The mornings were different when I was younger. The night was over and still, the smells of the places and the bars and the late night venues was still on our clothes. I was different then. So was the way I lived and so was the group of my friends.
I can remember beating the night until the sunrise came and then spilling on the street with an idea that sounded like, “Wow, the sun’s coming up.” We were young and we didn’t care. We didn’t know what we were going to do with ourselves. We had no ideas about a pension or a 401K. There was no talking about our future or future plans because let’s be honest, the future was for old people—and the term old is certainly relative. I mean, hell, back when I was turning the age and taking in the scenes, I can remember people at the night spots who were clearly out of their 20’s and deep in their 30’s and thinking, “Who let the old people in?”
Just to be clear, it is important to me that you understand the world is a better place with you in it. I would like you to understand the options you’ve been considering are options that will permanently solve a temporary problem.
And dig it —
I know that you’ve heard this before. I know that nothing I write (or say) can change the way you think or feel. But still, I’d like you to know a few things before you go back to some of your contemplations.
There is this thing we talk about, which is evasive to so many but yet, this is real. There is this life; there is this feeling, based on emotion and based on a connection, which of course is undeniable—and yet, there is this fear that becomes a nightmare because what if our dream comes true? What is life without love? Then what?
Are we loveless? Are we alone? Or does this mean we are forever to seek an evasive dream; hoping and wondering, and each time we think we feel something, we find ourselves asking, “Is this it?” And maybe it is. Or maybe it isn’t? But we have to taste it to know. We have to feel it. We have to try it to understand. We have to otherwise, we’d never know, right?
I go back to a perfect day amidst the craziness. I was alone. I was fine for the moment but there was nothing on my walls and nothing in my drawers. I was alone for the first time in my life. There was no one to report to and no one to speak with. My answering machine was empty. I could tell by the red double-zeroes which reminded me that no one called and no one cared.
I suppose this is what it means to be on your own. The rest of the world was tending to their business and me, I was moving in a different direction. I was back in my old town in Long Island. I returned like a son who grew and returned home to their Mother—hoping for some warmth or if nothing else, at least a good bowl of soup or something comforting. But in my case, Mom was gone. My Mother had passed. My Father had passed. My family was scattered in different locations. Some of my family were caught in the snags of family brawls and arguments and me, I was far from neutral at the time.
At this point, we’ve all been to school. We’ve all gone to class or had a classroom experience. By now, we’ve all learned about reading, writing and arithmetic. And most of us have gone through some kind of secondary schooling, whether this is in college, on-the-job training programs, or a class in basket weaving or we’ve all had or share of both teaching and learning experiences.
We have been taught how to find a job and how to build a resume. Or, in my case, I have been trained as an operating engineer. I have undergone safety training and learned about electrical circuitry. I’ve attended training schools for building and maintenance systems. I’ve taken CPR classes and scaffolding safety courses. But more recently, I began learning about mental health and mental health safety. I’ve taken different courses that range from life coaching to hypnosis, from mental health first aid to peer advocacy and peer specialist work, which require study as well as clinical hours for training purposes.
However, of all the classes I’ve taken and as interesting as some of my learning experiences have been; I’ve never found a class that teaches people how to be happy. I have never seen a class or found a syllabus that teaches how to be happy at work or how to be happy with life when life is not happy with us.
And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I was that kid. I was that boy. I was the one in the classroom hoping I could disappear because “Please God, don’t let the teacher call on me.” Yet, there was a piece of me that only wished I felt comfortable enough to be part of the room.
I was the one who stuttered when I read out loud. I was the one who counted the heads before me when taking turns to read paragraphs in the classroom. I’d count the number of students before me. Then I would look at the chapter and count the paragraphs. First, I hoped that I was lucky and my paragraph would be brief. But it never was. And then I would try and practice. I would try and read it to myself; this way, I wouldn’t stutter or lose my place. This way, no one would look at me in the classroom or think I was an idiot. But this never worked.
There will always be someone out there who loves to put people down. I have met them. I have seen them in action. I have heard them turn the machines and work the gossip mills and the rumor factories. I have been put through the ringer more times than I can count. I have encountered bullies. I’ve had times when I stood up for myself and there were times when I simply walked away. However, the one attachment I recognize most is my level of importance and my association of value with bullies and what they say.
I was heading towards the City around sunset yesterday. My old hometown and past life was behind me. Ahead of me was the life I have now and the island of Manhattan. I have always had a connection with my City. And she has allowed this bond—the City, I mean.
The traffic was more than mild but not too bad. There she was, my City. I could see her from the distance. And there they were; the buildings and the tall spires that poke the clouds like needles in the sky. The backdrop behind my City was the colors of sunset, which to me; this is a representation of the autumn months that are about to come.
I will write softly today, which is like the morning as it is, quiet and gentle, and yet solemn in memory. I am someone whose memory of this day is one that dates back to an uptown address and a rooftop. I was there. I was within clear view of the sky on this morning, twenty years ago today. And I think to myself, “How could this be?”
How does time move so quickly and yet so slowly? Sometimes, time can be so painful that it doesn’t move at all. Instead, we just just sit there. We hover in the moment to witness life’s unthinkable terms, totally powerless and with no control.
It is 8:16 now. It will be 8:46 in a short while. That’s when the first plane hit. And I want to send this out before the time strikes. I want to hold this moment like I wish I had during the quiet before the storm, but hey, time is time, and like you told me, “No one knows the hour or the day.” Am I right?
If I want to go back to the good times from the past then I suppose all I’d have to do is go back to the music. I could do this because at one point, everything was about the music. Everything was about the times and the late nights or the long walks in the City, downtown. Or even uptown through Central Park. I have memories from everywhere and a soundtrack that fits this perfectly.
If I want to go back, all it would take is a random song to come on out of nowhere. Know what I mean? And almost instantly, I can remember the summer nights, down by the bars on water in Island Park. I can remember the outfits and the fashions, the feelings and the emotions.
All it takes is an old song from our youth and I can remember who I was. I can remember where I was and what I was thinking. I remember the different phases in my life, the different episodes of love (or the attempts at love) and the different stages of my growing youth — and even if the times were neither optimal nor perfect, somehow, the music made sense to me.