Category Archives: Creative Space


An excerpt from the book I am current working on/editing:

SleepingGiantQ2

“I want to show you something,” Amanda said, leading Ashleigh inside the brick castle that resembled a dungeon. In and out of small entries, and climbing steps that felt as if they would give out at any minute, they walked to the top of the castle, until they finally spilled onto the roof.

Ashleigh gasped. The view was breathtaking. Row upon rows of trees stretched as far as she could see, yet they felt so close that she could almost touch them. The foliage was the most brilliant shades of canary yellow, pumpkin orange, forest green, and scarlet red that Ashleigh ever remembered seeing. The view was beyond stunning, it was surreal. A view that you could only find on a postcard, or in a Bob Ross painting. Nestled in the mountains, in a small New England town, a small part of Ashleigh began to heal as she allowed herself to feel lost in the beauty and charm of what would be her home over the next four years.

“After everything I’ve been through with your father,” Amanda whispered, as she stood next to her daughter, taking in the view of Quinnipiac. “I’m not going to tell you to not let this affect you, or tell you that time heals all wounds, or something bullshit like that.”

“Thanks mom,” Ashleigh said, leaning her head on her mother’s shoulder. She loved that her mother cursed. It showed that her mother was chill, and actually gave a shit, unlike most parents who were caught up in their image and what people think of them.

“But, I brought you up here today, Ash, because I found this on the Quinnipiac website, and thought you might like to see how beautiful this place is.” A single tear rolled down Amanda’s face. In a few months, Amanda knew she would be losing her pumpkin, her pride and joy, the only reason she left her abusive, ex-husband.

“I know you’re into landscapes and stuff like that,” Amanda continued. “So I thought you’d appreciate this view.”

“It’s fucking unbelievable,” Ashleigh whispered.

Amanda didn’t mind that her daughter cursed. For her, it was the one vice Ashleigh was allowed to have. Besides, she told herself. I can’t really get mad at her when I curse like a sailor. And sometimes, saying fuck makes everything feel better.

“I thought you’d like it,” Amanda added. “I also wanted you to see,” she continued. “That life can get better. I know it may not seem like it now. With everything that you’ve just went through, I know it may feel like life hates you. But it doesn’t,” she reassured her daughter. “I can’t tell you why this happened to you, all I can do is be there for you. And I’ll always be there.”

Ashleigh found a comfortable spot in her mother’s arms, and wept. Amanda kissed her daughter on the top of the head, the way she did when Ashleigh was a little girl.

“I just want you to know that I’m here for you,” Amanda said. “Day or night, whether I’m at work or,” she stopped, searching her mind for the most mundane task to complete her analogy. “Or I’m cleaning the bathroom. And you know how much I love cleaning the bathroom.”

They both giggled. Amanda’s aversion to cleaning the bathroom meant Ashleigh and Kevin were constantly on bathroom duty.

“I’m here for you pumpkin, whenever you need to call, I’m here for you. And I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but there is beauty in life, and you’re going to be attending the most beautiful school in the world.”

Ashleigh took out her cell phone, and snapped a picture of the view. Then she put her arm around her mother’s neck, and took a selfie.

“I don’t want you to let what happened to you, stop you from following your dreams and pursuing your goals,” Amanda said.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Ashleigh whispered.

“That’s right pumpkin,” Amanda said, giving her daughter another kiss.

“What if I said I wanted to study English,” Ashleigh asked. Part of her knew this wasn’t the right time to bring up her a change in career plans, the other part of her knew there would never be an opportune time.

“Then study English,” Amanda said. “Don’t think you have to study social work for me, and don’t think you have to study occupational therapy because you volunteered with grandma. I just want you to be happy, and if studying English makes you happy, study the hell out of it.”

Ashleigh laughed. It was surprising and reassuring to hear her mother’s approval.

“You can accomplish anything you put your mind to,” Amanda continued. “Don’t let some asshole stop you from following your dreams. Do so, in spite of him. In the words of my favorite movie,” Amanda said.

“Cause fuck him, that’s why,” they both said, and Amanda smiled.

An exercise on writing

Dug into my writing jar this morning, and found the word Expansion. Here’s a brief interpretation of Expansion, and what it could mean to one person.

