The morning was like a brief interlude after a night out with friends. As usual, I was up early because I’ve always had trouble sleeping on floors. Let alone, I never slept much anyway, least of all, as late as the rest of my friends who were sleeping it off the night before. No one else was awake in the small apartment, except for Pete. We were both sleeping on the floor because Steve already took the couch and the beds were all taken. Besides, this was not our apartment.
Pete and I decided to take a walk on Avenue A and head towards St Marks. Pete was looking to pick up a bag, which was not my thing but the rest was fine with me. I agreed to walk with him in the early sunlight hours on a Sunday morning. We walked over from 23rd Street in our outfits from the night before. It was a little early to be this snazzy. I had long hair and my usual black outfit; as in black pants, black shoes and a black button down shirt with the top buttons unbuttoned and the collar spread open to show my silver necklace. I had hooped earrings in my left ear and a look which I was trying to perfect. The sun was still young but the air was hot. The remnants of litter on the street was like an aftermath of the scene from the night before.
I can say I knew something was coming but I couldn’t say what. All I knew was that I could feel something in the mix; almost like a storm brewing. There was a change about to come my way – but I had no idea what this change would bring nor was I sure where this would take me.
The Sunday was stagnant, like most Sundays. The day was a lazy shade of yellow – or maybe this was due to our training that Sunday and its meaning are intended for Church or prayer.
But either way, the City is always open for business.
Pete was a wealthy kid from a good wealthy home and, me, I saw myself as different. Perhaps this was one of those days when my views became clearer.
Maybe this was a moment of awareness and, in contrast, I saw my differences and wondered, “What the hell am I still doing here?”
Why am I still coming around the same people?
A small woman whose left eye was twitching and nearly shut was heading in our direction. She asked if we were “looking” for anything to which I replied “no” and kept walking. I knew the angle but Pete decided to oblige.
He told her he was looking for a bag of weed to which I knew that she was on the hustle. I assumed Pete knew this too but for some reason, he still obliged.
He gave her the money first, which is a move that even a rookie would never do. She took his twenty and then ran across the street. I asked him, “What are you doing?”
“She’s gonna beat you for the money.” I said.
Pete didn’t seem to care.
The girl was odd to say the least. She was thin. She smelled from street stench and it appeared that she was either beaten or had fallen and her face had bashed into the ground.
She ran over and delivered a little plastic bag to Pete. Then she ran away.
The bag was filled with weed, alright. It was filled with weeds from between the cracks of the pavement along Avenue A, which were possibly soaked with bum piss or other gross contaminants.
Pete opened his hand and shrugged this off. He chalked this up to a loss but after, I think that perhaps Pete did this for no other reason than to donate twenty bucks to an oddly shaped woman who was beaten and battered.
We walked back and said nothing about the incident that just transpired. In fact, we hardly said anything at all. Instead, we picked up a cup of coffee and headed back to our friend’s apartment.
There was something to this weekend. And again, I couldn’t say that I knew what was about to come my way. But I knew something was on its way. That’s for sure.
I knew that something was about to change. I knew that my friends and I were about to head in different directions. I knew a change was in the making. But at the same time, I had no idea what was coming or when. And in fairness, I was afraid of all the unknowns in my head.
Maybe the indication came from the night before. Maybe this was another occasion of me being out in the City, working on the way I lean against the wall and learning how to contemplate an approach to a girl at the bar.
Maybe this was the moment that I realized that this was not my place anymore. The bars and the clubs along with the attitude and the elements were no longer suitable for me.
I had outgrown this. Or better yet, I had outgrown everything.
Maybe it was time for me to go home or, at minimum, maybe it was time for me to quit the charades of trying to act cool or be someone else.
Maybe the venues and the people hadn’t changed but either way, something in me changed – something clicked – and for the moment, whether it was the strange walk with Pete or if it was the idea that I had outgrown my circle; I knew that something was about to happen.
