Memories From the Balcony – My Room

There’s only a few more days left before I close this journal. But before I go, I wanted to go back to where my so-called life began.
I can still see it, my first real bedroom.
I can see what it looked like the last time I left. I remember the way it was all empty yet there was something still in there. Maybe it was me.
Maybe this was the memories of my youth. Whatever it was, I could feel this inside of me.

I could feel this when I closed the door for the last time.
Just like that, I left my childhood behind me. 

My room was upstairs and to the left. My Mother and Father’s room was across the hall and my brother’s room was downstairs. His was the easiest room to sneak out of because his window led out to the backyard which was good for him. This was good for him in his younger, crazy years.
Yes, my brother was crazy too. He was crazy in a different regard. He was more popular and, yes, girls loved him.
They told me this too. He was the big town athlete. But me, I was different.
I was in competition, of course.
I was insecure about this – absolutely.
I wasn’t big or strong like my brother.
I wasn’t tough like he was.
I wasn’t too cool either.

I was six years younger, small, puny, and, to be clear, I was painfully thin.
I had no athletic ability. I wasn’t tough by any means. I might have been crazy tough but so what?
Everyone’s crazy in their own way.
Perhaps my willingness to reach “crazy” came as a means to cope or to survive in such a small, skinny body.
Plus, let’s not forget that to be young and unpopular is as threatening as a deadly disease.
I failed to understand myself and my worth.
I was unsure and uncomfortable and awkward too.
Yes, this was me.

My bedroom saw me through each different phase of my youth.
I used to play here.
I’d pretend here. I used to dream here.
I played in my room with some of my friends.
I thought about being a writer here too; only, I’m not sure that I knew what this meant.
I’m not sure when I started to try and write poetry. I’m not sure how poetic any of this was, but this is where that dream began.
I remember the mirror in my bedroom. This hung on the wall in the same exact spot.
I remember the times I tried to redecorate and update the features of my room.
This ran from early boyhood to preteen and up to the teenage years and into my troubled years.

My room: This is where I’d sit and come to find refuge from all the craziness in the world. 
I had two windows in my bedroom. One window faced the front of the house.
The side window led out to the roof of the garage. 

I used to climb out of this window. I used to climb up onto the top of my roof and watch the cars drive by.
My house was on a main street and the view from the roof was somewhat healing at times.
Our home was neither the largest or the nicest in the neighborhood. Either way, this is where I lived. This is where I slept. This is where I grew and this is where I learned about life. 

I had my share of hiding spots in this room.
Safe to say that my hiding spots began as innocent places where I’d hide my so-called buried treasure.
I’d keep little things in there, like tiny pocket knives or thing I had found while exploring. I’d hike around in the empty, vacant lot which was a large plot of land across from my home. This was the only plot of land that remained undeveloped in my town. This part of town used to be part of an old airfield too, with history to match. But this was long before my time.

The empty lot was a playground to me. This is where I’d dig for buried treasure. This is where I built a few clubhouses.
But unfortunately, the older kids and the town knuckleheads used this lot as a playground also.
Only, their reasons for playing were fueled by ideas of beer and a place to smoke weed. This was a good place to be away from the cops or anyone else who would interrupt their fun.

My town was suburban.
We were not a town of great wealth. No one was poor either but we were in the middle. Not upper or lower class. Just in the middle. 

I walked to the edge’s of my town and back. I walked all over. Then again, life was different back then. Kids were never inside.
No one ever stayed home. Everyone went out.
Or, maybe it’s safer to say that everyone I knew was outside.
We were all outdoors and doing something. 

I never knew much about the kids from the other crowds. Then again, I’m sure none of them knew about me either – least of all, no one knew the true inner workings of who I was or what I thought or what I believed.
Then again, does anyone really know who we are?
Did we know?
Did you?

I found my images and so-called personalities and weapons of self-destruction here in this town.
And my room?
Well, this is where I went to find refuge. This was my shelter from the storm.
The mirror in my room had always been with me. This mirror saw me go through changes. This saw me before I sprouted and began to grow, which was later than the other kids my age.
I was a late bloomer. I was young-looking which wasn’t so easy.
At best, I could only be cute. I was skinny.
Too skinny, in fact, and this was not only noticed but people would make fun of me.
I was picked on.
Sure, I was.
I had countless moments in my room, battling with the different ideas of life and what I thought life was supposed to be.
I had personal battles here about my worth and about whether I could ever be happy – or at least seen as somewhat normal (or, whatever that means).

I used to rehearse in the mirror. I used to rehearse what I would say when someone picked on me. I rehearsed arguments with my parents here. I rehearsed what I would say the next time I was made fun of.
I’d rehearse what I’d say to a girl I liked – but then again, I’d often drop the ball or worse, I’d do something wild or embarrassing. Plus, I was not the desired one

This room was somewhat cocoon-like for me.
This was a place where I could shut the lights in my room.
Then, I could put on some of the trippy lights, like a black-light or the spinning lights that sent prism-like colors around my room.
I would find the right music and allow myself to slip away into a sort of semi-glazed state.

No one could get to me here, at least not really.
I had my escape hatch which was the window onto my roof. This roof saw me go from an innocent climb to a rebellious posture. Eventually, I sat on the roof of my home, late at night, and watching the sky with a tiny flask and a pack of Marlboro Reds.
For the record, yes. I smoked more than cigarettes. I smoked a lot of different things in my room.
Sure I did. 

