I want to enter this here to break the tension a little bit. I want to enter this as means of some lightheartedness, to break up the stories and soften the emotions a little bit. Now, to be clear, I do not condone teenage nonsense and I do not promote substance use. However, please be advised, I was one of those kids too.
The following is a small detail about a time in my life just before I exited the public school system. While again, I do not condone or think this was cool – I want to emphasize that this is only a memory and not to be taken too seriously.
I know what I remember. I’m not sure what our parents remember or what their version of memories look like. However, I remember the homes where we’d go after school.
One thing that triggers the memory is the old decorations.
I remember the plastic covered couches. I remember the friend’s homes where kids were not allowed to sit on the couches in different rooms. On different occasions in different homes of different friends, I can remember a parent yelling at us for being in their house, on their carpeting, or sitting on their couches.
I remember being thrown out of one kid’s house and his mother screaming, “Go sit on the couches in your own house!”
Or, for another example, there’s a slightly hazy memory of when I had gone to someone’s house after school. I didn’t know this person well, at least not too well.
He came from an Italian home, which was not something I knew or thought about.
No, I only saw him as someone I knew from school.
He was not the coolest of them all, but then again, neither was I.
I was invited over to his home after school.
I agreed but I was not sure if this was really what I wanted to do.
As it was, I was red-eyed and fresh from a circle of friends who passed around a small pipe; hence, the reason for my bloodshot eyes. Further, I was also on the downward slope of a long, strange trip from something we called purple double barrels.
Either way and for whatever the reason might have been – I agreed.
I agreed to go over to this kid’s house after school.
I’d love to say this person’s name and while I always offer an anonymous spin to anyone I mention, I can’t mention this person’s name at all because I don’t remember.
He was someone from my trade school and when I say trade school, I sort of shake my head.
I shake my head because the trades I had in mind for myself were far different than the trades the school was teaching.
Secondly, the class I chose and the trade I picked was not the trade for me at all.
I took a photography class.
I’m not sure why.
I had no interest in photography.
I hardly knew how to work a camera, let alone operate one at a somewhat professional level.
I never developed one roll of film.
But they don’t leave you back in schools like this.
I used to sit in the dark room a lot.
There was a glow-in-the-dark clock on the wall which was perfect for my mindset at the time. I’d sit there and watch the hands tick around the face of the clock . . .But either way, I wasn’t in this class very long.
Then again, I wasn’t in school very long either.
But I digress.
I remember walking into the house of some kid who I hardly knew. I came in to the living room where I was struck by the aroma of sauce.
That’s right, sauce. I could smell food, which was amazing.
All I wanted at that time was some bread and the right to dip and taste that sauce.
I can still see this in my mind.
I can see the carpeting, which was immaculate and somewhat tan. There were plastic runners to the kitchen and runners to the dining room table. The couches were covered in plastic. The house was literally the most immaculate thing I had ever seen – this was as if I were in a museum. Speaking of immaculate, there were paintings of Jesus and statues of Mary; as in Holy Mary, the Mother of God, who prays for us sinners – now and at the hour of our death – Amen.
The house was blessed alright. The house was as clean as could be and I don’t know why or what happened.
I’m not sure where my so-called friend went or why I was left alone for the moment – but like I said, I was young and high.
I was curious about the photographs on the cabinetry which is where the family China was stored. This was a finished cabinetry with dark wood, shining in the dimness of an after-school moment, just somewhere around the time of 4:30 in the afternoon.
My curiosity caught the better of me. I noticed some family pictures which are really interesting to me – especially when the family is a bunch of strangers.
I wanted to see this.
I wanted to see the photographs which were professionally done and everyone was in a somewhat matching outfit to compliment one another
I walked over to notice the pictures. I was standing there, not too far from the dining room table which was across from the side entryway to the kitchen. And I didn’t see what was coming my way.
I didn’t know what was about to happen.
But I was about to find out.
Out of nowhere, I heard the sound of a shouting elderly woman who came running out at me with a wooden spoon, raised up like a sword to cut my head off.
The old woman charged at me, screaming in a different language.
I froze . . .
The old woman was coming at me with the spoon like a saber, shouting, and then my friend reappeared and at the same time, his mother appeared from the basement door.
She was a character to say the least.
Now, two women were screaming at me. First it was his grandmother and then his mother came in – only, at least his mother was screaming at me in English.
I didn’t know what I had done.
I didn’t know what happened.
I only knew that I was not within my best potential to respond or think clearly.
I only knew that one lady was yelling at me in Italian and then when mom came into the picture – oh, boy, was she an interesting site.