A falling out was about to take place.
Rather than take a cab over to 34th to catch a train and go home to my place in a basement, I decided to walk from the Eastside to the West – then I walked up 8th Avenue towards Pennsylvania Station.
I walked past the brownstones and the apartment buildings. I noticed the culture changes from the Eastside to the West. I also noticed people were gathering, like friends do, sitting in chairs or near their stoops and readying themselves for a moment together on a pretty Sunday morning.
I noticed there were no challenges. There was no rhetoric or need to banter back and forth with sarcasm or the prodding attempts that become mild insults, just to “break balls.”
I noticed the freedom between people. I noticed the boost of acceptance of how they looked or how they lived and chose to love.
I noticed their openness towards one another, which was opposite from my crowd – or my so-called crowd. And although I was alone, I was not lonely.
I used to split away from my friends. I’d go off on my own when we were out. I’d escape, so-to-speak, and take a walk around the City streets. I’d do this with hopes to get away from the nonsense.
I would do this to see what I could see. Also, I’d do this so that I can see or experience things without the watchful eye of judgmental people. I say this meaning my friends who were quick to judge or add insults to injury.
Maybe it was a compilation of this and other ideas. Maybe it was my need to break away or maybe it was the fact that I was tired of being an imposter and fake.
I walked through the City like a free-minded young man. I was open to what I saw without judgment and whether there were rainbow banners over the stoops or otherwise, I was fine to be judgment free. Yet, I was aware that although I had friends, I was otherwise alone. I was not like the people who I saw gathering with their friends on this day.
They were free to have fun and be themselves; which to me, I was never brave enough to do something like this.
At this point, I was young in my poetry. I had my share of influences like Jim Carroll and his dairies and then of course; there was the poem Having a Coke with you, by Frank O’Hara.
I knew nothing about these men, except for their poetry. I knew they were people who lived in the City. They wrote about what they saw and, of course, they wrote about how they felt. But more, they used words that enabled tiny pictures in my mind like, yeah… I get it.
I could literally see them in New York City. I could imagine them at places like 14th and 9th or at the parks.
Their association with words granted me descriptions which were designed to make the reader think and feel – I swore this was something that I wanted to do.
There was someone else that I wanted to be yet I was never brave enough to let myself accept the challenge and be me.
I was right though. Something was on the way.
That was the last time I hung around that old group of friends. There was a fallout and at the same time, I wasn’t surprised.
If anything, I was enlightened. I was aware that I had outgrown my surroundings; however, my concerns for loneliness were mounting.
I was alone . . .
Then again, I remember being in a big club with thousands of people and although I was anything but, I felt more alone than I did when I was by myself.
The choice had to become this:
I only want to be around people who boost my spirits and challenge me to be my best.
I only surround myself with people who support my growth or the friends I have who make me promise to “keep writing.”
I do this because these are the people who support my soul.
Anyone else would only support my depression and fuel the trinkets of my anxiety – to keep me guessing and leave me uncomfortable.
I realize that life is too short to be someone else.
And as for my poetry, I’m not looking to be the next Kerouac, Jim Carroll or Frank O’Hara.
I just want to be the first me.
I’ve never done a reading.
(At least, not really.)
But there’s a part of me who wants to read at an open mic. Maybe somewhere downtown where people are free to be themselves; poetic, real, alive and living.
Maybe I could tell them about my walks down St. Marks and my search for something that had no face or name – there was just a purpose – or maybe this was just a need to feel or think and be free; to live as I am, rather than live as someone else. What a brilliant idea this is.
Too many people in this world never dare to speak honestly or openly.
This is not to mention the countless people who hardly know who they are, let alone who I am.
I walked away from the wrong crowds and pushed myself away from the wrong tables.
In a moment of bravery, I walked away.
I can’t say this was easy.
I can only say this was necessary.
This was a moment of bravery.
Sometimes, I need to be this brave again
(in my 50’s).