Expansion, as in expanding one’s mind, one’s perspective, or one’s value system.

Theresa took stock of her current state. She could feel her hands and fingers intact. She could breathe – at least she felt as though she were breathing. She could open her eyes, and when she did, he was no longer there.

There in her apartment, in Hoboken, New Jersey. A floor above the guy she saw everyday on her morning run. An apartment shared with her college roommate, her best friend in the entire world. There in her apartment, she hoped she was alone; it was the first time she remembered ever feeling this way – wanting to be alone. Before he came along, she had always associated wanting to be alone with, well, loners – kids at her school she and her friends joked were socially awkward, or weirdos, what the hell is his problem.

It was a tough way for Theresa to learn about expansion. But now, underneath the covers in her bed, all alone in her apartment, wishing to God he had left, she had become one of those kids. Someone she knew someone else would say what the hell is her problem when she was in their midst.

After what he did to her, Theresa felt herself expand.

The Boogeyman

The shape, the mask, the music. Everything about the movie “Halloween”, used to scare the shit out of me. Back when I was a kid. Who saw shadows even in the darkness. Who heard noises and never knew that houses settled. Who ran from the boogeyman as soon as the lights went out, terrified that he might do to me what he did to them.

All grown up now, I no longer believe in the boogeyman. Not that boogeyman at least. Not the one that wheels a large kitchen knife or has an appetite for blood. No, this boogeyman is different.

I remember telling myself that work – a profession or even a career – was just an entity that helped earn an income. That it didn’t have any other value besides that. Until this past summer, when I began to feel him following me.

I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for a little over 5 months. It’s a never-ending job, really. One that cannot be quantified in the typical 9-5pm time frame…knows no boundaries (my daughter regularly bursts in the door when I am using the bathroom)…and does not allow you to take sick days or go on a break. Sure, it doesn’t produce income in the traditional sense; but it does produce years of nurturance and emotional connection. Priceless memories that I will cherish forever. Teaching my son how to swing from monkey bars. Basking in my daughter’s laughter as she chases bubbles.

And yet, because I have not been acquiring income in the traditional sense, I saw a silhouette of his figure behind every bush. Reminding me that I should be working.

Work. That entity that most of my employed friends tell me they wished they were doing differently. My best friend from college is a veterinarian but wishes he raced cars. Another friend in the corporate world longs for a career making and selling her own wine. Not exempt, in my previous job, I wanted to be an author and leadership trainer. All craving a different life. Or, at least, a different part of life. Even when we have it, we want something different. The boogeyman, feasting on our hopes and dreams, until they become the nightmares scaring us to death.

I try tell myself work shouldn’t define me this much, knowing it’s not the truth. Everything piece of academic and intellectual fruit I’ve eaten since my days as an undergrad tells me differently. That everything I did in college and beyond was for work – so that I could have a job, and always have access to a job. That while work does not have to define you, it should be a strong part of you. That if you’re not working, it had better be for a good damn reason; otherwise, you are the issue – it’s not work’s fault you’re unemployed. That as a man, you have but a few purposes in life, and work is one of them, if the primary one.

That’s when the bone-chilling music runs through me. When I know I cannot escape the thoughts. I. Should. Be. Working. Looking for relief, I step into the next room, and stop. He’s staring right at me. Expressionless mask. Blue jumpsuit. Fingers wrapped around a kitchen knife. Shit, I better run.

14937278_1142020112532025_3088379452131965357_n

My Canvass

Boy did I need a fix today. The white canvass of a blank screen is my drug. Seeing blank print on this screen is like my high – it takes me far away to a magical place where I have no worries (or at least they don’t worry me as much), where positive vibes are the only sensation running through my body, where I can feel, completely and utterly, safe. Safe to just be. Safe to be me. Years ago, in a distant world, it would have been a notepad and a pen. Now it’s a computer screen, providing me a fix.

We all need something to help us cope with the stressors. Nothing is absolute, so maybe not everyone needs something; but I sure as hell do. My father-in-law would say you need something to take the edge off. I guess he’s right…sort of. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many of my family members, and my friends’ family members, hooked on drugs that I could never understand turning to a substance to ease the pain. I remember my uncle getting into heated arguments with my grandmother, past midnight, walking up the whole block. Shouting, cursing. Talking about what she better not do, spitting off about when he is going to do. He was a high as he wanted to be. Probably off hair-ron…or as it is classically known, heroin. Those memories are burned within my conscious, the way an animal would be branded by its owner.

