Let Me Just Get a Little Taste

garfield-lasagna

So apparently I have a new hobby now. It basically consists of me constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’m sure it doesn’t come to any surprise that this doesn’t make me feel very comfortable. However, life isn’t as short as the YOLO crowed would lead you to believe. Latinos have a proverb that says “hierba mala nuca muere”. Which translates to bad grass never dies. Or in other words, those that live a crappy life tend to live a really long one. I truly believe that it is important to challenge yourself constantly or run the risk of living a long miserable existence. I figure now is as good a time as any to get myself motivated.

The first thing that I chose to tackle was to completely reinvent my eating habits. At first I thought I should do so gradually. You know– to make it a bit easier on me. After all, you don’t just stop being a professional glutton overnight. Or so I thought.  But after some heavy deliberation. I decided to forgo that strategy. I mean a crack head doesn’t just take smaller and smaller hits until he is ready to wean himself off the pipe. Well maybe some do. There are always exceptions to the rule after all.  But the majority that do get clean don’t go that route. I figured that if I wanted to do this right, I would have to do it the hard way. Which meant that I would have to give myself as little leeway as humanly possible. So I chose to skip the foreplay and go right for the nitty-gritty.

Well as you might have guessed it, this has been psychological torture for me. I don’t know how you skinny or moderately plump people deal with food, but for the morbidly obese, food isn’t something that you just consume to keep you standing above ground for a few more days. It is a psychological crutch that gives you an immense feeling of comfort. Eating food for (some) of the obese is a bit like a self destructive act, attune to cutting yourself, or taking a hit from your favorite street level pharmaceutical. Although the act of overindulging on foods that don’t have much nutritional value may be harmful to you, for whatever reason the pleasure centers in the brain fire off on all cylinders giving you a momentary sense of relief and numbing you from the pain that you are trying to escape from. Of course the sense of relief that you feel is fleeting at best. Once you’ve had your fill of the sugary goodness or a small mound worth of carb loaded meals, the feeling of disgust come over you sinking you back a little deeper than where you were before you ate. So eventually you overeat again, and and the vicious cycle begins.

The way I chose to change my habits was simple really. I would eat nothing but leafy greens, lean meats, drink nothing but water, and I would allow myself one bowl of oatmeal every morning. I’m still eating the same quantity of foods as I was before, but I changed what I was eating. I never realized it until I started my new eating habits that my addiction to sugary foods and carbs was akin to having an addiction to drugs. I’ve been to two wedding and one birthday party since I started this. At each event there was plenty of soda, alcohol, desserts and cake. Each time it took every ounce of my fiber to resist giving in and allowing myself a few morsels. It was so trying for me that at several points I felt a drastic mood shift in me. I could feel myself getting agitated. Angry even. My mouth watered just by looking at all the delicious poison. What I hated most was just seeing everyone eating and drinking to their heart’s content. Everyone around me having the time of their lives, while I stood around, chewing on some chicken or drinking my 9th bottle of water for the day. To say that I was feeling a little envious was putting it mildly.

Everytime I walk into one of those big box stores or walk through the aisles at the supermarket, I am tempted by what seems like an endless supplies of sugary snacks and carb or starch loaded foods, that I know damn well taste 1000 times better than the spinach that I’ve been chewing on like a goddamn brontosaurus. But I am more than my urges. Or at least I tell myself that I am. So I resist. I let the urge wash over me, and then wait patiently for it to dissipate. It’s hard. Really, really, hard. It’s draining really. One shouldn’t have to expand so much willpower and patience on a simple thing like deciding what to eat for your next meal. And yet, here I am doing exactly that. I would say it’s not fair, but the truth is I did this to myself. I had my fill so to speak, and now it’s time for me to pay the piper.

The good news is that the effort that I have put in over the last 3 weeks seem to be paying some dividends. I’ve dropped 15 pounds and counting. So I’m feeling good about that. I won’t proclaim that I’ve won in any way because I I’ve failed at trying to lose weight dozens of times before. But I will say it is a good start.  I won’t start working out just yet, just because I know that if I increase my energy usage then my hunger will reach almost monstrous proportions. Slow and steady is the way to go for now. Once I hit the 300 lbs mark, then I will start working out again, and see if I can get those dimples on my butt cheeks that I have always wanted. Anyway peeps I am outty. I’ll probably do a post a month on this to kinda let you all know how my battle with the bulge is going. Until the next one, catch ya’ll later.