But the mirror – it was always there.
Always looking back at me.
I suppose this might be why I always had a problem with seeing my reflection.
Perhaps this was due to some of the drug-fueled moments that went beyond the fun and experimental stages.
Maybe this is because I hated the sight of myself, especially after the cocaine wars that grew more intense.
Especially when the freebase came in or crack or worse, I hated to see myself in the mirror after the high wore off and all that was left was despair and regret.
The only answer was “more.”
The only thing that could redeem me at that moment was the same thing that was killing me.
This was slowly and euthanizing me and my life, one blast at a time. 

And talk about skinny –

By the time I was finally apprehended and taken into custody for a few charges, I was at the verge of my 17th birthday. I was looking at time. Real time. Yet, this was kindergarten compared to what could have been.
I was released to my parents’ care which, of course, there’s always someone who wonders where my parents were in all of this.
Just to be clear, every parent says that would never happen to my kid. Do you know where my parents were? They were working. That’s where. Did they try to intervene? Sure they did.
Did they try to get me help? Of course, they did. Was I receptive? No.
Was I reacting to something in my emotional or mental chemistry? Absolutely!

I had been diagnosed or should I say labeled when I was young – at about 11 or 12 years-old.
I was told that I was emotionally disturbed.
But not when I was in my room.
No, I was okay here. I was protected here. I had music. I had an old piece of shit television, but at least the television worked.
I had posters on the wall. I had little hiding spots that only I knew about.
I kept my tools hidden. When I say tools, I mean the tools of my so-called trade. This is where I kept my stashes. This is where I kept my puppies and empty baggies. This is where I kept a razor blade to cut more than just the lines on a tiny little mirror.

At the end of August in 1989, I had to clean my room. At this time, I had to get rid of everything because I was about to go away. Let’s say I had to go away on a teenage detour, so-to-speak. 

I was about to leave and go to rehab. Either that or it was jail. But like I said, talk about skinny – I weighed in at 80 lbs. I was pasty and clammy and my skin was somewhat green. I had black rings beneath my eyes and whether I was ever charming or charismatic at all; whatever I was, I was far from my true self. 

I remember leaving early in the morning. Mom and The Old Man had to drive me up to a town called Kerhonkson. This is where the first facility was. I remember looking at my room, which was like looking at the scene of the crime. I cleaned up most of my things. All of the posters were gone. My things were thrown away. The television and the stereo remained. The mirror was exactly in the same spot, looking at me as I looked back and closed the door behind me.

It was four months before I’d see my room again.
As fate would have it, I saw this in the month of December because The Old Man had his first heart attack. That’s right, I emphasize the word “first” because this was the first of many.

I was allowed to go home with a “shadow” which was another member of the facility I was in. This was someone who would watch over me – just in case I got antsy or wanted to run.
I was driven home by a priest named Father Anthony.
Father Anthony worked at the facility too.
This is the place I refer to as The Farm.

By this time, I moved from one facility to another. I finished my 28 days in Kerhonkson and then spent 42 days in a town called Liberty before I was moved once more to a long-term treatment facility or so-called therapeutic community. This was in Hancock. The farm was tough and strict and more so like a small work farm for kids who struggled with behavioral, substance or alcohol use.

I can remember walking in my room for the first time after the months had passed. My head was not in the same place. Safe to say that I had done some damage to my mind. I was somewhat foggy and fried yet the fog had began to lift.
Memories of blackouts and nights began to come back to me.
Some of these memories were shameful. Some were tragic. Some were funny, at least in some regard.
And of course, the mirror was still there on my wall, exactly where I had left it. 

I swear this was haunting. I knew that perhaps there was probably an old package or something hidden in one of my old stashing places. I didn’t say anything about this to my shadow from the farm. I kept this a secret, just in case I needed an edge or relief. Yet at the same time, getting high wasn’t even a thought.
Instead, I was worried about losing The Old Man and the chance to finally have a relationship with him. 

The mirror looked back at me though.
As if to say, I know who you are.
I know where you’ve been and I know what you’ve done.
You’ll never get away from me.

I went back to the farm the next day.
The Old Man seemed to be on the mend and he promised he was going to feel better.
I remember there was a book by Robert Fulghum at his bedside. He was reading this at the time.
I never read much. At least, never an entire book nor did I ever read just for reading’s sake. 

Two weeks later, it was Christmas Eve. . .
I had to go back again.
I had to go see The Old Man.

I went to my room. I looked around.
I didn’t think about checking my stashing places.
I didn’t think about anything. But yes, the mirror was right there, looking back at me.

I know who you are.
I know what you’ve done.
I know your secrets.
I know about your pain.
I know why you tried to hide your eyes behind the long hair.
I know about the scars.
I know about the touches.
I know who did this
and I know what you did too.
I know who you are . . .

Needless to say, I slept downstairs on the couch in the family room.
After The Old Man passed, I was in my room again looking around at the things that I had grown up with.
Yet, none of this looked familiar to me. I knew what everything was.
I knew why and where things were placed; but at the same time, I was a stranger in a strange land.

The phone rang . . .
It was my so-called old friends.
They drove by my house and saw the light was on in my bedroom.
They called to ask if I wanted to “hang out” which, in fairness, I knew what this meant. 

I could hear it in their voices. I knew what they were doing. I knew where they were going and yet, The Old Man just died.
Did they ask if I was okay?
Did they say “Hey, we’re coming over to cheer you up?”
No, they wanted to head out to East New York, Brooklyn to cop dope –

I left my room again and would not return until September 1990.
I was gone for about a year.
I remember the day I came home and walked into my room.

The first thing I did –
I got rid of that mirror . . .

I redid my room and had carpeting, wall hanging and made this into a new suite-like room.
I remember when Mom sold the house.
I remember being the last one to leave.
I closed the door behind me and said goodbye.

I know who I was.
I know why.

I know why I’m afraid too.
I remember closing the door – this hurt me too.
I suppose this hurt me the same as this would hurt anyone –


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