Still, taking the edge off isn’t what it’s like for me. Neither is it as described in New Jack City, when Pookie cried out, “but that shit just be callin’ me man, it be callin’ me.” That which gets my high isn’t calling me, I’m calling it. Feeling all sorts of mixed up inside, with an irritating itch, and only thing can scratch it. To be taken away from this world, even for a brief period of time. To let go of the inner strife – the frustrations and anger and disappointment – if but for a moment. To feel safe enough to just be, and just be me.

So right now, I don’t need a shot or a drink or a glass of wine. That would only make me resent the amount of time I’d have to work out, to work off the calories. No, I just need the white canvass and the blank print. Because what happened today, was some bullshit.

Please don’t tell me the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” inspired this piece. This poem isn’t so much of a rebuttal (or in any way disrespectful) to Master Angelou’s brilliant work. Instead, it’s meant to be a different take on a caged bird singing, which I felt like, years ago, when I couldn’t find a job for about half a year, and it seemed nothing was going my way. As with many difficult times, you go through a series of ups and downs. On the good days, I could tell myself to remain optimistic and felt like “Caged Birds” Angelou writes about. On the bad days, though, I felt defeated and downtrodden, like this bird.

“Please don’t tell me the Caged Bird Sings”

I often wonder what a bird trapped inside of a cage does all day;

Sitting on his perch…rocking back and forth…chirping as if someone is listening;

Looking at the same four walls,

Sick of the hideous green paint and yellow wallpaper.

I bet monotony soon sets in – perch…food pellets…water beaker…crash against the bars…perch…food pellets…water beaks…crash against the bars…

His arms probably feel heavy as lead,

For,

Every time he flaps those wings,

He smacks his beak against the cage,

Reminding himself that he’s a prisoner to the cage.

Still,

He chirps high and loud, like birds singing in the trees,

And I wonder if he ever thinks, or imagines, or dreams

What it must feel like to be free;

Does he know what it feels like to have the wind blowing against his feathers as he soars through the sky;

Or to own the skies and have it play second fiddle to a show where he is the brightest star;

Or to fly all the way up to the sun, and kiss her on the cheek, and feel her radiance against his breath.

Alas,

The caged bird doesn’t move much – perch…food pellets…water beaker…crash again the bars…

He listens to their callous laughter, patronizing tweets, and chitter-chatter of how content he should be;

As if they’ve already forgotten what it’s like to gulp mouthfuls of air,

That tastes so pure, and clean, and fresh,

The way he only hears about on those infomercials, which drown out his nightly chirping spree.

The caged bird sits on his branch,

Sulking, and swinging back and forth,

Dreaming what it must feel like to be free,

And chirping

Just to drown out the voices screaming inside of his head

So,

Please don’t tell me that you hear the caged bird singing.

I am that caged bird,

And I am screaming,

And dreaming for the day my soul will find freedom.

Reflections from a Tim Wise Address

Sooooo this happened.

Tim Wise's Autograph - 2

 

Not only did I have the luxury of getting Tim Wise’s autograph, I had the privilege of attending an event where Mr. Wise gave a riveting address. It was absolutely outstanding. To borrow a line from the sitcom “Martin”, it was all that and a pot of grits! I had heard plenty of Mr. Wise’s lectures and talks on online channels, but this was different. Being in the room and hearing the inflection in his voice when he spoke the most salient points, listening to the quickness with which he sometimes spoke (which reminded me of my own fast-talking style), and sensing his frustrations over a student who tried to monopolize the Q and A session, those were just some of the advantages I could have only received by attending the session with Mr. Wise, in person. It was akin to drinking orange juice with pulp. Sure, in essence, pulped orange juice is the same as orange juice without pulp. But the pulp is a flavorful reminder that you are drinking orange juice. Not apple juice or cranberry juice. Not fruit punch of Kool-Aid. But, orange juice. Similarly, seeing and hearing Mr. Wise speak in person, was a flavorful reminder of where I was, and more importantly, why I was there.