Mom was plump to say the least. Her jet black hair was perfectly sprayed into a rounded helmet. She wore a black tracksuit. Her make-up was heavily painted on and just like her house, everything about this woman was either sprayed or plastered into place; as if to be untouched like something out of a museum.
I still couldn’t figure out what was happening or why?
Why were they yelling at me?
To be fair, the drama of this moment was not long by any means.
This was only long for me because aside from the bizarreness of it all, I was still somewhat trippy and high.
Safe to say that I was unaware that I had walked off the plastic runners.
Safe to say that I stepped on the otherwise untouched part of the carpeting; in which case, you could see a series of indentations from my footprints. There was no dirt on my shoes (fortunately) but finally I started to understand why I was being yelled at.
I was asked about walking on the carpet.
The grandmother was still yelling at me in Italian and looking at me as if I were the biggest enemy of the state.
The mother was screaming at me for walking across the floor and then she asked, “Do you walk on the carpets in your house?” to which I answered, “That’s what we bought them for . . .”
Needless to say that I did not stay for dinner. Needless to say that I did not stay much longer and it would be even more needless to say that I was quickly shown the door and told to “Get out of my house!”
I looked at my so-called friend. His head sunk with fear and shame because he knew he would hear about this in school the very next day.
I was out of my head and perhaps laughing in an otherwise nervous but exceptionally high laughter, which I think made matters worse.
I looked at my young friend who seemed shriveled and spiritless
“You said your mother was going to drive me home.”
I lived several towns away. I had no other way home.
I had to deal with this and I had to listen as this poor kid who sat in the front seat of his mom’s car while she yelled at me and him the entire way home.
Speaking of home, I gave his mom some odd directions because A) I didn’t want her to remember how to get to my house and B) I didn’t want this crazy woman to know where I lived.
So, I lied and had her drop me off at a random house a few blocks away.
She wasn’t done either . . .
She wanted to come inside my house and tell my parents what I had done, which was literally walking on the carpeting in her house. Could you imagine?
Now, my poor Mother has heard a lot of complaints about me.
I’m not too sure what she would’ve said about this one.
“He did what?”
“Huh? He walked on your carpet?”
I remember getting out of the car and I think what I did was (actually, I’m pretty sure about this) I ran out and ducked through a backyard and then jumped the fence to another yard as if the cops were chasing me.
The next day, I saw my friend at school. I couldn’t figure out what this kid was thinking.
I couldn’t figure out why he invited me to his house to begin with.
Also, I somewhat remember thinking that he was going to show up to school all battered and beaten – maybe with a black-eye or belt marks across his back – or worse, welts from the wooden spoon . . .
Ah, this thing we called youth.
There were some houses that were “the cool” houses to hang around. There were some parents who allowed us kids to be kids in their homes and hang around – and this was done, not to condone our craziness but more so, I recall some of the parents would say: I’d rather you be here than in trouble on the street. At least here we can keep an eye on you.
I think about the basements of some of my friend’s houses.
I think about the basements with pool tables which is where we spent some time – only, not me as much.
I was never a great pool player. But to be clear, ordering pizza and hollering in the basement while eating and playing around wasn’t such a bad thing – even if I did suck at playing pool, the times were pretty good.
I forget how young we were yet as young as we were, to us, we swore that we were already grown.
We swore we knew it all and that we had all the answers.
I saw a picture of me the other day – I looked so young.
I was so little and coinciding with the times and the way I thought or saw myself, I thought I was this little big shot.
Boy, was I wrong.
I think of my friends today. I think about their kids who are at the age of experimentation. I think of what I did when I was in my teens and then I think about my friends who were right there alongside me – and look at them now.
Suddenly our old jokes and punchlines aren’t so funny anymore.
Suddenly, we understand the coronaries and the heart attacks we gave our parents.
They’re not so funny anymore either.
I almost feel bad about this.
I feel badly about what I put my parents through and my friend’s parents through – I feel awful.
Except, I don’t feel so badly for the friend whose grandmother looked to behead me with her wooden spoon.
I don’t feel so badly for his mother who shouted at me for walking on the carpet.
I don’t feel bad for them . . .
I kinda feel bad for the kid though.
It’s a tough thing to do – to grow up.
It’s even harder when you’re known as the kid with the crazy parents.
Speaking of, he never really showed his face around me after that experience, at least not much.
I think I offered him some mescaline to slip in his mother’s coffee when she wasn’t looking though –
(is that wrong?)
Anyway, it’s amazing to me. The plastic couches. The runners.
The statues of Jesus and Mary –
Still, I have to say this now and fairly . . .
It would have been nice to taste that sauce his grandmother was making.