Married to One’s Sadness

 

image

I was listening to WBEZ, which is the local NPR radio station here in Chicago, as I was making my way home from work. The station was broadcasting a story was concerning a married couple that had interviewed each other about their life together. At first I really wasn’t paying any attention to what was being said because my mind was somewhere else trying to escape the drudgery of being stuck in rush hour traffic. Slowly, but surely, their conversation earned my attention. From what I was able to gather, the husband was a Pakistani student here on a student Visa. The wife was born and raised in some rural town in Washington State. They met while they were in collage. She asked him about his first few years in this country. He mentioned how it was a mostly pleasant experience until 9/11 happened. That after the attacks he couldn’t help but feel a little alienated. He mentioned how scared he was every time he had to report in into the immigration office. And how much the thought of being deported frightened him. The woman mentions how she recalls her husband being very sad, especially when his parents were denied a visa, and were unable to attend their wedding. He mentioned how so many of the conversation Pakistani people tend to have are very somber in nature; because off all the tragedy that their lives seemed to be ruled by. They way he saw it, the Pakistani people are “married to their sadness”. I knew exactly what he meant. That was something that I have felt since I was a young man. I just had never heard anyone put it so elegantly.

My great great grandmother on my father side was a freed slave in Puerto Rico. My Great grandmother outlived her husband and 3 of her sons. Her youngest son being killed after he was stabbed trying to break up a fight. My grandmother had two of her 3 children die before they reached the age of 1. My grandfather was born out of wedlock in Puerto Rico, an island that was conservatively catholic during the 1920’s. My Grandmother, from my mother side, made illegal moonshine to support her 5 children. One of them dies before the age of 6. Both my parents dealt with Alcoholic fathers. My father fell into drugs. My mother grew up in absolutely impoverished conditions. And when she finally was able to climb out of a life of extreme poverty, she was then faced with dealing with years of psychological and physical abuse at the hands of my father. Much like the young man on the radio, my family and I have been married to our sadness for well over a century. That made me question whether or not it is possible to divorce yourself from all that sadness? I know many of my family members have tried to rise above it. They gave it the old college try, only to allow themselves to be dragged back into the depths of despair at the first sign of adversity. We are survivors, but as I have mentioned in the past, I sure as hell wouldn’t say we are any good at thriving. It’s almost as if sadness has become a family earl um that gets handed down from one generation to the next. With each new generation finding new ways of allowing that sadness to define them.

This makes me think about my own relationship with sadness. I like to compare it to a spirit. You can’t see it. You don’t hear it. And yet when you are alone, in the dark, you get this eerie feeling that it is there somewhere in the dark, watching you. Even when I’m feeling relatively content or having a good time, at some point, a sad thought will intrude, pulling me out of the movement. Most of the time the thought is random. It might be an argument that I may had had recently, or about my dissatisfaction at work, other times it will be a sad memory of something that had happened years prior. I’m so accustomed to this, that now a days I don’t really even acknowledge it when it happens. So if I’m with the wifey or hanging out with my friends they rarely see any change in my outer demeanor. Although there are times when a particularly sad thought will come out of the blue and I will find myself staring off into nothing like Gob in Arrested Development, but without “The Sound of Silence” playing in the background. However even then, only my wife will be astute enough to notice that I’m somewhere else. She’ll ask me where I am or what I am thinking. Hearing her voice tends to pull me out of my trance. But I rarely tell her what I’m really thinking about. Not because I have anything to hide, but because I rather not linger a moment longer with my thoughts.

There are days when I feel would like nothing more than to divorce myself from my sadness. To be freed off it. Yet I feel that it is so entrenched within me, that if I were ever to lose it, that I run a risk of losing a part of myself. Yet all that sadness is a part of my family history. It is part of my family crest. My sadness is as much a part of me as the flesh on my bones, and the beating heart in my chest. It is my muse. It has been my one and only constant. I’m not sure if I would have much of an identity without it. I use my sadness to motivate me. I find it to be a powerful tool when thinking creatively. I don’t fare so well when I try to do something creative when I’m happy. I don’t know why that is, but it seems like I only have something to say when I tap into that darkness. And if I am feeling particularly good when I sit down to write, I have to manipulate my thoughts and feelings by playing music that is melancholy in nature. Like Shakespeare wrote “My only love sprung from my only hate.” As you can see, I’ve lived with it so long now that I’ve romanticized it. And in doing so, I’ve managed to make it not so much appealing, but perhaps more tolerable. I don’t know.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in the end I’m not exactly sure how I feel about my sadness. I know that without it I might be much more upbeat. I wouldn’t feel so cynical all the time. I sure as hell would be more optimistic, and hopeful like Bob Marley, and think that “Everything gonna be alright”. I guess at this point in my life all I can do is try to make something positive out of it, and hope that my marriage to sadness fares better than it did for most of my family.