The messages Mr. Wise delivers resonates with me for a multitude of reasons. One of those reasons is that he (being a White male, taking on a supposed Black issue, delivering it to mostly-White audiences) has made the discussion about race and racism easier to have, to the extent that discussing race can be easy, that is.

See, I’ve noticed that whenever I speak about race, racism, or racial constructs, SOME of my friends who are White (and even some who are Black) respond that I’m being too sensitive, that I need to have thicker skin, how it’s only a joke. In much the same way my male friends reply that I can’t take a joke because I don’t laugh when comedians who use rape as comedic material. I won’t laugh at the horror suffered by a survivor of sexual violence, just like I won’t laugh at the pains suffered by someone who’s been afflicted with cancer.

It’s almost as if they’re saying, why do you care so much about this. Well, for starters, the discussion about race or racism is not purely an intellectual conversation for me. It goes much deeper than that. Here’s what I mean, I’d suspect that people who have not been targeted because of their race are able to have a dialogue about racism from a purely intellectual perspective. What they think about racism, much the same way one can talk about a fire that’s happening in another state. It’s from a distance. It’s something that someone else is experiencing. So the thoughts and ideas are conceptual or idealistic. As in, if people are experiencing harassment by law enforcement, they ought to comply because, in the end, officers of the law are here to protect us. Well, in an ideal world, yes, that should be the case for everyone. But, we live in America – a land that, while it has its advantages, it is far from idealistic.

So for me, and I’d suspect this to be true of other Black folks, a dialogue about race, racism, and racial constructs is way beyond intellectual. It’s first psychological, then emotional, and then further down the line, intellectual. Given the same example as above, when people of color experience harassment by law enforcement, it stimulates painful memories of an uncle who told stories of cops taking him down by the docks so no one could hear him scream. Or stories about people like Emmitt Till, murdered for supposedly whistling as a White woman. Or stories, and images, of our enslaved ancestors, whipped, kicked, spat on; raped, pillaged, and torn from their families. Harassment by one officer is never just that. For us, it’s always linked to the historical treatment of our people. Treatment that was legal, at one point in time. I sometimes ask myself why in the world would America find it wrong that police harass Black folk in 2016 if it was legal for police, and any other White citizen, to kill Black folk in 1955? Even in 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated? We’ve had some major accomplishments in the past 50 years, but elements of injustices are still alive and well.

Then, it moves to an emotional level. Fear of being killed. Anger for the way my grandmother was berated by a White cop. Frustration at the calculated prejudice, targeting of Black and Brown folks, yet turning the other way when the same actions (criminal, suspicious, or not) are committed by White folks. The agony knowing officers don’t give a shit about you. The hypocrisy stirring inside – sure your great-great grandfather may have fought for this country. But, he had no more rights than a dog. Not able to vote, own his own home, or pursue the supposed American dream. Now in present-day America, while you may have more advantages than your great-great grandfather, you still are without many of those same freedoms.

If you’re able to move past those states, then, perhaps an intellectual conversation about race can be had. But it’s pretty hard to be unbiased, when you’re the recipient of all of the biased behaviors. It’d be like someone asking you to give an opinion about home invasions that does not take into account the thousands of times your home was burglarized. Or having an unbiased stance on drunk driving laws, when your parents were killed by a drunk driver. It’s damn near difficult to not see racism in many of the injustices inflicted upon Black and Brown folks when so much of the historical treatment of Black and Brown folks was racial. In many respects, these two worlds are simply not mutually-exclusive. Not, one, bit.

So, to my friends who are White, that’s where I’m coming from. When you hear about a Black teenager that was killed by a White police officer, it may not even trigger an emotional response. But perhaps, an intellectual comment – so sad. And your empathy is good, so don’t get my wrong. But when I hear about a Black teenage that was killed by a White police officer (or vigilante citizen) – Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown – I shutter, knowing very well, the next Black male could be me (although I am far from a teen). Or worse, my son.

