I had to take a step back. I had to break away for a moment just to detach. So before going forward, I want to be clear that I am doing this because I choose to and not because I have to. I want to be very clear that although I write honestly and openly, my aim is clear and therefore, I refuse the notions that one is in pain because they write about pain. I refuse the ideas that one has to be in love to write about love and I reject the opinions that assume a person is in crisis, simply because they write about crisis. This is not my case at all. Instead, I expose my weakness to gain strength. I expose my fears to become brave and I reveal my truths because, with a humble heart, this is me.
Maybe it’s the summer. Maybe it’s the heat and the build of tension like the humidity before the storm until — ah; the rain comes down to soak the dust of our crazy lives. Maybe it’s the social tensions around us or maybe this is really simple; it’s just difficult because we, ourselves, are complicated.
I’m not sure if you can see me where you are, up so high, but this is me, right here.
You know, they say that when you lose something, you should go back and retrace your steps. Almost inevitably; when you lose something, someone always comes along and asks, “Well, where’d you leave it?”
I can’t say that I’ve lost anything beside myself. Then again, I haven’t lost anything except for time or space or the energy it takes to stand up and start over again. Perhaps this is why so many stories start at the end and then flashback to the beginning. Maybe this is done to build perspective. maybe since neither of us can do this; look at the end and then go back to the beginning — we lose to the game of misperceptions; only to find out later that we were looking at things all wrong, Maybe if we knew the end; maybe we wouldn’t be so lost or maybe we would know if the end justifies the means — or perhaps we would have taken different turns. Maybe we would have never tried and therefore, we might have never loved or lost or dared the edge. Know what I mean?
They say it’s best to go to the beginning. We have to go to the roots; and me, I know where my roots come from. I know who I was and I know who I am now, which in fairness, I am not the same person but at the same time; I am the exact same person. I have the same eyes. I have the same hair color with the addition of a few grays. I gained a few pounds. I have a few new scars. Each scar and each strand of gray hair has its own story. Some of the stories are clear to the eye and some are not where the eyes can see.
But hey, name someone who comes unscathed.
I can’t. Nor can I say that I know someone who comes without their own scars and their own personal models of what life should look like.
If I was to go back, and I mean if I were to go back to the beginning, where would I start? What would I start with? Would it be the great old American culture of the 1970’s or would I look at the times when life was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting? Is this it?
Most likely, no. That’s not for me. No, I prefer the truth of it all. I’d much rather prefer my true existence, my fears, my wants and desires, my secret fantasies and my drive to be something, feel something and go someplace different, like, say, out west, which is something that I never believed would happen.
I used to wonder about life on the coast. I wondered about the life and times in Los Angeles, California. I’d wonder if the sound of wind moving through trees was the same as it would in the middle of East New York, Brooklyn or the Rockaways, or Coney Island. I wondered about this brand of life out west, which is not to say that I was thinking about the Hollywood version of life — nor was I summed up by the sensationalism of fame or the Sunset Boulevard ideas or high times in the hills with high-fashioned players. No, quite honestly, I simple wondered about the look of the beach from a bedroom window. As for the rest of the place; they’re no different from me. They’re no better. They breathe. The live and they eat and sleep. They drink and they smoke and they give in to the same guilty pleasures as me. They die too, just like the rest of us; even John Wayne.
I suppose it would be suffice to say that I was hopeful — a dreamer. Yeah, that was it. I was a dreamer. I was mismatched or misplaced; I was misdirected or misguided but either way; I swore that I was missing something. I saw the world around me. I felt the impulse. I felt the compulsion to go and run and feel something existential. I wanted to know what was out there. And I’ve not seen too much. I’ve seen enough though. I rode the waves. I did the things and danced the dance. In fact, I have the scars to prove it.
Years ago when Mom passed, an old friend from the town approached me. We hadn’t seen each other since 8th grade (maybe). She remarked about the way we were when I was young. She told me that although she was sad to see me under the circumstances; she was happy to see me. She let me know that she figured something out about me.
