they could have been. The hardwood floors showed the years of travel and the main entryway at the foyer was a bright place when you entered. The ceilings here were exceptionally high which gave the entryway a lofty appeal.
On the left hand side of the entryway was the dining room. To the right was a stairway that led upstairs to what might have been bedrooms before the home was remodeled, but for us, this was where we met with counselors and had our groups.
I always figured this place belonged to someone rich and then it was taken over and changed into a rehab for crazy kids lime us. Either way, this is the stage I offer with hopes that you can have a mental picture. This is where I witnessed the foyer incident.
There was a hallway from the back of the house which led to the front in which we could go through to the dining room or go up the stairs.
I was standing with my friend when his father came in the entry way. I saw my friend’s face go blank. I saw his father too.
He was big, drunk-looking, ugly, smug, and of course, whatever this man looked like; his true description was altered by my embedded opinion of him. This was the man that hurt my friend.
In a flash, I recalled a night when my friend cried to me, “Look what he fucking did to my face!”
Then he asked me, “How could someone do this to their kid?”
In fairness, I have to admit it is hard to write this part. And as I type this, I can feel the rage in my blood warming beneath my skin.
My friend saw his father. I suppose my friend thought about the night before when we talked. Perhaps, he heard me question him, “Why don’t you just fight back,” because he never did.
I could never understand this. he was so big and physically tough. Why didn’t he just fight back?
The scream from my friend was nothing short of murderous. He pushed me out of the way and threw me behind him, almost protectively. I felt like a small boy about to witness something so impossibly unreal.
I watched the transformation come across the father’s face; partly welcoming f the fight and partly afraid. The father raised his arms but my friend moved way too quickly and literally consumed his father with a barrage of punches after punches.
Suddenly, the boy-like fear of what I witness transferred into loyalty for my friend. The counselors went to break this up but they were unsuccessful because of me and some of the others that tried to help our friend. The counselors were trying to push us back but we, or at least I was trying to help my friend physically right the wrongs he endured throughout his life.
My friend was removed from the house later that day. I never knew what happened after this. All I knew is he never felt like he had a voice or a friend. Here I am though, decades later and if I were to see my friend now (if he is still around now that is) I would open my door and sit him down at my dining room table like the long lost brother he is.
He was a good kid, big heart, and although he might not have been typically or physically beautiful, he will always be beautiful to me.
Hey Billy, remember the night we talked about this?
Yeah. I do too.