We all have fears. Some are irrational and humorous, like people who fear they’ll be eaten by a shark if they step foot in the waters of Lake George. Other fears, however, are warranted, like fearing you might be killed by a police officer if you don’t comply, or sit in your chair as he barks order, or disobey a command, or look him in the eye, or possess anything that could be mistaken for a weapon (whether it be a toy gun or cell phone box), or makes the officer fear for their life. These sort of justifications sound eerily similar to the reasons slave owners gave for enslaving our African ancestors, beating their slaves who were disobedient, punishing Blacks for wanting more rights and freedoms, and legalizing the mistreatment of Black folk who advocated for equality. It wasn’t that long ago that it was legal, that is, not against the law, to beat abuse and murder Black folks who misbehaved.

If America wants me, and other people of color, to lay down our fears, it first must be willing to lay down the ill-treatment of its non-White citizens. Whether Black men, or Persian women. More than that, we should be prosecuting White police officers who kills Black teenagers the same way we prosecute any other murderer. But also, owning up to the racist past that our country was built upon and working to create a more equal tomorrow.

I’m not asking America to pay for the years of counseling I’d most likely need to get over my fears, anxieties, and paranoias. What I am asking is that America stop breathing life into those fears because Black folks aren’t allowed to have mental illnesses, but that’s another subject for another day.

If you Do it Right

As I continue working on A Matter of Semantics second edition, a NEW lesson has worked its way into the revisions. Here are parts of that new lesson, raw and uncut. Enjoy!

But, if you want this unforgettable, magical, intoxicating sort of college experience, you have to do it right, and give the experience all that you have – the full complement of your time, energies, and focus, as though you were in a monogamous relationship. You have to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities your college experience will present and afford you and not just those that are within your comfort zone. You have to allow yourself the ability to transform as a result of the experiences you will encounter, and not fight reality when you realize you have grown into someone new, someone different, or someone your high school friends no longer recognize.

There is no underestimating the impact of the college experience. It has the ability to change your life, for the better.

This life lesson – of dedicating yourself completely, fully, unselfishly – one you can carry with you in every facet of life. Whether you’re in a committed relationship, on a sports team, involved in an organization, or pursuing graduate studies. If you want to get the most out of those experiences, you have to commit yourself.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with being content with your backup role on the soccer team, for instance. Nothing wrong with playing for the sake of playing or just to have fun. Nothing wrong, whatsoever, with being on a team, in an organization, or in a relationship just for the experience of it all.

But if you want get the most out of your involvement on that team, organization, relationship, or in this case, college experience, you have to give yourself the permission to be vulnerable and allow the experience to transform you in ways you never thought possible. You have to give yourself – completely, fully, and unselfishly – to the experience. In short, you have to do it right, and that means going all in.


The Long Way Home

I’m taking it waaay back with this piece. This is one of the first stories I composed, in its original form, teenage voice, flaws and all. I was a high school senior and was given an assignment for my creative writing class. I’m not sure what my teacher was expecting, but this is the story that pour itself out, from inside of me. I hope you enjoy it!

The Long Way Home

     Damn!  I knew I should’a waited for the twenty-seven.  I don’t feel like walking down this street, Victor says to himself while riding the bus back to his house.  He looks out of the window and can hardly see anything; it’s very dark outside.  His stop is nearing.  Almost half-heartedly, Victor presses the bell which signals the bus driver that a passenger wants to get off.  He slowly rises out of his slouched position and walks to the nearest exit.  “Back Door” he yells while struggling to push the twin doors open.  The bus driver presses a button on his control panel and with a slight touch, both doors open.  Victor takes three steps downward onto the sidewalk, turns around, and waits for the bus pull off.  He looks straight ahead.  Across the street from the bus stop lies a vacant lot.  Victor is all alone.  He doesn’t like what he sees.  He waits for the cars to pass, looks both ways, and begins his journey:

 

Complete darkness surrounds the city streets as Victor crosses over into the vacant lot.  He again realizes he shouldn’t have taken the No. 13 bus; it may indeed be a long walk home.  He could have waited another five minutes for the No. 27 bus that would have dropped him off around the corner from his house.  Instead, Victor gave in to his impatience and settled for the long walk.  He enters the lot which serves as a short-cut for two adjoining streets.  He flows freely over dirt, candy wrappers, and empty crack viles.  He trots around rocks, broken glass, and used condoms. The sounds of the streets play an unnerving tune on Victor’s ear drums.  He hears random gun shots, police sirens, and skidding stolen cars.  His taste buds are so displeased with disgust that he almost vomits.  Yet, Victor calms himself and tries not to inhale the smells of piss (which has amassed from constant urination), feces (from stray dogs), and weed (from the people standing outside getting high).  Despite the distractions, it’s simply Victor against his journey, one-on-one, man-to-man.  He takes one last step out of the filth and escapes, though he’s far from relieved.