I don’t think you were cut out for that place, she told me.
That school wasn’t for you, she said.
I think you were bored.
I think you could have taught the teachers and they knew it, she said.
I suppose the only way to know this was to see the ends and know about the means, which led me to where I am.
The funny thing is I cannot remember much about the day we buried Mom. But I do remember this, which is paraphrased, perhaps, but still; there is something about the ends that explains the means. There is something about the outcomes of tragedy, which somehow coincide with lessons and the ability of our endurance.
I think back to my older poetry. I think back to my old resources and sources of inspiration. I think back to where I’ve been and where I came from. I think of who I was and who I was never supposed to be. I think back about my old friends who are gone now. I suppose they are somewhere up there with you in the universe. They were the holders of souls, which could never be contained, not even by them. They were the owners of something misunderstood — or better yet, they were like me or like you or like anyone in this world with a scar in their heart. They were too bright for this place and yet, all they saw were the shadows in the sunlight.
I do not intend to write with a sad tone, so, please forgive me if you see it this way. This is not my intention. Instead, I am taking this from an introspective approach. I am here in my little section of earth. I am where I am supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing because otherwise, where else would I be?
Who else could I be?
I was thinking the other day:
It was a morning in the South Bronx.
Wait, no. It was sunset in the summer of 1988 –
Yeah, that’s it.
The sun was going down with an orange hue
shining a golden light on the bricks
reflecting across brownstones on a street I have not seen since then.
And the streets, the people, man . . .
The world was a different place back then.
The culture, the music, the people
There was a song playing. I can remember
The air was hot but not thick or humid
It was just a perfect day, summer –
August in the Bronx.
The song Hotel California blared from the speakers;
This was as if there were some kind of universal trick
This was to expose or
to pull off a mutually exclusive note;
as if to say hey, we’re all here and . .
We’re all on our way.
Ever shove off before?
Your body sort of folds
Eyes shut to half mass
And just like that
I guess the song was right.
It’s like the nightman said, “Relax.”
We’re programmed to receive.
We can check out anytime you like
But no one ever leaves.
Withering . . .
Fading . . .
Nodding . . .
And just like that
You’re gone ~
I am not him nor is he me anymore but yet, I have always been him and he will always be me. And I say this without shame or embarrassment. I say this with both feet planted firmly on the ground. My back is straight because I stopped bending to fit in. The squares of my pegs do not seek the round holes anymore. I’m am fine this way. In fact, I am perfect now.
I found this thing of mine; this thing is a project which I call my trick. And I’m working on it. I am not as afraid as I used to be. I can see now. I can step out from my cage once in a while and be free from both the internal and external critics. I’ve found things. And I keep them with me.
This is the reason why I come here (with you).
To be free and rid myself of rejection. I come here to realize how amazing it is to view the sunrise, regardless of my location, I can enjoy the view from anywhere.
But for the record, I remember waking up early one morning. I was standing in a hotel parking lot. I was on a job, somewhere in Los Angeles, and looking up at a few palm trees with first-light changing the sky. I was on the phone with a group of mine that I created in a homeless shelter.
They were cheering for me. Each and every one of them believed in me. And I believed in them. To understand the ends, or to know if the ends justified the means, I can only say that I know this: I bled out loud, live and in color. I lived this way for a long time. And I hid too. I hid like a child afraid of abuse. I hid like the timid ones, too afraid to venture out because they are too afraid to be scorned, singled out or rejected.
It doesn’t matter what they think or what they say.
In the end:
I don’t have to hide anymore.
I don’t have to surrender.
I don’t have to wonder what my life would be like if I were somewhere or someone else and what’s more, I don’t have to wonder or worry about the person I used to be.
I am able to do this because at last; this is the person I am.
And lastly . . .
I don’t have to bring my report card home anymore.