It would be dishonest of me to say that there wasn’t the idea of us against them. It would be dishonest to say that some of this wasn’t fun. The rebellion I mean. This is one of the reasons why it was us against them. I wanted to rebel. I wanted to fight back. More than anything I wanted to be heard but I never had the voice to properly speak my thoughts. I never had the words or the language to explain what I was thinking or feeling. Instead, I acted.
This is why it was us against the world. It was us against the authorities and the people in the town. It was us against our parents, the teachers, the principals, the guidance counselors, the cops, the local government and anyone else in the world that did not see things the way we did. I pluralize this because there was more than just me.
Safe to say that I was part of a group. We were the infected youth. Safe to say that everything we did was done as a statement. We wore our colors, so to speak. We dressed the part and played the role. We were the kids from the town and the local knuckleheads that wound up in the newspaper sometimes. And to us it was like a badge of honor. This was cool; to be destructive, to be taken to the precinct like some kind of outlaw.
I suppose every neighborhood has kids like us. Every neighborhood has their own groups and social standards. And so did we. There were late nights when kids like us should be home and in bed. But not us. We thought we were slick. We’d sneak out and rip off someone’s car from one of the nearby automotive repair stations. We thought we were street kids and yet, none of us were ever really tested. I was never tested. At least not really. The truth is we were just babies. We were just acting.
I carried a knife to play the role but who knows if I would have pulled it out. Or better yet, who knows if I had the balls to use it, which is dangerous because in an effort to try and prove myself, I might have made the drastic mistake and stuck someone. I would have found myself incarcerated for a grown man’s crime and doing time without a “Doing-time” kind of mentality..
Safe to say, I was pretending (I guess).
I was just another longhaired kid in a crazy suburban town. I was born in the early 70’s and living in the 80’s with some kind of chip on my shoulder. The world was a different place back then. Drugs were still very much a part of our culture.
The only difference was we didn’t have social media to exploit everything we did. The news was always around with their social inaccuracies but nothing like it is today. To be honest, drugs and teenage drug use has been around for a very long time. Heroin and cocaine use is nothing new. Yet, for some reason, people act like this is a new thing. But trust me, it’s not.
One thing for sure is I played that part. I was what the town called a burnout. I was called a bum and a dirtbag. I was the opposite from the others in the clean-cut crowd. And as for them; it was me against them as well. It was me against the pretty and the smart, the talented and the gifted. There were jocks and the burnouts. I was a burnout. I smoked. I drank. I dropped tabs and found the doorway of psychedelics at a very young age. I did grown man crimes and grown man drugs, and yet, I barely had hair on most of my body.
I thought I was cool though, like some kind of little baby gangster. And sure, I sold drugs. Nothing too major. I just sold enough to give myself a position in the crowd. I sold to be known and regarded. I sold to be needed, or more to the point, I sold to be important and needed.
There was a whole group of us too. I called most of them my friends. We were all we had at the time. Some of my friends had troubled homes. Some of them had good families. Some were abused and some were like me, lost in our own thoughts and just trying to find a way to keep ourselves from drowning in the social pools of common popularity.
I think the wildest times were the nighttimes. I think the wildest were the times when we were all together. And there was always something happening. There was always some kind of trouble. It was clear that we were the lowlifes in the town. We were the scapegoats. I can say there were times we were blamed for things we didn’t do but in all fairness, it was usually us.
There were times when I was tired of the crowd. I was tired of the role. There were nights when I found myself, lying on my back and looking at the stars. I was too drunk to get up or move. I remember the night a bunch of my friends found me sitting in a stolen car that was abandoned in one of the vacant lots. I tried to play this off and act tough, Instead of letting anyone see the truth, which is that I had been crying, I decided to toss my flip-top lighter onto the front seat so the car would go up in flames.
“Fuck it all,” I said. And then I just walked away.
Everyone else ran off.
There are times when I wished I was someone else. I wondered what my life would have been like if I grew up in a different town. I wondered what I would have dressed like if I lived with different people.
Would I be the same? Would I like the same music? Would I still feel insecure and try to compare scars with the other kids, just to prove my worth.
In fact, I could have been a totally different person.
There were times I looked around. I’d see how crazy we were. And by the way, being crazy was a competition. To be crazy meant to be the wildest in the bunch, to do more, to be more, drink more, smoke more, and to ride the edge and be faster, crazier, and wilder than anyone else. This was the goal. Or maybe this was the point. I’m not always sure.
I used to see kids from some of the other crowds. We were all friends once. I remembered that we used to get along until the crowds split up. They became them and I became me. They had their status and I suppose I had my own.
I used to wonder what would have happened if I hung around the good kids more. But no, I had friends that branded themselves with marks on their arms. We listened to angry music and did angry things. We lit things on fire – or, well, at least I did.
I admit it, this was me.
There were nights when I found myself alone. And I was fine to be alone too.
Do you know what I mean?
I was fine to unwind and be away from the crowd. I was fine to end the competition and do nothing else but listen to music somewhere and be away from everything. I had a cigarette dangling from my lips. I had the need to get out and be somewhere else. It would have been fine if I just disappeared. Besides, there were plenty of other knuckleheads that were eager to take my place.
This is the one thing no one ever talks about. That lifestyle never missed me. There’s always someone out there, looking to cut a deal. And moreover, there’s a sucker born every second to take the bait. I could have disappeared and nothing would have changed.
And as for the girls, please. I never knew what I was doing. In most cases, the girls I liked were never the girls that liked me. So, I guess I took what I could. I remember practicing what I would say to a girl if I had the chance. I would literally rehearse what I would say but inevitably, I’d find myself out of my head. And to be honest, it’s not easy to get laid or pick up a girlfriend with puke on your chin.
The funniest part is this was another lifetime ago. I am totally different now. I do things much differently. I still like some of the old music. I still laugh about some of the old stories. I laugh in memory of my old friends that never made it this far. I laugh about the ones that were some of the craziest, and yet, they’re dads now. They have jobs and mortgages. The pay their taxes and live their life on a straight line.
I had a word with one of my oldest friends the other day. He asked what I was up to. I told him that Im scripting a mental health first aid class for a corporate event.
He laughed. It’s okay.
He told me, “You gotta know why that sounds funny to me, right?”
I answered, “I guess.”
He said, “I was there that time you came running into the room naked with blood all over you.”
“Yes, you were.”
Don’t worry. The story is not as disturbing as it sounds.
Well, maybe a little.
“It’s good,” he said.
“That stuff you do.”
“I respect it,” he told me.
Man, there were so many times I wished I hit the brakes.
Then again, I never really had anyone to show me how.
I guess this is why I do what I do.
I just want to help . . .
I just want to pay for my sins
I want some of the old dreams to go away
So I can be square with the house
and pay what I owe.
It must make it hard when so many bad things are intertwined with nostalgia and memories of friends.
Not anymore. It used to be though