As he continues his journey, Victor comes across a frightening sight from his childhood: a circular, three story gray house surrounded by roaming cats.  He always trembled upon sight of the house and tonight was no exception.  Right next to the lifeless house lies a similar house with a rectangular shape and a huge side yard.  A streetlight shines down in front of the rectangular house revealing its color, a dull green.  Victor begins staring at the two house, noting their similarities and difference.  Suddenly, he hears sounds of swift movement and chains rattling: “Woof! Woof!  Woof! Woof! Woof!”  Two humungous Rottweilers violently charge in Victor’s direction.  He’s saved only by the gates which seals the beasts in their den.  The dogs’ ferocious barks almost send Victor retreating to the opposite side of the street, nevertheless, causing him to walk with more caution and more quickly too.

Victor’s journey is almost over.  He’s now able to see his house on a street which is otherwise, a ghost-town.  However, darkness is still following him.  All the streetlights are out, save three.  A slight joyous feeling enters Victor’s body as he becomes more relieved.  While looking about, grinning, and almost mocking the darkness and horrors of the streets, Victor notices a small animal lying on the ground.  Somebody done ran over another damn cat, he says to himself, shaking his head in disappointment.  The cat’s gray fur is torn and stained with its blood.  The cat’s intestine, guts, and brains are all over the street.  The feline’s internal organs hanging out look like spaghetti and Victor anticipates the horrible odor the corpse will give off.  If I close my mouth and try not to inhale, I won’t even smell the dead cat, Victor says to himself.  Victor takes a deep breath, performs the arduous task, and in an instant, it’s over.  Ha!  He laughs to himself knowing that he has the streets beaten.

As Victor heads for the home stretch, a car on the opposite side of the street drives slowly towards him.  The car stops.  A dark figure wearing a black leather jacket gets out.  The figure begins to walk in Victor’s direction.  Victor looks to his right, sees another vacant lot, and assumes the figure is going to take a leak.  As suspected, the man in the black jacket darts towards the lot.  He unzips his jeans and takes a piss.  Steam rises above the figure in the cold air.   The man in the black jacket turns around.  He zips his zipper and walks back in the direction from which he came.   On his way back, he stops just before Victor, unzips his jacket, and pulls out an enormous handgun.

“Come up off that cash now, motherfucka”, the man in the black jacket says.  Suspecting that he sells drugs, the man demands Victor’s nightly earnings.  He takes a step towards Victor.  Victor can not see his face.  He only sees a dark figure and the large gun.

“C-C-Cash…”,  Victor replies.

“Yeah!  That loot you just got finished making…Hand it over!”  He takes another step towards Victor.  Victor is now able to capture every detail of the weapon: as dark as night itself, its huge rectangular frame conjures thoughts of the house with the Rottweillers; it appears to be a .45mm pistol.  The man’s finger is gently caressing the trigger.  Victor pleads for his life.  He’s so terrified that he can barely speak.

“I…I don’t got no loot.  I just…I just got off the bus man.  I don’t even clock”, Victor responds.  He pulls his pockets from inside his pants.  He offers a handful of lintballs.

“Then what the hell you doin’ out this time-a-night?!”

“I just…I just came from downtown.  I had to walk my girl home”

The man in the black jacket stares blankly at Victor.  Victor looks up at the man as if he was receiving communion from a priest.  Time seems to stop.  The man in the black jacket opens his mouth.  Victor fears the result.

“Get the fuck out my face”, the man in the black coat utters.

Yes!  He’s spared me, Victor thinks to himself.  Victor’s first instinct is to run.  No.  He can’t.  He slowly walks away.  The man in the black jacket returns to his car.  Victor speeds up his pace.  Before long, he’s sprinting.

While Victor is racing home, he hears a door open.  “Where the fuck the money at”, someone shouts.

“He ain’t have none.”