Music to Get Lost in: KAREN O – “HIDEAWAY” (ROBOTECH REDUX)

Days like today should come with a redo button. I don’t get why this day was so brutal. From the moment I got up from my bed it all seem to go so frustratingly wrong. The sad part is that nothing really dire happened today. It was just a multitude of little annoying things that made today so trying for me.

It’s a little pathetic really. Because I know I have a ton to be grateful for. Yet it is so easy for me to just forget about the good and focus primarily on the shitty aspects of my life. Which in turn makes me feel like an ungrateful bastard. But I can’t help it. I’m still a New Yorker at heart. Being a miserable s.o.b. is what we do best. But I’m trying to change that. Little by little. Tomorrow I have to go about my day thinking about the positive.

Wish me luck.

Tonight’s song is brought to you by the talented Karen O. The track is “Hideaway”.

 

Music to Get Lost in
Music to Get Lost in

Why I Write

insecurewriterssupportgroup

Friday will mark 3 months since I started Lost Around the Block. 60 post and god knows how many thousands of words later I’m finally starting to get a feel of what I am doing. The blog has evolved in a way that makes it different then what I had originally intended. When I  first got the inspiration to start this blog I had hoped that it would primarily catered to folks with ADHD and Anxiety. I was going to use this as a platform to voice my frustration with the disorder. I also wanted to perhaps re-blog articles that I thought were interesting and that brought other insights about these disorders. Yet from the very moment I sat down to write my first post “I lost track of time…” I realized that this site would probably be going in a different direction.

I found myself writing about personal subject matters. About experiences that I had mostly kept to myself. It was liberating to write some of these stories down for everyone to read. I know some folks would think that it must have felt empowering. But I wouldn’t exactly put it that way. I think empowering is the wrong choice of word. For me it’s more like exhaling after holding my breath for a ridiculously long amount of time. It feels more like relief.

The main reason behind the change was rather simple. I wanted to write about something that was a bit more relatable. I found that I was way more interested in writing about universal themes. Who amongst us doesn’t have unfulfilled dreams? Who has never experienced regret? Have you ever met a person that didn’t feel like they left something unresolved? Who doesn’t know about the erational elation of being in love? I found myself wanting to tell those kinds of stories. I wanted to demonstrate that no matter how different our life experiences might be, we can still relate to each other in some very basic ways. Look I don’t care, who you are, what part of the planet you come from, what god, if any, that you believe in, we are all bound by the love and pain that we feel from just being alive. And that is what Lost Around the Block has come to symbolize for me.

Each time I write one of my long winded post I feel like the knot of chains that kept my brain shackled for so long are being loosed. It’s as if I am discovering a whole new aspect of myself that I did not know was even there. And you know what? It feels pretty fucking great. I still struggle with my confidence. I still find myself going over stuff that I had posted previously and cringing at the way I structured a sentence or by some awkward analogy that I may had made. I’m not totally confident in my writing ability because I find that I still write in the same fashion that I think, which is fragmented. This in turn makes my writing a little choppy. A little stiff. It doesn’t always flow smoothly like a stream. I want my writing to glide. I’m just not there yet.

I also find myself struggling with the length of my post. Everyone is too busy just trying to get through their day. Who the hell has time to sit down to read through 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 words written by someone that they have never even heard off. And I don’t blame them. Time is a valuable commodity and you don’t ever want to waste your time reading something that in the end may not have the desired payoff. But I try not to censor myself too much. I allow myself some breathing room. I don’t feel like I’m a competent writer yet, so I try give myself the space to allow my ideas to flesh themselves out in the most natural way possible. Which in turn leads to some very long post. But it’s all part of the learning experience. Finding one’s true voice is not the easiest the easiest thing for me.

Writing gives me a sense of accomplishment that I had not felt in a long time. I like sharing my life experiences with you all. It is a delicate balance of course. I constantly struggle with what aspects of my life I want to keep to myself and what things I want to share with perfect strangers. Thankfully I haven’t felt ashamed about anything I have written so far. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my 35 years. Mistakes that for years made me feel like an incompetent jackass that had no hope of ever feeling content with his life. But it is my past. They did happen and I am not doing myself any favors by pretending that I haven’t made them. Besides I truly believe that you can’t really move on with your life and accomplish something worth your while until you have come to terms with your past. I hope my writing will help me succeed in that regard.

By the way, if you are a struggling writer, or just like to discover some great writing, go check out this great blog that I found called The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s a great little community of writers that have come together to express some of the joys and struggles of writing. I hope you get a chance to check the site out. It will be well worth your time.

Sweet Home Chicago: Part VIII – On the Road Again

Amtrak Surfliner
Amtrak Surfliner (Photo credit: mark242)

I would have loved to have been able to tell you that while I was riding the Lake Shore Limited back to the Empire State, I had managed to hatched an elaborate plan that would in the end land me back in the city named after a stinky onion. That my desperation inspired a moment of brilliance. It would lend my story an air of drama that would be fitting for a badly written romance novel. But it was nothing like that. I conjured up my escape from New York a full two weeks after I arrived back from my trip. Oddly enough it was my complete lack of direction over the course of the previous year that made it possible for me to move to Chicago at the start of 2003. Who would have thunk it? I will make sure to get into exactly how I managed to pull that off, but first allow me to tell you how my moment of triumph still managed to play itself out like a Greek tragedy.

As you can imagine I was feeling pretty bleak after I left Chicago. That short trip gave me a glimpse of another life. One where pain and misery did not have to be a familiar constant. I honestly had a sense that I could grow to become a halfway decent human being if I could just somehow manage to break away from the life I lived in NYC. Go someplace far removed from the family drama that continued to play itself out time and time again. To get away from a city that was still very much in mourning from heart wrenching events of September the 11th. And to top it off, I could be making this new start along side someone that I felt loved me as much as I loved her. Yet there I was sitting on that train, helpless, as I watched everything that I wanted out of this life getting further and further away from me the closer the Lake Shore Limited got to Penn Station.

I spent an awful long time that day thinking up different scenarios that might get me back to Chicago before Christmas. Maybe I could get a job. Or maybe my parents would be foolish enough to bum their 23 year old son some more cash. But who was I kidding? Once I got a job, I probably couldn’t just get up and leave to visit Jess whenever I wanted. I also figured that it would be both selfish and foolish to depend on my parents, who did not have much, if any, disposable income, to make a second trip possible. Although I sure would give the latter a shot anyway. Regardless, both scenarios did not solve the biggest prevailing problem; that being that Jess and I were separated by almost 1000 miles. Both plans were only stop gap measures at best. I required a more permanent solution. I was completely stumped.

When I arrived back home I did what people tend to do after getting back after a trip. I spoke at nauseum about the wonders and joys that I had witnessed during my short time in Chicago to anyone that was within ear shot. Everyone smiled politely as I excitedly rambled on and on without any sense of cohesion. I can never tell a good story if I have to speak it out loud. My brain gets too excited and it wants to force out every point I want to make all at once. Which often times just leaves me sounding like a complete idiot, instead of the insightful soul that I am trying to portray myself as being.

A couple of days passed before I actually got to speak to my father about my trip. He had stopped by to pay my siblings and I a visit. He walked into my bedroom as I had my forehead pressed against my computer screen trying to formulate my escape plan. As soon as he walked in I hugged him and much like I did with everyone else, I crammed 5 days worth of events in about 30 minutes. My father could see how excited I was about everything. He could see the wild spark in my eye. I was filled with an almost manic energy. But as my mouth shot-off at a 100,000 words per minute, I could see from my vantage point that my father was lacking the enthusiasm that he had shown me before I left for my trip. I found it strange. Knowing the man the way I did, I figured that there was something that he wanted to tell me, but was waiting for the right time to jump in like if we were playing a game of double dutch. I had a bad hunch that this conversation was not going to go exactly like I had envisioned it. Perhaps this is what encouraged me to end my monologue by saying, “Dad I think I want to move out there. I think it would be good for me.”

I can’t remember word for word what my father said to me but it went something along the lines of “ Look Tom, I’m sure you had a great time out there an all. But let’s not get too carried away now. You went out there, had your fun with your little girlfriend. But let’s not get crazy.” I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get upset by my fathers words. Because the truth is I was pist. Really fucking pist. I felt like my father had discounted everything I had just said to him. He had trivialized what Jessie meant to me. I was mad. However looking back, now that I am 12 years older than I was then, I am kinda able to see what he was trying to do. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. He was trying to protect me from getting hurt. He could see that I was a runaway train, if someone didn’t apply the brakes soon, it would be only a matter of time before I would end up jumping the rails. Off course I didn’t see it like that then. To me my dad was only trying to discourage me from being happy. I was being a little delusional. But you gotta’ understand. That delusion was the only thing keeping me marching forward. Thankfully I didn’t over react in an outward manner. I kept my angry feelings to myself. After all, my dad made it possible for me to see Jess in the first place. So from my vantage point that bought him one or two get out of an argument passes. I bit my tongue, and allowed him to give me some generic fatherly speech uninterrupted. I wasn’t the happiest camper by the time my father left. But I had avoided any major drama between us, so I took it as a partial victory. And any remaining ill will that I might have felt ended up evaporating as soon as I got to speak with the wifey that night.

