A Day in the Life (Down the Rabbit Hole)
New York in the 80’sHey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 1 I love New York. Don’t get me wrong, I honestly love New York. I think that I liked it better when it was scary and full of crime though. It kept you on your toes. Not to mention all the day to day drama. The looking over your shoulder to see who or what might be lurking in the shadows. This was the 80’s, the fabulous 80’s. Back when I had a Flock of Seagulls hairdo and people knew what Kajagoogoo meant. Back then when someone was running towards you it was usually a sign that they were going to snatch your bag or stick a knife in you or worse. Now when someone is running towards you they are doing just that- running towards you and their shoes are probably worth more than your bag. When did jogging become such a big thing? When did working out become such a big thing?My first apartment in New York was located in Redhook Brooklyn. This was one of the scariest neighborhoods that I have ever lived in. In the 80’s it was fun and scary. I had bleached blonde hair and wore all black. I modeled my look on one of the singers from Bananarama. My apartment was 36 blocks from the subway but one block from the projects. We shared the building with a taxi service. My roommate was a modern dancer, I almost never saw him though. He was always in his room and rarely come out and I mean rarely, every couple of days or so. I would often hear him moving around in his room but I would never see him.I found the apartment through the Village Voice, back in the day when you could do that. It actually belonged to a friend of a friend of a friend, but I found the initial listing in the Voice. It was a small two bedroom with a kitchen and a bath, a park around the corner and plenty of homeless laying around on my stoop. I took it sight unseen. In those days we did that, you needed an apartment you took it. It was a busy neighborhood and I would see so many people just hanging around. People knew my name and would scream greetings to me out the window on my walk to the subway (along with other various phrases). Today, I have brown hair and wear all black and they just built a Target, but this was then.I remember a time when you used to run across Times Square, weaving in and out of Hookers on the stroll. You would see dealers selling weed right out in the open and every now and then you would get ripped off and buy the occasional bag of oregano (so I hear). The peep shows had plenty of visitors going in and out of their doors and for 50 cents you could see a dandy show. Just yesterday, I became friends with Robin Byrd on Facebook. Now that’s progress. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 2 One of my first jobs in NYC was working at a club named Uncle Charlie’s in Greenwich Village. It was located on Greenwich St. It was a bar; well actually it was four bars under one roof. It also had a dance floor and video room. We referred to it as the stand and stare room because there was very little dancing going on. “Deep in Vogue” was a big hit by Malcolm McLaren and when Willi Ninja would walk in I would make Scott the DJ play the video. Willi would get embarrassed and give me a little wave. Willi was a great guy and I loved talking to him.I had at this time moved to a carriage house on 13th street between 6th and 7th. Café Bruxelles was on the corner (another job I worked at) and further up the block was Uncle Charlie’s. I worked as a cocktail waiter/doorman/occasional bartender and expert rat dodger. Charlie’s had two owners at this time. One owner was an old queen named Gary who would arrive at work during the winter in a ratty old fur coat, pay for his tan and have the boy dujour on his arm. Usually this was some skanky call boy who would order around the staff because he was with “the boss.” Little did he know that his power would last the night or until Gary got bored. The other owner was silent. He was actually on the run from the police for murdering his lover. It was a huge torrid story, one we were not allowed to mention while on the premises.This silent did however have his son Seth running the business and counting the money in his absence. Seth really didn’t want to be there. He was married with a wife and kids at home. This was the last place he wanted to be. Seth would often call you in the office try to intimidate you. The office was in the basement and you had to walk down these long crooked stairs well half stairs/half slide. He was usually on the phone when you got there and he would signal you in and tell you to have a seat. Then in between pauses with whomever he was talking to on the phone he would tell you what he expected of you that night. That way he rarely had to come upstairs and make an appearance during the evening. When he was done he would wave you away with the flip of his hand.One of my favorite bartenders was Steve. He was sweet and kind and usually drunk by the time the night was over. He would also over pour a drink so that you could join him while he was drinking. He loved to make B52’s and Mind Erasers. Steve looked like an LL Bean Model and actually was an actor on the side.Another one of the other bartenders was named Joe. He was also an actor but unlike Steve most of the patrons had seen his work. He was the star of The Pizza Boy delivers, yes it and was exactly what you imagine it might have been. He was the guy in the film who ordered delivery. We were warned that if you ever wanted Joe to give you drinks or not make your night really bad you were not to mention his film resume anywhere around him. He was this big Italian jock with a crooked smile and a thick Brooklyn accent. He was also one of the dumbest people I have ever met.Every now and then someone would run out of liquor and whoever was not doing something would run to the basement. On your way to get liquor was a maze made by boxes of beer that were stacked to the ceiling. One of the favorite games of all the employees was to toss glass bottles of beer at each other as someone would enter the maze. If you got to the end of the maze first you would grab lose beers and throw them over the boxes into the maze. The beers would hit the floor and explode like mini grenades, showering whoever was in the ways with sticky foam.Now also living in the maze were rats. Now, I’m talking NYC rats, smart, cunning and scared of nothing NYC Rats. They would dive at you on your way the through the basement. The cellar doors opened onto the street so our busboy David could bring the garbage right outside. Rats seeing a good thing would scurry inside and set up home in the basement.David the bar back was nice but a little odd. He was my age but told everyone that he fought in Vietnam. He dressed every night in army fatigues and carried a large knife. The knife was for the occasional threatening and rat beheading. Our manager Jeff was actually in Vietnam and would have “flashbacks” during work. These usually caused him to stop working and to stare blankly into space.Our front door was protected by John; he was a really nice guy who modeled his look on “Super Fly”, he sported a large afro and had a black belt in Karate. John refused to show us any tricks because in his words “Karate is no joke.” During the fall and winter, we would add Alan to our family. He would set up coat check in a little cubby across from the front door. The word was to never go in Alan’s booth unless you wanted to get felt up and believe me no one wanted to be felt up by Alan.
One time while working a shift a patron who had been coming to the club for several weeks decided that he was going to take me home. He took my tray threw it to the floor, tossed me over his shoulder and made a run for the front door. This guy was 250 pounds 6’3 and had the thickest Russian accent I ever heard. Everyone thought it was a joke until I started screaming and he pried my fingers off the door jamb as he dragged me out the door.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 3
Honestly, I think that it was my fault that I got kidnapped from Uncle Charlie’s in the village. This particular patron would find out when I was working and make sure that he was there when I was. This went on for several months and at first causing me to think that he was just always there. I did think that he was a really nice guy though. I would laugh at his jokes and tell him that I was flattered when he asked me to work a desk job at his construction company.When I asked him what I would have to do at this job he responded with a wink “Answer phones.” “Right”, I thought to myself just answer phones because he could tell how lovely my voice was as I screamed at him over the loud bar music night after night. Truthfully, I paid a lot of attention to him because he would have 5 drinks and tip up to twenty dollars per drink. The night I got abducted he was tipping fifty per drink. That night, I paid extra close attention to his stories.Everyone in the bar was laughing as he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and marched me out of the bar. They were laughing even harder while I was screaming “Help, this is serious I am really being kidnapped!” The must have doubled over, when he then pulled me through the door and started running up the block. All the while I am fighting to get free of him.He gets to his car, fumbles for the keys while pinning me to the door, gets the keys in the lock, opens the door and pushes me in. I watch out of the passenger window as 2 bouncers and assorted staff tackle him. Suddenly it becomes a blurred sea of faces bouncing off the window. Every time someone jumps in, he flicks them off like flies at a banquet. I push open the driver side door and climb around this swirling mass of arms and legs that have travelled over the hood and ended up on this side of my escape. His bright red face comes within inches of me; someone’s arm is around his neck cutting off his air. “Get back in the car!” he gurgles to me. “Fuck you,” I respond.I run back into the club; the manager has called the police. The police show up but they don’t want to take a statement from me and let the guy go. They figure that this is going to be a lot of paperwork and it figures low on the crime list. Another brawl at a gay bar “Alert the media.” The next night the owner summons me to his office and yells at me for leaving the club during my shift. He is also mad that a good paying customer won’t be back.To make it up the owner gives me a new chore to bring people into the club. “I really don’t understand”, I say to him. “I have seen the same people here night after night.” I have yelled out “Merry Christmas” “Happy New Year” and “Happy Thanksgiving” to the same motley bunch. We raise a toast and down it. The new faces appear only on the weekend. “Well, we need to get more people in the club” he snaps.I am not alone in my task. My friend Mitch and I get the job of decorating the club for Halloween. I met Mitch at another bar I worked called the 9th Circle (but we will get to that later in the story). Now, Mitch and I are the perfect people to be given this job, Halloween is both of our favorite holidays. We run to the store the next day and buy plenty of paint, cobwebs, lights and skulls. Mitch and I have decided to make the video room a graveyard (honestly, not too far from the truth on a nightly basis). I get to the job off painting tombstones on the mirrors. We have all day to do the job because the club will be filled in the evening, at least in the Village, Halloween is a huge celebration. I mean give gay men the chance to dress up and become anything that they want to be, the sky’s the limit.I paint what feels like hundreds of tombstones and my arm is tired. I have written most of the staff’s names on the grave markers and Eric (one of the newest staff members) tells me that he can’t find his name. I write “Eric the Fish” in bright red paint on a grave and call it a day. He demands to know why I call him Eric the fish. Just the fact that he gets annoyed when Mitch and I say it is enough joy for me.I finish up and run home to get into my costume. I have worked for weeks on it and it is perfect. Most everyone in the club is planning on going as sexy nurse, sexy kitten, sexy pirate or sexy construction worker. I on the other hand am going as Piper Laurie from Carrie. I have taken to ratty falls, combed them out so they are enormous on my head and I’m wearing a big pink muumuu that billows when I walk. I am impressed with what I have accomplished and get the desired effect when I walk down the street brandishing the knife above my head. “Oooooohhhh, you go scary girl!” Sexy Batgirl calls to me as she passes. “Work it out Mama!” sexy waitress yells as I pass. I am feeling good and looking fabulous when I enter the club. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 4I make a loop through the club, knife held high and muumuu billowing. “You look really scary!” Mitch says “Just like Piper Laurie”. “You look great!” Steve adds. Various patrons begin filling my head, telling me how great I look. Get to work says Seth coming around the corner pointing to the trays. “Damn” I think to myself, he shouldn’t sneak up on people like that. “Nice costume” I say to Seth. “Idiot” he says to me “I’m not wearing a costume.”I grab my tray and turn on my heel. I walk over to a large bunch of people sitting near the door. I look around at all the various “sexy costumes” one of them jumps when he looks at me. “Yikes” he says and waves me away adding the word “Go.” I see him call over another waiter dressed as a sexy caveman. Undaunted I move on. “Hi” I say to another group. “Can I get you ahhhhhhhh?!” I stop in midsentence; someone has stepped on the back of my muumuu causing my head to snap back. I turn around and try to drag my costume out from under his foot. The big lug is paying me no attention, so I begin tugging at my dress trying to free it from his foot. This causes the corner of it to rip. He then looks at me annoyed. “You ripped my dress” I say to him. “You look nothing like Stevie Knicks” he says to me. “Are you drunk?” I say to him. “I’m Piper Laurie from Carrie.” “Never heard of her” he responds. ‘Are you out of your miahhhhhhhhh!” someone has stepped on the side of my muumuu causing me to drop my tray and pitch off balance. “Thank god I have no drinks on that tray” I think to myself.All night long people step on my costume and so now I am standing in the ladies room dressed in tatters with my wig on crooked. The ladies room is the only place that everyone goes to do coke, every now and then the occasional lady has to use it and people have to clear out. “Honey, you ok?” a drag queen in a sexy witch costume asks me. “I have had a rotten fucking night; the only money I made was when someone paid me a quarter to go away.” I say. “Ohhhhhh, honey it’s alright she says to me patting the side of my head where the fall is now sitting. I hate to do this she adds but “Can I borrow that quarter, I have to make a call.” “Seriously” I say handing over the money.She runs out of the bathroom and down the stairs. I begin to put together what’s left of my dignity and remove my costume. Underneath, I had the good sense to wear a black t-shirt, shorts and little boots. I tie a knot in my t-shirt and walk downstairs dressed as a sexy barmaid.Almost everyone has left, except for our regular inebriates. “Have a shot” Steve says to me with bloodshot eyes. “Can I have four?” I ask. I look at my painted gravestones, some stupid queens have written their names in my work. Most of the gravestones now say Paul + Nick or Bobby loves Neil. It’s been such a lousy night; I have no costume, no money and no buzz. It’s time to go home.Tomorrow night I get to work my other job at The 9th Circle. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 5 One night, a year earlier at Uncle Charlie’s bar a waiter asks if I will cover at his other job at The 9th Circle Bar when he goes out of town. I figure that I could use the money; my rent at the carriage house is $560.00 a staggering fee for New York City.I ask around Uncle Charlie’s to see if anybody has been to the 9th Circle. Most people look at me like I just got off the turnip truck. I’m originally from Guilderland New York and I left home at age 15. I lived in a runaway shelter and various group homes. My journey also took me to Boston (for a very brief stay) before I ended up in New York City. I thought I saw all that the seedy side of life had to offer and then I entered The 9th Circle Bar.I went there during the day to meet the head bartender/manager and to tell him that I would be subbing for one of his waiters. Little did I know at that time that the waiter would never be coming back to work there. Allegedly, The 9th Circle Bar was named in honor of the book Dante’s Inferno.In Dante’s Inferno the 9th Circle is the lowest form of Hell, even during the day the bar lived up to its name. It was located off of 7th Avenue South right across the street from the fire department. Another story I had been told about the place was that it was a hangout for Janis Joplin at the height of her fame. I guess they had a picture of her at the bar. I never saw it but everyone knew the story.I walk up the steps and enter a dimly lit room that smells of smoke and vomit. I squint both my eyes and let them adjust to the light. I can barely make out that sitting around the bar are about 10 old bar flies.“Hey Cookie, look what the cat dragged in.” one of them croaks. “Meow” said another. I slowly walked up to the bar, feeling like a virgin bride at a vampire convention. “Hi,” I say, my voice shaking “I’m looking for the manager.” “Jerry-Poo” one of the old drunks yells out “Your dates here.” “Hold on.” Someone yells, the voice coming from the back of the bar.At a speed walking pace, comes the person I believe that they just referred to as Jerry-Poo. He is sporting a blown out perm, tight t-shirt and matching jeans, little gold chain and I believe he has a cold because he can’t stop sniffing.“Who ah you, who ah you?” he says in a rapid fire progression. His voice sports a thick Bronx accent. I put my hand out to shake his, he looks at it and then looks around at the bar flies. He decides not to shake my hand.“Whadda ya want, whadda ya want?” he shouts at me wiping his nose of the shoulder of his sleeve. I can hear someone at the bar begin to titter. “My name is Geoff” I say, finding strength “and I am here to sub for one of your waiters.” “Fresh Meat” a barfly yells out slapping the bar with his hand.“You awr, awr you?” Jerry-Poo says to me. “How do I know who sent you?” Jerry-Poo snaps, his eyes getting bigger. Suddenly a loud buzzer goes off, Jerry-Poo’s eyes dart around the room. “Shit, he’s up” he yells out………. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 6 Jerry-Poo looks at me, looks at the buzzer and then back at me. The frequency and insistency of the buzzer begins to increase; sweat now forms on his upper lip.“Jesus Jerry” one of barflies yells out “He don’t sound like he’s in a good mood.” Jerry-Poo waves me away with his hand. “I’ll see you on your shift and don’t be late he adds jabbing one boney finger in the air. I turn and stumble down the front stairs and onto the street. An old woman walking a dog passes me, the dog looks at me and continues on. One thing that I honestly love about New York City is that you can have the most bizarre experience, turn around and step back into normalcy. It’s like being on Star Trek and walking through their doors. One moment calm and the next minute the doors open and chaos ensues.No one passing me on the sidewalk crosses to the other side with a crucifix clutched in their hand while they look up at The 9th Circle bar. I feel that I was truly in a den of evil. I am both repulsed to return and a little interested and excited. “Hmmmmmm” I say aloud to no one.That night, I walk into Uncle Charlie’s and find the waiter who asked me to work his shift at The 9th Circle. “Are you out of your mind?” I ask. “Why?” he answers with a giggle. “I’m not going; you can find someone else to cover for you.” He looks at me and summons up his best impression of Bambi, his eyes get all big and he talks in a baby voice. “Oh please” he begs “You promised and it’s only for a week.” “No Way!” I respond. He stands up, walks towards me and puts his arm around my neck. His face is two inches from mine. “Come on, you promised, a deals a deal,” he whispers. “First,” I say “Why are you so close?” I take my hand, place it on his chest and move him back, and “second, why do you want me to do this for you?”“Because I trust you.” He looks directly into my eyes. “You’re not like the other people here, my job is safe with you, I know you’ll give it back.” Years later I have learned to identify bullshit but like I said, back then I was just starting out.“Ok, you win.” I say feeling touched and defeated. “Hurray” he yells “Can I buy you a drink?” “Drinks are free,” I remind him, “Well not free” I finish with. We have adapted the “Don’t ask, don’t tell policy” long before President Clinton gave it to us. I have three nights before I have to officially return to The 9th Circle. I begin to silently pray.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 7 I show up an hour early my first night at The 9th Circle. I want to show them that I can do the job and that they could count on me. “Hi, I’m Geoff.” I say extending my hand the doorman. “Huh?” says the doorman looking at me, his mouth hanging open. “Hi, I’m Geoff.” I repeat holding out my hand. “Wha?” says the doorman. “I’m new here and tonight is my first night” I say louder to the doorman. “I’m covering for one of the waiters.” I am now yelling, I figure that he must be hard of hearing because he just keeps staring at me. “What are you doing later?” he says to me with a leer on his face. “I have a feeling I’ll be avoiding you” I say and turn on my heel. “Saucy” he says running his tongue across his mouth. “Ick” I think to myself, serious ick.“Pay no attention to him’ says one of the bartenders waving me in. “That’s Brian our doorman, not too smart” he says pointing to his head and sticking out his tongue. “I’m Tree” he says extending his hand. “This is Don” he points to another person standing behind the bar. “I’m Geoff and it’s nice to meet you both” I say shaking hands.“Tonight’s a big night” Tree continues. “Robin Byrd is having a private party in the basement and it needs to be perfect.” “Who’s Robin Byrd?” I ask. “Doll, where are you from?” asks Don laughing. “Guilderland New York” I say “Between Albany and Schenectady.” “Oh” says Don coming from behind the bar. He walks over to the jukebox and opens it up. “Come over here Geoff and play what you want” Don opens the jukebox and begins to push hundreds of song selections. “We play what we want and by the time people put money in to hear their songs it will be closing time.” with that said, Don closes the lid.
“Where’s the basement?” I ask. Tree points to a door in the wall. “That doors the basement and that other door leads upstairs.” “If you need to piss use the upstairs bathroom, its semi private, staff only.” “Thanks” I say with a smile
“Do we close down?”I ask walking back towards Tree. “Why do you ask?” inquires Tree. “Well because there is no one in here right now” I say. “Oh there will be, there will be.” Say’s Don with a chuckle.
About 20 minutes later the place is packed. A woman in a mesh bikini and a cowboy hat walks by me. “Robin Byrd” Tree mouths and then winks. She heads past the bar and into the basement. Tree follows right behind her, as he passes he tells me to come down when I get a chance. “I’ll introduce you” he says.
The bar is so dark that I can’t see faces unless they are standing directly in front of the bar or by the jukebox. My first table calls me over it is so dark that I extend my hands like a blind man searching for something. I touch someone’s arm and yell into the dark in front of me “What can I get you?” I scream over the music. Joan Jett is singing about her Bad reputation. “Two boilermaker specials” requests the faceless voice. “Coming right up,” I yell back.
I go to the bar and ask for two boilermakers. “Did they ask for the special ones?” Don asks. “Oh yeah” I say feeling bad that I didn’t know there was specials ones and not special ones. Don puts two beers, two shots and a wooden box on my tray. “That’s the special part” he says pointing to the box and patting me on the shoulder.
I turn from the bar, tray in hand and almost run smack into Brian. “What are you doing later?” Brian asks putting his hands on my waist and trying to pull me in. “Getting a penicillin shot” I say. “I have the strangest itch I can’t get rid of.” “Really?” says Brian with a wink. “Need a ride?”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 8
All night long Brian is on me like white on rice. Peter Pan’s shadow spent less time attached than Brian did. The longer the night got, the drunker Brian got. He started slurring “You’re so hot” which ended up sounding “Er so snot.” I was constantly removing his hands from me.
I was very busy all night long trying to get everyone served and trying to learn everyone’s names. It was the strangest mix of people I had ever seen. Everyone from the homeless (not kidding) to Wall Street traders and everyone in between were there all under one roof. It took me about 20 minutes to realize that I was indeed working in a hustler bar. Young twinky boys were hanging off old men acting like they were Leona Helmsley when they ordered their drinks. Every now and then someone would snap their fingers to get my attention. It was so loud in there that you could have banged a gong and I still wouldn’t have heard you.
I loved every minute of being there. I have always had friends from every spectrum and corner of life and this was one of the reasons I moved to New York. Two of my favorite customers were hustlers; I met on my first night. Their names were Dennis and Scott. Dennis was tripping his brains out on LSD and Scott was dressed somewhere between a Nazi Guard and a German youth. He was had on Black boots to the knees, white shirt, long tan trench coat, Arian youth haircut and riding crop tucked under his arm. He snapped the crop on my ass to get my attention. “Oh, Boy” he said waving his crop at the table. “How long do I have to wait to get served?” My reaction was not what he expected, I burst into laughter. Dennis tripping his brains out giggled along with me.
I introduced myself to the two of them. Scott extended his hand as if I was helping him out of a handsome cab and Dennis wandered away. Scott went on to tell me that he and Dennis had just picked up an old man who was blind drunk at another bar, caught a cab and headed to their apartment in Harlem. When they got there they took the guys wallet and pushed him out of the cab. The cab driver sped off, Scott and Dennis split the money with him and headed here. “The funny thing is,” said Scott “I don’t live in Harlem.”
I didn’t know what to do or say. I was shocked and again, intrigued. Had never heard or seen anything like this. Of course things got weird at Uncle Charlie’s but this took things to another level. Scott then ordered 2 vodka and sodas with a twist. “Coming right up” I cheerfully responded.
“Beware of that one.” Don said pointing to Scott. “Way ahead of you,” I responded. This was also the night I was to meet my long time friend Mitch. I was standing at the end of the bar when I felt a tap tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find this short, zaftig and very blond kid standing there. He was listing from foot to foot, a huge grin on his face. “Hi you’re new,” he said to me, his eyes were slits. “You’re very cute and I love you.” With that said Mitch pitched backwards taking three bar stools with him when he hit the floor. “You’re making quite an impression” said Don with a laugh.
Then the buzzer starting going off………….. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ………..BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Don looked at the buzzer and looked at me. “Sorry Geoff” Don said “Welcome to your baptism by fire”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 9The next thing I knew I was standing in front of a door that had a sign with “Do Not Enter” on it and a hand written sign that added “Fuck Off” in case you missed the first message. How did I get here? Only moments ago that buzzer had sounded and everyone at the bar jumped into action. Don immediately took an old bedside tray from behind the bar and on it he placed a clean empty mason jar, a mason jar with water, two baby food jars and a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. He pointed to the door next to the stairs and told me to go stand by it. When I did he pushed a buzzer and signaled for me to push the door open. I went through the door but blocked it open with my foot. I looked at Don pleadingly; he laughed and said “You’ll know when you get there.” He then made the sign of the cross, I glared at him.Behind me in the dim lighting I could see a staircase; I believed this is where I was supposed to go. With my knees knocking I climbed the stairs. On the second landing there was a bathroom that had a sliding door and a sign stating that it was indeed the employee bathroom. At the end of the hall was the business office. The door was slightly open and I could hear the sound of a far off television set. I looked in and could see no one in the room, so I continued my climb.On the third floor I came to the door with the “Do Not Enter “sign on it. I held my breath. Lifting my knee I balanced the tray and I knocked. Nothing, so I knocked again. There was no answer so I reached out and turned the knob. I was not prepared for what I saw or worse what I smelled. The first thing I smelled was cats, maybe a hundred cats. There where cats alright. There were cats everywhere. There were cats sitting on the table, cats on the fridge, cats on the floor and cats on the window sill. There were also mason jars. There were thousands of mason jars all half filled with a yellow liquid. The mason jars took up every single inch of free space there was. That is if you include all the newspapers and the over flowing ashtrays. The heat in the apartment was over overbearing but the windows were closed and steamed up.“Hello?” I called out feeling like I was in the movie Last House on the left. No answer, so I called out again. “Hello?” A voice that sounded like it was spoken through rotting leaves answered. It said “Who the fuck are you?” I looked down as a cat wound around my ankles. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 10 I felt frozen to the spot. I could feel the sweat forming on the back of my neck. I wanted to drop the tray and run for my life. Whatever this was, it was not worth it. “My…my…my name is Geoff” I stammered. “Don’t just fucking stand there, get me some water” the voice demanded. “Ice is in the freezer.” I still could not see who it was I was talking to. The smell of death and decay clung to everything.I walked around piles of newspapers, magazines and piles of rotting clothes. The cats watched my every move. I was standing in the kitchen, or at least I thought it was the kitchen. I could see the fridge and somewhere there had to be a stove. I spotted what looked at one time to be a white microwave oven; a thick layer of grease covered the top and side, giving it a slightly brownish yellow look.I placed the tray on top of several of the half full mason jars. The smell in the apartment was burning my eyes and nose. “Hurry, the fuck up!” the voice yelled. “I…..I’m going as fast as I can” I said. I had to keep repressing the feeling that I was going to vomit at any minute. A cat walked on the counter in front of me, it dragged its tail under my nose. “Rowr” the cat said looking into my eyes pausing briefly before it could make a return trip. I was definitely standing on things that were on the floor. If I had to guess I was suspended about five inches above the floor.“Do you want the water they sent upstairs with me?” I asked. “Do you want the water they sent upstairs with me?” he mimicked. “Fucking genius” he snarled sounding like steam escaping a tight valve. “Use your fucking brain.” He hissed. I was listening intently to where the voice was coming from.My guess was that he was behind the slightly closed door twelve feet away from me. Slowly and as quietly as I could, I began walking over and around the mounds of garbage on the floor towards the voice. “What the fuck is taking so long?” he screamed. Somewhere in the room with the slightly closed door, objects hit the floor. In his anger he was throwing things to the floor.