“What the fuck you mean he ain’t have no money!  He wouldn’t be out this time-a-night if he didn’t!”

“Man, get your ass in the car so we can bail.”

“Fuck that!”

“Come on man, let’s get the fuck outta here.”

“Naw!  He holdin’ out on us!”  Someone shouts to Victor, “Yo motherfucka you ain’t leavin that easy!”

Victor hears the voice calling, but cannot turn around.  He continues running.  Suddenly, he hears a series of shots being fired.  Victor falls after being hit multiple times.  Instantly, he loses his sense of smell.  Before too long, he can neither hear nor taste.  Victor’s vision is still strong.  He can see his own blood as a streetlight shines down upon it.  He starts convulsing.  The sight of his own blood is horrifying.  His eyesight begins to weaken.  He soon goes blind.  The last thing Victor feels is a hand taking off his sneakers and wrestling off his socks.

October Evenings

Our campus was so charming that it was intoxicating – just one visit to the Q was enough for any high school student to fall in love. The phrase the grass is always greener didn’t apply to our campus; for, no matter where you stood, the patch of grass right by your feet seemed to be the greenest anywhere on earth, and each blade appeared as if it had been individually groomed, much like a beautiful girl who spends hours in front of the mirror, making sure each strand of her hair falls perfectly in place. The trees were tall enough that they provided ample shade when we walked to class, but weren’t so monstrous that they belonged in a forest. Each time I inhaled, I couldn’t help but notice the air was fresher and purer than any I had ever tasted, like a tall glass of sweet, ice-cold lemonade on a scorching hot summer’s day. The sun was warmer, brighter, and yellower than I had ever seen, and it painted our skies a breathtaking brilliant blue. When night fell, the moon glowed, and the stars twinkled so luminously that the usually pitch-black skies appeared just a few shades darker than the afternoon skies. During those four years, it felt like San Diego had visited Connecticut, especially in October when the foliage of Sleeping Giant Mountain (which sat, rather slept, across the road from our campus) would turn the same brilliant shades of canary yellow, pumpkin orange, forest green, and scarlet red that I only remember seeing in Bob Ross’s paintings, or, as we were, nestled in the mountains of New England. Even when the weather was inclement, it was still, somehow perfect: when it rained, it would only pour for an hour (or so), and afterward, rainbows stretched across our bright blue skies; and when it snowed, classes were canceled and we spent the day sledding down hills, having snowball fights, and making snowmen, and afterwards, we sipped beer or hot chocolate (or, perhaps, both) to warm up.

By October, the New England air was beginning to kick – it bit like Jack Daniel’s, which my friends and I drank together on one October evening during our freshmen year.

(The rest is a creative recreation one of the memorable nights, my freshman year.)

“What the fuck,” the groggy voice called out from the other end of the hall, sounding like a small animal crying for help. We couldn’t help but chuckle when we heard his heavy footsteps come rumbling.

“So you like the Beastie Boys,” I said to Chris as Little Sean burst into the room.

“The Beastie Boys are dope,” Rick added, almost as if it was planned; the word dope sounded oddly out of place coming from his baritone voice, and we all snickered.

“You guys are dead,” Little Sean screamed.

We all burst into laughter. Little Sean knew he was the butt of the perfect prank, but the frustrated look on his face told us he didn’t know why were picking on him this time…and to such an extreme measure.

“Watch out! Little Sean is gonna puke,” Adam yelled, as he rolled over on his bed (nearly crushing Rick), and slipped underneath his blanket. For a big guy, Adam moved pretty fast, but his blanket only covered his chest, and he looked like pigs in a blanket with his legs and feet dangling off his bed.

Little Sean looked like a deer in headlights. It was almost as if he’d forgotten that he puked all over Chris’ rug the night before. You could see the faded memories coming back to him as the color left his face. He was shocked and stunned, and for the first time since I met him, Little Sean was speechless – no retort, no sarcasm, no using someone else’s words, nothing.

He walked away sheepishly, and we couldn’t help but laugh, and a few minutes later we all ran down the hall, (Adam had grabbed his camera) and watched Little Sean struggle to turn everything right-side-up.