*******

As I had mentioned before, my Eureka moment came some two weeks after my return. I had spent an obscene amount of time scouring the web for a solution for my dilemma. I desperately wanted see her again, but a few visits sprinkled throughout the year was not going to cut it. I needed a permanent solution. At first I thought that maybe I could find a job out in Chicago. But after about 5 minutes of research it dawned on me that I didn’t have any  highly sought after skill sets that would get me paid enough to make an actual living. Unless that is you needed someone that enjoyed looking up comic book references online or downloading copyrighted music from Morpheus for hours on end. Nope. A job would not be the answer. It was then that I thought about going back to school. Maybe I could actually attend a school in Chicago. I could live in the dorms. Get my education on. With the pièce de résistance being that I got to be close to my lady love. This was something that the wifey and I had discussed on several occasions. But I always discounted it because I figured that it would be much too costly. However all that changed when I looked up how financial aid was actually granted.

The amount of financial aid that you get all depends on what you  or your parents earned during the previous year. This is where my being a slacker during a large portion of 2001 and the entirety of 2002 actually benefited me greatly. I made a measly $4,000 in 2001. Since I was an adult and made such a pathetic sum this meant that I qualified for full financial assistance. YES! This was my ticket. With Uncle Sam’s help I had just been handed an opportunity to change my stars while being closer with Jess.

I’m not exactly proud that being a lost slacker for so long actually benefited me in some way. Because I know that it goes against many of the ideals that we hold so dear in this country. That only hard work and perseverance are rewarded. But sometimes, for some of us, we require a lucky break. To have a door simply opened for us. Or to have fate gift wrap an opportunity and drop on our laps like it did with me. That type of unexpected generosity can serve as a source of inspiration for the right individual at the right time. I will admit that the idea of me going back to school was more a means to an end. Yet once I was there, it opened my eyes to the opportunity that I had Forest Gumped my way into. It taught me that I didn’t have to live my whole life feeling sorry for myself. That if I didn’t like who I was, then I could, through years of hard work, change who I was.  It’s a long process. And there have been plenty of times where I took my eyes off the ball and lost track of what is it that I wanted most out of this life. Yet sooner or later I always managed to find my way back on the right track.

All that was left was to figure out was what schools I wanted to apply too, and what major I wanted to choose for myself. The major was easy. I still had aspiration of being a comic book writer. So that one was decided within second. My major would be English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. As you can see from my choice of major, I did not take one second to consider what kind of employment I could actually attract with that major. What can I say, I was a very naive 23 year old. So all that was left was to figure out what schools I would be applying. There was Columbia, which had an awesome English program. Loyola, UIC, Dominican and so on and so forth. But I knew well enough to know that once the admissions office of those institutions took a single look of my high school transcript, and finished laughing uncontrollably for several long minutes, they would toss my application in the garbage and send me a rejection letter that simply stated “Nigga Please!”

I couldn’t apply to any community colleges because I didn’t know of any that had any dorms. And that was the only way I was going to be able to live in Chicago. It was looking like I had hit another dead end when I came across a little school situated on the south-side of Chicago. That school was Chicago State University. The school’s prerequisite were a little bit on the lenient side. And more importantly it had built a small dorm just a couple of years prior. Also the out-of-state tuition was just low enough that my financial aid would cover all but $1,300 of the cost. If I had any shot at going away to school, CSU would be it.

One of the first people I spoke to about what I was planning on doing was my mother. I sat her down and I laid out all the info that I had been gathering up for the past two weeks. I gave her the whole spiel that I wasn’t happy in NYC. That going away to school would be good for me. That it would be rough for me at first but that I would at least have Jess close by so I wouldn’t be totally alone. I was honestly expecting some resistance. To get some push back. But on the contrary. My mom had never been more receptive about anything that I had said in my life. My mom’s eyes got watery as she told me in no uncertain terms that “ All I’ve ever wanted for you kids was for you guys to get an education. I don’t want you to get stuck doing the shit that I have to do. I don’t want you guys to have to bust your ass every day just to make ends meet. I want a better life for my kids.” She cried and hugged me. She told me that she would miss me. That she would miss our nightly chats that we would often share after she had a long day at work. But that she would be more than happy to support me in anyway that she could. She gave me this deep loving hug that gave me a level of comfort that I had been lacking since I got back from the Midwest. I can’t put into words how much that moment between my mother and I meant to me. My mom and I have not always seen eye to eye. We have had our fair share of disagreements. There was a time when I was convinced that she resented me simply because I reminded her of my father so much. Yet here she was overjoyed that I had finally grown the courage to start living my life. It wasn’t a simple matter of just getting me out of the house. When she told me that she would miss me, I had no doubt in my heart that she would. My mother simply wanted a better life for me. And I wouldn’t have a fraction of the things I have now, if it wasn’t for her support during that time. I probably never will be able to repay her for the kindness that she granted me. I will be forever grateful to her for what she made possible. Within a few days of our conversation I went back to my old high school to request that my transcripts be sent out to CSU. I filled out my application, wrote a $25 check, and dropped it into the mailbox. It was a few days past the one year anniversary of the day that my boy had came over and gotten me to sign on Migente.com.

For whatever reason, I felt it was best that tell my father about my plans over the phone. I find it a little odd that I did that because I always feel that important conversations like these should best be done face to face. Maybe I had a sense of which way the conversation was going to go. Or maybe I just wanted to get it out there. Either way when it was all said and done  my father turned out to be the voice of the opposition. He was not at all receptive to my plans. He thought it was a ridiculous move. “What are you stupid? You’re going to leave your family for some girl you met on that computer of yours? What’s wrong with you? All she’s going to do is hurt you son! And then you will be stuck living in Chicago all by yourself, feeling like a chump! Think son, think! Remember, blood with always be thicker.”  I was a little less than pleased with his reaction. This was the second time my father had tried to burst my bubble. Once again I was upset, but I thought it was pointless to argue my point. I already had the ball rolling. I was going to make this happen with or without his blessing. I informed him that my mind was done. That I appreciated his concerns but I wanted something else out of this life. And whatever that was I wasn’t going to find it in NYC. My father persisted, telling me repeatedly that I was being foolish. That the risk was not worth it. But by that point I had stopped listening. Perhaps if he had not felt like I was brushing his concerns off them I might have been able to avoid what was coming next. I was just trying to avoid a big fight. I didn’t know if I was leaving or anything just yet, but if I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave in under any bad terms. I failed in those regards in every possible way. When we hung up the phone that day I was under the impression that he was upset. But I figured that he would eventually come around and support my decision. My father apparently saw it differently. Our truce was in it’s infancy and it was already over. I had just failed to get the memo.

*******

It was early December. I hadn’t gotten back any word on whether or not I had been accepted by CSU. I knew the Spring semester would be starting in about 4 weeks. I was growing inpatient. So I did the proactive thing and decided to call the admission office. The phone rang a couple of times. I was almost sure that nobody in the office would actually tell me anything. I figured they would just tell me to wait for the rejection letter in the mail. A lady picks up. I introduced myself. I go through the whole story that I had applied a couple of months earlier and that I had not heard back from the school yet. The lady asked for my name, and some other bits of personal information. She then told me in a very casual manner to hold on for a few seconds. A minute or two pass by when the lady comes back on the phone. She tells me in an incredibly nonchalant manner that hinted that giving folks this type of news no longer held any meaning for her, that “No you good. You were accepted. Registration is January 4th. So make sure you get here early. Oh and bring a check for $1,300. That will cover what financial aid did not.” I was in shock. It was finally happening. I would be living in Chicago in a little over a month. Just like that. My days in NYC were numbered. I thanked the lady with enough enthusiasm that it made her laugh. It was then that maybe she remembered what getting accepted by a school can mean to someone, because she suddenly became warm and told me “Congratulations young man. We look forward to seeing you on the 4th.”

The first person I told was my mom. She was so happy for me. She wasn’t too thrilled about the $1,3000 check. But she told me not to worry about it. That she would give me the money. Next person I told was Jess. We was pleasantly surprised by the news. I don’t think she ever believed that I would actually be able to make such a move. I mean she hoped and prayed that it would happen. But I don’t think she ever allowed herself to believe it wholeheartedly because she didn’t want to end up feeling disappointed. We both started making plans for the thing that we would do together once I got there. First thing on our agenda was to go see Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers. We were going to be a normal, run of the mill couple. Going on weekend dates. Dining together. Just doing things with each other all the time. We both could not wait. Life was good.

This was when my baby sister enters the picture. You see I have two other siblings. I have my younger brother, who is the middle child. His Name is Paul. He is about  two and a half years younger than I. Then there is my baby sister Jennifer. She is almost 9 years younger. Jennifer and I don’t get along much. She is for the lack of a better term, trouble. We are two vastly different people. And I don’t mean it in some kind of generational sense. We are two vastly different souls. She is a force of nature. She runs on pure impulse. She does what she want, when she want to do it, without apology. And heaven protect you if you cross her. She will stop and no end to get what she wants. Basically she sometimes lacks a moral compass. I don’t know if witnessing all the fights that my parents went through when she was a child, had some kind of developmental effect on her. But something happened to that girl. Something that made it easier for her to betray everyone that has loved her at one point or another. Of course at this time she was only 15 years old and was several years away from committing some of her more reprehensible acts. No, at this time she was just a troubled teen that enjoys hanging out on the streets a bit more than I thought was appropriate.

One night she got a call from a group of girlfriend that there was something going down somewhere. It was later in the evening. She was preparing to head out when I asked her where exactly did she think she was going? She told me she was going to hang out with some friends. My mom worked late, so often times I was the one making sure my siblings were fed and safe at home. I told her it was too late for that. That the streets are too dangerous and no place for some 15 year old kid and her ghetto fabulous friends. She didn’t take too kindly to my opposition. She started yelling. I wasn’t her father. Who the fuck did I think I was for telling her what to do. I wasn’t the boss of her. Well anyone that knows me, also knows that I can sometimes give just as good as I can take. So I started yelling right back at her. I told her I didn’t give a flying fuck who she thought I was or wasn’t. The fact of the matter was that I was in charge at that moment, and that it was my job to make sure that the people living under our roof stay safe at all times. And if I said it was too late and too dangerous to go out, then that was the end of the discussion. She cursed me out. I returned the favor. She tried to push past me. I grabbed her and physically placed her in her bedroom. Now I know that you are thinking. Man this 450 lbs guy is probably manhandling this little girl. My sister weighed about 220 lbs at the time. She is many things, but a little girl wasn’t one of them. And all I did was use my size and strength to heard her back into her room. Eventually I was able to calm things down. She called my father up. My father asked to talk to me. I told him exactly what happened. He then makes a request to speak to my sister again. I oblige. My sister get on the phone and starts protesting loudly. I guessed my father was taking my side. She hung up the phone angrily, yelled a couple of obscenities in my direction and slammed the door shut. I went to bed that night so glad that I would be leaving all this madness behind. Yet I feared what would become of my sister if I no longer was around to keep an eye on things.

It was two weeks before I was scheduled to leave for Chicago. My mother calls me on the phone from her job furious. I asked her what happened? My mom tells me that she had just gotten a call from my sisters school. Apparently my sister had gone to her guidance counselor. She told the counsellor that I had been beating her up and that she was not feeling safe in the house. The school took the accusation incredibly seriously. To make matters worse my father had gone into the school with my sister and confirmed what my sister had said was true. They were about to send some police over to escort me from the apartment. I was about to be homeless. My mom told the counselor that it had all been a lie. That she was not going to throw me out on the street. I don’t know if I was more shocked or furious. The thing was that I wasn’t so mad at my sister. We never had a great relationship. She wasn’t exactly my biggest fan. In a weird way I almost expected that out of her. But I could not wrap my mind around why my dad had gone along with the story. I had been hurt plenty of times. I’ve been betrayed and disappointed by almost every person that I’ve ever believed in at one point or another. With that being said, I had never, before, or since, felt such a sense of betrayal as I did by what my father had just done to me.

I knew that he was mad at me for leaving. That he felt that he was losing me at the moment that he got me back. But what in the “Wide World of Sports” was my father thinking? Why the fuck would he say that about me? I was about to leave for Chicago. I was going to leave to try and make something out of myself. Like Oscar Wilde even though I was in the gutter I was still looking up at the stars. My mom was able to somehow convince the guidance counselor to call off the police. That I would be leaving for Chicago shortly anyway. In a blink of an eye my little run at bliss came to a crashing halt. I was livid. Hate was spewing out of my heart like Mt Vesuvius and it’s ash was going to bury the memory of my father once-and-for-all. No more bitting my tounge. I was going to let my father have it.

I hung up with my mother and immediately called my father up on the phone. He picked up. The first words out of my mouth was “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?” My father was caught off guard by my overly aggressive tone. I asked him again “What is wrong with you? Why the fuck would you do that? Why would you lie like that? I thought we were cool dammit! You made it possible for me to go to Chicago in the first place for Christ sake. So why the fuck would you say that about me?” My fathered stuttered and kept repeating something like” No son it’s all a misunderstanding. I swear. I will go to the school first thing in the morning and tell them they misunderstood me.” I was done with him. I kept asking what and why but the truth is I didn’t care to hear anything he really had to say. My father betrayed me in the worse possible way. I was done with him. As far as I was concerned my father was dead and buried in my mind. And I told him that in no uncertain terms. “You are dead to me. You hear me you fucking asshole. I don’t want anything to do with you. I hope I never fucking see your ass again!” I slammed the phone on the receiver. That would be the last words I would utter to my father until I saw him again four years later when I went to see him in the hospital after he broke his neck.

My last couple of weeks in NYC were bitter ones. I couldn’t wait to leave already. I just wanted to be next to Jess now. She was everything to me. She was all I had left. My sister made a few attempt to talk to me. To apologize for what she had done. She tried to play it off as it was all some goofy mix-up that just got a little out of hand. But I just no longer cared why it had happened. I was leaving. Chicago would be my home now. There was very little left for me to say.

On January 2nd my brother, Paul, dropped me off at Penn Station. He helped get my bags out of the car. He hugged me. Told me that he was proud of me. And to take care of myself. I was going to miss him. I know I haven’t talked much about him. But out of everyone in my family and all my friends, my brother has always been the one guy that I always felt sorta got me. He understood what made me tick. I was going to miss hanging with him. I was going to miss playing NBA2K2 and watching wrestling and our weekend drinking sessions. My brother was not just my brother. He was my best friend. If there was anything I could have taken with me to Chicago, I think I would have brought him along. I think we could have had a lot of fun together.

I got my boarding pass and waited in line much like I had done just 4 months earlier. Only this time I wasn’t accompanied by my father. This time it was just me, standing alone waiting for the Lake Shore Limited to take me back to where my future would be forged. There were so many conflicting thoughts as I boarded that train. I was already missing my brother and mother. I was going to miss my good friends. I was nervous. What if I failed? What if things didn’t work out with Jess? What if I flunked out of school? And I kept asking myself why did my father hurt me so badly? I still can’t quite answer that question. I have some theories. Maybe he had been doing coke and it impaired his judgement. Maybe he got this weird twisted idea that if I got kicked out of the house then I would be forced to live with him and he could then somehow talk me out of leaving. I don’t know what his reasoning was. All I know was that I didn’t want anything to do with him from that point on. Like I had mention in my very first post, my father claimed to have gone out to Chicago looking for me a couple of years before he suffered his accident. But I have no way of knowing if that was true. It does break my heart thinking that he may had been out there looking for me on campus, all alone. That the worst part about having unresolved issues. They feel so opened ended. There is never a sense of resolution. Thoughts lingering in my head forever after, like the ghost of Christmas past, reminding me of all that went wrong before.

*******

I never could have imagined that my life would have changed so much in the course of a year and three months. How so many little almost insignificant events came to play such an important part in my life. If my friend had not come over and told me about Migente. If I had not posted those rock bands on my page. If Jess hadn’t left a message on my guestbook. If I had not responded in kind. If I had not followed the wifey’s advised to reach out to my father. If My father hadn’t given me the money to go meet Jess. If the trip had not gone so beautifully. If I had not quit my job when I did a year earlier. If any one of those things had not happened I would have never had been able to move out to Chicago. I would have never married my girl. I never would have adopted the two most beautiful little pups. I would have never learned how to drive. I never would have bought a house. I would have never met so many beautiful and wonderful friends. I would have never had the inspiration to expand my horizons. I would never had decided on wanting to have kids. My life would be vastly different now. What my life would have been like if I had never left NYC, I couldn’t tell you. But I honestly feel like it wouldn’t have been good.

Some folks say that if a love is meant to be, then it will happen regardless.I don’t see it that way. Love doesnt just happen. It has to be nurtured. There has to be a sacrifice.  If a love is meant to be then you have to chase after it with everything that you have in your heart. It’s the only way you can forge a love that lasts. You have to put in the effort. You have to pay your dues. A great love affair can inspire all manner of things. My love inspired me to live. Without it I was lost. But with it, it gave me a reason to be a better version of me. And in my book that’s not to shabby.