Slowly I headed towards the door, I could hear my breathing. I reached out with a trembling hand and pressed one finger to the door. It moved slowly inwards but not before letting out a loud creak. “Where is my water? Where is my water? Where is my water?” he began screaming slapping his hands on the bed.
The door slowly opened and the smell that I first encountered when I entered the apartment was much worse. I squinted into the room. I couldn’t see anything. The room was dark and the blinds were pulled. The only light was coming from a street light outside.
I could see a figure lying on what I thought was a bed in the middle of a pile of garbage. He leaned up on his elbows and looked at me; I still could not see his face. “Where the fucking holy god dammed hell is my water?” he screeched. The urge to vomit was stronger than it had been.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 11
I reached out and searched the wall for a light switch. “Don’t turn the fucking light on!” he screamed. “I……I….I….can’t see” I said. “Don’t turn the fucking light on!” he screamed again. “I can’t see” I said again raising my voice. “Don’t turn the fucking light on, don’t turn the fucking light on, don’t turn the fucking light on!” he screamed louder and began to slap his hands on the bed again. I started to feel intense pressure and could feel my heart beating faster. “Oh for Christ’s sake, shut up!” I screamed surprising myself.
My hand began to move faster over the wall searching for the switch, the panic in me was rising again. I found it and brought my hand up fast, the familiar click sound bathed the room in yellow light. He screamed as if he was being doused in Holy water.
I looked over at the bed, he was writhing and screaming. What I saw in front of me was an old man with yellow skin. He was shriveled and wearing a stained filthy t-shirt. His hair was short and standing up in all directions. His finger nails were long and broken and he was lying in his own filth.
What really shocked me was that one of his legs was black, swollen and I could see the bone. The smell was overpowering and I could feel the room spinning. “Oh my god, you need a doctor” I mumbled. “What I need is some fucking water, some fucking quiet and for you to turn off the fucking lights and to get the fuck out of my house!” he hissed at me.
I ran back into the kitchen opened the fridge and found the ice and threw it the Mason jar and ran back into the bedroom. I climbed over all the garbage and came to the side of the bed and extended my hand to him. His hand wrapped around my wrist and he pulled himself to me. He reminded me of a sick bird that’s claw has wrapped itself around my arm. I forced myself not to scream. He grabbed the jar and began to drink the water spilling it down the front of himself.
“I need a cigarette now” he said spitting water on me. “What you need is a doctor and a shower” I shot back at him. “You’re pretty mouthy” he growled at me. “I am also the only one who’s obviously walked this far into your house in years” I said standing. I grabbed his cigarettes and lit one. “Who the hell said you can smoke in my house?” he screamed.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 12
“Fuck you” I think to myself but I don’t say it out loud. The cigarette smoke circles my head. It actually improves the smell in the apartment. The ever watchful cats track my every move. I flick the ashes into one of the jars filled with yellow liquid and the smell it returns confirms my fears that it’s filled with urine.
Now mind you, this is years before we have the show “Hoarders” or anyone knows about how Howard Hughes lived. The term we used back then is “Eccentric.”
“Have you eaten?” I ask him. “What the fuck do you think?” he responds. He moves his arms like a spokes model on the Price is Right. “Do you see a skeleton laying here?” he asks spraying spittle into the air. I can see the top part of his dentures lying within arm’s reach; they have unidentifiable fuzz sticking to them. “How long have you lived like this?” I ask. “How long have you been a jackass” he mimics me.
I let out a heavy sigh to signal that he is annoying me. So many questions run through my head. What am I supposed to be doing up here? Why me? Who takes care of him? While I am trying to gather my thoughts he takes the cane by his bed and sweeps it across a pile of books sending them crashing to the floor. “Do I have your attention?” he says and then cackles. “Toothless old fuck”, I think to myself.
I look around and take in more of the room. “Is there anything I can get you?” I ask. “Yeah, you can get the fuck out!” he adds with his now familiar cackle. “With pleasure,” I sing, turn on my heel and head towards the door. I look back at the bed and he shoots me the bird. “Dear lord, please strike him with lightning” I pray under my breath.
I close the door and lean against the frame. Inside something crashes against the wall. It’s very clear that he has thrown it in anger.
I head down the stairs taking them two at a time. I head past the office and glance in again. This time someone is sitting at the desk, their head is down but I can see a straw up their nose. They keep leaning forward and I can see them snorting white powder off a mirror. They quickly glance up and look in my direction. I pull my eye out of the crack in the door; I have had enough drama for the night. Actually, I have had enough drama for several nights.
I continue down the hall and the staff bathroom door opens, about 8 people pile out. They are laughing and very animated. I say “Hello,” and keeping heading down. I get to the door at the bottom of the stairs and I wait. I begin to slowly count to ten. I then grab the knob and push the door open.
The first thing I see is a skanky go-go boy standing on the bar. His underpants are around his ankles and he is surrounded by men. He is stirring a drink with his dick. I hear someone yell out “Now this party’s starting!”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 13
“Frightening”, says Don as I walk back around the side of the bar. “You don’t know the half of it,” I say opening the side entrance. ‘Trust me, I do,” responds Don handing me a shot. “I’ve had to go up there myself on occasion.”
I don’t even ask what I am about to drink, I just throw it back. The dancer is now sitting down on the bar completely naked smoking a cigarette. “I’m on break” he says to me with a wink. A really old man is leaning on his leg and looking into his eyes. “Isn’t a naked dancer illegal?” I whisper to Don. “Lots of stuff here is illegal” Don whispers back adding a laugh.”
“What’s in the wooden boxes I served with the boilermaker and who’s the old man upstairs?” I ask. Don puts one finger up to his lips. The phone rings and Don grabs it, he looks at me and points to the basement door. “Tree wants you downstairs.”
I walk out from behind the bar. “Be careful,” Don says with a laugh” there are more monsters in the basement then there are upstairs.” I flash him a “your real funny smirk” and cautiously, I approach the basement door. It can’t get any worse can it? I grab the handle and yank it open.
The noise level is louder in the basement and the lights are much brighter. The staircase is actually pounding in time to the music. I slowly walk down the stairs waiting to see what this next adventure will bring. The place is jumping. It is packed full again with lots of old men and very young twinks. I see that Scott and Dennis have cozied up to the bar. Scott ever on the prowl see’s me and raises his drink in my direction.
I see Tree behind the bar holding court, he waves me over. “Geoff’ I want you to meet some friends,” he says a big smile crossing his face. “Geoff this Carl” Tree says putting his hands on the shoulders of one of his bar patrons. I put out my hand to Carl and he shakes it. Tree moves further down the bar to the next patron “Geoff meet Neil.” “Nice to meet you Neil,” I say extending my hand.
“And Geoff, this is Bob.” Tree says with a smile. I turn and find myself eye to eye with a blond tussled muscular surfer with killer blue eyes. Words fail me. “Hi, I…I…I” “am Geoff” Bob says finishing my sentence and grabbing my hand in his. I can’t look out of his eyes and a perfect smile appears on his face. His teeth are straight, white and he has a twinkle in his eye.
I stand there not moving for a good three minutes. “Let go of his hand,” says Tree out of the side of his mouth causing Bob to laugh. You know that part in the movie when the wave crashes on the beach and the music begins to swell? Well, this was that moment for me.
“I hear this is your first night,” says Bob. “Uh huh,” I respond. We are slow dancing in my mind. Everyone around Bob begins to laugh. “Wow, you cast quite a spell,” says Tree to Bob. Bob doesn’t move, he just stares deep into my eyes and keeps the smile on his face. “I……I……I am very pleased to meet you,” I say still looking in his eyes. Bob is still holding my hand and I can feel the warmth of his hand in mine.
I slowly pull my hand out of Bobs, realizing that I am making a fool out of myself. “What….what…what do you do for a living?” I stammer looking at Bob. “Bobs a lawyer,” Trees quickly says. “Corporate law,” and adds a wink to Bob. The wink escapes me as I stare at Bob.
“Oh Geoff wait……….Robin!” Tree yells waving across the bar. “Robin, Robin!” he yells louder and waves his arms like he’s landing a plane. I really don’t need to meet anyone else.
Robin Byrd looks over at Tree, acknowledges him and begins to walk in our direction. She is wearing what is her trademark look, a string bikini and cowboy hat. I notice that the bikini is not really holding that much in. She saunters up to the bar and flashes a smile.
“Robin I want you to meet Geoff, he’s new here,” Tree says reaching across the bar and pushing me forward. Robin looks at me and I notice that she has an eye that sort of just wanders off. She puts her hand and out and says “Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you,” I quickly say. “If you need anything Robin, just ask Geoff” Tree adds. Then Tree quickly blurts out “He’s not from New York City.” Robin smiles and I take a step back. It’s then that I realize I am pushed up against Bob, I can feel him behind me. “Nice,” whispers Bob and puts a hand on my hip. I almost faint.
“Hey new kid,” someone screams across the room breaking my moment. I realize its Scott. He motions me over with his riding crop. “Excuse me,” I say to Robin and Bob. Bob flashes another smile at me and I walk backwards a few steps. Quickly I turn and walk right into a patron. “Hello cutie,” the patron slurs. I can smell booze on him and he is teetering, trying to put his arms around me. I suddenly hear the crack of the riding crop as Scott brings it across the old man’s head. “Move along grossy groccerson” says Scott hitting him with the riding crop again and again. The old man lunges and staggers away from us. Scott grabs my arm and pulls me to the side of the bar and pulls out a stool. “Have a seat” Scott says dusting it off with his riding crop.
I steal a look back in the direction of Bob. He is staring at me with a big smile on his face. “Oh, you like ‘em big and cute?” says Scott placing the riding crop under my chin.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 14
“I want to tell you one of my favorite stories” Scott says turning my face to his “Now that were new friends”. “Hello, Miss Thing,” Dennis yells moving in right behind me. I mentally check to see where my wallet is.
“I once had this roommate who was a 300 pound tacky black drag queen named Laronda,” says Scott getting an evil look in his eye. “Anyway, she comes to me one day and I tell her that I need a favor.” Dennis behind me snickers. “So, I tell her that my father is sending me money Western Union and I can’t pick it up,” Scott looks around me at Dennis and they both begin laughing. “So, Laronda says that she will pick the money up for me.” “Delicious, just delicious” says Dennis twirling the back of my hair with his index finger.
“The day arrives and I send Laronda to Western Union.” Scott pauses and looks straight into my eyes. “Oh, did I tell you that Laronda was illiterate?” Dennis is giggling louder “She can’t read or write a word.” “So I tell Laronda that she needs to hand the teller this note to get the money.”
“Tell him what the note says, tell him what the note says,” blurts Dennis tugging on my sleeve. “The notes says, my name is Laronda, gorilla woman, give me all your money, I have a gun!”
With this Dennis and Scott fall off the stool and begin rolling in laughter. They are falling all over themselves. “The cops……the cops…….the cops took her away!” Dennis and Scott can barely breathe and are slapping and clinging to each other.
“Can you imagine the look on that tellers face when a 300 pound tacky drag queen with crooked stockings handed her that note?” says Scott now red in the face from laughing. They continue laughing and slowly climb back onto their bar stools. I feel as if my mouth is hanging open. Don’t get me wrong it took years for me to laugh at that story, ok weeks. If that story is true, what are these two truly capable of?
An old man squeezes between me and Scott; he is listing from side to side. Scott bounces him like a pinball. Then Scott looks around me at Dennis and whispers loudly “Oh look, fresh fish!” It’s about this time that I remember that I am at work. I have very little money in my pocket and I am not here for a picnic.
“Hey guys I have to get going.” Scott and Dennis are no longer looking at me and have moved on to greener pastures. Scott is pressed up to the guy from the front and Dennis has his hand on the guys back pocket encasing his wallet.
I jump off the stool and head back to the stairs via Bob. He hasn’t taken his eyes off me and has a smile on his face. He is softly laughing and shaking his head side to side. I point to the stairs and tell him “To come up and see me sometime.”
Slowly climbing the stairs I am suddenly overwhelmed. I am aware that I am in a den of prostitutes, thieves, cut throats, drunks, drug addicts and probably killers but I have to tell you, I am having the time of my life. Oh sure, I am fresh of the Turnip truck from up upstate New York but I’m not that naïve, or at least I don’t think I am.
I walk back into the bar and Don immediately sees me. I push through the crowd. The jukebox is playing Joan Jett for the 50th time that night. Funny enough it’s “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation.” It’s somehow very fitting at this moment.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 15
“How’s the freak show downstairs?” asks Don with a smile. “Better looking than up here,” I say. “I love my job” says Don with a laugh throwing a bottle in the garbage. “Oh hey, take this to the table against the wall,” Don says handing me the now familiar sidecar. I place it on my tray and head into the crowd. I get felt up crossing the bar and I can’t tell who has grabbed what at this point. I put the drink down in front of this old man and notice sitting in the back in the dark at this table is a young kid of about 15. He has curly black hair, muscular build, gray muscle shirt and shorts. I don’t see him as much first as I do smell him. This is my first meeting with a male prostitute that has been given the nickname “Stinky” by the bar staff. Stinky has his arm around this old man’s shoulders and another one on his lap. “Hey, you’re kinda cute,” says the old man through squinted eyes. “How much for a dance?” he says lurching forward. “Really,” I think to myself. Does he think this is 1930’s Berlin? I am suddenly reminded of a Donna Summer song and want to tell him its ten cents a dance but I let it pass. Stinky waves his hand at me and tells me to “move on.” “Aren’t you fancy?” I mumble under my breath to Stinky. Stinky shoots me daggers with his eyes.
I move back into the crowd and someone grabs my arm. “I want a beer,” the man says to me. “Ok,” I say squinting at the bar hoping to read the bar taps. “What kind of beer do you have?” he asks looking right into my eyes. “I’m not really sure?” I respond “’I’m new here”. “Well can you go find out?” he says sounding slightly irritated and raising his voice. “Of course, “I say using my best Snow White voice and head to the bar. In time I find out that this man is a regular in the bar and years later will be nominated for a Tony Award, but tonight he is on his best behavior and his anger medication seems to be working.
I head to the bar and Don can see what table I just came from. “Watch out for that one.” says Don swirling one finger counter clockwise around his ear. “He wants to know what kind of beer we have,” I say. “That one?” he’s here nightly “He knows what we have.” I look back at the table; he is staring at the ceiling. “Oh, ok,” I say. “Would you like me to tell him that?” I say my voice dripping in sarcasm. Don rolls his eyes and starts naming all the beers and I begin writing. “Got it,” I yell and head back to the bar. On my way there Scott pops up in front of me.
“I have something to tell you,” Scotts says and I lean in. He proceeds to grab the back of my head and kisses me right on the mouth. I try to pull back from him. This is a little strange and I am completely uncomfortable but flattered. I imagine what kind of life we will have on the run.
Scott pulls back looks in my eyes and tells me that “I belong to him.” With that he turns on his heel and saunters away. Somehow I feel branded and a little tarnished. I walk back to the table feeling a little dazed as well.
“What took you so long?” the Tony nominee to be asks. Jesus, so many people to answer to, I am completely exhausted. “Long beer list,” I say not missing a beat. “Well good, because I now want something with Gin instead.” “What kind of Gin do you have?” he says narrowing his eyes at me. Resisting the urge to slap him across the head, I just wander away from the table and head back to the bar.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 16
Don goes through the various gins that he has behind the bar. I resist the urge to order a glass of warm piss to dump on this patrons head. The bar is packed to overflowing, naked stripper boys are dancing on the bar, the basement door has a steady stream heading in and out and the women’s room has a line to get into it. In my experience the women’s room in gay bars is used for people to do their drugs without fear of someone actually needing to use it.
I can hear a loud screaming match starting between two patrons. This quickly escalates into pushing and chair throwing. The whole bar seems to be pushing back and forth and now punches are being thrown. I see an old queen stand up on his chair afraid of getting in the middle. “Get Brian’” Don yells.
I kneel on the bar and begin searching the crowd for our bouncer. The fight is so out of hand at this point that people are ducking for cover and the crowd is pushing back. I spot Brian in the corner on the pinball machine. “Brian, Brian!” I start screaming. Brian is clearly involved in his game and can’t hear me. The fight is about 12 feet away from Brain but he doesn’t even notice.
I squeeze through the crowd and push my way over to the pinball machine. “Brian, there’s a fight and we need your help.” I cry, yelling to be heard. Brian’s eyes are glassy and he mumbles “I just put a quarter in the game.” I say “Brian, did you hear me? There’s a fight going on and we need your help.” “Did you hear me? I just put a quarter in this game and I want to finish playing!” Brian shoots back at me. I look at him and can’t believe what I am hearing.
Reaching behind the machine I find the cord and follow it with my eyes into the wall. Grabbing it firmly in my hand, I give it a snap and it flies free of the plug shutting the game down immediately. Brian pauses as if caught in headlights and then he looks at me. “Fucker!” he screams his face immediately turning crimson. He lunges and I duck back into the crowd. I run towards the fight. I am ducking blows, Brian is right behind me and as luck would have it, Brian gets punched in the face. That’s all he needs to release the rage he has inside, bodies start flying around. I feel that I am watching a Popeye cartoon.
People are flying through the air and I can see Brian in the middle. I head for the safety of the bar. Directly in front of me on the other side of the bar is Bob. “I heard that there was a fight, I came to make sure that you were ok.” He says adding a smile. In the middle of this chaos I am frozen to the spot.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 17
I can’t believe that Bob is concerned about me. I just met him, I know nothing about him and he is standing right in front of me telling me that he is concerned about me. The bar is in complete chaos and punches are being thrown. Chrissie Hynde’s “Message of Love” is playing on the jukebox.
I tell Bob, over the roar of the crowd to go to the other end of the bar near the exit and I will meet him there. A wooden chair gets launched out of the crowd and hits the floor about a foot away from me. “Having fun yet?” Don yells at me while scooping up patron’s drinks in the hopes that they don’t become additional weapons. “I love it,” I respond as I run behind the bar. I reach the end, use the sink as leverage and hop onto the bar. Sitting on my butt I swing my legs over and land on the floor. I follow Bob out the front door.
Bob stops on the sidewalk right in front of the stairs. “Exciting night huh?” Bobs says, somewhere in the bar a chair smashes to the floor. His eyes twinkle while he talks. “I’ll never forget it,” I say. Bob chuckles. “Neither will I,” he says putting his hand out reaching for mine. I grab his hand and stare into those eyes. “So blue,” I think to myself. “Are you working tomorrow?” Bob asks. His eyes glance at the building and at the 9th Circle sign. In the distance I can still hear the fight going on, people are running out of the building as if it’s on fire. “Not here,” I say hoping that he can’t hear the sadness in my voice. “However, I will be at Uncle Charlie’s.” Bob smiles and says “Good, I will see you there.” Bob takes a slow step back, releases my hand, turns and heads up the block. He turns around twice to make sure that I am still watching. I am.
I turn back to the bar take a step up the stairs when Brian appears, dragging someone down the stairs. He hoists the guy in the air and throws him into the middle of the street. Then as if he is in a movie brushes his hands against each other. Brian then turns around and points his finger directly at me. “You ever pull the plug on my game again and I will kill you.” “Got it,” I said out loud, secure in the knowledge that I will probably have to do it again.
I walk back up the stairs and into the bar. The scene is grim. The bar looks like a place that just had a huge fight happen there. People are sitting around, nursing wounds and nursing drinks. The party is pretty much breaking up and people who didn’t run out during the fight, now start leaving. Scott walks out of the bar with Dennis. In between them and being supported by them is an old man who can barely walk. “He’s loaded,” Scott says as he walks past me making the “he’s got money sign” by rubbing his fingers together. The old man’s feet barley touch the floor and are being dragged behind him. I watch this old drunk deer being led to slaughter and I stand in silence. “Good night boys,” is the best that I can muster up.
I re-join Don behind the bar and help clean up. It has been quite a night and I am wiped and ecstatic all at the same time. I begin to pile chairs on the bar and Brian slithers up behind me. “What are you doing later?” Brian asks. “Going Home,” I respond. “My home or your home?” Brian says with a slimy grin on his face. I can feel a look of disgust cross my face and I do nothing to hide it.
For the next twenty minutes Brian follows me around the bar asking this question a million different ways and gets the same answer every time. I bid good night to Don and head out to the sidewalk. Brian runs out after me and grabs my arm; we walk together to the corner. Once there I put my hand in the air and a cab screeches to a stop. Brian motions for me to get in, being the gentleman he is, opens the door for me. I climb in, grab the handle, slam the door in Brian’s face and quickly push down the lock. “Drive!” I scream to the Cabbie. The driver does not have to be told twice and hits the gas. As we peel out, I look out the back window and see a new look cross Brian’s face. The look new look is called shock.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 18
The taxi races through several red lights on its way across town. My hand is wrapped through the strap attached to the top of the door and every now and then, I become slightly airborne when he hits corners. I’m not sure the driver knows that I was not just in danger when I yelled at him to drive. “Good god, what a night!” I think to myself. How do I process any of it or make any sense out of what I just went through? It was a total freak show, a truly wonderful freak show, but still a crazy whacked out nonstop freak show. I really have so much to think about, before I go back. Can I do it again? “Boy was that place crazy,” I say to the driver. He looks at me in the rearview mirror and nods his head. I can tell he doesn’t understand a word I am saying. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved every crazy minute of it and will be counting the moments until I get to go back. Well, that also has a lot to do with Bob.
The cab pulls up outside of my apartment and screeches to a halt. I hand the money to the driver over the front seat and slide out. The place I am staying at this month is at the only high rise located on Astor Place in the village. It is very clear that I probably don’t have the income to stay in a building like this. My friend Susan is working out her inheritance and is in LA and so I am staying at her place paying a low rent and taking care of her two cats, one of them being a 14 year old Siamese.
I have asked a friend to stay in my apartment. The apartment is the amazing carriage house located on 13st between 6th and 7th. Actually, it is now a sublet of a sublet, but he seems happy with the arrangement. I know that it sounds confusing but in New York everyone seems to have a special deal worked out.
Every time I walked into the lobby of the Astor Place building, the guys who sit at the front desk ask me who I am here to see. It gets really tiresome, really fast and they seem to enjoy it. Tonight something new, the lone doorman asks me for id as well. I have repeatedly told him that I am living in Susan’s apartment while she deals with a death and is out of town. I know that it’s a lie. I know that she is in LA drinking and having a party and calls me slurring twice a week but I figure I shouldn’t share that part of the story with him.
I take the elevator up the 12 floors and step into the hallway. It’s a quick 3 steps to the apartment. I fumble in my bag, pull out the key’s, turn the lock and step in. The apartment is dark but slightly illuminated by the light in the boa constrictor’s tank. Her name is Jasmine and she is my baby. I look at her, she is 3 feet long and tonight has her head tucked into the folds of her body. She is fast asleep. I have had her since she was a baby and surprised at how affectionate she actually is.
I throw the keys onto the counter and they scatter to the floor. I am too tired to bend over and pick them up.
The view from the living room is breath taking. The apartment has floor to ceiling windows. New York is beautiful and tonight I can add dangerous and scary to that list.
I pull off my clothes and climb the ladder to the loft. Once up there, I have to crawl on my hands and knees to get to the bed. My head hits the pillow and I don’t wake up until the alarm sounds.
Being jerked awake, I sit up quick in bed; the ceiling is directly 2 inches from my head. I am always careful not to smash my head on the ceiling. I am so groggy, I feel as if I never went to sleep. “What a crazy night” I say out loud to myself. I go through it all in my head.
I have a busy day ahead of me and I go through a mental list of what I have to do today before I have to work at Uncle Charlie’s tonight. My agent got me a go-see today at 1pm. A Japanese company is looking for American models to star in their ad campaign. I have to call him to double check that its still on. I have a little bit of time before I have to be there, so I should make the call in the next hour. I also have a couple dance classes and a musical theatre audition. Ahhhhhh, I feel a day of rejection coming my way. I crawl out of bed and crawl across the floor on my hands and knees to get to the ladder. Once I there, I have to turn around to go feet first down the ladder. The same windows that gave me such a beautiful view last night gives my neighbors and the people of NYC the view of my legs kicking while hanging over the side of the loft. I try to get my legs on the rungs. The people of NYC also get a good view of my underwear. It is a skill I am learning. You sort of have to kick your feet out in the air and grab the top of the ladder. It is taking me awhile to perfect this technique.
I reach the ground floor safely and the cats are racing around to get feed. I have brought my two and now there is a total of four needing my attention. The poor Siamese is sitting on the couch crying. I go over to her and pick her up. It’s then that I realize that she has pissed on the couch and has been laying in her own filth. “Why is everyone around me laying in their own piss lately?” I say out loud to no one. “God damn it,” I scream frustrated. Now, I have a huge chore to do before I can even get out of the house.
Jasmine is awake and pushing against the top of her tank with her nose. A thin screen held in place with clamps stops her from wandering around the house. She has gotten out on several occasions; this makes the cats very nervous.
I make a mental note to myself. “Got to go to Petland and buy a rat. It’s time to feed Jasmine.”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 19
‘What do you mean I can’t buy a rat if I have to feed it to a snake?” I ask the girl behind the counter at Petland. “Those are the rules and besides, this is a fancy rat,” she says to me not missing a beat. “A fancy rat?” I repeat slightly puzzled. “Yes,” she sighs as if she is pointing out the obvious. “What’s the difference?” I ask. She sighs even louder and rolls her eyes to the heavens. “A fancy rat has long fur and is raised as a pet.” With this said, she tries to walk away from me. “Ok, ok,” I put up my hand to stop her. ”What if I don’t have a snake and I want to buy a rat?” “Oh that would be a completely different story,” she replies and positions herself in front of the register. “I need to buy a rat,” I say. “What kind of rat do you need?” she asks. “Oh, anything you have lying around,” I respond holding my breath. “I have a fancy rat,” she says motioning to the drawers behind her. There are about 30 rats climbing all over each other. Now, I have always been a member of the ASPCA and PETA and this is the downside of owning a snake, but unless the snakes going to eat my cooking, this is what I have to do. “Sold!” I sing out. “You’re not feeding this rat to a snake are you?” the girl asks narrowing her eyes. Not believing that this is really happening, I cross my fingers in my pocket. “No, no, not at all,” I say placing my other hand up in the air like a good boy scout. With this she reaches in a drawer lifts up a big black and white rat by the tail and drops him into a box, then pushes out the air holes. I hand her money and she drops the box into a plastic Petland bag.