It took Little Sean the rest of the day to return his stuff back to the way it was, and clean up the shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shaving cream that had spilled on the floor. From down the hall, we could hear the loud clank of furniture hitting the floor, and we laughed with every bang. We finished watching Austin Powers a couple of hours later, and Tim and I went to help Little Sean flip his bed right-side-up.

It wasn’t until ten o’clock when Little Sean joined the rest of us across the hall. We pretended to hide our drinks as he walked in, but he wanted no part of alcohol that night. Instead, he slipped Chris a $75 Target gift card, with the words My Bad written on the envelope, and we did a socials; this time, with Kamikaze shots.

A Reflection on Convocation

I attended convocation at the place where I work, today. It was okay. Too hot and humid for my liking. But I quickly found a spot in the shade, and attempted to cool off after the student government president, dean of faculty, and president of the college all delivered addresses. Being there, watching the students sitting in plastic chairs, baking under the sun, reminded me of my first day at college.

It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime memories. Like the day you get your driver’s license, your senior prom (for better or for worse), the day you get married, the moment you watch your child come into the world (if you’re lucky enough to experience the latter two.).

My first day at college was a mixture of excitement (ecstatic about the physical distance I’d be placing between me, and the place where I grew up), sadness (it felt like I was leaving the place where I grew up, and everyone I knew, behind), and anxiety (I wondered less about whether my roommates would be weirdoes, and more about whether I brought enough deodorant).

But that first day, I was away from my family, really, for the first time in my life. Away from the responsibilities of coming home at a decent hour, or calling my mother to tell her where I’d be. Removed from the wailing police sirens and other urban lullabies that sang me to sleep. Separated from my friends, the bodegas, bus routes and Path trains, and everything that made New Jersey home.

The one thing I didn’t know – the one thing I wish I had known – was that, that day, I was literally starting my life. It wasn’t like the time I went to a different high school than all of my friends, and I had to adjust. It was like the time I moved to a different part of the city, and I had to make new friends. No, starting college was much different than anything I had ever experienced.

That night, I remember setting up my things and going to bed. I hadn’t slept much the night before, and my roommates wouldn’t be arriving until the next day. When the next day arrived, it became real. The nightlife. The drunkenness. My classmates wandering around from building to building. Chatting, buzzing, trying desperately to fit in.

I sat back, watching it all unfold, thinking to myself, is this really how it’s going to be for the next four years. Wondering where, or how, I’d even fit in. Fitting in, isn’t that what most students are just trying to do? Find their place, their niche, the place where they feel like they belong. That was me on a Saturday night, with most of my classmates (or so it seemed) stumbling from party to party, praying life didn’t pass them by.

The pit of my stomach felt unsettled. I knew I’d belonged, but that’s not what was playing out in front of me. I wanted no part of the inebriated environment. That was some shit I couldn’t get down with. Some shit that I judged my classmates for. See, what I didn’t know at that time, was that we were all in the same boat – drunk or not. Laughing with people we’d just met or sitting by our lonesome. We were all in the same predicament. Just trying to make this new place feel like home.

And, all these years later, that’s become so much of what life is about. Trying to make things feel normal, like you’ve been there forever. Whether it’s a new job or a new house. A cute guy you just met or the newest cell phone you just had to buy. We’re all in the same boat. Trying to make each, and every experience, feel like a little less intimidating, a little more welcoming. An organic extension of ourselves. Like that old Cheers song, a place where everybody knows our name.

That’s what so much of life has become. Vying, trying, and fighting, desperately, just to not feel out of place. Whether we’re chatting on our cell phones while walking down the street, meanwhile missing out on life that’s taking place all around us. After all, who wants to be an outsider, when it’s much more comfortable being part of the in crowd – however you define that term.

The college experience teaches us lesson that we can hold onto for the rest of our lives. Life is going to bring uncertainty and anxiety. Life is going to be confusing and chaotic. Life isn’t always going to feel normal and organic. The sooner we allow ourselves to get used to this reality, the better off we’ll be at adjusting to the every-changing scenery around us.

I wish I could tell my eighteen-year-old self that, the day I moved into college. But that’s also the beauty of it. Some things you can’t learn reading some obscure passage or by heeding the advice of other people. Some things you just have to learn on your own. Like how to make each and every experience, an organic extension of yourself.

Next page →
%d bloggers like this: