Ever hear a song that brings you back to a time when you were much younger?
The world was a different place then. I was different and so were you, of course.
I’m not sure what I knew or what I thought. Then again, I’m not sure if I was aware of anything. At the time, I suppose I never focused on anything more than what I should wear or how I should look.
I suppose I thought we would be young forever. Or is this a common thing? Wasn’t it common to think we could survive forever on simple foods and our crazy friends?
I suppose I never thought much about the future or setting up a retirement fund. I never thought about a career or what I wanted my life to look like when I was older. Besides, thoughts like this were for older people and I never wanted to be older.
At best, the only future I thought about was the weekend or maybe the next night; whereas, I was young and hopeful. I was looking for an edge. I was looking for a feeling.
I wanted to find a rush or a sense of adrenaline to come in and be like lightning in the veins.
I wanted to go as hard as I could and live my life as fast as humanly possible.
There was a friend of mine who used to say, “Live fast and bury a beautiful corpse.”
I suppose that I subscribed to this more than I’d care to admit. Then again, I suppose this is nothing more than capricious youth.
This was me.
I know that I was looking for something.
I know that I wanted to see what my City could offer me and, at the same time; I was still too afraid to dare.
I was too petrified to openly admit to who I was or what I wanted.
I can remember a night out with my young hooligan friends. We were on a rampage.
We were somewhere down by Houston Street and decided to walk into a downstairs lounge.
We were loud and obnoxious. All of my friends were drunk and me, I was the designated driver. I was the so-called responsible one.
This meant that I was always invited because this way everyone was free to drink.
I was sober in name only because as sober as I was, I was equally as crazy as they were. I was equally wild and, in fact, I was proud to show that I did not need a drink in my system to howl at the sky or be as wild.
I was fine to be crazy and wild enough to party fast or light a bathroom attendant’s head on fire down at some little trendy place near Mercer Street.
What can I tell you?
He walked into the bathroom on the wrong night at the wring time.
I remember the night when we walked into the lounge. We were hit with a loud warning of “SHH!” because there was someone speaking on a little stage.
It was a reading. He was a poet.
Of course, none of my friends wanted to stay. But I did . . .
They all laughed and made fun of the man at the mic.
We were looked at like street trash. We were looked at like classless, loudmouths, and culture-less hoodlums.
We were seen as pestilence who poured into this great City from either a bridge or a tunnel.
I can remember looking at the poet whose face was shocked by the moment. This was mainly because we ruined his flow.
We barged into the scene, perhaps at a time when emotion was intense and then in true, idiotic form, we made a scene and then we all left,
However, in fairness, no one’s hair was set on fire, at least not by me.
I never told the rest of my knucklehead friends that I was into poetry.
I never dared to stand up at a mic and read my prose or tell any of my stories.
In fact, if you were to go back in time and tell me that I was sharing what I wrote both publicly and openly, I’d have told you that you were crazy. I never dared to share anything that I wrote. I never told anyone about my poetry.
My first real poem went like this:
If I listen, I can hear you in my thoughts
And if I look, I can see you in my dreams
and behind the movie screens
on the back of my eyelids . . .
But I only hope that someday soon –
I can hold you in my arms forever.
This was the first poem of mine that had meaning to me. This was the first thing that I wrote with a truly open heart. I wasn’t writing this to anyone or looking to impress a girl.
No, I was writing this because I knew that I was looking for something. I knew that I wanted more. I knew that I wanted a feeling that went beyond just the physical demand of intimacy, I wanted to be anywhere in the world and not feel alone because deep down in my heart, I knew that there was love for me.
I once wrote: my breathe exists, only in yours
Your breath is like the sun, which then becomes the moon
Before passing in a glance to whisper your name
Swift breezes of rainbow’s enchantment and somewhere out there
I know that there’s love for me.
I used to see people in the City. I watched people who were brave enough to be themselves without fear and without explanation.
I would see them and think to myself how I never dared to be so bold.
I saw love of all kinds. I saw people who were true to themselves – and whether their lifestyle was one that I understood or not, I was amazed on how true their love could be.
I was amazed by people who were so up-front about who they were and how they live yet I could hardly dare to tell anyone about my feelings – let alone, stand on a little stage and read something from my heart.
I’ve come a long way from the late night bar-fights and the downtown scuffles. I’ve come a long way since the times when we’d break the dawn and finally emerge on the street after leaving some crazy after-hours joint.
I’ve come a long way since my 20’s and my fashionable mishaps or my loveless encounters and meaningless whereabouts.
It’s been a long time since I did my best to stand against the wall with my best rock star impression; trying to pull of a modern-day James Dean with a cigarette dangling from my mouth, long haired, dressed in a black suit and a black shirt with the collar open across the lapel. I had two silver hooped earrings in my left ear – a thin silver herringbone necklace around my neck, a million wishes in my heart and one cigarette in my pack was turned upside down to be smoked as the last from the pack. I called this my wish cigarette.
I had a lot of wishes,
I had a lot of dreams. I had a lot of hopes and desires and, at the same time, I never dared to tell anyone about them.
I never dared to show my love as a free form of existence. I never dared to humble myself or to be so vulnerable and say this is me.
This is my heart on my sleeve.
This is who I really am.
I can remember thinking about some of the poets like Jim Carroll or how he admitted to his admiration for Frank O’Hara.
I thought about poems like the one entitled Having a Coke with You.
I can remember thinking about the places Jim Carroll talked about in the City and I’d wonder if this would be enough for me to be inspired.
I wondered if I would ever see anyone like Carroll and maybe we could strike up a conversation.
Maybe this would be enough to give me an edge.
I never liked the sound of my voice. I certainly never liked to stand in front of people and read.
I say this as one of those kids who used to stutter in class. I say this as one of those kids who were laughed at.
I say this as a kid who used to count the paragraphs when taking turns to read out loud in school.
I’d start praying to whatever God possible – please just give me a short paragraph because this way, I won’t sound like such an idiot.
I read poorly and I stuttered awkwardly when I would read out loud.
Why would I ever do this voluntarily?
To this day, I’ve never done a reading and I’m not sure if I will.
Who knows? Maybe someday.
I used to think about the things that I missed out on during my young life. Even back to the ideas of a prom night, which I never went to. I never had a high school sweetheart. I say this because I never went to high school. I never walked with my graduating class. I never crossed a stage and accepted my diploma.
No, my efforts were elsewhere.
One day – maybe I’ll build my own prom. Maybe I’ll have the chance to stand at a podium before a graduating class.
And I’ll let them know what’s out there.
I’ll also be sure to advise them of this: Don’t be scared. Don’t give in.
Never stop trying and never let that voice in your head talk you out of living your best dreams.
They’re all worth it.
Each and every one of them
Even the disappointments are worthwhile
Trust me on this.
Stand up and be counted.
Stand up and shout and scream.
Live your best life.
Break the dawn
Dance every step and skip to the beat that makes your heart sing.
Please do this because anything else is worse than suicide.
Anything else is not living.
No, this is only existing . . .
I view this message as valuable as my first real poem.
When I listen
I can hear this in my thoughts.
And when I look
I can see this in my dreams
and behind the movie screens on the back of my eyelids
But I only hope that someday soon . . .
I can pull of my trick
And this will be my life