Thanking her, I walk back onto the street and head over to St. Marks place to wander through Trash and Vaudeville. I wander through the racks; the rat is starting to become very active in the box. I am not really seeing anything that I like and walk into the shoe department. I am delaying my return to the apartment because my friend Missy has moved from Boston to NYC. After a couple of conversations Susan thinks’ that it is a great idea to have Missy take over her bedroom and let me keep the loft. Before this time Susan’s bedroom door was locked so she could travel from coast to coast and have a place to stay. Missy has moved to New York to study at NYU and could actually save a couple bucks living with me. I have no problem with this at all. I would like to give her some space because today she is studying with some friends. Missy has told me how hard it is to make friends here in the city and I can’t be her only one.
My friend Regina will be staying in the apartment for the next couple weeks as well, she is in between theatre jobs. Susan thinks that this is a great idea and pockets the extra income. Regina and I will end up moving in together at The Imperial Courts Hotel on 79th Street in the next couple of months. That is after we meet Susan’s mother during an unexpected visit and realize it is going to become a regular thing.
I have some extra time to kill, I called my agent earlier. My audition for the Japanese company will take place later in the week. I would like to wander some more but the rat is really active. I walk back to Astor place and show them my id. It’s the same doorman I saw as I was leaving. “What do have in the bag? The Doorman asks. The bag is out of control and I have to keep giving it a little shake because the rat is trying to save itself by eating through the box. I shrug my shoulders and ignore him.
I am alone in the elevator and I can see the doorman lean over his post to watch the doors close on me. The ride is quick and I get the apartment and unlock the door. Regina is sitting in the open kitchen on the phone; the cord is stretched within an inch of its life. Missy is sitting in the living room holding court with two other students. “Geoff, I want you to meet two of my friends from NYU,” Missy yells to me. I wave and let them get back to studying. Regina waves from the stool she is perched on.
I walk over to Jasmines cage and release the clamps that hold the lid in place. Jasmine is wide awake and knows what’s about to happen. She begins to climb to the top of the tank. The rat is now out of the box and spinning in the bag.
To feed a captive boa constrictor, you need to stun its food or it will attack the snake, sometimes hurting or killing it. I swing the bag hoping to make the rat dizzy and stunned but swinging it causes it to break, the rat flies into the air. Missy’s friends sit there looking stunned by all of this. I chase the rat who hits the floor running into the living room. Grabbing the box I chase the rat into the corner of the room and trap him underneath. Regina is sitting on a stool, still on the phone. She has witnessed the feeding of Jasmine on several occasions and this doesn’t faze her in the least. She has however put one finger in her ear so she can hear her conversation.
I dump the contents of the box into another bag, swing it and bring hard down on the counter. Missy’s friends jump up grabbing their things and almost fall over each other trying to get out. I swing the bag again and bring it down even harder. Missy has followed her friends to the door; they are too horrified by what I am doing and suddenly have a million reasons why they have to leave. “Hand me the hammer,” I scream as the rat is fighting for its life. Regina without missing a beat or getting off her stool reaches down into one of the drawers and hands me the hammer. This is so not the way I want this to go and will be one of the reasons I find Jasmine a new home. I don’t have the stomach for this.
Bringing the hammer down hard, the rat stops moving. I grab the end of the bag and drop the rat into Jasmines tank. Wasting no time Jasmine grabs the rat and wraps it up with her body. Missy is now an inch from my face. “Fuck you Geoff, you ruin everything!” she screams and walks into her bedroom slamming the door. The pictures on the wall jump.
Regina and I look at each other.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 20
I return to Uncle Charlie’s that afternoon to work the Happy Hour shift. It is one of the best happy hours in New York City. Everyone is aware that the bartenders tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to making drinks, that and the fact that the bartenders love to over pour. Imagine this deal at two for the price of one. I arrive and the place is quiet. It is two hours before Happy Hour officially begins. Of course, the bar has its regulars who arrive the minute the place opens, tend not to move from their spots and get asked to leave when we close. Breezing by them, they yell out various greetings.
“Thank God,” I say as I’m passing through the bar, I see that the usual crew is working. Mitch runs over to me rolling his eyes, the schedule has gone up and we are both working the holidays. Oh, well. I figure if I have to work during the holidays that Mitch and several of the other employees are people I consider family. Uncle Charlie’s is home for a lot of people who have nowhere to go, both staff and clientele. I spend a lot of time celebrating with the regulars.
I look around the side bar and see Charlie the DJ. He waves at me and Mitch as we hurry past on our way downstairs to clock in. Walking by the office I see that Seth is working. “He’s in a mood,” Mitch warn’s me as we pass. “What a shock” I think to myself.
Arriving at the lockers, I pull my Charlie’s shirt out of the bag and begin to dress. Several bartenders arrive and begin to change their clothes getting ready for the shift. One perk of working here is that the staff is beautiful. Most of the time they are hired for their looks and it’s an extra perk if they actually know what a vodka and soda is. Joe the bartender of “The Pizza Boy Delivers” fame comes running into the room and hastily strips off his clothes. It is a beautiful sight to behold and Mitch elbows me to make sure I am paying attention. You don’t have to nudge me twice. “Hello Joe,” Mitch sings making goo goo eyes in my direction. Joe pulling his shirt over his head grunts in response.
Mitch and I finish quickly and head back upstairs to the bar. Thank god there is very little prep work to do. Tonight, I am cocktail waiter. Tomorrow, I am a cocktail waiter and unfortunately, next week I am still stuck being a cocktail waiter. Eric the Fish breezes into the club waving his hand in my direction. He’s hard to miss, being nine feet tall. He looks like an oddly handsome Joey Ramone. “Sorry I’m late ladies,” he squeals as he runs by. I look at Steve the bartender, he rolls his eyes.
The bar begins to fill up; people like to be here the minute the clock chimes “Happy Hour”. Patrons get their drink on and then move on to the dance clubs. There is no dancing in Uncle Charlie’s. I don’t know if it because of the Cabaret law or because “it’s not cool.” We have a DJ, music videos and the best looking crowd.
Hoping to make a lot of money tonight, I approach my first patrons. It’s a small group of young twinks. They are all looking around to see if they are getting noticed. “Can I get you anything to drink? I ask as I approach. “I’ll have a vodka tonic,” one of the guys says. The other three tell me that they are waiting for Happy Hour to get going a little more. “Great, more of the stand and stare crowd” I think to myself. “What do you do for a living?” one of them asks me. “I’m a dancer,” I respond. “Oh, really’” he says a big grin forming on his face. “Where, do you dance?” he asks looking at his friends. Not really sure where this line of questioning is going I respond “Mostly Musical Theatre and Dance Companies.” “Oh, he says. “Have you ever danced at the Gaiety?” he asks his eyes getting big. “Where’s the Gaiety?” I ask. He tells me the address and says that he saw a really great show there just the other night. “Thanks for the tip,” I say and tell them that “I will check it out tomorrow.”
I walk away thinking about how nice they were but decide to keep the Gaiety to myself. I don’t want to let other dancers working at Charlie’s to know about the place. How great would it be to work as a dancer in New York and not have to go out of town all the time?
Walking back to the bar I notice a very skinny boy sitting all by himself. He looks like he has been crying and he keeps nervously scanning the crowd. I quickly walk over to him. “Are you ok?” I ask. He looks at me with bloodshot eyes, in between sniffles he tells me that he believes that his boyfriend is cheating on him and hopes that he will catch him here. “God, that sucks,” I say sitting down next to him. “Can I get you a drink?” I ask looking around. Then under my breath I add “On the house?” “That would be nice,” he sniffles in response. “I’m Geoff,” I say thrusting out my hand. “Hi, I’m John,” he says grasping it firmly.
I walk briskly over to the bar and explain to Steve what the situation is. Steve looks across the room and shakes his head. “So sad,” he responds. Both Steve and I are bleeding hearts when it comes to someone in distress. This is a common story we have heard once too often while working here. While waiting for the drink I scan the crowd hoping to see Bob.
Mitch walks by and sidles up next to me. “Looking for Bob?” He asks placing a finger under his chin. “Why as a matter of fact I am. Please let me know the minute you see him.” Mitch nods and turns on his heel.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 21
Two hours before closing, the arrival of Bob is announced via Mitch. “He’s here,” Mitch whispers loudly as he passes by me. Trying not to look desperate or eager I say “Thanks” and continue leaning on the side bar. From my position I can look in the mirrors and see people in the bar without having to look directly at them. I can see Bob walking through the front bar looking for someone. Hoping it’s me he’s looking for but not wanting to seem over anxious, I stop leaning and sneak through the back bar into the hallway. That way I can just accidentally “run into him.”
Pushing my way through the hallway I walk right up behind him. He is still looking around the bar when he turns around and crashes right into me knocking my tray to the floor. “Holy Shit,” he yells and we both bend over to pick up my tray. A big smile begins to form on his face as we slowly stand up. “I have been looking for you,” he says his blue eyes twinkling. “You were?” I say looking around. “I forgot,” I say, “Did you tell me that you were coming in here tonight?” I let my eyes stare into his. He laughs his gentle laugh and then sighs. “It’s good to see you,” he says a smile forming again. “You too,” I say. “I have met some of the loneliest people in here tonight.” I look around the bar is packed. I always thought that it was strange that you could sometimes feel loneliest in a crowded bar.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he says with a laugh. “Would you like to talk about it?” “Not right now,” I say “I only want to talk about happy things.” With this he takes my hand, looks into my eyes and asks me if I would like to go out with him after I get off work. Trying again no to seem too eager I tell him that it will be around 3 am. “I’ll see you then.” He says cupping my chin in his hand. He turns and heads to the front door of the bar. He turns around raises 3 fingers and mouths the words, “See you then.” Right at this moment I feel like the only person in the world.
I turn around and push my way through the crowded bar looking for Mitch and I beg him to work the rest of the night for me. He reminds me that he is already working, so it would be impossible to cover my shift. “Crap, you’re right,” I say dejected. “Oh well, then do you want to play a game?” Mitch asks looking towards the back bar.
One of the favorite games that Mitch and I play is called Numbers. Numbers is a game where we walk through the bar, stand in front of a patron and discuss what we think their faults and their strengths would be. Then we judge them in beauty and talent and finish with a number a number from one to ten. We then announce their final number to their faces and wish them all the best in the future. Most of the time the patrons we rate, are either falling down drunk, or nodding out because they are on drugs. With luck the person is awake, lucid and highly insulted.
Eric the Fish slides up too us. “Oh, giiirrrrrrrlllllllllll,” he say’s scanning the crowd. “Do you want to play the numbers game?” He opens his arms to display the crowd before us. “We are one step ahead of you,” I say. “Let’s do it.”
Starting against the wall we find some young boy who looks like he just got out of high school, we start with him. Just our luck, he’s bombed. Eric the fish grabs his arm and spins him before us. “Throw him back,” I say he’s not fully grown yet. Eric the Fish twirls the bewildered boy back against the wall. We take our time going through at least the first ten victims when I realize I got bills to pay. I realize this because I can see Jeff the bar manager looking at me. Eric and Mitch follow my eyes and see him too. We scatter like roaches when someone turns the lights on. “Game over Gggggiiiirrllllllll,” squeals Eric the Fish ducking out of the room. I make a quick swoop into the hallway and back around to the front bar.
I cut through the crowd and look for John, I am avoiding work tonight. I want to make sure that he is alright, the last time I saw him was awhile ago. Mitch and I meet back around the front of the bar. “Have you seen John?” I ask. “Oh, he left hours ago,” Mitch says. The bar manager comes around the corner causing Mitch and I to scatter again.
Looking at my watch, I realize its last call. One hour before we close and two hours before I see Bob.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 22
I could not get out of there fast enough the minute my shift was done. Bob was waiting outside for me with a flower in his hand. We walked around the village and he took me to an all night diner. I was enwrapped by all of Bob’s stories. He dropped me off at the door of my apartment building at 6am and after finding my identification I was allowed access. When I turned around Bob was looking at me through the window. Our eyes met and he waved goodbye.
I tiptoed into the apartment hoping not to wake anyone. Once there I climbed the ladder to the loft, crawled across the floor and fell asleep on the bed in my clothes. Four hours later the three phones in the apartment were ringing. One phone was ringing downstairs in the kitchen, one in the bedroom and the other was right next to the bed. I ignored it, but Regina downstairs in the kitchen did not. “Geoff,” she screamed from the bottom of the ladder, “You’re agents on the phone, and he’s pissed.” Quickly sitting up in bed I reach for the phone next to the bed.
“Hello?” I whisper. “Where are you?” my agent screams into the phone. “I’m at home,” I answer. I can’t seem to get my voice above a whisper. “I got you an audition for a commercial in an hour and I have been calling all morning.” Richard quickly explains that he submitted my photo to a top photographer from Japan who is here in New York looking for models to be “the face” of a new Japanese company. “Richard,” I croak “Where am I going?” Searching around the room I look for something to write with. He gives me the address and I write it down with a red marker that I found. “Oh, ok,” I will be there I say. “Jesus, what is wrong with your voice?””Do something about it,” he screams slamming the receiver in my ear.
I skitter across the floor on hands and knees and quickly climb down the ladder. Regina is waiting at the bottom. “God, you look awful,” she says as I brush past her still in last night’s clothes. Looking in the bathroom mirror I see that I have blood shot eyes and my hair is standing straight up in all directions. “Oh God,” I croak again sounding like Brenda Vaccaro “I have lost my voice.”
Having little time, I quickly strip and jump into the shower. I am racing against the clock. I have to be across town in no time flat. Dressing quickly I hurry out of the building and with no time to lose I hail a cab. I tell him to step on it.
Arriving at the audition I find the monitor and check in. I am dressed in a black t-shirt, blue jeans and black motor cycle boots. I have my hair sticking up in all directions and held in place with Dippity Doo. Looking around the room I realize that I am in a room filled with male models. I am the only one in my mind that looks like a real person. Everyone else looks like they have stepped off the pages of GQ magazine.
I am called into the room with about 20 other guys. We are lined up and the casting director asks us for our portfolios. I hand over my picture and resume, one of the guys next to me snickers. We are then asked a little bit about ourselves and handed a script. Not only are they doing a photo spread they are looking to hire for a commercial training video. They go down the line asking us to read aloud one at a time. I am terrified to open my mouth in this group.
When it’s my turn to read the guy next to me snickers again. When I’m done I shoot him a look. We are thanked by the casting director and released for the day. I have to work at The 9th Circle tonight so I hurry to catch a nap.
A couple of hours later the phone rings again and it’s my agent. Turns out, that the Japanese company is working against a time crunch and they have to cast their project immediately. They tell my agent that they love me and that I have a voice that is perfect for their advertisement and commercial. “Very exotic,” they tell him.
I am so excited and exhausted all at the same time. I look at the clock. I have a couple of hours before work so I roll over and fall back asleep.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the 9th Circle Part 23
I’m running. I wake up late and realize I have a half an hour before I am supposed to be at The 9th Circle. Somehow I slept through an alarm; it had been going off for over an hour before it woke me. I almost banged my head on the ceiling of the loft flying out of bed.
On my way to the bathroom I slip and almost fall in another puddle of cat urine. If this is the way this night is going to go, I might turn around and climb back into bed. This poor Siamese cat that my “out of town roommate” has left me is inches away from meeting its maker. Seriously, not that I will take it to its maker but it’s about 100 years old in cat life. I haven’t really been home long enough to know if it’s suffering though. I am aware that it can’t seem to make it to the litter box in time and has been peeing and popping everywhere. It does howl constantly but on the other hand, it’s a Siamese cat. Apparently that’s their thing. I will continue to monitor how it’s doing and will do what needs to be done when the time comes. So now after cleaning up cat urine, cleaning the cat with paper towels and jumping in the shower, I have 20 minutes to get to work.
I grab a banana off the top of the fridge and head out the door. Grabbing another cab, we zip across town in an effort to get me there on time.
Entering The 9th Circle I see Brian at the top of the stairs. “Hey Asshole,” he yells out when he sees me. “You thought you were pretty funny pulling that stunt the other night.” I walk by him as if I don’t hear a thing he is saying. “Good luck trying it again tonight,” he says grabbing my arm. “I will definitely get you,” he adds leaning in close, inches from my face. I pretend that I don’t hear him and head to the back of the bar.
Don is sitting there waiting to take over. I thank god that Don is working and Jerry is leaving early. Jerry is extra twitchy and wound up. I watch him and notice that he can’t stop moving. “You,” Jerry says and points to me, then motions his finger to tell me to “run”. I walk over. “If that buzzer rings tonight” Jerry says spraying spittle in the air “You go upstairs immediately and take care of him.” His eyes glance at the ceiling. Secretly, I’m hoping that he died before I arrived at work, apparently no such luck.
I’m also hoping that Bob will stop in. An hour later the bar is in full swing and I am running my butt off. Looking at the bar I realize that the usual “cast of characters” is all sitting where I left them the last time I worked. I am beginning to believe that they are at the bar every night. The only ones I haven’t seen yet are Dennis and Scott.
Two hours into the shift John walks in. He scans the room, see’s me and waves. I return his wave and push my way through the crowd to get to him. I’m a foot away and I can see that he has been crying again. “Are you ok?” I ask. He sniffles and wipes his nose on the back of his hand. “I am here because someone told me that my boyfriend is dating someone here as well.” “Jesus, that sucks for you,” I tell him. “I couldn’t imagine having my boyfriend running around town.” “I am so sorry.”
I take his elbow and walk him through the bar. A seat opens in front of Don and I push John onto the stool. “Don, buy John a drink on me,” I say. Don see’s John’s bloodshot eyes, looks at me and rolls his eyes into the back of his head.
A commotion starts at the front of the bar. I stand on the bar rail to look over the crowd. All I can see is someone dressed in a Nazi uniform next to a 6ft tall drag queen wearing a veil.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter The 9th Circle Part 24
The crowd parts slowly as the Nazi and the 6ft tall Drag Queen in the veil, start to walk to the back of the bar. The looks on people’s faces cannot hide the shock that they are in. When the couple reaches the mid bar point, another slightly shorter Drag Queen enters the bar. The crowd parts again and this new Drag Queen runs to catch up with her friends. As they get close to me the shorter drag queen links arm with the Nazi, looks at me and winks. “Scott,” I hiss completely in disbelief. I can tell it’s him by his eyes. I don’t recognize the other Drag Queen in the veil but the Nazi is clearly Dennis. They continue past the Juke Box and sit at one of the tables.
Slowly and still in disbelief I walk up to the table. “Errrr….”I stammer. “Can I get you two ladies anything to drink?” I look right and Scott and say “What are drinking tonight Mrs. Braun?” Scott shoots me a “fuck you look.” “Two slow gin fizzes for us ladies,” Scott orders while swirling his hair with one finger. Motioning his head towards Dennis “And he’ll have a vodka and tonic.” I put my hand out to the Drag Queen in the veil. “Hi, I’m Geoff.” The Drag Queen reaches up and pulls her veil to the side revealing a giant handlebar mustache. “I’m Tony,” she says. Taken slightly aback I think that it’s uncanny how much Tony looks like Freddie Mercury. “Coming right up,” I chirp pretending this not out of the ordinary and turn on my heel.
Walking back to the bar I can see that everyone is craning their neck to keep an eye on the strange threesome. “Oh Boy,” Don says when I give him the order. “How did they make it here without getting killed?” “Do we have a policy about wearing a swastika arm band in here?” I ask. Don just laughs. “Oh, do me a favor,” he asks pointing to a table while making the drinks “Get that homeless bum out of here.” Following where he is pointing I see that a slightly skinny blond headed kid has sat down at one of the tables. He is slowly nodding off while holding a cigarette. “He’s homeless?” I ask. Don nods his head.
I walk over to Scott’s table and start to set down the drinks. Scott looks up at me and bats his eyes, I burst into hysterical laughter. Scott gives me the “Fuck you eyes again.” “Don’t you think I look good?” he asks. Now I can’t stop laughing. It comes rolling out of me like a wave. It’s very clear that Scott is insulted, but I can’t stop. “I’ll be right back,” I try to say but the laughter makes it hard to understand what I am saying. “Stop laughing,” Scott yells his eyes turning to slits. This only makes me laugh harder.
I walk away and approach the homeless kid who is nodding off. “Hi, can I get you a drink?” He pauses in space; his head stop inches from bumping the table in front of him. His eyes pop open and he looks at me. “No, no thanks I am waiting on a friend.” I look at the bar and see Don watching me; he is motioning with his thumb for me to give him the heave ho. “I’m sorry but you will have to order something if you want to sit here.” With that he stands up. “Are you going to be ok?” I ask reaching out to steady him. He nods and takes one step. Thinking my job is done I head back to the bar. “All done I say to Don.” “Oh really,” he responds looking back at the table. I look back and see that the guy has only taken only the one step before he nodded off again.
That’s when the buzzer signaling me that I was needed upstairs went off.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter The 9th Circle Part 25 The buzzer started to sound with alarming frequency. I was afraid there was a fire in his apartment and he needed help. Everyone at the bar was looking at the buzzer and when I looked at Don, he was shaking his head from side to side. Skip who was bartending at the other end of the bar pointed at me and pointed towards the ceiling. His message was clear and I was on my way.Don immediately set up the tray with water, cigarettes and empty mason jars. My dinner of one lone banana lurched in my stomach. “Dead Man Walking,” I yelled out crossing the floor with the tray. I got to the door looked at Don and got buzzed into the stairwell. Climbing the stairs I passed an old man humping Stinky in the corner. Stinky looked at me, nodded, and then glanced at his watch. It was now clear that he charged by the hour.Arriving at the second floor I noticed there was the usually cocaine fueled party happening in the bathroom. I could tell that it was packed to capacity and could hear a choir of voices all trying to hush each other. It’s hard to keep about 10 men putting blow up their noses quiet while they are crammed in a tiny bathroom.Walking up the stairs tonight seemed like the longest passage of time to me. I didn’t want to go in to Bobby’s apartment tonight that was clear to me and my brain. I didn’t want to have to feed or worse yet clean up after him. The thought made be grab the banister and hold on for dear life. I let out a chuckle because at this moment I was reminded of the movie the Sentinel, where Chris Sarandon is stroking the cat while Christina Raines is let in on the plot of the movie. Bobby is the guardian of the gates of hell that much I am convinced of.Arriving at the door and seeing his favorite “Go Away” sign posted on the door let me know I was here. Well that and the smell and sound of the cats. Grasping the knob and turning it in my hand I then used my hip to open it. The wave of “stench” that rolled over me seemed to have been turned up since my last visit. Looking around at the sea of cats swarming me I can see an unusually large number of mason jars filled with yellow liquid. The sight and sound of the room made my head swell. Quickly putting down the tray, I ran to the sink and coughed up my digested banana.I can hear Bobby in the other room. “Who’s here?” he is screaming over and over again. Wiping my mouth on the back of my hand I call out that “It’s Geoff.” Without missing a beat he screams back “What the fuck took you so long?” Popping my head into the bedroom I can see him lying on his side facing away from me. He looks so fragile, like a bird. An old dirty piss soiled, shit stained smoky bird with a millions cats and questionable personal hygiene.“Did you barf in my sink?” he yells while trying to roll on his back. “If you fucking messed up my house I will throw you out the window!” I figure it will take me a lot of work to mess up this house but the thought of cleaning the house with gasoline and a pack of matches needs to get pushed out of my mind.He starts with his list of demands. “Feed the cats, bring me my cigarettes and hold that jar while I piss.” When he says this he breaks into hysterical laughter like we are watching an Evening at the Improv. Spittle flies everywhere. Suddenly he stops laughing tries to roll on his back to look at me. “Don’t just stand there with your mouth hanging open catching flies.” ” Feed the goddamned cats!”I walk back into the kitchen. Cats come from everywhere to get fed. “Foods in the fucking cabinet” he snarls. I reach towards the cabinet doors, years of filth cling to it. I reach out grab it and yank it open. Half the contents in there avalanche onto the counter. “Don’t mess up my fucking house,” he screams. “Sorry, I’m redecorating,” I say. This strikes him funny and he cackles away. “You’re a goddamned comedian, a goddamned comedian,” he says.I empty several contents of several cat food cans onto slightly used paper plates and put them wherever a cat is. I grab one of the mason jars go to the fridge and grab some ice and throw it in. Walking back into the bedroom I put it down next to him. “Tell Jerry I want to see the fucking receipts,” he says trying to lean on his elbows. I reach around him grab the pillows and help come to sitting. “Are you trying to break my ribs?” he screams inches from my face. “That’s it,” I yell. “I’m out of here!” I start to stand and quicker than a flash of light his hand reaches out and grabs my wrist.
“Please don’t leave me,” he begs.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter The 9th Circle Part 26
His grip tightens and I relax. Looking deep into his eyes I can see fear. It’s the type of fear that comes from slowly becoming helpless year after year. “What do you need me to do?” I ask. His eyes look around the room. “They are trying to kill me,” he says whispering. “Who’s trying to kill you?” I ask reaching up to cover my nose with my free hand his stench is overpowering.
“They are, the ones downstairs,” he yells spraying spittle in the air. I lean back to avoid getting hit by the spray but he has me in a death grip. “Oh, ok,” I say not really sure if they are or he has lost his mind. Right now I’m thinking that it could be a little of both. “It will be ok,” I say reaching with my free hand, I try to pry his fingers open but he holds on. “They sell drugs down there,” he says whispering again. “Do you think?” I ask sarcastically. “Goddamned right they do,” he screams throwing his head back letting loose with a cackle. ‘I have an idea,” I say slowly wrapping my hand around his hand trying to pry up his fingers. “What do you say if you let me go, I walk out of here and never tell anyone what I saw?” “You ain’t going nowhere,” he screams shaking his head back and forth.
“I have another idea,” I say slowly. “What if I take that pillow out from behind your back, put it over your face and kill you?” With this said he cackles like a lunatic. “You got spunk!” he says releasing my hand and laughing uncontrollably. “You don’t need help,” I say stepping back. “I do,” he screams facing me. “The only thing you need is a bath.” With this said I step back and walk into the kitchen. “That’ and some Windex,” I add. “I can’t get off this couch,” he screams. I can hear him trying to flip over and face the kitchen.
I am standing in front of the sink looking for a sponge, maybe I will help him out. What’s it like to be so helpless? I see a bottle of dish detergent that looks like it hasn’t been touched in awhile and I grab it. Moving all the crap out of the sink I turn on the faucet and squeeze the soap into the sink. While it starts to fill up I walk back into the bedroom and open a window. “They sell drugs,” he says craning to face me. “No foolin?” I respond struggling to pull back the drapes. “You think I’m old and crazy,” “you think I’m an idiot,” he says following me with his eyes. “Right on both accounts,” I say picking up several overflowing ashtrays in the room. Carrying them back into the kitchen I can’t locate a garbage can so I make do with a half filled bag and empty the mound of butts into it. ”
“They lie to me,” he says the panic rising in his voice. “What do they tell you?” I ask. “They tell me I’m crazy.” I mouth the words “you are” to no one in particular. “Listen, I am going to help you out a little at a time,” I say. “I am going to clean a little something every time I come up here.”
“No one visits me,” he quickly adds. Popping my head back into his room I ask, “Would you like me to visit you?” He nods his head and looks at me with sad eyes. “Ok, I will come and visit you whenever I get a chance, does that work?” He looks like he’s about to cry and nods his head up and down. ‘Good its official” I say and turn back into the kitchen.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter The 9th Circle Part 27
The cats are very interested in the sink filling with soap and water. I’m sure that some of them have never seen it before so I understand the fascination factor. I pick up whatever resembles a dish and drop it in either the sink or a bag that’s headed for the garbage.
“What the fuck are you doing out there?” he screams from his room. “Something you have never done,” I yell back. He cackles that smoky cackle of his followed by a phlegm filled coughing fit. “Ick,” I think to myself as I look at the yellow walls. It is hard to breathe in here so while the dishes soak, I decide to tackle the litter box.
I take my shirt and pull it up over my nose. The cat’s have stopped using their litter box long ago and have now taken to whatever space they can find. My philosophy is to just do it and not get caught up in how gross the chore is. If I think about it I will pass out, then I will wake up on the floor in this mess. I decide it is better to remain conscious.
“I cleaned the litter box the other day,” Bobby screams out. “Uh-huh,” I respond. I am sure that he is confused as to what year it is not to mention what day it is. “God damned cats won’t stop shitting,” he adds.” They tend to do that,” I say as I use a spatula to remove a especially tough piece of poop from the floor.
I get up most of the cat shit but the ammonia is burning my eyes, so I decide to return to the dishes. The chore takes about 45 minutes of my time but it’s also 45 minutes that I am not making any money. I am done for today I decide while drying the last dish. I figure I have time for one more chore before I need to get back downstairs though. Walking over I put my hand on the door to the fridge and bracing myself for what I might see I yank it open. I’m not sure what I saw in there but the smell alerted me that something had “gone south” years ago. My worst fear was that I would find severed body parts, this was worse. “Um, Bobby……when was the last time you ate?” “What are you writing a book?” he screams back at me. “Someday I hope to,” I yell back at him “but right now I’m just trying to solve a crime scene.” He cackles followed by coughing up something and spitting it out. Thank god I am not looking at him right now. “I get such a kick out of you,” he says. I imagine him wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
Walking into the room I come around where he can see me. “I am going to buy you groceries and deliver them tomorrow before I come to work.” For a brief moment I see a crack in his façade but it only last a brief moment and then Bobby’s back. “Are you after my god damned money?” he screams. “Are you after my god damned money?” he repeats this again and again. I wait for the tide to settle. “Yeah, I can see that you are living in the lap of luxury,” I say my face barely moving. Bobby’s hand shoots out and he reaches for his cigarettes. “Everyone is stealing from me,” he says as a tear forms in his eye. I do my best to ignore this behavior because I am not sure how to process it yet. I grab the lighter off the table and light his cigarette. It shakes between his trembling fingers.
I walk back into the kitchen and look for a pad of paper to write down what he would like me to pick up. “Bobby, do you have a pad of paper lying around that I can use?” I don’t get an answer from the other room. “Bobby?” I say again, still no answer. Walking back into the room I find that Bobby has fallen asleep, the cigarette burning in his hand.
I gently take it out of his hands and grind it in the ashtray. I see this as my getaway and gently walking across the floor I open the door and step into the hallway.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter The 9th Circle Part 28
I hurry down the stairs hoping that there are still some customers in the bar to wait on. I have spent way too much time with Bobby and I am not making any money to pay my bills. The party in the bathroom has broken up and the door has been left wide open.
I am almost running down the stairs praying that the buzzer summoning me back upstairs won’t be ringing for the rest of the night. Reaching the bottom of the landing I see that Stinky is with another date. This one looks like he has passed out. Stinky is riffling through the old man’s coat pockets. He flashes a smile as I pass by. “Don’t judge,” he says batting his eyes. “A girl’s got to make a living.”
Grabbing the knob I open the door and find that the place is packed. The lighting has been turned down and the place is being illuminated by various low watt lamps on the bar and by the lights on juke box. Don lifts his head while making a drink and motions me over. “Our homeless boy has fallen asleep at the table, go throw him out,” He says grimacing. “Where’s Brian?” I ask. Don motions with his head to the pinball machine. Brian is in full ecstasy while he works the flippers and gently humps the game. “I’m on it,” I tell Don.
Walking over to the table I see the homeless guy has only nodded off again but gives the appearance that he is sleeping. In fact he is in a full heroin nod. Using a tray I nudge him and he sways a little with the nudge but is still out cold. I nudge him again and this time his eyes open to half mast. “Time to go my friend,” I scream in his face. He smiles and nods out again. I repeat the tray nudge and his eyes flap open. He smiles, stands and teeters back and forth. He gains a little speed and tumbles through the crowd. It is like watching a drugged up Moses parting the Red Sea. The crowd literally jumps to get out of his way.
The patron at the next table signals me to get my attention. “He forgot his bag,” he says to me pointing to the floor under the table. I quickly go to follow him but then think twice because he has nodded off in the doorway. I will get his bag and bring it to him.
Now I have a new problem. I don’t want to touch his bag, so I walk back to the bar and ask Don for the broom. Walking back to the table Mitch comes up beside me. “What are you doing?” he asks. “Getting a bag that belongs to the homeless heroin addict nodding off at the front door.” It strikes me funny and I laugh. Never did I ever think I would use any of those words in a sentence to describe what I was doing during a day in my life.
Holding the broom part I push the handle through a loop on the bag. It is rather heavy when I hoist it into the air. “Gross,” says Mitch taking a step back. No sooner do the words get out of Mitch’s mouth when the bag breaks and scatters the contents to the floor. Mitch and I jump into the air when bottles of Jergens lotion crash to the floor spraying everywhere. Mitch makes vomit sounds and steps back.
“Good Christ,” I scream out. I look at Don who is laughing his ass off while he watches this. “Can this night get any worse?” I scream as I drop the broom and head back to the bar. “God damned junkies,” I scream. I look at the door while Don hands me bar rags. I see that the junkie is gone, in his place stands Bob. His eyes scan the club and when he sees me he flashes the biggest smile that not only lights up his eyes but light up my heart.
“Excuse me,” I say to Don dropping the rags on the bar. I push my way through the club to get to Bob. I deserve a little happiness especially tonight I think to myself. Bob is pushing his way through the club to get to me. The juke box is quietly playing a Lou Reed tune. We meet half way and Bob throws his arms around me and plants one of the most passionate kisses on me that I have ever gotten. I pause, come up for air and look into his eyes. Then I hear someone screaming. “Geoff you fucking asshole, you’re the one dating my boyfriend?”
I look in the direction of the screaming just in time to see John, tears streaming down his face standing on his bar stool. I see him raise his arm, cock it back and the next thing I know I get hit in the chest by a glass. Everything happens so fast. First the glass explodes on my chest and then the bar erupts into chaos. Brian who was at the pinball machine literally comes flying through the air out of nowhere and tackles John. Then I can see Brian repeatedly punching John in the face. John’s bloody and bruised face keeps popping up and then disappearing. Brian hits him and he crumples to the floor, so Brian picks him up off the floor and punches him again. He repeats this until John is becoming pulp.
Bob checks to see if I’m alright and pushes me to the side as Brian drags John past us. His bloody face is so messed up that he is now just gurgling and spit hangs from his lip. Brian violently drags John down the front steps walks across the street. He then throws John on the ground. Rule number one is to never beat someone up and leave them in front of your club.
I push through the chaos dragging Bob with me. I stumble down the front steps. Brian walks past me and say’s “Nice Job asshole.” Across the street John is screaming “Why?” over and over again. It is one of the most guttural cries I will ever hear in my life. I run across the street and kneel next to John who just continues to scream “Why?”
John lifts his head and looks at me. “Why, why would you do this to me?” he screams. “I didn’t know,” I say looking at John. “Please believe me, I didn’t know.” “Do you know what he does for a living?” John screams spit and blood spraying the air “Do you?” Bob takes my arm and starts to pull me away. “He’s a lawyer,” I say to John trying to free my arm from Bob. Bob starts to pull at me harder. “He’s in fucking porn movies you ass, he’s in fucking porn.” John just screams “Why,” between sobs. I look at Bob who is shaking his head. “How the fuck did I get here?” I ask myself.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 1
The year was 1979. I was a sophomore at Guilderland High School in upstate New York. The problem that I was having was with my home life. I was having such difficult time living with my parents; actually my mother and I were not getting along at all. The arguments, the fights and the screaming had gotten so bad that they called the police one night and had me removed from their house. The fights had gotten so out of control and my Mom’s burgeoning relationship with alcohol had also gotten out of control. It was like living in Hell. A hell that I no longer wanted to live in and a hell they didn’t want me to live in.
I’m not even sure what this fight was about. I was never really sure what any fight was about. I knew that she was upset that my father travelled a lot and she was in charge of everything. If we stepped out of the line that she established the shit would hit the fan and our father would be called. Everything turned into a fight and a contest of wills with her. I had trouble understanding her logic and her rules. I felt that a lot of them were made up on the spot. It was like in a pressure cooker. I couldn’t take it and would lash back at her whenever she would lash out at us.
My brothers and my sisters were living at home at the time and would see these fights. They would become the targets of these arguments after I left but none of them would stand up at least not until years later.
I needed to go because I felt like I was losing my mind. The funny thing that I remember about that night was that my mother was concerned that the neighbors would talk, even though she was the one who called the police.
I had little time to gather my things. One of the cops entered our house and followed me into my bedroom. The other cop stood at the front door and waited for me. I could see neighbors looking out at our house through their closed drapes, only pulling the sides to look out. Some neighbors stood outside on their front lawns to get a better view.
The cop car stood in our driveway. The lights on the top of their car were spinning but they had no sirens on. It was a neighborhood wide show. Things like this never happened in Guilderland.
One of the cops held up the back door of the squad car and asked me to “Watch my head” getting in. I slid across the back seat of the squad car and the cops closed the door. I could hear the door lock tight but I remember that there were no locks that I could see on the door. I have never been more scared in my life. “We have a place to take you tonight,” one of the officers said through the wire screen separating the seats. I met his eyes in the rear view mirror. He nodded his head at me and gave a smile. “You’re ok now,” he said and started the car.
The cops backed their car out of the driveway; I could see my parents faces illuminated in the lights of the squad car. They stood in separate windows.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 2
The cop’s proceed to drive out of Guilderland and get on the highway in the direction of Albany. “Are you ok?” one of the officers asks me. There is a mesh grate that separates the front seat from the back; I just stare out the window into the night.
The squad car continues down the highway and as they put on their blinker, I see that we are entering the downtown Albany area. The ramp from the highway takes you to an exit right near the Albany bus station, unfortunately, it looks like a war zone. Empty storefronts, shady hotels and burnt out cars pepper the scene. Nobody lives or ventures this far downtown unless you are destitute, looking for a prostitute or you’re looking to buy drugs. I have no idea where we are going. I can see a church out of the back window that looks like it should be somewhere in Paris, it rivals Notre Dame, except that it looks like no one has been there in years and its splendor has seen better days. The church stands abandoned, most of its windows smashed out. We pass several working girls that wave at the cop car as it passes.
Row after row of abandoned buildings line the block. I am scared but trying not to show it. We finally arrive and pull up to a building that is as far downtown as you can get. There are no other buildings around it and it stands about three stories high. One of the cop’s walks around to the side of the squad, opens it and motions to the building with one out stretched hand. “Welcome to your new home,” he says. The second cop is standing on the front steps, he explains to me that this is a runaway shelter named Equinox, it’s for troubled youths.
The first cop reaches out and rings the bell. I stand there and start to shake, expecting the worst. A light goes on above the front door and there seems to be a flurry activity directly inside this door. I can see someone now standing at the front door on the other side of the window. The knob turns and the door gets yanked inwards. Standing directly in front of me is a chubby little man who stands at about 4 feet 3inches tall. I would put his weight at about 200 hundred pounds. His hair is flaming orange and shoots out in all directions on his head, it looks as if we just woke him up. He smiles showing a mouth full of dead teeth. He is wearing a black Hells Angels t-shirt and has a chain attached from his front pocket that crosses his leg and attaches to his wallet in the back. “Hellooooooooooooooooo,”he says rolling his eyes and puffing out his cheeks. He looks at me and the cops and exclaims “Jinkies, it’s the cops, what can I do you for officers?” I can tell that he is trying to put me at ease.
One of the cops takes his hand and pushes me forward. “Laroy, this is a new ward of the state.” Laroy tips and imaginary hat and bows deep. “Ellooooo, young master, you’re going to like it here, and you get an extra cup of gruel just for the asking.” He laughs to himself and shakes his head. He motions us to come in and the cops flank me, one in front and one in the back. I am sure that they are used to people trying to break and run.
They lead me into an office right off the main entry way. Laroy pulls out a chair, reaches in his back pocket pulling out a bandana that he uses to dust off the imaginary dirt on the chair; he laughs again and motions me to sit. Laroy takes the chair directly across from me. On the wall behind him is newspaper picture of Nancy and Ronald Reagan, someone has taken a black pen giving Ronald an Adolf Hitler hairdo and mustache. Laroy follows my eyes to the poster. “I don’t know who did it,” he says and then mouths the words “the furher,” to me. Laroy quickly stands up, walks over to a desk and grabs a large ledger book. “Oops, almost forgot,” he says. He returns to his chair and pushes the book across the desk to the cops. One of the cops looks at the time on his watch and signs the book. The cops start to leave and one of them turns back to me and says “If you need us you call,” and with that, they are gone.
“They’re gone break out the booze,” Laroy says and literally slaps his thigh. I try not to laugh but am starting to feel safe for one of the first times in my life.
Laroy starts to give me the rules and history of Equinox.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 3
“The first rule,” Laroy says leaning forward on the desk “is to never talk about Equinox while you live here.” “There are several at risk teens who call this home.” “The second rule is to make sure that no one follows you to the door, we have had a lot of people try to break in to get to someone.” He stands up and walks to the office door. “That’s why we have this,” Laroy leans over and grabs a baseball bat. He swings it and hits an imaginary ball, he watches it fly into the crowd and then makes cheering noises.
“Home run,” he says and laughs. He walks back to the desk using the bat as a cane. “Rule three is no drugs of any kind. You can smoke cigarettes but no weed.” He continues. “I was in the Hells Angels and I know what weed smells like, so please don’t test my skills.” He wiggles his eyebrows up and down and giggles. “You’re gay aren’t you?” Laroy asks narrowing his eyes. “We had a guy named Louie in the Hells Angels, he was gay, what a good friend.” Laroy gets that far away look in his eyes. I try hard to imagine what he could be thinking of. I also try to imagine how accepting the Hells Angels are of gays in their club.
“Now, you can only live here for one month, we don’t have any more room than that,” Laroy says pointing a finger at me. Six months later we would laugh about that rule. Laroy stood up, walked over to a filing cabinet behind me ruffled through it and pulled out a list of rules handing it to me. “Here’s more that I can’t remember,” he giggles again and adds the word “Viola,” when he hands it to me.
There are rules about smoking, house meetings, bathrooms, bedrooms, sex, school and mandatory meetings that you need to attend with a therapist. “You will also be assigned to a case worker,” Laroy says “but we will worry about that tomorrow.” Laroy stands up and motions me to follow him into the hallway. A large mirror with a table beneath it reflects my image back at me. My eyes look empty and hollow. Things had gotten so bad at home that I was no longer inside.
Laroy turns and walks to the end of the hall. The first room on the right holds the dining room and an upright piano. The sheet music for “The Me Nobody Knows” sits on the stand. Laroy continues walking. Through the dining room is a door that takes you into the kitchen. He reaches over and opens the fridge; it is stocked to the gills. Laroy says to me “You must be hungry, I know I am” He reaches into the fridge and starts to pull out food. He crosses to the cabinet and brings down two of everything, two plates, two cups, two glasses and a handful of napkins. He opens the bread and starts to make me a sandwich. He fills my glass with chocolate milk and does the same for his. He hands me my glass and raises his, “To new beginnings and schizophrenia!” He clicks my glass and drinks down the chocolate milk, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
“Grab your sandwich and I will show you around.” With that said Laroy leaves the kitchen.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 4
I follow quickly. Laroy is walking and talking. He is giving me the history of the house as we go. “It has two additional stories to it,” Laroy tells me.
One floor is for the youth who need to stay and another floor is just for staff. Climbing the staircase to the second floor we pass the bathroom. “That’s one of four,” Laroy adds. Slightly winded, Laroy pauses and places one hand on the railing. He coughs into his hand and waits to catch his breath.
From where I am standing I can hear a television. Laroy takes another breath in, straightens up and continues the climb. We walk into the room at the very top of the stairs. “The TV room,” Laroy says with a sweep of his hand. In the center of the room is a giant old black and white tv. Scattered around the room are several boys and girls, everyone is smoking.
“Everyone,” Laroy says addressing the kids who don’t seem to move or look at him. “This is Geoff, make him feel at home.” A couple people look at me. Laroy goes around the room and introduces people.
“Vinny, Christine, Sherry, Alice and Jay T. Tucker this is Geoff. Sherry has a large afro with a pick sticking out of it, a clenched fist is at the end of the pick, she looks at me and nods her head. Jay T. Tucker lifts his head looks and me and tells me that “He’s a mean mother fucker.” “I’ll remember that,” I say.
Christine looks like a little bird, she is bone white, thin and has a head of uncombed black hair. She coughs into her hand and I notice that her hand is very small and her fingers are red. She looks at me; her eyes are smudged with mascara. She holds onto Vinny’s arm tighter than she already was.
Vinny is tall thin and has his hair cut like Mick Jagger’s. He is wearing combat boots, one foot on the floor the other on the couch. “Can you move?” he says to me. “You’re blocking the set.” “Oh sorry, I quickly say and step to my left. Jay T. is staring at the tv, he looks slightly retarded.
Laroy motions with his hand for me to follow him. We walk into a small entry way next to the tv room. There are three doors off this common room. “Tonight you share.” He motions to one of the rooms and opens the door.
The room is small with two beds. On one side of the room there are psychedelic glow in the dark posters and on the floor by one of the beds is a skull with a candle on it. It’s a skull that would buy in Spencer Gifts. Laroy points at the empty bed. I walk over and sit on it.
“Make yourself at home, I’m on the overnight shift tonight,” Laroy says while stepping back into the hallway. “I’ll be downstairs, come down when you are done.” And with that he is gone.
I sit on the bed and look around the room. “Welcome to your new life,” I say. I lay down on the bed, tears flow quickly from my eyes. Twenty minutes later the door opens and in walks Vinny. He stands in the doorway and looks at me.
“Shit, are you crying?” he asks. “No,” I say quickly wiping my face. “Good,” he says “I don’t want you crying when I give you a skull fuck.”
With that said he reaches behind himself and pulls the door closed.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 5Now, I’m not sure what a skull fuck is but I can figure it out as Vinny takes a step closer to me while un-buckling his pants. I slide as far to the top of the bed as I can. “Scream and I’ll kill you,” Vinny says to me a crooked smile crossing his face. I am thinking as quick as I can, look around the room for anything that I might be able to use to stop him.Vinny takes another step towards me and the adrenaline builds up in me like fuel looking for a place to escape. I spring into the air landing on him, knocking him to the floor. Landing with both legs on his chest I begin to pummel him. “Stop it,” he screams. The adrenaline in me cannot stop me from repeatedly punching him, all the pain and fear is leaving me through my fists.The door burst’s open and Laroy steps in. “What the fuck is going on?” he screams. “He’s trying to kill me,” Vinny screams. With one hand Laroy grabs the back of my shirt and flings me into the air. I crash into the wall and slide to the floor, knocking over Vinny’s alter with the skull candle on it. Vinny shrieks and runs to save his skull after it hits the floor.Laroy looks at me and points a finger. “We don’t kill people around here,” he says his face turning a bright red. “Oh yeah, do you skull fuck people here?” I ask. “What the hell are you talking about?” Laroy says looking between Vinny, who is on the floor cleaning up his broken alter and me. “He told me that he was going to skull fuck me and he had me cornered.” Laroy looks at Vinny who is looking at me mouthing the words “shut up.” “Again?” Laroy screams this time grabbing Vinny and bringing him to his feet. “How many times do I have to tell you, we don’t tell people we are going to skull fuck them?” Laroy grabs Vinny by the back of his collar and in one move drags him out of the room.“You’re dead!” Vinny screams. I can hear him being dragged down the stairs. I lie down on the bed and stare at the wall. Hours later I am awoken by the sound of Vinny walking back into the room. ‘Stupid faggot,” he mumbles under his breath.He silently undresses and climbs into his bed. “You are so dead,” he whispers in my direction. I lay awake but pretend that I am asleep. I only relax when I can hear him snoring softly. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 6
The next morning I wake up. Vinny is still snoring. Someone is walking through the house banging on doors. I can hear a flurry of activity, including doors being opened and slammed. There is a lot of noise but Vinny is still sound asleep, still snoring away. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I slip out of bed, throw on my jeans and slip into the hallway.In the hallway a small hippie looking woman wearing thick glasses and Birkenstock sandals is standing outside of the bathroom door on the landing. “You have 4 more minutes,” she is yelling to whoever is in the shower. I can hear the water running.I start to slide past her and she looks up at me stopping me. “Lorraine,” she says extending her hand. I reach out my hand and grasp hers. “You must be Geoff,” she says as she looks into my eyes. “Laroy told me all about you.” Her hands are rough and slightly cold. She leans closer to me. “Also don’t worry about Vinny, he means you no harm.” I can tell from her look that she is trying to communicate that everyone here has problems. I nod my acknowledgement to what she has said and head down the stairs.What was a quiet place last night is now a beehive of activity. There are about 15 people running around. Everyone seems to have a task. Some are cooking breakfast and getting the resident kids on their way to school, others are moving in and out of the office. Across from the office is the telephone we are allowed to use. Sherry is sitting there on the phone, silently using the pick on her hair. She looks up at me smiles and mouths the words “court today.”I walk to the end of the hallway and into the kitchen. There food is laid out cafeteria style. It seems to be massive pans of pancakes, eggs, bacon and oatmeal. People swarm around me on their way to whatever they are doing. Everyone who passes reaches out a hand, rubbing my back, touching my arm or the occasional hug. There are so many staff members and so many names to learn. My head is spinning.I walk in to the dining room. Jay T. Tucker is happily gobbling down a stack of pancakes. He looks up at me. “Jay T. Tucker is a mean mother fucker,” I say. He laughs and a gob of pancake lands on his chin. I am now more convinced than ever that he is retarded.Lorraine walks up behind me, wraps her arm around my neck. “Your social worker just got here.” “You will not go to school today but meet with her.” “We will call the school and let them know where you are.” “Grab some food and a seat,” she gently pushes me in the way of the food.Walking back into the kitchen, I grab a plate and put a pancake and some egg onto it. Grab a coffee and head back into the dining room. Christine has now joined Jay T. she looks up at me and quickly looks back down to the torn up paper napkin in front of her. As I sit down, she gets up and storms out of the room.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 7 I look over at Jay T. who is still stuffing his face. “She’s a bitch,” he says through a mouth full of egg. “Are you Geoff?” someone asks behind me. I turn around and standing in the door is a large woman dressed all in black. Her hair is piled on top of her head; she has glasses on a chain hanging around her neck.
Taking two steps forward she pulls out a chair and plops down into it making cups on the table jump. Jay T. is oblivious to her and stares at the chandelier; the sun is making a light dance around it and he is transfixed by it. She has a cup of coffee in her hand, she takes a spoon and swirls it around the inside of the cup making an obnoxious clinking sound. “Donna is my name and I’m your new social worker.” I think to myself that I never had a social worker before, so she will be my only social worker. “I have already started a file on you, so finish up and we’ll talk.” Her eyes get real big and while grabbing a piece of bacon off my plate she pushes out her chair and stands up. Popping the bacon in her mouth, she turns and walks in the direction of the office. Her large hips sway side to side. “She’s a bitch,” Jay T. says with a laugh spitting more eggs into the air.
I drink my coffee and push away from the table. I’m not hungry but I want to check out the backyard. I saw it through the window in the kitchen. From what I saw, it’s part garden, part basketball court. I walk out of the dining room through the kitchen into the backyard. The garden is a little overgrown and the basketball court is a black gravel driveway and that used to be blacktop.
Standing behind the house I see that Christine is out in the backyard smoking. Her nervous eyes dart back and forth, she looks lost in thought. She spots me walking down the driveway towards her and hugs her body closer. She has thin white arms. Raising her cigarette to her lips she mutters to me and asks if I want one. It seems to me as if she is going out of her way to make some sort of effort. “I would love one,” I say.
She shakes a cigarette loose in the pack and offers in to me. “Rough night?” she asks. There is red around her eyes making me believe that she cried the night away. It also seems pretty clear to me that Vinny hasn’t let her know about him trying to skull fuck people before they sleep.
“Yeah,” I say putting the cigarette between my lips. It’s a Marlboro light, my favorite. Christine holds up a lighter. I lean forward and use it to light my cigarette. “Do you go to school?” I ask. Christine’s laugh in response to my question creates a smoky cough. Covering her mouth with the back of her hand she hacks up phlegm and spits it on the ground. “I go to Albany High, if you can call it a school.” “If you make it home at the end of the day and you haven’t been raped in the bathroom, it’s been a good day. She laughs again spitting up more phlegm. “Oh shit,” Christine says as Lorraine opens the back door popping her head out. “Christine let’s go, it’s time for school.”
“Gotta go,” says Christine as she takes two steps before flicking her cigarette over the fence into the lot next door. Walking past me, Christine’s face changes and a big grin appears. She is looking towards the house. I look where she is looking and I see that at the window is Vinny. He is standing behind the glass. Once Christine walks into the house she gives Vinny a quick kiss. Once Christine passes, Vinny sticks his head out the back door, stares at me puts his fingers to his eyes and then points at me. I assume this means that “he is watching me.”
He turns and walks back into the house. I finish my cigarette and flick it over the fence like Christine did and walk back into the house.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 8
Walking back into the kitchen I can hear Donnas booming voice calling my name. I quickly head down the hallway to the main office. “Have a seat,” she says motioning with her hand. A lone chair has been set up for me. It looks like I am about to be interrogated.
“I have to go through a couple of things with you.” She pulls a pen out of her hair. “Starting with, what to expect from us and what we expect from you.” “One of our first goals is to become a liaison between you and your parents.” “What can you tell us about them?” she prepares to write. “Well once,” I say my voice breaking “my Mom took me to a recruiting station to have me join the Army when my Dad was at work.” “How old were you?” Donna asks her eyes getting big. “Fourteen I say.” She sighs and pushes forward. “What happened?” “Well,” I say trying not to well up with tears. “First they said I was too young to enlist but they would wait and then out of fear I bolted for the door.” Donna blows air out of her mouth and shakes her head. “Later I got grounded for trying to run.”
Donna is holding a legal pad and she begins to tap it with the pen from her hair. “How is your relationship with them now?” “Not good,” I say. “Well, my Mom and I didn’t get along at all. She used to take me to a therapist when I was younger but when they told her that she was the problem she looked for another therapist.” “How many therapists have you seen?” Donna asks “Oh, about six or seven.” Donna squint’s her eyes.
“What happened last night?” Donna says trying to change the subject. “Can we talk about that later?” I ask, tears start to well up in my eyes again. “Of course,” she says. “I’m going to call your school today and we will figure out what we are going to do with you.” She smiles and I give her all the information on who she needs to call at my school. It seems like our interview is over for a moment and she picks up the phone to and calls information to get the number to Guilderland High School.
Sitting in the chair, I am a little worried; we had started rehearsals for the school show. We are doing Brigadoon and I landed the role of Harry Beaton. They gave me an understudy because it was pretty clear that I was going through something at home. I will be damned if he will get to do the part but the show must go on.
I see that Donna is on hold with the school. Placing her hand over the receiver Donna tells me to wait outside. I nod and walk into the hallway. The house seems empty and quiet now that everyone has gone to school. It looks like I will have the day off. I climb the stairs and head into the TV room. I am the only one home so the TV is off. The rest of the staff is moving through the house. Everyone seems to be in the middle of projects. Lorraine is wearing yellow rubber gloves and carrying a toilet brush. She keeps pushing her glasses up with her forearm in between scrubbing. “Are you bored?” she asks. “Want to help clean the toilet?” she waves the brush at me. “No thanks,” I say and continue down the hall.
I walk into the entryway that houses some of the bedrooms and find a chair to sit in. Throwing my legs up I lay on my back and stare at the tin ceiling. Pretty soon, I am out cold. It’s not long. I wake up about twenty minutes later to Donna calling my name. I sit up still feeling groggy as I head back down the stairs.
“Well, I just got off the phone with your school; they are wondering how we can make this work.” Donna sighs, “Maybe we will have to send you to Albany High.” I hear Christine’s comments about being not being raped in the bathroom making it a good day at Albany High. “I can make it work,” I say, the panic rising in my voice. “Ok, well let’s see what we can do.”
That night I call my friend Kerry. She was worried about me and what happened. “It’s all over school that the police were at your house last night.” The only plus is that Kerry knows my parents. It was hard because I was never allowed to have friends over but Kerry would always pick me up in her car and drive me where I needed to go. It seems that I was always in trouble and always grounded when I lived at home. In many ways Kerry saved my life that day by offering to help out. The plan is that I will take a bus from Albany to Stuyvesant Plaza and then Kerry will give me a ride to school.
The next day Donna thinks that this is a great idea.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 9
For the next several months I settle in to life at the Equinox shelter. I rise early in the morning, eat and take the city bus into Guilderland. The stop is located 45 minutes away at a strip mall called Stuyvesant Plaza. Once I arrive, Kerry meets me and drives me to school, she will ten take me back at the end of the day. Kerry does this day in and day out, never once asking for anything in return. I am happy and have very little stress in my life. I haven’t been fighting with anyone and the constant battles with my mother seem to be in the past.
It is now the six month mark and me and Jay T. Tucker are the only ones from the original group to still be living there. My social worker Donna has been trying to find me a permanent home but it has not been as easy as you would think. According to them, I’m not a problem child, so it will be harder to place me. One place that sounds good to Donna is Parsons Child and Family Center. Their main headquarters are located in Albany. One day Donna takes me over to look at their school and their facilities. The main buildings for the center are located off of New Scotland Avenue. As we climb out of Donna’s car she tells me that Parsons has group homes in both Albany and Saratoga and an independent living center just in Albany.
We are let into the building by security. There seems to be security guards posted everywhere. One guard walks us down long hallways that have looked doors and each end. There is more security posted in front of them. So far this does not seem like the kind of place I want to be left at and I look at Donna. She seems to be as nervous as I am.
We are then lead into the director’s office. She is a large woman dressed in drab blue. I guess she thought that black might be to dowdy for this institution. She smiles at us and I feel that it is just for show and she seems more uncomfortable doing it, then we do seeing it. I feel that Donna and I might as well be Hansel and Gretel.
She motions for us to take a seat with a sweep of her hand. Pulling out the chair I read the name plate, her name is Margaret. Noticing that I am reading her name plate, she smiles again. My stomach drops. “I have read all the notes in his file,” she says looking at Donna and leaning back in her chair. “I think that this might be the perfect place for him.”
Donna smiles and asks when a bed would be ready. Margaret reaches across the desk and opens a large black ledger book. She flips the pages furiously. “In about a month,” She says. Donna and Margaret discuss formalities. “Is he a ward of the state?” I hear her ask. “At this time he is but we have registered to make him an emancipated minor, and luckily that hearing takes place in front of the judge in two weeks.”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 10
Two weeks pass in a blink of an eye. I am now standing out in the hallway at Child and Family Court in Albany New York. My parents are at one end of the hall and I am standing alone by myself at the other end. Donna and the lawyer have gone in search of the women’s bathroom.
My mother looks at me her eyes all red from crying. It might be for real but I’ve seen this before. She looks in my direction and shakes her head; her pain has come to the surface. I am not moved but wonder why she is playing this card. It is clear that she needs to look like a mother who has done everything and look where it has gotten her.
Donna and the lawyer hurry back, Donnas’ heels clicking on the marble floor. Seeing where I am standing, the lawyer takes my arm and pulls me out of view of my mother. We enter into the courtroom. The judge is a large man who stares down at me; his glasses sit at the end of his nose. He looks at me and smiles. “How are you doing today?” he asks. “Fine,” I answer, afraid to look at him in the fear that I will be sent to jail. Donna has explained it to me a million times that this is a hearing so I can move into a group home. I need to be declared an Emancipated Minor, in order to be granted custody.
The whole hearing takes about twenty minutes. My mom through sobs and tears explains that she has done her best but that I am a menace and turning her house into an emotional shambles. We both decide it is better that I don’t return. The judge shakes his head as my mother finishes. I’m sure that he has seen many an emotional parent standing in front of him and can tell what is really going on.
It has always seemed weird to me that I was adopted because they “wanted” me and now I am being “thrown away” because it is not working out their way. So many things happened in that house and under that roof. I remember one night when I came home, my mother sat me down to wait for my father to get home. When he did arrive they told me that they thought I was gay. It was going to be their job to take me to therapy to “fix me,” this lead to so many fights. Once, I even jumped out of my father’s moving car on the way to meet the therapist and ran into the woods.
Standing in front of the judge got me to wondering where I would now be going. My life as I knew it would be changing. Donna took me and the lawyer out for ice cream after the hearing. I didn’t watch my parents walk out of the courtroom.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 11
I return to the runaway shelter and life returns to my “new normal.” My mornings are spent taking the bus to Stuyvesant Plaza, getting picked up and driven to school. Few people know what I am going through and I try to keep it that way. I have never been a very good student in school and this makes it even harder.
I come home from school one day to find that Donna is waiting for me. Ushering me into the office she explains that Parsons Child and Family Center has a bed for me and I am going to be moving into one of their group homes. The only problem is that the house that has a spot for me is in Saratoga. “This is good news,” she says “You will have whole new life to look forward to.” I explain that I looked forward to fixing my old life. I’m worried, I don’t know anyone in Saratoga and I will be starting school there in the middle of my junior year. “Mrs. Vanderbilt -Whitney lives in Saratoga,” Donna reminds me. “Am I living with her?” I ask.
Donna tells me that there is no other place for me to go and that this is the best thing for me. Standing up she motions with her hand for me to leave the office and that our talk is over. I have four weeks left at the shelter before I will be moved, so it’s time to say my goodbyes.
I go into the kitchen and find Jay T. Tucker stuffing a chocolate cupcake into his mouth. He looks up at me and smiles. “Well old friend,” I say sitting next to Jay T. “It looks like my time is up here.” Jay T. starts to tell me that he has left the shelter two previous times and has been returned. “Is that because you’re a mean mother fucker?” I ask. He laughs cupcake onto the table. He pushes himself back from the table and stands up. “Jay T. Tucker is a mean mother fucker,” he sings “And a mean mother fucker is he,” I add. He starts to pound on his chest. “Jay T. Tucker is a mean mother fucker,” he sings “And a mean mother fucker is he,” I add again. Now we begin to march around the table in rhythm to our new song. “Jay T. Tucker is a mean mother fucker,” he sings and points at me “And a mean mother fucker is he,” I sing back. Round and round the table we march when Laroy walks in the room and joins in. Now the three of us are marching around the table singing “Jay T. Tucker is a mean mother fucker and a mean mother fucker is he.
That night in the TV room I get to meet some new kids who will be living at shelter for a couple of nights until they figure out what to do with them. There are two of them. One of them will be staying in my room and one will be staying in the hall across from me. The kid who will be staying with me is named Tom and his friends name is Alex. It turns out that they are both runaways who arrived from Buffalo. They got picked up by the police at the bus station when they spent the night sleeping on the chairs. When questioned they didn’t have any bus tickets and refused to talk about their families. After a day, the police brought them here.
Tom and I stayed up late and he told me all about his life. Alex snuck across the hall and joined us. I told them to stand at the top of the stairs where you can hear Laroy’s snoring coming from the office. If you can hear it, then the coast is clear. The rule is that once “lights out” is called, everyone needs to be found in their own room. No one challenges any of Laroy’s rules.
The next couple of days at school are strange. I tell only my closest friends that I will be leaving and living in Saratoga. It is too hard to explain and I find that saying goodbye is very tough for me.
I come home two nights later and Donna is waiting for me in the office again. She introduces me to a woman who is creating a brochure for the shelter and wonders if I would like to create the cover. I am over the moon and I am told that I only have 2 days to do it in. I get to work right away.
Three nights later a news station comes to the shelter to do a story about what they do and Donna asks me to be a part of it. The news channel doesn’t want to show my face but they get a shot of my cowboy boots walking down the sidewalk and into the front door. I am now the poster child of the runaway set, except I never “ran away.”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 12
Two weeks later Tom and Alex brought a joint into the shelter. Everything seemed to be heading a direction to put me on “a path” in life. I would finish up my time at Equinox, move to Saratoga to live in a group home and then go off to college. Tom and Alex stood at the top of the stairs and waited to hear Laroy’s snoring before they opened my door. “Come across the hall,” whispered Alex motioning with his hand. “We are going to smoke some weed.” Silently we crossed the hallway and entered Alex’s room.
I had been in Alex’s room before but now he was living alone, his roommate recently worked out his problems with his parents and moved back home. Against one wall of Alex’s room was a pile of mattresses that were kept there as storage. Our job in the morning was to move them to a storage room on the upper floor of the building. People were always donating things to the shelter and since our numbers were always growing the donations came in handy.
We got the idea to block the door with the mattresses so that no one could get in and surprise reached in the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out a joint, he then placed it in his mouth. Pausing he to smile he took a lighter out of his pocket and lit up.
The smoke curled around Alex’s head as he inhaled deeply and held the smoke in his lungs. Tom reached out and took the joint from Alex holding it between two fingers. “Smells like skunk,” says Tom with a laugh. Alex gives him the thumbs up.
We sat on that fire escape for about 20 minutes talking about what our dreams were when we got out of here. Tom and Alex wanted to see the world and travel across the country. I wanted to move to New York City and become a dancer.
We finished the joint and while we were climbing back in the window it sounded as someone was pounding on the bedroom door. “Open this door now!” screamed the person on the other side of the door. It was Laroy. “I know that you’re smoking weed,” he screamed. Alex and Tom ran across the room and lay against the mattresses, trying to block Laroy from coming in. Laroy tired of asking us to open the door began to kick it down. The crunching and splintering sound created by the door as it crashed in was deafening.
Once through the door Laroy butted the mattresses and sent Tom and Alex flying across the room. I stood there with my mouth hanging wide open, completely in shock. “The police are on their way,” screamed Laroy as he took the mattresses and tossed them as if they weighed nothing.
The Albany police ever subtle pulled up in front of the building with their lights flashing. Laroy grabbed at the air as we tried to dive past him. Somehow this tiny little ex-Hells Angel kicked in a door, threw mattresses around and grabbed three boys as they jumped out of his way.
Laroy dragged us down the stairs and into the office. We could see the police at the front door. Laroy threw each of us into a chair and pointing screamed “Don’t anyone move!” Running to the front door he opened it and in a calm voice said “Gentlemen what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” The cops laughed and walked in. You could hear their walkie-talkies going off as one of the officers pushed his hat back off his head. “You got anymore on you?” he asked scanning the three of us.
“No……no…no sir,” Alex stammered. “Well you better not,” he responded. Speaking into their radio’s one of the cops walked back out of the room. The one who stayed began to give us a lecture on the evils of smoking marijuana. While he was talking his partner re-entered the room and began to go through our pockets. Thank god they never found anything. When he was done with his speech he tipped his hat to Laroy and he and his partner walked back into the night.
“Tonight is your last night,” said Laroy. “Go back to your rooms, in the morning you have to leave.”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 13
Now what do I do? I have no plan B. In the morning I am going to be forced to pack my stuff and go. Where do I go, into the street? What have I done? I am so close to moving to Saratoga to live in a group home and now it is all screwed up.
We walk silently back to our rooms. I have never seen Laroy that pissed off; come to think of it I don’t think that I have ever seen Laroy angry before. Every time we turn on the stairs to look back Laroy just points with his finger to the top of the stairs and screams “Move!”
In complete silence Tom and I go into our room and Alex returns to his across the hall. “I am screwed,” I tell Tom. Tom just looks into space. “What the hell am I going to do?” I ask. Tom just shakes his head. We both get ready for bed and this time we don’t leave our room.
I spend the whole night staring at the ceiling. I have nowhere to go in the morning, it is all over. Silently, I slide out of bed and pack my things. Tom rolls over and looks at me. Not a word passes between us. An hour before the staff arrives for the morning shift, I fall asleep. When I wake up, Tom is not in the room. I open the door and look out to see if I can spot him or Alex. Walking into the hallway I peer around the corner so I can look into the TV room. No one is in there either. I walk back into the hallway and lean over the banister. It’s a great way to see if anything is going on downstairs.
As usual it is a beehive of activity. I listen closely and I can hear snippets of words. It sounds like the staff is in disbelief as to what went on last night. While I am eavesdropping Donna appears directly under me. She just happens to glances up at that moment, as she catches sight of me she shakes her head in disgust. “I’ll be here when you get downstairs,” she says walking into the office without a backward glance in my direction.
My brain is in full panic mode. What do I do now? My things are packed, I believe that they will stay true to their word and throw me out. I have seen it happen before. If you don’t like the rules here, you get asked to leave. Smoking weed is not only illegal it is in strict violation of their policies.
It is time to face the music. I have taken the longest shower and dressed as slowly as possible. I can no longer “put it off.” To get out of the building, I have to walk past the office. Standing at the top of the landing I take each step as if I am walking to the gallows. The steps squeak as I put my weight on them, betraying me and announcing my slow arrival. At the bottom of the stairs I see no one around. As I walk down the hallway to the main office, I can hear a gathering in the kitchen behind me.
I step into the office and there is no one in here. I am alone. No Donna and no staff. On the table I notice that someone has left my file. I walk quickly over to the table and thumb through it. Everything that I have ever done in the shelter is clearly documented. The night I arrived by police escort, all the court dates, interactions with my family and all the staffs private notes are now sitting in a file right in front of me. I act without thinking and grab a Yellow Pages. I place it on the table over my file and then I pick up both the yellow pages and the file. My heart is racing as I turn out of the office and head to the stairs. Everyone is in the kitchen is still having a meeting over coffee.
I quickly head up the stairs and run into my bedroom. I can feel my pulse in my neck. Throwing my file into my bag, I zip it up and head back into the hall. I look both ways as I enter the hallway near Alex’s room. Once there I go over to the window and throw open the sash. I duck my head and swing my legs out onto the fire escape. Grabbing my bag I pull myself out on to the landing and slide the window closed. Very quietly I take each step towards the ground, these stairs don’t betray me. Now sweat is starting to form on my brow, I wipe it with the back of my hand. At the last step I jump to the ground and run around the back into the alley and disappear.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 14
The first thing I did was to make it over to the Albany bus depot three blocks away. There I used a payphone to call Kerry. Thank god, it was still early enough in the morning that she was still at home and picked up on the first ring. After telling her my story she said, “I’m not sure that you can stay at my house but we can ask around.”
I walked another three blocks over to Washington to catch the bus to Stuyvesant Plaza. At the bus stop located on the corner of Lark Street and Washington, I was feeling like a wanted fugitive so I stood a little ways back from the street and kept my head down. I was hyper aware that at any moment someone from the shelter could come driving past and make me get in the car or worse, they could have called the police and I could be asked to get into the back of a police car. It took about 25 minutes for the bus to come and I climbed aboard with my head down.
Kerry was waiting for me by the time the bus pulled in. I ran over, climbed in her car and we drove to school. “Tell me again what happened for you to run away from the shelter?” she asked pulling out onto the highway.
I went through the story again and Kerry inserted various “Wow’s” when I reached the parts about smoking weed, getting caught with it and then being told I would have to leave. “What do you think that you’re going to do now?” she asked. “I don’t know.” “I am going to ask several friends at school if I can stay with them.” I didn’t have a lot of time to find a place to spend the night. I knew that it was a lot to ask of someone but to then ask them to let me live full time with them? I even knew that was a lot to ask.
Kerry pulled into the school parking lot at Guilderland High and looked right at me. “Are you ok?” she asked. I nodded and fought back the tears. “It will work out she said.” “I know” I responded opening the car door. Pausing, I asked, “Can I leave my bag in your car?” “Of course,” she said and we headed into school.
I ran to homeroom before the bell and checked in. Our homerooms were organized by last name, so everyone in my homeroom’s last name started with the letter D. Thank god that one of my best friends Debbie was there, I needed the laughs and the support. Debbie was one of the funniest human beings I ever had the pleasure to get to know. We had started a school newspaper together once, well more like a flier that had a great expose on various cheerleaders in our homeroom. I quickly went in and when I didn’t find her there I knew where to go.
Like every high school, the students at my school all grouped together in familiar groups. The various groups are separated into the various categories, jocks & cheerleaders, nerds, heads and theatre people. I was part of the theatre people group. The theatre group also lumped together all the people in band. If you played in band you were also allowed to hang out in the band room before school started, after you checked into your homeroom. Being that I was in theatre but not band, I was tolerated but breaking all the rules by going there for homeroom. Today, this point it seemed a mute one.
I didn’t have a plan but figured that I would just start asking for people’s help. On my first attempt, my friend Beth said that she would ask her Mom if I could spend the night. Beth and her mother lived alone and they had plenty of room, so she didn’t think that it would be a problem. Twenty minutes later Beth cleared it with her Mom and I was to go home with her at the end of the day.
I was so relieved that I had a place to spend the night but I needed to ask around to find other places to stay. I was sure that Beth’s Mom was not going to make this a permanent thing.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 15
School went by very quickly that day; it seemed that everyone knew that I had no place to live. So many people came forward and offered that I could stay a day here or a day there at their house. I found myself overwhelmed several times during the day and would hide in the bathroom. Even during this time I was being bullied in school.
The bullies in my school were some of the worst people that I have met. The bullying started in 6th grade and continued for my entire school life at Guilderland. There were times that I would find myself hiding in the bathroom as they would stand and wait outside, while they would open the bathroom door screaming the word faggot and telling me that “I had until the end of the day to live.”
Sometimes they would wait for as long as it would take for me to come out. Finding out through the grapevine that I was now both a “fagot” and homeless was too much for them to take. The glee I would see in their faces as they would either throw me into a locker or spit on me while they screamed various phrases have stayed with me years after they have. Today they muttered the words “homeless faggot” as they passed me in the hall, jerking their hands back pretending to punch me.
I knew that someday it would be different and my revenge would be the day I could write about it.
At the end of the school day I met Kerry at her car and she handed over my bag to me. “I’ll see you tomorrow” she said. Beth stood on the curb waiting for me. We had to catch the bus to her house. Climbing aboard the bus her driver stopped me and announced “Whoa, hold on there, you don’t ride this bus.” Beth and I explained that I was going to her house for the night. The driver explained that school policy was that I needed a note from my parents. I was now forced to explain my story in front of a bus of kids listening to why I needed to be taken to Beth’s house. My explanation did little as we were asked to leave the bus and get a note from the office. Someone at the back of the bus covered their mouth and blurted the word “faggot.”
We climbed back off the bus and Beth went and called her mother to come pick us up after she got out of work. We sat on the grass facing the tennis courts and waited. Beth’s mother arrived and waved us over. While we were climbing aboard, she put her hand out and introduced herself. “Having a rough day?” she asked. “Uh-huh,” I said.
I drove back to Beth’s house in silence while Beth explained the course that my life recently took. Beth’s mom was a lawyer and her face didn’t give away what she was thinking. During the drive her eye’s switched between the rear view mirror where her eyes met Beth and the road. She didn’t look at me.
We pulled into Beth’s driveway. I climbed out as Beth ran to her front door. I walked around the car and Beth’s mother threw her arms around me and just hugged me. I could feel her mouth pressed to my head. “It’s going to be ok,” she whispered as she choked back a sob.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 16
I spent a couple of nights at Beth’s house and would travel to school with her in the morning. So many people at school seemed to know about my life and what I was going through. My immediate concern was turning out to be that I couldn’t find a permanent solution to my problem. I needed a place to live on a permanent basis. I was afraid to call the group home in Saratoga as I was sure that they had been told all about what had happened at the Equinox shelter and that I would no longer be welcome.
My friend Laura came to me one day and told me that she had spoken to her parents on my behalf. It seemed that they would be happy to open their house to me and give me a more permanent place to live. Laura’s Mom, a new age therapist, had started a group for teens at her church hoping to keep them out of trouble. One of her slogans was “Kids are goats, Children are people.”
We scheduled a night for us to all meet three days later. I was going to go over to her house and have dinner with her family. Laura had 2 older sisters who were off at college, so it would just be her, her parents and me. My time at Beth’s house was up, even though Beth’s mother told me repeatedly that I could stay. I thought that it was for the best, I valued my friendship with Beth too much to overstay my welcome.
Three nights later Laura waited for me after school in the parking lot to drive me to her house. On the ride she told me a little bit about her parents. Her Mom was a stay at home Mom who was working on her degree to become a therapist. Her father had a full time job but was a musical theatre performer on the side. He had appeared in various community theatre productions in the area. Laura complained that he walked around the house naked belting show tunes all the time.
We arrived at her house and I was a little nervous to go in and I asked Laura if we could sit in the car for a minute. I knew that I would have to tell the story of what happened to me and I was not looking forward to it. “My Dad is not home yet, just my Mother is,” Laura said as she shut off the car. I looked up at Laura’s house and thought that here is another chapter about to start, as I imagined her Father singing in the buff.
About ten minutes later I was feeling better and ready to go in. I figured that I couldn’t sit outside in the car all night. Laura took me through the garage and we climbed the stairs that entered through a side door and directly into the kitchen. We were immediately greeted by Laura’s dogs. Two black and white retrievers ran directly up to us at full speed. Laura laughed and held her arms high in the air, making the dogs jump at her.
One of her dogs was ancient and looked at me through white cloudy eyes. She moved as if her legs didn’t bend and barked incessantly into the air and at us. Her second dog named Bear was about two years old kept jumping on me and running into the next room. “She wants you to follow her,” says Laura.
Sitting on the counter watching all of this was Laura’s orange and white tabby named Boomer.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 17
Laura’s Mother bounds around the corner as we walk into the living room. She is in her late 40’s, soft brown curly hair that is gently graying. Her face is slightly hidden behind a pair of oval glasses; her eyes immediately crinkle at the corners when she smiles. “Hello!” she yells, throwing her arms around me. She pulls me in close as she hugs then with both arms then shoots me back to standing in front of her.
“You must be Geoff,” she says cocking her head to one side. She has now taken my hands, one in each of hers. “I am,” I say. “You are,” she says giggling. Her head is still tilted to one side. We stand there staring at each other, she bobs her head as if she got it stuck when she nodded and now it is skipping like a record.
“Well,” she says and then sighs loudly. She is trying to tell me that she understands everything without actually telling me. I feel the therapist in her just busting at the seams. She shakes her head again, turns me towards the door and wraps her arms around my shoulder. She then brings me into an embrace; my face is smushed against hers. Laura’s Mother now begins to sob. It feels as if she is reliving the pain that happens when someone steals your baby. Her sobs become guttural cries but she is trying not to make a sound. I want to run for my life.
I look out of the corner of my eye at Laura. She seems oblivious to what’s going on; something tells me that this is normal for this house. Slowly I am being forced to walk forward by Laura’s Mother; she is leading me back into the kitchen. She grabs a hand towel on her way by and blows her nose in it.
Laura follows behind me and isn’t really paying that much attention to what’s going on. Laura’s Mother gently pushes down to sitting on a kitchen chair. She walks over to the cabinets, opens them and asks me “If she can fix me a snack.”
Boomer walks over and pushes her elbow up with his head. She smiles a meek smile at him and bursts back into tears. “We’re having a casserole,” she says glancing back over her shoulder at me. ‘Nice,” I say. I am really wondering what kind of drugs the casserole will be laced with. Forgive me but I think Laura’s Mother is a woman on the edge, the edge of sanity, the edge of reality and The Edge of Night.
I resist the urge to run again, it is a strong one in me but I need to hold on. Unfortunately, I have nowhere to run. This is it, at least for tonight.
Holding onto two of the cabinets she begins to open and close them, slowly at first and then faster and faster. Laura walks through the kitchen and starts to go up the stairs. “I’m going to take a shower,” she yells without looking back. As she walks up the stairs she unbuttons her shirt and pushes it off her shoulders. I stare up the stairs after her; she is now standing in a white bra and pants. She leans forward unbuttons her pants and slides them to her ankles. Her Mother is still opening and closing the cabinets.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 18
At the top of the stairs is Laura’s bedroom that she used to share with her sister. Across the hall is the bathroom with a stand up shower. I turn my head as far as I can to look up the stairs. Laura’s Mother stands in front of me, now just staring at the cabinets. She has paused in time.
I see Laura walk out of her bedroom and into the bathroom; she is only wearing her panties. The shower starts but the door to the bathroom never closes. I can hear the shower curtain being pulled back.
“I’ll need to make something for dinner,” Laura’s Mother suddenly announces coming back to life. I think of the Tin Man being given an espresso instead of an oil can. She suddenly begins to busy herself, opening cabinets and rooting through drawers. Upstairs Laura sings softly to herself as she showers.
“Here, put these on the dining room table,” Laura’s Mother says, placing cloth place mats, silverware and dishes in front of me. She goes immediately back to fussing all the while muttering “Oh my,” to herself while glancing at the kitchen clock.
I stand up; taking what has been set in front of me and walk into the dining room. I begin to set the table. There is four of everything. The room is surrounded by cabinets that clearly contain family heirlooms.
Well, heirlooms that haven’t been needed or used in some time. They clearly haven’t been dusted in years. I walk over and though the glass, I see pictures of Laura and her sisters with pigtails and buckteeth, smiling out of old silver frames. Pictures of various moments deemed important in the life of her family, all staged here to show how happy they are.
While standing there, staring into the cabinet, I hear the door into the kitchen burst open. I then hear a masculine voice singing. This voice is a cross between Dudley Dooright and someone pretending to be an opera singer. I hear Laura’s Mother say “Hello, Dear.” I assume that Laura’s father has come home. The song he is singing at the top of his lungs is from Camelot. The song is “How to Handle a Woman.”
I continue laying down the dinner plates and the singing continues. I then hear Laura scream from the upstairs bathroom “Close the fucking curtain, you fucking freak.” I hear Laura’s father stop singing, giggle and respond with “Oh my, pardon me,” and then continues singing “How to Handle a Woman.”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 19I walk around the corner and back into the kitchen just in time to see Laura’s father coming down the stairs from the upstairs bathroom. He is still singing “How to Handle a Woman” but has given it a Merengue beat. He is shaking his hands as if they were tambourines on either side of his head.He comes to the bottom of the stairs and faces me; stopping dead in his tracks. “Who the hell are you, and why are you in my house?” he barks at me. I look into his face, it is pinched and angry. His singing and hand shaking has stopped, both hands are now held in fists down at his side. He has taken the stance that one takes if at a Mexican Standoff. His eyebrows are large and wiry; he has let them grow wild.His eyes are growing larger and his face more pinched with every breath. I believe I am being put on, no one is this crazy. “That’s Laura’s friend Geoff,” Laura’s mother chimes in “Remember; we talked about him last night at dinner?” He starts thinking and I can actually see the wheels in his brain turn. Suddenly his face brightens. “Anyone who lives in this house contributes to society,” he yells taking his index finger and poking me in the chest. With that said he continues to walk on by, hands shaking in the air now whistling “How to Handle a Woman.”He walks down the hallway, turns into a room and slams the door behind him. I stare. “What the fuck was that?” I think to myself. I turn back into the kitchen hoping to get some sort of answer. Laura is standing by the sink, soaking wet with a towel wrapped around her body eating string beans out of a colander.“He’s an asshole,” Laura says to her mother. Laura’s mother nervously smiles. “Keep your voice down,” her mother responds to Laura, looking over her shoulder at me. She smiles and pushes her glasses back up with her shoulder. “Is she afraid that I will think he is an asshole as well?” “Is that why she has shushed Laura?” “Is his being an asshole a secret?” I have a lot to ponder over dinner.“Why doesn’t everyone go sit at the table,” Laura’s mother says in a sing song way. Laura still wrapped in a towel continues to eat beans out of the sink. Realizing that no one is moving she sighs and looks at Laura. “Laura, go get your father,” she asks in a quiet and soft voice. Without moving one step in any direction, Laura screams out “Dad, dinners ready.”Laura’s mother looks at me and a nervous smile crosses her face. I’m convinced, this family is nuts.Laura turns on her heel and walks back up the stairs and I walk into the dining room. I sit on the side of the table furthest away from the kitchen with my back to one of the glass cabinets. Down the hall a door is quickly opened and slammed, her father rushes into the dining room and immediately sits at the head of the table.He turns to me with a smile on his face and rests his face on his hands. Through clenched teeth he looks at me and says “I’m the head of this family.” We stare at each other for a good five minutes, he never breaks his gaze. I am not sure if I am required to respond to this statement or not.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 20 Dinner gets stranger and stranger. Laura’s Dad takes whatever moment he can to glare at me and mouth crazy words I can’t make out. He only does this when he’s sure that no one is looking. I keep glancing at Laura and her Mom to see if they are seeing what I’m seeing. Laura’s Mom slowly chews her food while she stares into the distance, the dining room lights reflect off her glasses. Every now and then she sighs as if remembering a sad moment in her life. Laura on the other hand, winks at me when our eyes meet.“What do you plan on doing for a job?” Laura’s Dad announces suddenly breaking the silence. “This is not a free ride; I am not the head of a gravy train,” he raises his hand and bangs it on the table. The cups jump. Laura’s Mom quickly comes out of her haze and mumbles “Dear.”Laura on the other hand tells her father to “Shut the fuck up.” Acting like a slapped dog, Laura’s Dad returns to glaring at me. A long moment of silence falls over the table. Laura’s Dad begins humming his favorite tune “How to handle a woman.”Laura’s Mom comes out of her haze for the second time at dinner and slowly turns her head in her husband’s direction. A frown crosses her face. “I hate that song, it’s so degrading,” she says looking directly at him. He stops in mid hum, stares at her and begins to sing at full voice “If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.” The title “Welcome to the Monkey House,” appears in my head.Laura stands up from the table, grabs her plate and goes into the kitchen. She pauses in the doorway long enough to give her father the finger.Laura’s Dad takes this moment of me not being protected and swings his head towards me. “I assume you will be sleeping upstairs across the hallway from my lovely daughter Laura?” “I guess,” I say. “I haven’t been told where I am sleeping.” “Good,” he says forcing a smile through clenched teeth, just in case his wife looks over. “I patrol the house at all hours.” With this said he stands up, steps away from the table, walks into his bedroom and slams his door. For the third time tonight Laura’s Mom is jostled out of her haze. She shakes her head and sighs.I’m not sure why any of this conversation is happening. I don’t have enough clues yet to put together the reason why there is such a huge level of dysfunction going on. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 21That night I stay in the room at the top of the stairs and sleep with one eye open. No one bothers me and I end up getting very little sleep. In the morning I can hear Laura’s Mother puttering around the kitchen singing softly to herself. I climb out of bed, throw on some sweats and walk downstairs.Laura’s Mother is busy standing over the stove with a spatula in her hand making French toast. She looks up at me, smiles and walks over arms extended. She then throws her arms around me pulling me in tight and begins to sway back and forth. “Did you sleep well?”She asks “Yes,” I struggle to say, her arms are wrapped around my throat so tight they are cutting off the oxygen supply to my head. She pulls back looks into my eyes, pushes my hair back and mumbles “Poor baby.” Her lip begins to tremble and a lone tear runs down her face. She wipes in off with the back of her hand.Turning on one heel she spins back to the stove just in time to save her French toast from burning. “Sorry about last night,” she says without looking at me. “Laura’s Father is quite a handful.” I mentally answer her, not responding out loud. I know that family can be very close even if it seems crazy to the outside world. “Coffee?” she asks in the middle of pouring a cup for me.I am so happy to have so many people care about me and my well being and I take a minute to thank whoever put me on the planet. “Thank god,” I say out loud. Laura’s Mom spins around and looks at me. “God?” she says with a crooked smile forming on her face. “Hmmmmmm, that’s good that you believe in god.” She begins to tell me that her family belongs to the Unitarian Church in Albany. It is a church that welcomes everyone. Luckily, they also have a meeting in the basement after I get home from school today. I am informed that if I stay under their roof it is mandatory that I go to all church meetings held in the house.Laura’s Mother goes on to explain one of the main philosophies of today’s church group, is that children have a voice. “Today’s meeting should help you; it’s kind of a therapy group” says Laura’s Mother excitedly.“Oh wait a minute,” she says pausing in mid sentence “I have just had a banner made up for today’s meeting.” With this, Laura’s Mother leaves me and the French toast in the kitchen.Sitting alone in the kitchen I silently pray that Laura’s Father has already left for work. I can hear Laura’s Mother opening and closing the closet door in her room and then I hear her running down the hallway. She comes back into the kitchen with a long tube held in front of her. Removing a rubber band she unrolls it and holds it out. The banner is large black letters printed on a white background.“Kids are Goats, Children are people” it reads.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home
School goes too fast. I spend most of my day watching the clock. What the hell am I about to encounter when I get back to Laura’s? What kind of meeting is this? Is it a cult? Is there a goat involved?
All I know about church is that every Sunday my sisters and I were forced to sit not only through Church but Sunday school as well. Church service was an hour and Sunday school was an hour as well. We attended Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church.
I remember that the clock was at the back of the room and only the Minister could see it. I would get whacked every time I turned around to look at that clock. Church was boring and torturous. Our Minister was long winded. One thing that annoyed me was that my Mother took to dressing us all alike. If we were clean and dressed well, that made her look good in the eyes of god and the congregation.
When I was young I even was sent to a religious camp named Camp Hebron. My Mother told me that I loved it. I don’t remember that much about my experience. I do remember that I was sent home early for looking at some girls boobs through a hole in the wall. My parents were called home early from their vacation. Looking at girls boobs through a hole was not a proper and wholesome way to discover the female of the species.
The end of the day came and Laura was waiting for me in the parking lot. It was time to go to my first meeting. The car ride home was quiet. I cleared my throat a lot and Laura looked at me lovingly. As we pull into the driveway Laura looks at me. “Nervous?” she asks. “A little,” I admit.
I open the car door, the dogs are waiting. As I climb out and walk to the house they jump around my feet. Walking into the kitchen, Laura throws the cars keys on the table. “Were home,” Laura screams.
Laura’s mother buzzes through the kitchen, her arms full of papers and materials for her meeting. “Hello Children,” she says pausing briefly. Her eyes look up as if she is reading what she just said. Pleased with herself she smiles and heads into the basement.
I head up the stairs and into my new bedroom. My throat is dry and scratchy; I’m not feeling too well. I try to tell myself that it is nerves. Cars begin to arrive, dropping off armies of children. I peek around the corner. I recognize Laura’s best friend Mark. He arrives with his little brotherHey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 1 Laura’s Mother is calling my name from the bottom of the stairs. “Geoff, Geoff, Geooooofffff!” “It’s meeting time.” I can feel her pausing, waiting for a response. “Shit,” I think to myself and answer with “I’m coming,” I grab a sweatshirt and head to the stairs. Laura’s Mother is standing at the bottom waiting. Her arms open and I am forced to walk right into them. She pulls me in and again chokes back a tear. “Come on,” she says and motions to the basement.Two hours later, I find that I am still sitting on the floor in a circle with my legs crossed. I am now listening to the time that Mark’s Mother referred to him as a kid and “How that made him feel”. Tears are streaming down Mark’s face and a string of snot is hanging from his nose. The kids are hanging on his every word. “Jesus,” I think to myself, these kids don’t know what problems are. After a long group hug around Mark initiated from Laura’s Mother, their attention is turned to me.Laura’s Mother stands and clears her throat. “Everyone, this is Geoff.” She motions with her arm as if she is Carol Merrill and I am a new fridge on the guessing block. “Geoff’s parents recently threw him out of their house.” “He was living in a runaway shelter until he smoked marijuana and ran away.”One by one during her speech they turn their eyes on me. It is like a scene from “Children of the Corn” when they look to Malachai to figure out their next move. I am now unbelievably uncomfortable and want to flee. “Let’s start with a group hug,” Laura’s Mother yells waving everyone in to surround me.Everyone rises to their feet and I begin to feel a panic rising in my throat. Slowly they walk towards me, arms extended. I get my legs under me and rise to standing. A kid nearest to me smiles and I look for the nearest exit. Ducking all the arms I run for the stairs to take me out of the basement. Dodging bodies, I hit the stairs taking two steps at a time. “Oh Geoff,” Laura’s Mother yells.Someone yells “Get him!” and I am living “Lord of the Flies.” I hit the top of the basement and slam the door. They are in hot pursuit of me. Someone hits the door on the other side and I look to lock it. Panicked, I find that there is no lock on my side, so I brace it with my body. An avalanche of children hit the closed door, pushing me and sending it opening in my direction.Turning around, I run for the bathroom. I slip inside, slam and lock the door and back up to the other side of the room. Slowly at first and then with increasing intensity the children begin to pound on the door. I can hear their leader Laura’s Mother calling to me and talking to the kids.“Geoff, we are going to sit outside this door and wait for you to come out.” She waits for me to answer. Seconds become minutes. I put my ear to the door to listen for breathing. They seem to be waiting just on the other side. “We’re here.” Laura’s Mother yells waiting for me to open the door.Jumping back, I turn around and see the bathroom window. I grab onto the sash, throw it up and slide out. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 2 Since the house was sitting on a hill, I only had to drop less than a foot to the ground. Once I landed, I started running to the front yard. Silently I creep around to the front of the house and look through the front door window. I can see the whole group sitting outside the bathroom holding hands. I can hear and see Laura’s Mother talking through the closed door. “It’s ok; everyone is scared at some time.”“Now what am I supposed to do?” I thought to myself. “I am screwed again. I snuck back down the side of the house and hit the street running as silently as I could. Where was I running? What would I do when I got there? All I knew is that I needed distance.With nowhere to go, I literally sat in the woods looking at my watch wondering how to get out of this mess. Nearly an hour passed and I had no plan. I was stuck so I decided to face everyone and head back. I stood up and took three steps onto the road and a dirt bike skidded to a halt right next to me. The kid was my age, muscular, slightly grubby with his hair long in the front. A look of surprise was on his face and he was breathing heavy. His muscle shirt was pushed up exposing his stomach. “Whoa, look out!” he yelled as his bike missed me by inches.The gravel sprayed out from under his tires and pinged off my leg. He stopped, swung the bike around and walked towards me. “Are you ok?” he asked, his feet dangling above the ground as he sat in the seat. “I was hiding in the woods, sorry I scared you.” I responded.He flipped the hair hanging in his eyes out of the way and smiled. My heart dropped.“What’s your name?” he asked now standing an inch in front of me. “Geoff.” I said looking in his eyes. He flipped his hair again and smiled. “I’m Steven.” Steven and I stood there and made small talk for a couple of minutes and then the reason I was hiding in the woods came up. I told him the whole story and that I thought that I was on the run from a cult. He laughed and told me if I ever needed a place to live he had plenty of room at his house.Steven walked with me back to Laura’s house. “Meet me here tomorrow at the same time.” Steven said mounting his bike and riding off. “Oh yeah, good luck.” He yelled over his shoulder as he rode away.I looked at the house and saw that the dining room light was on. I walked up the front steps and into the house. Laura’s Mother was busy preparing dinner in the kitchen. “I bet you thought that your stunt today was funny?” Laura’s Mother said not meeting my eyes. “No, I’m really sorry, I’m not ready to talk yet,” I said hoping that I was buying some time.“If you live here you have to attend all meetings.” Laura’s Mother said looking directly at me. “I will have to tell Laura’s Father about this.” “I understand,” I muttered. As she went back to preparing dinner I took the long walk back upstairs to the bedroom. Twenty minutes later, I was called for dinner.
When I turned the corner I saw Laura’s Father sitting at the head of the table. His eyes followed me as I walked in and focused in on me when I sat down. He cleared his throat once. He cleared his throat again. My head moved slowly in his direction. He glared at me and through clenched teeth and said, “We do not lock ourselves in bathrooms and crawl out windows in this house!” “If I saw you run into the streets after dropping out the window, I would have hit you with my car.” To bring the story home, he raised his hand and hit the table, once again causing the cups to jump.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 3 Laura’s father grumbled and mumbled his way through dinner shooting evil looks at me every chance he got. Laura’s Mother would mutter “Dear” and roll her eyes when she thought her husband was being ridiculous. Laura a self proclaimed “vegetarian” was in a “noodle faze” and would eat them out of the bowl with her fingers holding them high in the air. She would shout out the words “asshole or fucker” whenever her Father would mumble at me. I on the other hand would run away in my mind.Dinner finished and Laura’s father stood up, walked to his room and slammed the door to his bedroom. ‘Drama Queen,” Laura yelled out in his direction. “Theatre people,” Laura’s Mother would say shaking her head and chuckling.I headed to my room with no ceremony and no fanfare. My throat was killing me and I was exhausted. I laid down on the bed and immediately fell into a heavy sleep. I slept right through the night and woke in the morning still in my clothes. I propped myself up on my elbows. My head was spinning, my throat hurt and I was still exhausted. I could have slept another 10 hours.Walking into the kitchen I saw Laura’s Mother and told her how I felt. She immediately put one hand on my head to check if I was hot. She couldn’t feel anything but knew something was wrong when I yelped drinking orange juice. It burned my throat like I was drinking liquid fire. Laura’s Mother would call the doctor and see if she could get me an appointment after school today or tomorrow.All during school, I kept drifting off to sleep. Finally school was over and I asked Laura to drive home a little faster. I was looking forward to meeting Steven at 4pm. “Got a date?” Laura asked. The school year was winding down and summer recess was about to happen. I planned on having a great summer.I ran into the house to find a note from Laura’s Mother. My doctor’s appointment would be the following day. “Fantastic,” I thought to myself and ran around getting ready to meet Steven. At exactly 4pm he pulled up next to me on his bike and told me to “Hop On.” I climbed on the seat of his bike, wrapped my arms around his waist and we were off.Steven asked me questions as we flew through various housing developments. I would catch a word here or there and answer based on what I thought I heard him ask.Finally we arrived at his house.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 4
Walking in the house Steven screams out “I’m home,” to no one that I can see. “Let’s go to my room,” Steven immediately says facing me and looking into my eyes.
I follow him down the hallway of modest middle income family house. So many homes all looked the same when I was growing up that a glance as I walk past the bedrooms tells me all I need to know.
My parents kept a strict middle class house. One main rule was that the living room was only to be used for holidays, well really only Christmas. Every now and then my sister would sit in the living room and be allowed to listen to her records on the stereo. The stereo took up one whole wall. It was a big piece of furniture that opened by lifting the large wooden top. It took two hands and you had to get your back into it. The whole stereo reminded me of a coffin.
My sister would have Linda Rondstadt and The Beach Boys albums open in front of her while she leaned on her elbows. The album with Lind Rondstant showed Linda looking into a mirror. We stared at that picture for hours, wondering how they got that shot. The sound that came out of that stereo was one of a kind. It had sort of a thump, wheeze and hum to it as the records dropped from an arm that held them aloft.
Steven leads me into his bedroom. It is a very small room that has bunk beds. “I like the bottom bunk” he said with a smile. Even back then I didn’t think we were talking about the beds. “My brother sleeps on the top.” I look around the room and noticed that there are no pictures on the walls or on the dressers. The room basically has no life, just the bunk bed, two dressers and a Yankee’s pennant draped over a chair. “My Mom likes a clean room,” he says as I look around.
It is very clear to me that this was a middle class home but a lower middle class home. In those days I was often reminded by my friends that I lived in an upper middle class home, even though most of my friends lived in an upper middle class home. I had so many friends that came from so many different economic backgrounds. I never considered myself upper middle class or rich. I became rich once I got to live with so many different people and experience their lives. There were so many restrictions in the home I came from, who cared how much money was in it?
“My brother is….” Steven looked around and back at me “Retarded.” “He was born that way.” “He wears a helmet so he won’t hurt his head when he falls.” “This is our room and we share it.” “We have to put everything away, so he won’t get hurt in here.” Steven blurted out all this information. I was sure that this wasn’t the first time that he had done this.
“Come on let’s go to the basement,” he grabs my hand and pulls me out of the bedroom. We head back down the hallway and pass the kitchen. As we pass I see a large woman standing in front of the fridge, one hand on her hip, her head deep inside.
As we pass, I see her come to life, lift her head and yell “Hold on there Mister!”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 5
“Where do you think you are going and who the hell is this?” I believe that this is Steven’s mom now walking towards us from the kitchen with her hands on her hips. She is wearing up dirty house dress, stands about 5’1 and weighs about 350 pounds. She has her hair pulled up under a scarf and I see pink rollers peeking out at me.
She is looking me up and down. “This is Geoff,” he says motioning towards me. “Geoff, this is my Mom.” I put out my hand and she looks like I am offering her a piece of shit. She sniffs in the air and raises her chin. Her head then snaps is Steven’s direction, she narrows her eyes and points a finger at him. “No funny business in the basement.” With that said she spins on her heel and puts her head back into the fridge.
The door to the basement is located near the kitchen and Steven yanks it open. We head into the basement and I am hit with a strong musty smell. Steven hits a light switch on our way down the stairs and the basement is bathed in yellow lighting. The basement looks like someone had the best intentions of turning it into a “rumpus room” but stopped after a few couches and installing the bar. It now looks like a science project gone bad. There is stuff everywhere. It looks as if someone was getting ready to haul things to a rummage sale and got as far as the bottom of the stairs and gave up.
Steven’s Mom yells down the stairs “I am still in the kitchen and I mean it, no funny business.” I look at Steven and he shakes his head. “She walked into my bedroom when I had a friend over and caught us in the moment.” “She hasn’t recovered yet.” Steven then goes on to tell me how his Mom took him to see a shrink and the shrink told her that Homosexuality is a mental disorder. Now she follows his every move.
There is an old train set attached to a piece of plywood in the middle of this mess. Steven goes over and turns the poser on. The train comes to life and begins to speed around the track. We spend about an hour playing with the train set and Steven offers me something to drink. There is a mini fridge stuffed with soda. I open a ginger ale and we head to the couch.
Steven tells me about his life and how hard it is to grow up with a brother with special needs. Steven’s father left a long time ago; his mother gained 200 additional pounds since then and is raising both boys on a fixed income.
After another soda Steven stands up and walks over to a sink that stands next to the washing machine and begins to pee into it. He looks back over at me and smiles. I am not sure where he is heading with all of this but I am starting to feel a little uncomfortable. I look away and stare at the wall.
Steven returns to the couch and lets his leg open wide enough to touch my leg. I don’t move and am not sure what is about to happen. I am very aware that his Mother is right at the top of the stairs. My second ginger ale has pushed my bladder to full. “Can I use your bathroom?” I ask Steven. He motions to the sink. I really do not want to use the sink for the bathroom but I am about to hit that crucial moment in time. I rise walk over to the sink and begin to pee. I feel a presence behind me and Steven’s hands grab my waist and slide to the front of my hips. “Here, let me help you,” he whispers.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 6
Steven and I began a summer fling right then and there. I liked him and even though he couldn’t do what his Mother had asked him to do. I walked out of the basement and she was back in the kitchen getting a snack. She paused, turned around and not only gave me a sneer that told me exactly where I stand on her list but even shook her head in disgust.
Steven walked me home. Well he was on his bike riding as slow as possible while I walked. My throat was now starting to really hurt me and swallowing was painful. Standing at the end of the driveway, we said our goodbyes and vowed to meet again tomorrow.
Walking into the house I had a feeling of dread, especially when I had to walk past Laura’s dad’s car to do it. Climbing the stairs I could tell that the weather in the house was stormy. Laura sat in the sunroom with her legs on the couch. She was watching some “Creature Feature” movie. On the screen, a beach party is invaded by monsters wearing what I can only guess to be bathmats. “Hi,” Laura said without looking up.
Somewhere in the back of the house I could hear Laura’s Mother crying and her Father speaking in hushed tones. I sat on the couch and my eyes felt heavy. “How was your date?” Laura asked as the monsters on television began to smother a bikini clad beach goer.
“Good,” I said my eyes slowly closing. I pushed myself forward and slid to the front of the couch. “I am wiped out; I need to go to bed.” With that said I rose to standing and headed upstairs. The next day I was taken to the doctor and diagnosed with mono. He told me to stay in bed and sleep for about ten days.
“Oh my,” said Laura’s Mother. She was worried that she would have to stay with me. I assured her I was old enough to sleep alone and she could leave the house if she wanted. I got home and went right to bed. Hours later the phone rang and rang and pulled me out of a deep sleep. It just kept ringing which told me that Laura’s Mother was not at home. I lay back down and drifted off. Again the phone started ringing. At this point I imagined that it had to be important by the time I got out of bed it had rung thirty times.
The phone was at the bottom of the stairs in the kitchen. I got there and lifted it from its cradle only to be greeted by complete silence. “Hello,” I said. There was nothing but silence on the other end and a sharp click as they hung up.
I climbed back into bed and the phone began to ring again. I leaned up on my elbows and began counting. At twenty five rings I climbed back out of bed and made it to the kitchen. I grabbed the receiver and said “Hello.” For a long time no one spoke but I could hear someone on the line. Then a voice said “Home alone fagot?” and hung up.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 7
The phone calls continued on a daily basis but only when I was completely alone. It went on for two weeks. Sometimes there would be about five minutes of complete silence before either hanging up, yelling the word “Fagot,” or a combination of the two.
I never knew who it was. It was also during my having mono, that I didn’t get to see Steven at all. He would call and tell me that he rode his bike past the house, paused to look up at my window and ride on. Was this Romantic or was he a stalker? Steven was the only one who knew I was home alone or at least checked. Could it have been him? I now have my doubts about this theory and after a week into the calls I blamed him over the phone. I would learn this early as an interrogation technique. It seldom worked and caused terrible fights. Steven was angry but blamed my fever on the theory.
Just as I was getting over my mono, Laura’s Mother decided we were going on a vacation. The family owned a house on Schroon Lake and we were going to join Marks family for a long week in the cabin. Laura’s Father announced that he had work and that it was “insanity” for him to go with us. Laura’s Mother would sigh and stare at the ceiling. “You never want to go anywhere, “she said to him over dinner one night, breaking the twenty minutes of silence that precluded this accusation.
His response was to get red in the face and come up with some lame excuse then get angry and bang his hand on the table. Tonight he cursed Gloria Steinem for “helping women achieve freedom.”
I was now convinced more than ever that there was a secret in this house.
Last winter, a bank robbery had happened near the town that bordered Schroon Lake. The getaway truck was being chased and then driven onto the ice and sunk. The robber driving the van was never found and legend formed around his body being trapped at the bottom of the lake.
I spent the summer in a weakened state. I was either too tired to make it to the floating dock or too scared that he had become a “feet grabbing monster,” who was always just slightly below me, arms outstretched. I would crawl out of the water on onto the beach. My theory was that if I could feel the sand beneath me, I wouldn’t step on a decaying body that would get angry and seek revenge.
One thing that the “kids” thought was fun to do at Schroon Lake involved swamping the canoes of followers from the “Word of Life Bible Institute.”
This was believed to be a religious cult that had a compound on the lake. The followers would hang onto their boats as we passed yelling the word “freaks.” This was an amazing vacation and could only be topped by Laura’s Father when we got back. Laura’s Father had called the group home in Saratoga and got me another invitation to come live there.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 8
I spent another couple of weeks with Laura’s family before I was packed to go to Saratoga. I attended more “Kids are Goats, Children are People” seminar’s in Laura’s Basement.
I never got any closer to getting to “the root of my problem” by talking though. My flight instinct would take hold when they would look at me and then they would realize that I’ve got two scoops of “flee” in me as well. It became not worth the effort to talk to me and I was allowed to just sit in the circle. Laura’s Father went on an extended business trip during this time and her Mother just wandered around touching family photographs and sighing.
Steven and I said our final goodbyes on the road in front of Laura’s house. We vowed that someday we would meet again and he made a t-shirt for me, wrapped it in tissue paper and tied with a bow. The shirt was yellow with the words “Fuck you,” printed on it. We hugged and he rode away, this time he didn’t look back.
I walked back into Laura’s house and twenty minutes later a car was waiting for me. Laura’s Mother hugged me goodbye and I was taken to Saratoga.
The drive to Saratoga took about an hour and a half. I really didn’t pay that much attention but when I sat up to look out the window, I was told “Were here!” by the driver. My summer had swirled away.
From the road, I could see that it was clearly one of the biggest house’s in Saratoga, or anywhere. However, it was located on a desolate street in the middle of the woods. I really should have paid better attention getting here. I remember driving and then seeing a sign for A&W Rootbeer and taking a right. That’s how I got there. Stupid of me, if I needed to hitch I had no landmarks.
I had hitched a ride from Laura’s once with someone’s creepy Dad. He got a little handsy and I jumped out at a light. Granted he drove around getting handsy for quite some time before he stopped at that light. It was one of the only times I ever really feared for my life.
The sun was setting as the car pulled into the driveway. The driver informed me that this was the Parsons Child and Family Center in Saratoga. There was no sign anywhere to be seen . From my view I could see the nearest place to run was the woods. Unfortunately, I would be able to hit the woods after crossing a backyard the size of two football fields. By then the hounds would be on top of me.
As we left the car, two people left the house and met us halfway. One was a small female, dark hair, pixie cut, a crooked smile and wearing Birkenstocks. The other was male and very strong and powerful. It was clear that he was the “discipline” in the house. Some papers were signed for my transfer and my driver drove away.
It was that simple. No fanfare. No restraints.
From an upper window I could see several people looking out. A hand was placed on my shoulder that pushes me forward as I am walked into the house.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 9
The house is enormous. I am standing in the back entryway that is nothing more than an enclosed porch. It serves as a check in spot. “Security” takes my bags so they can go through them in search of drugs.
“My name is Diane and I am your social worker,” says the woman who comes to meet me in the driveway. She places her hand into the air between us and smiles, the corner of her eyes crinkle up. I stare back at her hand, not really in the mood to shake it and I let my silence become uncomfortable.
“Anyway,” she says her hand still in the air. She looks at me and looks at her hand. It becomes quickly clear that this was not a gesture of kindness this was a test and I am failing miserably. “Discipline” puts his hand on my back and shoves me forward. I take her hand. “Good,” she says gently shaking my hand and walking me into the main part of the house.
“We like to have no problems out here in Saratoga” Diane says stopping in the middle of the hallway. As she continues walking, I am given a brief tour of the downstairs area. She takes me through a kitchen, dining room, a television room and points out various staff offices. As we walk she prattles off the house rules. She stops directly in front of a floor to ceiling painted sign that the rules are written on. I am told that I will be given a copy of them as well.
I notice that the house seems very quiet and I don’t see anyone around. Diane notices me looking and mentions that “Everyone is in their rooms.” The tour continues and I am taken to the top of the stairs where there are five doors in the immediate hallway. She opens one of the nearest doors and I am shown one of the bedrooms. “This is to become my room for an indefinite amount of time,” Diane says not really looking at me. “Through your room is the entrance to Danny’s room,” says Diane as we enter. “He has lived here the longest of anyone in the house and has to walk through here to get to his room.” She turns and looks at me smiling with just her eyes.
My room is huge with two queen size beds separated by a dresser, two desks and additional dressers on each side of the room. Two large windows on the far side of the room look out onto the expansive lawn. Everything seems to be designed to be matching “two’s” of everything. I guess that way no one feels any preferential treatment and a lot of fights are probably headed off this way.
“I will let you get settled and then we will talk” Diane says walking to the bedroom door. She pauses, turns around and claps her hands together. “Structure is the key,” she says. “Security” is standing very close to her this whole time and he follows her out the door. As the door closes and I am left alone, I lay down on the bed and stare at the ceiling.Twenty minutes later the door opens and in walks a Cowboy. He is in his early teens and dressed head to toe, as a Cowboy. Cowboy hat, vest, boots and chaps, Looking closely at his face as he passes I notice the prepubescent handlebar mustache. “Hi I’m Geoff,” I say siting up. He barley looks in my direction as he walks through my room. He then opens a door and disappears. I assume that this is Danny.Diane gives me about an hour before she comes and finds me, she is no longer shadowed by Security. “Hungry?” she asks softening her demeanor. “I am,” I tell her as I follow her down the stairs.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 10I sleep very well for my first night but I am up the minute I hear anyone stirring in the hallway. The clock on the nightstand tells me that its six o’clock in the morning. I glance at it as I slide out of bed. I put on the same clothes that I had the night before because I haven’t had any time to unpack. I find them without turning on the lights, thrown on the floor near one of the dressers. I pull them on and step into the hallway.It is really quiet upstairs but I can hear voices coming from the main floor. Standing at the top of the stairs, I grab the banister and head downstairs. The voices get louder. Standing in the main corridor I can see a light coming from the dining room. As I get closer I can see people sitting around the dining table as well.I hover outside in the hallway and take a head count. There are about 12 kids talking over one another to be heard. The conversation is a mix of nothing. A lot of “who did what to whom and what whom did to who.”It is really early and already there is chaos.Looking up, one of the girls see’s me nudges the girl sitting next to her. Suddenly, the room becomes a set of falling dominoes, falling into silence. One by one each of the kids stops talking and turns their head in my direction.There is counselor is in the room who realizes that the kids have stopped talking and that they are all looking into the hallway. She rises from her chair, pokes her head around the corner and see’s me. Walking into the hallway, she extends her hand. “Hi I’m Charice,” she says gently taking my elbow with one hand and motions for me to join them in the dining room with the other.Every child watch’s me walk into the room. “Grab a bowl off the buffet table and get some cereal,” she tells me pushing me in the direction of the buffet. Clarice on the other hand returns to her set and back to her coffee. I’m sure that this is a weekly routine for her. #1- On list…….throw new child to wolves…..check.I heap a giant ladle of cheerios into my bowl and then pour milk over them. Looking around I spot a container of spoons and reach for them. Still, it is completely silent and I can feel all the eyes on the back of my head. Charice tries to break the silence by yelling across the room to me.
“Where are you from?” Not turning to look at her, I respond “Guilderland.” I might have well said Mars, because “Guilderland,” gets the same reaction. None of the kids made a sound. I slowly turn and walk back to my audience and find an open spot at the table. The kids still stare at me slack jaw. Suddenly one the girl turns to the girl next to her and says “See I told you he was gay.”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 11
Life at the group home in Saratoga starts out just like life at the runaway shelter. They don’t know what to do with me, so I get the day off while the kids get sent to school.
It is the first days of the new school year. Later they will be taking me to meet an advisor who can place me. I spend the day talking to my social worker in her office who gives me several “psychological tests” to see where I am at in my life. I also get the run down on how the group home runs and what they expect from me.
All day long counselors show up to work their shift at the home. I am introduced to so many people that their names all merge in my head. The staff consists of about 20 different people and has many revolving shifts.
There is at the minimum, at least 5 people working at any given time but on the overnight shift there is only one person, Charice. She has been working at the group home for about 5 years by the time I get there. I am told that she loves the overnight because there is no noise.According to my social worker “Charice has an amazing record and puts up with no nonsense on her shift.” “She also has a hotline to the police department,” my social worker adds under her breath.Now that I am alone, I get a chance to check out the house. I now can confirm that it is as enormous on the inside as it appears on the outside. There are several bedrooms, bathrooms, 2 dining rooms, a living room, 2 family rooms and several rooms converted into offices.Parked in the garage, the home owns two vans and several cars. Someone on staff informs me that these cars are used to shuttle the kids where they need to go.My social worker sits me down later in the day to finish the list of house rules that she feels have been missed. I am told that once a week the staff of the house have their weekly meetings to discuss what’s been going on. I am sternly warned told that none of us kids are allowed to disturb them during their meetings, or there will be consequences.The staff has created a demerit system, you gain and lose your freedom all based on your behavior. All week long they have mandatory outings for everyone in the house. They find that this stops fights and has everyone working as a unit.Every week there is a staff member whose job it is to sit at the house with whatever kid has lost their freedom that week. They give this shift on the “draw a straw” system. They hope that it won’t be a shift of the week but I’m told that is a busy job. Someone is always in trouble.The first outing that I will be attending will be this weekend. They are going to take us for a day trip into the country. All the kids will be going and Dave will be in charge.Dave is 25 years old, long and lanky with dark feathered hair, he shakes my hand when he meets me. Looking out the window of the office is about the amount of going into the “country” that I want to see.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 12
The kids arrive at home in the afternoon and I get reintroduced to every single one of them. It is a swirlof information and I am looking for ways to remember who I meet. Tall and lanky with large buck teeth, that would be Sharon. Little round and fat with dirty blonde hair, that’s Becky. Round glasses and a large bulb like head, that’s Nick. I don’t have a memory connection at that moment so I am just looking at them grasping for anything and repeating their names. They look back at me like I’m crazy and they have very little time for me. It is after school time and more important, time for General Hospital.
The kids literally run to their rooms drop off their books and come running back down stairs into the kitchen. I am standing in the hallway watching all this chaos as cabinet doors get yanked open and the fridge door gets swung against the wall. There are hands reaching everywhere for any food they can get their hands on.
Becky and Sharon seem really close to each other and announce to me that “they are sisters.” Nick looks at me pushing his glasses back up his nose with one finger. “They are not technically sisters; they just hang out all the time.” “Dork,” says Sharon into Nick’s ear as she passes. I notice that she says it loud enough for only us to hear. “You’re not allowed to talk to people like that in this house Sharon” Nick cries. Becky walks by with a cereal bowl in her hand and in the hand that carries her orange juice she flips Nick the finger. “Hey, no gestures either,” cries Nick backing into the wall.
As I follow them into the living room, the kids seem to all have “their spots” and God forbid if you sit in one of them, Skyler tells me. The great shushing begins and everyone is told to “shut the fuck up.” Somewhere in another room a counselor yells out “Hey, we don’t talk like that.”
I have never spent any time watching a soap opera but these kids are wrapped up in it. The television is turned on and the opening credits roll. I am transported to Port Charles and every character that arrives on the screen gets and introduction to me by the kids. “She’s old, rich and white her name is Lila and she’s married to an old guy named Edward.” “That one there is heather and she’s crazy.” “That ugly one with frizzy hair is Luke. I never understand what Laura see’s in him.”
At the end of an hour I understand that Heather is disguising herself as a nurse and escaping from a mental institution. Diana Taylor is murdered and the name “Ann” is mysteriously written in her blood. The end credits roll and the energy in the room is electric.
Diane and Mark walk into the room. “Ok everyone,” Diane says “off to your room for homework.” Grumbling the kids get off of “their spots” in the room and head upstairs. Diane also announces while we pass that there will be two new kids named “Dennis and Mike” joining the house tonight. Also we are reminded by Mark to “pack light” for our trip into the country for the weekend. I can hear doors closing and then I can hear the music of Jackson Browne played at full volume behind someones closed door.
Mark walks over to me and puts one arm around my shoulder. I take this gesture from him to signal “Trust me; I’m like a Big brother.” It actually makes me more “guarded” and I start to think that everyone I meet is up to something.
“Why don’t you show me your room and we’ll talk” Mark says gesturing to the stairs.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 13 Mark and I sit in my room. He is asking a lot of questions and I feel that so many of them border on the personal. “Where did I grow up?” “Do I like boys or girls?” “Why can’t I get along with my Mother?” My head is spinning and I feel that he is Grand Inquisitor trying to get to “the heart of the matter” with me. I am a tight lipped enigma and I can tell that I am getting to him every time his eyebrows go up. I counter his questions with vague answers like “Maybe, uh-huh and she’s a bitch.”It is clear that he is getting frustrated and I have seen right through his trying to bond with me. I pretty much don’t trust adults and I’m finding that I trust adults working in group homes less than that. Our bonding lasts a couple of hours. I start to give him any answer to any question no matter how ridiculous, he is wearing me down. My urge to “run” grows stronger. Once he gets what he feels is enough information from me, he leaves. I lie down on my bed and close my eyes.At 8pm a police car arrives and parks in the driveway. Word spreads quickly through the house to “look out your windows.” From my perspective, I have a front row seat my room looks into the driveway. One of the cops in the passenger seat gets out of the car and goes to the back door. Once the overhead light goes on I can see two figures sitting in the backseat. The cop reaches in and removes one of the passengers. The cop who was in the driver seat gets out of the walks to the back door and removes the second passenger.Both boys have their hands behind their backs. It’s very clear that they are in hand cuffs. I can see them shuffling to the house, the cops are pushing them to walk forward. I can hear a stampede from everyone’s bedrooms as they race to the top of the landing. From this vantage point we can hear and if you are lucky be able to see what’s going on downstairs.Through muffled voices we can hear that Diane is still in the house along with Mark. They have been waiting for this delivery, once they check them in they can go home. This must be Dennis and Mike that they have been waiting for.Listening closely we hear the cops explaining that both boys came from a long line of shelters, group homes and most recently Juvenile Hall. Dennis and Mike have several crimes that the cops begin to list. It begins with Grand Theft, Solicitation, drug dealing, prostitution and ends with endangering a minor.It seems that they have been shuttled around a long time. Nick loudly whispers “God this is turning into an Albany group home.” Becky shuts him up when she elbows him in the ribs.We are hoping to get a good look and just then Dennis steps backwards into our view. He stands about 4’5 greasy short spiky hair. He turns his gaze and sees us all at the top of the stairs I notice his “cheesy” moustache that hasn’t grown in but is actually black fuzz.One of the cops yanks him back out of our view.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 14 We can hear the cops taking the cuffs off of the two boys. Diane immediately starts in with the rules of the house. She also explains to the cops that she is not used to having children brought to the house handcuffed. The cops explain that it is procedure and that these two boys need to be watched really closely. “If I had my way,” says one of the cops “they would be in prison for a long time.”“Great,” I think to myself, if I didn’t feel safe living here before this makes me less sure. “It’s becoming a group home from Albany,” Nick loudly whispers again. Sharon glares at him and punches her own hand. I’m beginning to wonder what happened to Nick at an Albany group home.As Diane bids goodbye to the cops and heads to the stairs we all scatter back to our rooms. Ten minutes later there is a knock at my door. It’s Diane with Mike. Diane doesn’t wait to be asked in but opens the door and sticks her head in. “I have a new roommate for you,” she says with a smile on her face. Now she steps in the room and swings the door open. Placing both arms out like she just did a magic trick she announces “Ta-da” and I see Mike standing there.This ferocious villain stands at about 4’3, soft hazel eyes, curly hair and a swimmers body. He reminds me of a Botticelli angel. His eyes are on the floor and I notice one of his shoe laces is undone. Mike‘s eyes slowly come up to meet mine and a shy smile crosses his face. There must be some mistake that this boy arrived in handcuffs at the door. I got a quick glimpse of Dennis from the top of the stairs and I have to say that he looks like a felon in training to me.“Hi,” says Mike and he quickly steps in the room. He takes a look around and I can see him making a mental note of what’s in here. I make a quick mental note to see if I have anything of value in my stuff that I need to hide. Walking over to far side of the room he sits down on the bed and places his hands on either side. He then looks up at me smiles and asks “Mind if I sleep here?”“You two are going to get along famously,” Diane says and walks out of the room.Mike begins to tell me the story of how he met Dennis and that Dennis has the IQ of a five year old. Dennis also just does things without thinking and it tends to get him in trouble. Dennis once stole a car but didn’t know it was wrong he just did it. Mike and I begin to talk for hours and soon we are told that it’s “lights out.”I show Mike to the bathroom and go back into the bedroom to get ready for bed. Several minutes later Mike returns to the room, stands by his bed and strips down to his underwear. He looks more like a wrestler than a swimmer now to me; I can see the muscles on his forearms and legs. He glances over at me and smiles again. Then he reaches out and turns off the light.The room is bathed in darkness and silence. Twenty minutes later I can feel my covers being pulled down as Mike slips in bed next to me. “Mind if I sleep here?” he whispers in my ear. I reach across under the covers and I can feel that he has removed all his clothes.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 15
The next morning I wake and Mike is no longer in my bed, in fact he is no longer in the room. I now figure that “hell, this place isn’t so bad.” I throw back the covers and head into the bathroom. Pausing at the top of the stairs I can hear kids downstairs at the breakfast table.
I quickly shower and head down. As I walk into the dining room I realize that I haven’t seen any staff members around the house at all. When I ask, Becky informs me that “they are all in the office having a meeting.” I shrug and figure it must be a daily thing and that soon we will see them.
“It has something to do with Mike,” Becky adds as an aside and returns to eating. “Huh?” I think to myself and I turn, walk out of the room and head to the office. There is a glass window in the office door and by standing off to the side, I figure that I can see in and they can’t see me. I can see Mike sitting in a chair surrounded by counselors; his angelic face is stained with tears. Everyone around him is hanging on his every word. One of the counselors holds a Kleenex box at the ready.
I move closer to the door and try to listen. I hear Mark say “these are very serious charges” and Diane adds “We should call the police. I am now intrigued. What could have possibly happened in between last night and today? He seemed all right last night and now he is in the office blubbering and they are talking serious charges? I move a little closer and as I raise my eyes Mike see’s me and points a finger at me. All the counselors look at the door and then right at me.
Two counselors take Mike on either side and block him. Diane crosses to the door and yanks it open, I can hear the glass rattle. “You are in deep trouble,” she says to me. Mark crosses behind her and walks up to my side. The two counselors holding Mike dance him out the door and Mark and Diane dance me in. Mike sobbing stops, he looks at me and an evil grin crosses his face. It is a brief moment in time and he is back to sobbing.
Mark pushes me into the same chair that Mike was sitting in. Diane steps in front of me. “We are removing Mike from your room for his own protection,” Diane says walking over and closing the door. “What for?” I ask. “You know, what for,” she repeats mocking my voice. “He tells us that you forced him to have sex with him last night.” “He tells us that he is scared to stay in the room with you.” He tells us that you threatened to kill him if you didn’t have sex with him.” “He claims that you raped him.”
My eyes grow wide and all the air is sucked out of the room. “He’s a fucking liar,” I scream “A fucking liar”. “Why should we believe you?” Mark asks spinning me towards him. I am now an inch from his face and I can see spittle on his lip. “Because he’s fucking lying” I say. Diane faces me, “He seems pretty upset” and finishes up with “I have to report this to the police.”
My world begins to spin. I can’t seem to find the thread of sense in this. “You will spend the rest of the day confined to your room until the police come.” “If Mike decides to press charges I don’t know what will happen to you.” Diane waves her hand and Mark grabs my arm and yanks me to standing. Then he grabs my arm and the back of my neck and pushes me into the hallway.
“I didn’t do anything,” I scream. Diane turns and closes the office door in my face. She is now standing an inch away from me but separated by glass. She begins to shake her head back and forth and walks away from me. I begin to fight for my life and Mark slams me to the floor and sits on me. He then takes his knee and presses it to my throat. “Stop fighting,” he screams the veins bulging in his forehead.
He presses his knee harder until the world begins to go dark. I stop fighting and lay there. Mark waits a good ten minutes until he is sure that I am done fighting and then he yanks me back to my feet.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 16
I am now a prisoner in my own room. How quickly things change around here. Not to mention that I am also waiting for the police to show up and arrest me. Who knew that this was how Saratoga would turn out? I am told that the kids were told to ignore me. Sharon told me that in hushed tones as she stood outside of my room. She also tells me that I’m in solitary confinement.
Around 2pm in the afternoon I see Mike and Dennis standing in the driveway. Mike glances up at my window see’s me and waves. Dennis looks the same direction and waves as well. They walk back into the house.
Now I am mad. I pick up a barbell lying on the floor and I drop it. I repeat this about thirty times but hold it higher and higher. The house shakes with every drop of the weight. Soon I hear footsteps running in my direction and Mark literally smashes the door inward. I take two steps back and Mark runs at me placing his hands around my throat. We fall backwards over a chair.
He is once again sitting on my chest with his hands around my throat when he begins to repeatedly start banging my head on the floor. His face is red and the veins in his neck are bulging. I once again feel the world grow gray around me as I slip into a quieter state. I black out for a moment which causes Mark to jump up off of me. He realizes that he may have “gone too far.”
As I begin to come to, Mark backs towards the door but turns around and jabs his finger in the air at me. “Keep it up and I’ll kill you.” I pull myself across the floor and onto the bed. I don’t have to be told twice about his threat and I believe that he actually will kill me.
Two hours later I get off the bed and open the door to the hallway. Looking out I see that no one is there. I can hear someone playing that same Jackson Browne album from behind a closed door. I walk to the top of the stairs and listen. I hear nothing, no talking, no laughing, nothing but silence.As I head to the kitchen, I pass the office. Looking through the office window I can see they are having another meeting. I figure this is my time to plead my case and tell them what actually happened between me and Mike.Diane is sitting in the middle of a circle of counselors. She has their undivided attention. She can see me as I approach the door and doesn’t seem to react to me one way or another. I knock on the glass and everyone turns to look at me. I can see and hear Diane say “Ignore him.” So I knock again and again until my knocking becomes a steady rapping. When my steady rapping doesn’t work I begin to pound on the glass. My pounding becomes harder and harder. And then it happens. It happens in slow motion. I raise my fist and bring it against the glass. Slowly my hand smashes through the glass, the glass flew inwards and everyone slowly turns in my direction. Everyone has a look of dread and horror as the glass shatters into a million little pieces and rains down on them. Realizing what I have done I pull my hand back out and that’s when I noticed the blood running down my arm.Again in slow motion I turn grabbing my arm and run for the bathroom. Several counselors are hot on my heels. As I run into the bathroom I slam the door turn around and pull the bolt. Crossing to the wall I slide to the floor. The bathroom door is being pushed in by several people on the other side. It groans and squeaks. My blood began to run down my arm and pool on the floor. I watch in sick fascination as it runs across the linoleum. Reaching down and with one finger I write “Ann” in the blood.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 17 The door gets taken off the hinges and they find me with my my legs curled up underneath me.Diane sees blood on the floor and the name “Ann” written in it and calls the paramedics. I am placed under “psych watch.”No one seems to understand the humor of what I have written, no one saw Heather writing it in Diana Taylors blood to frame Ann on “General Hospital.” Explaining it gets a lot of people nodding and telling me “that they completely understand” and then making my straps a little tighter.As they are carrying me out of the house I can hear Nick in the bathroom they just removed me from screaming. “This is turning into the Albany group home!” “This is turning into the Albany group home!” It is very clear that my days are numbered here in Saratoga.Diane is at the hospital, she just spoke to her husband Charlie who is a counselor in the Parsons system in Albany about getting me transferred to an “Independent living” group home. It’s still in the Parsons Child and Family system, so I would be making a horizontal move. He will be putting the paperwork in to make it happen.I am trying to explain the plot of General Hospital to a nurse who has my hands strapped to the bed. She tells me that she’s more of a Guiding Light fan as she leaves the room.“Boy, how did this happen?” I ask myself. I have screwed up big time. I have to spend at least 48 hours in the care of the hospital. The cut on my arm wasn’t bad at all. I did most of the damage pulling my hand back. The say I probably will have a little scar. The nurses are actually kind when they talk to me. It is the first time in a long time that I am allowed to be a child and I feel safe.That night while I am in the hospital Dennis and Mike steal the van and are gone for two hours before anyone notices. Several psychological tests and two days later when I get back to the group home, they are still missing. It seems that Mike’s rape story was a plot to share a room with Dennis so they could plan their big escape. It is very clear that I never “raped” anyone. It is Diane who approaches and me and “off the record” apologizes. “Well we still have this weekend to look forward to,” she says.How this didn’t get me out of the weekend in the country car trip, I’ll never know. Dennis and Mike are still missing so they believe that it will be best to handle this and get us kids out of the house. I have already lived more drama in the short time that I have been here.Everyone is told what to pack and Mark goes through everyone’s suitcases to make sure no one has brought and drugs with them. We are however allowed to stop at the corner store and buy cigarettes. I am in my More Cigarette faze. They are long dark brown and menthol. I am so cool when I smoke them. Pretty much all the kids smoke at the group home.
Dave is in charge of the trip and walks around the house telling everyone what a great time we will be having. Sharon pulls me aside and asks if I have any money. “Why do you need it?” I ask. Sharon and Becky want to smoke pot on the trip but they have no money. Sharon’s Mom will be sending her money by next week and she can pay me back then. “Where do you get weed?” I ask. “You need to ask Danny, he has plenty in his room,” Sharon tells me. While everyone is packing, I knock on Danny’s door. There is no answer, so I knock again. Still no answer so I slightly push the door open and poke my head in.
Danny is lying on the bed with earphones on. I can hear the country music coming through the headphones loud and clear. Danny is tapping his cowboy boot in time to the music. Danny is sort of an enigma, he has his own rules and comes and goes as he pleases. I rarely see him. The inside of his room looks like backstage at a rodeo. “Where the hell did he come from?” I ask myself.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 18
Danny rolls over calm and cool as can be and doesn’t jump or seem surprised that I am standing inside his room. He smiles and removes his headphones. “What can I do ya fur?” he drawls. “Seriously,” I think to myself “Where the fuck did he come from?”
“I um..I was sent by Sharon..to….uh” I stammer. “You want to buy weed?” he says swinging his legs off the bed. ‘Yes,” I add quickly. He walks across the room and opens a free standing closet. There is more weed in there than I have ever seen in my life. “What kind you want?” he asks not looking at me. “The kind you smoke,” I add trying to sound cool. Danny laughs and turns to look at me. “No, you chuckle head, want do you want it to do?” “Well it’s not for me, it’s for Sharon and Becky,” I say, trying to make myself sound convincing. “Two of my best customers,” he says adding a chuckle. Reaching up he pulls down a baggie with weed and tosses it to me. “Something a little wacky is what they like.”
I catch the bag and look at it. “How much?” I ask. “Forty bucks al do ya,” Danny says shifting his cowboy hat forward over his eyes. Reaching in my pants I pull out my money and count it out. It is the last $40.00 I have to my name. Danny reaches up quick and snatches it out of my hand. “Good doing business with you,” Danny adds. As I turn to walk quickly out the door Danny says “Remember, squealers tend not to live long around here.” I nod my head without ever looking back.
Standing alone in my room I walk over to make sure the door is closed. I then begin to search around for a container to hold some of this pot. I am not going to give Becky and Sharon all of it. I split it in half and put my half in a little box I find. Then I head into the hallway with the rest of it in my front pocket. I knock once and Sharon opens the door. Smiling, I reach in my pocket and withdraw the baggie. Sharon’s eyes get wide and search the hallway behind me and then she reaches out, snatches the baggie from me and shoves it down the front of her pants. “You stupid fuck,” she hisses and slams the door in my face.
I am now standing in the hallway in shock. So I knock on the door again. This time Becky answers. “What do you want?” she asks pausing briefly enough to stop chewing her gum. “Is Sharon here?” I ask. ‘No, she’s out Becky says and then she steps back and slams the door in my face.
I am now completely flummoxed. What do I do now? I figure that I will let it go and approach them at another time. I turn and head downstairs to the kitchen. Five minutes later Becky and Sharon coming running down the front stairs, past the kitchen and as they pass the office they yell out “Going for a walk,” and head out the door. “What the?” I say out loud running to the window. I can see them. They are run/walking to the street. Becky is still putting on a coat and Sharon is lighting a cigarette. Two minutes later, they are out of sight.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 19
I am pissed off at Sharon and Becky. They are sitting directly behind me in the van. I am also getting a little pissed off at Nick has now played the Jackson Browne album on repeat for the seventh time. “Don’t we have anything else to listen to?” Sharon suddenly blurts out scaring Nick. I quickly turn around and Sharon makes a yucky face at me while Becky giggles. “I want to punch her in her fucking face, I want to punch her in her fucking face” I think to myself.
“You owe me money,” I hiss under my breath and face Sharon. “What do I owe you money for?” Sharon asks a little too loudly. I can see Dave look in the rear view mirror at us. “You know!” I hiss again. “No, I don’t know!” Sharon hisses back in a perfect mimic of me. Becky giggles. “God, I hate Becky’s fat fucking face,” I think again. Dave’s eyes are not on the road but looking right at me in the rearview.
In the back seat Danny has his knees pulled up and his cowboy hat low over his face. He is as cool as ever and reminds me of a cat taking a nap.
This freak caravan is headed for the woods. “Oh glorious days,” I say out loud to no one. “What did you say?” Sharon leans forward it her seat.“Just so we are clear I bought you weed and you owe me money,” I say narrowing my eyes. “I am also not afraid of you and will not hesitate to kill you in your sleep.” I say all of this an inch from her face, my jaw is pinched shut and my teeth are clamped down. This is said without moving my mouth; I am like a crazed ventriloquist. “God you need a breath mint,” Sharon says waving away the air in front of her and then turning back to a fat giggling Becky. I believe that my eyeballs are going to shoot out of my head and splatter on the windshield, I am now that mad.“Anyone else need a smoke break?” I scream out. Dave’s eyes meet mine in the rearview and he eases the van onto the roadside. Jackson Browne is on repeat again.Sliding across the seat I slide out the van door and grab my cigarettes. At this time I am smoking “More’s” which is a menthol ladies cigarette. They are long and thin and I am too cool as I stand on the side of the road. Sharon and Becky light up a Marlboro light each forcing Nick to cough. He waves the unseen smoke out of his face and pulls out his inhaler.“Retard,” Becky mutters to Nick. “What if I was retarded, how would you feel?” Nick stammers. “Like I was a genius, clearly spotting you as a retard before you knew you were one.” Becky says purposely blowing smoke in Nick’s face. Stung Nick turns his face to hide his tears.“Fat Bitch,” I mumble to Becky. Clearly not caring she walks away. Mike walks around the side of the van and slides up next to me. “What does Sharon owe you money for?” he asks trying to act like he’s my best friend. My initial response is to tell him that it was for an abortion but I push away the urge.“Nothing,” I say kicking the dirt with my shoe and trying to walk away. “Seems like an awful lot of fighting for nothing,” he says feigning concern and placing an arm around my shoulder. I step away and take a drag of my cigarette. “She asked me to get her something, I did and she owes me money.” “Uh-huh,” he says nodding his head. I am as vague as I need to be.Dave nods like he understands and then yells “Ok, everyone breaks over, back in the van.” Becky knocks Nick out of the way and slides into the passenger seat. “Hey,” says Nick as the door slams in his face. Fat Becky gives Nick the finger. A silent tear rolls down his face.The van pulls back onto the road and Becky puts Jackson Browne back on repeat. “God, I love this album, don’t you?” Becky says slowly turning to look at me. Sharon begins the kicking of my seat. I can feel the blood in my neck and my eyes start to pulse in rhythm with my heart. I am sure that blood and guts are going to fly everywhere when my head explodes.Dave checks the rearview, Danny’s sleeping, Nick is quietly sobbing and Fat Bitch Becky is giving me the finger while crane faced Sharon is kicking, kicking, kicking my seat. I can hear a clock ticking somewhere and its getting louder and louder and……“That’s it!” I scream. “Sharon and Becky bought weed from me and never paid me back!” With this new knowledge Dave slams on the breaks causing everyone to lurch forward in their seats. “What?” Dave screams. “What?” Dave screams again. Sharon and Becky sit there with their mouths hanging open and their eyes wide. I am reminded of baby birds. Ugly fat crane faced baby birds.
Dave’s head begins to shake as if this information has put him in overload. Quietly and calmly he turns the van around and begins to head back from where we came. No one is speaking except for Nick. “Where are we going?” “I want to go into the woods,” he cries.
Dave not saying a word begins to drive faster and faster. Sharon coming out of shock begins to move her head back and forth. Danny cool as can be doesn’t move. Twenty minutes later Dave pulls the van over and uses a pay phone. “Don’t anyone move or talk while I am right over there,” he says motioning to the payphone.
The minute the door slams Sharon becomes a ventriloquist herself. “Dead, dead, you are so fucking dead.” She mutters never moving her mouth. “We are so screwed,” says Becky looking at Sharon. Ten minutes later Dave climbs back into the van and heads back in the direction of the house. He is not speaking so I know that we are dead.
Now no one in the van is speaking except Jackson Browne is singing. Two seconds later Becky ejects the cd and I see it fly past my window and bounce down the highway.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Now it begins Part 20
Dave keeps checking us out in his rearview mirror as he drives. I notice that he is driving a little erratic and begins to gain speed as we head back to the house. Everyone is quiet but looking around the van. We are fully communicating with each other but through the use of our eyes. Sharon applies her miming skills as she pulls one finger across her throat looking at me. I return the finger to her as well.
As we turn the corner at the A&W Root Beer stand, Dave picks up even more speed. Heading up the road we can see flashing lights coming from what looks like it’s coming from an army of police cars. Dave glances in the rearview mirror and forces a smile. Everyone in the van looks around, it is clear that Dave made two phones calls when we stopped. One call went to the house and the other call went to the police department. We are currently being driven into an ambush.
A slight panic breaks out in the van and people are unlocking doors and try jumping out while the van is pulling into the yard. Others are slamming the doors and locking them. “Maybe we can keep the police out” Becky yells slapping my hand away from the lock. Dave starts screaming as he continues to drive the van into the flashing lights. The house and grounds are being lit by the headlights and the lights from the top of the cars.
“Just like Albany!” Nick begins to scream, “Just like Albany!”
The van pulls up and Diane is standing in the driveway. The look on her face tells me that we are screwed. She is currently flanked by two officers who yank at the handles of the door. Becky is standing with her head smashed against the ceiling, she is holding down the lock. Diane and Becky lock eyes and I hear Diane scream to “Open that door!”
The two cops begin to yank on the handle. Nick begins to freak out pushing everyone aside in the van as he climbs over the seat to get to the door. He starts screaming “Albany, Albany, Albany.” I laugh because I think of Nick yelling “Attica, Attica, Attica!”
The minute the lock gets yanked up the cops reach into the van and yank us out one at a time. More cops arrive and start grabbing kids. Once a cop gets a kid, he marches them into the house; each cop is flanked by a second officer.
Becky and Sharon are taken into their rooms and I am taken into mine. One cop stands at the door while the second one begins to open drawers and throw clothes around. The first drawer he opened held the rest of the bag of pot I split with the girls. It is in the front and his fingers are literally touching it.
Fortunately for me, he is digging in the back of the drawer and not looking in the front. “Who hides their weed in the front of a drawer?” He is probably thinking. He starts to get angrier and angrier as he searches the room. He is still not coming up with anything. Maybe this tip was not a good one. The police were always being called to the group home for one reason or another.
The police continue searching and all us kids are brought into the living room. We have three counselors sitting in with us in case anyone says anything that will help the police. I hear the sound of a pig squealing and snorting. Becky has placed one finger on her nose and pushes it up, her sidekick Sharon is making all the sounds. “Have you had work done?’ I ask Becky. Again she flips me the finger.
Diane now walks in the room and see’s Becky flipping me off. Her face is red and puffy, she is so angry that her head might just blow of.
Her general announcement to the room is in chopped up phrases and she is muttering. “Police at the house,” “Get to the bottom of this,” “Selling Drugs,” and “You three!” she screams pointing at me, Sharon and Becky. “Get a move on into my office!”
The three of us jump up and march towards her office. Diane almost takes the door off the hinges, while opening it. I have never seen someone so mad and I am a little afraid that we will die or that she will have a heart attack. One of the police officers comes into the room and stands behind us.
What happens next is an honest to god real game of Good Cop/Bad Cop, but in this instance Diane will play Good Cop. The session lasts for several hours and the only thing that they get is that Sharon and Becky bought weed at school and threw it in the garbage.
No one is buying this story and I am not going to help out anymore than I already have. Diane ends the interrogation with “We will get to the bottom of this if I have to bring the cops back night after night.” We are sent out of the office and into our rooms, it seems that the cops have found nothing and have gone home. Looking out the window I can see Diane and the “Bad Cop” talking in the driveway. I’m sure they are cooking up another scheme for tomorrow.
I enter my bedroom and look around at the mess of clothes and belongings dumped out on the floor. I see the drawer that held my weed has been pulled out and the contents dumped. I walk over and sift through the clothes and there in the pile is my bag of weed.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 1
I started dancing when I was five. My sister took tap class at Jack Ferrara School of dance in Rotterdam New York. I used to stand on a hard plastic and chair press my face against the glass window that separated them from the waiting room. I would have to jockey for the best position along with the throngs of waiting parents. I was too young to be left at home, so I went and watched. His school was in a strip mall right next to a laundry mat. My Mom would bring large towels or blankets that didn’t fit in our home machines and do them at the Laundromat while we waited.
One day I followed my sister in the room with her and started class. My Mother ran in, grabbed my hand and dragged me out. It was the teacher who asked me to come back in. My Mother reluctantly, let me go. That was it. My parents were more ok with my choice of dance as long as I was tapping. That was a masculine form of dance. Our fights started early when I decided I wanted to take ballet. “What will the neighbors think?” my Mother asked me one day. “I thought what are the neighbors thinking right now?” When everyone in the neighborhood is playing football or basketball, I’m playing house with my sister and her friends. We would put on an old Ertha Kitt album to use as background music and I would pretend to be mean Mrs. Johnson a made up fictitious neighbor complete with drag and wreck my sister’s tea parties. I knew what the neighbors were saying because most of the time they said it to my face.
The best names that I would be called on a daily basis were Fagot, Queer and Cupcake Once when I was eleven I had a neighbor ask me to perform fellatio on him. He drove a Trans AM and lived with his Aunt and Uncle.
I was well aware of what the neighbors had to say.
I think that my parents thought if I took ballet, I would become gay. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t gay I’m pretty clear that dance had nothing to do with it.
In high school I met one a teacher who would influence my life. She was an English Teacher who used to be a dancer. She took me under her wing and molded me. We would take daily classes with her in ballet, jazz and modern. Here is where I was first introduced to Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Alvin Ailey. I would be shown video after video of the greatest dancers in the world.
She would take me to Master Classes around the state where I was introduced to so many people in the dance world. I worked so hard and practiced every day. I never told my parents what I was up to and would sneak out of the house to take local ballet classes. Being a boy in the dance world had its benefits and I would take free classes.
At one of these Master Classes I met the owner of a studio in Albany who took an interest in me. I was told to look her up whenever I was in Albany and I could take class with her company.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 2
I am sitting in the same van that we took on our day out in Saratoga, except this time I am being driven back to Albany. A space suddenly opened in the independent living section of the Parson Child and Family Center group home. I am told that this means I will be living in an apartment directly above the group home and that they will be keeping an eye on me and helping me if I ever need anything. I am also going to have a roommate who is part of the program and we will share a bedroom. I will be taught skills on a weekly basis that are designed to help me to move into my own apartment. I will be given a weekly check in the amount of $135.00. This will be used to buy groceries.
I am being driven here by my good friend “Counselor Dave” who volunteered to do it. It seems things didn’t go so well when the cops were unable to find the large amounts of marijuana that they were promised. So now Dave has been given the crappy jobs to do.
Truth be told, I think that he wanted to see me gone and if driving me was the best way to do it, then so be it.
The group home is located on New Scotland Avenue in a very residential neighborhood. They feel that this is the best way to make sure that the kids are safe and can be brought up in the most normal way possible.
As we pull across the sidewalk into the driveway a blond hair kid on a Schwinn bike, comes flying from the back of the house right into the street. A blond hippie looking girl is standing on the porch. I can hear her yell “Roger” after the kid, he peddles away maniacally. She raises her hand and waves at Dave.
Dave returns her wave and I watch her walk down the front steps of the house. Her arms are folded across her chest, her blond hair is in two ratty braids and her sweater is hanging off her shoulders. “We’re here!” Dave gleefully yells while looking at me in the rear view mirror.
The blond woman comes around to my side of the van and with one pull, yanks the door open. It slides easily on its track. “Hi I’m Marci,” she says extending her hand. On closer inspection I see that she is wear overalls and Birkenstock sandals. I am immediately reminded of Peppermint Patty from Peanuts.
She just starts to ramble as she helps me out of the van. “How was the trip?” “Is this your suitcase?” “Are you nervous?” “Is this your first time at this group home?” In between my answers she uses the words “Cool Cool.” She now reminds me more of Janice from the Muppet Show.
Marci grabs my suitcase and begins to drag it across the gravel driveway. She is in non stop talking mode the entire time. Dave follows behind us. I can in Dave’s eyes that he has dealt with Marci before and that staying silent is best.
My suitcase bumps up the four stairs to the porch. Marci seems winded. I don’t know if it was dragging my suitcase or her constant talking. “Were almost there” she says looking over her shoulder at the house.
The house is two levels and is painted an olive green. One of the house numbers has recently been replaced and doesn’t match the other two numbers in color and style. The porch has a slight squeak and a distinctive sag towards the middle, which causes us to lean to the left at a slight angle. There are two doors framed in dark wood in front of me but at complete opposite ends of the porch. “The Lady or the Tiger,” my brain whispers.
Marci drags my suitcase across the porch to the door on the left. Reaching out she turns the handle and pushes the door inwards. I hear a bell jangle and she drags my suitcase into a foyer. There is another steep staircase in front of us. John Cafferty’s “On the Dark Side,” is being blasted from the top of the stairs.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 3
Marci leads the way up the stairs, I’m in the middle and Dave follows up the rear. I am now positive than ever that he wants to drop me and leave. He seems nervous and keeps looking at his watch. I can’t remember if he left the car running.
As we get closer to the top of the stairs the banister opens up and creates a landing. My eyes now clear the landing and the smell of unwashed filth flicks my nose. “On the Dark Side” is now on its third repeat. As we walk into the landing I can see someone with their back to me standing across the room. He is standing over the stereo slowly listing from side to side. He wears dirty white Keds. His jeans are slightly belled at the bottom; they meet a sweater vest covering a bright orange colored print. The back of his long greasy hair brushes the collar of the shirt and I can hear him mumbling the lyrics along with the record. He nervously pushes his hair behind his ears.
“Jonathan!” Marci screams over his music. Jonathan’s head bobs up like he had just nodded off and he begins to turn in my direction. “Huh?” he’s says as he turns around. It’s more like a slow pan of a camera on the late movie. He lurches forward and turns clumsily. It is like watching a George Romero Zombie smelling fresh blood.
When he finally turns around it’s like meeting a George Romero Zombie. He is slightly hunchbacked and weighing in at 20 pounds. He is filthy. Filthy hair, filthy clothes and a quick look around tells me it’s a filthy house.
“Huh?” he repeats lurching forward. I gag on the smell. “No way in motherfucking hell am I going to live here!” I say out loud and I take a step back. Dave is there to catch me with his hand and push me back into the game. I step right in front of Jonathan who’s eyes are squinty from being heavily medicated.
He opens his mouth begins to tell me about John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. How it’s his favorite, where they have played and who are the members in the band. His words become a drone and I am again hit with a new smell of armpits, onions and something I would now describe as dead squirrel.
The needle comes of the record and mechanically starts again. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band start another chorus of “On the Dark Side.”
It is now very clear why Dave wants out. I want out. Marci wants out. This lumbering, drugged up stinky zombie is to be my new roommate. I am going to share not only an apartment but a bathroom and a bedroom with him.
I begin to shake. Marci and Dave are stepping away from me. She is saying things like “I’m sure you’ll get along famously” and “Paperwork” and “She’ll be right downstairs. By the time she is done Dave is out the door and I can hear the van come to life.
The last view I have is Marci pulling the door close. I then hear the jingle of the bell attached to the door. My mind asks me a question it didn’t ask the first time. “Why is there a bell on the door?”
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 4
I turn around and Jonathan is standing there facing me. He smiles and I can see his breakfast is still in his teeth. “Do you want to see more of my albums?” He asks turning on one heel and heading back to the record player. The smell that the breeze causes is enough to make me gag. “How the fuck am I ever going to live here?” I think to myself.
Jonathan reaches over and pulls out a Saturday Night Fever Album and opens the double cover. I watch as he slides the record out of the album and then out of the white paper sleeve that houses it. He holds it as if he is an archeologist holding the first copy of the bible.
“John Travolta starred in this movie with soundtrack mostly by the Bee Gee’s.” He turns around to look at me to see if I am listening. I am listening but I am also looking for the escape hatch. He smiles again and a piece of breakfast from his teeth falls onto his shirt.
Jonathan places the record gingerly on the stereo pulling the arm across to hold it in place. I can hear the mechanical click of the stereo and the sound of the record dropping onto the turntable. Staying Alive immediately blasts from the speakers. Jonathan raises both hands like a gypsy in a trance and begins snapping his fingers and swaying nowhere in time to the music.
“Oh you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man no time to talk,” Jonathan sings out slightly after the Bee Gee’s version. He is now in full ecstasy and rocking back and forth. I am still scanning the place for a way out.
“Jonathan,” I say but there is no reaction, he is lost in his own world. “Jonathan!” I scream and it seems to snap him out of his disco trance. “Huh?” he says snapping open his eyes. “Would you like to show me around?” “Huh?’ he says again. “Show me around?” I repeat.
Jonathan looks around the room as if he is seeing it for the first time and it makes him teeter off his feet. “Huh?” he says and his eyes change. It is clear that no one has ever asked Jonathan for anything. “Oh, oh,” he manages to squeak out and then spins on his heel. The room we are standing in clearly is the living room, dining room, kitchen and home to Jonathan’s stereo. Jonathan quickly walks over to the sink and opens the cabinet directly above it. “This is where we store the dishes.” He is pleased with what he is showing me and does it with a flourish. He then loses his train of thought and I can see his eyes searching his head for what he was just talking about.
“Where’s the bathroom?” I quickly ask jolting him back into the moment. “Bathroom, bathroom,” he repeats until the word triggers the picture in his mind. “Oh yeah,” he says spinning on his heel and walking towards the bedroom. “Through there,” he points.
Walking into the bedroom there is a bed immediately to my right and a dresser directly across from it. I take three more steps and there is another bed and dresser. This bed however gives off the familiar smell associated with Jonathan. If that clue wasn’t enough, the grimy sheets on the unmade bed are a dead giveaway.
Past this is the bathroom. The door creaks open and the yellow light illuminates a room all decorated in pink tile. Or should I say pink tile with a film of grunge over the top of it? I lock the door and walk to the toilet. I open the lid with my foot. “Yup, grunge everywhere,” I say out loud to myself.
After relieving myself I turn to the medicine cabinet and yank it open. Pill bottles line every inch of space. I grab the closest bottle and read what’s in it. It seems that Jonathan is kept in line by taking lithium. The more bottles I look through the clearer it is that he is doped to the tits. There is medication in here that I have never heard of.
I close the cabinet after I make sure that it looks like I have never been in there. Turning around there is a door with three deadbolts holding it closed.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 5 I immediately begin to turn the locks on the door. As each lock clacks into place I begin to grow more and more excited. I have my hand on the third lock when I realize that someone is standing right behind me“Were not supposed to ever unlock that door, never ever,” says Jonathan causing me to jump out of my skin. “How did you get in here?” I stammer. “Were not allowed to have a lock on the bathroom door” he says spittle forming in the corner of his mouth. I look at him and can feel that my eyes are wide. “Come to think of it I don’t remember locking the bathroom door,” I think to myself. How long has Jonathan been standing there and how does he think it’s ok to come into the bathroom while I’m in there.“What’s behind the door?” I ask. “Not supposed to open it,” Jonathan quickly responds. “Aren’t you curious?” I ask. “Not supposed to open it,” Jonathan says again. I can tell that he is getting slightly agitated. “No?” I ask clicking back the last lock. “Not supposed to open it,” Jonathan adds growing more agitated. He is an over medicated zombie so this must really be making him nuts. I am enjoying seeing where our boundaries are and just how much I can get away with him.“No?” I ask grabbing the handle. Now Jonathan goes ballistic “Not supposed to open it!” he screams. Just like in every good horror movie the door opens with a horrifying squeak. Jonathan immediately stops talking and looks at me. “Aren’t you excited?” I ask. Jonathan just stares at me as if I have opened Pandora ’s Box.I stick my head through the door and realize that I am upstairs in the group home. It is clear that this door is supposed to keep the group home kids out of independent living. I walk into the hall and somewhere I can hear muffled talking. I walk further down the hall. There are three bedrooms upstairs and at the end of the hall is a staircase. The talking is coming from downstairs.I look back up the hall and see that Jonathan has not come out of the bathroom.Slowly I walk down the first three steps. The talking gets louder but it sounds like it is somewhere else in the house. It sounds as if someone is on the phone because I only hear one side of the conversation. I walk down slowly several more steps and peer around the corner. My head is in the kitchen and through the next doorway I see a large woman with her back to me, one hand on her hip and the phone pressed to her ear.Quietly, I turn around and start to head back up the stairs and down the hallway. I step back into my bathroom but the thought that Jonathan might close the door and lock me out flashes through my head.I close and lock the door to the hallway and walk back into my apartment.
Jonathan is standing there in a Lithium haze and seems to have fallen asleep again in mid thought. As I shout his name he teeters out of his haze and looks at me. “You shouldn’t have done that,” he says his lips smacking together while he tries to form his thoughts. “And you’re not going to tell anyone,” I say pointing a finger into his face.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 6
Time passes quickly at the group home in the Independent Living Wing. Jonathan is sad and tragic and reminds me of a little bug that got sprayed with Raid. He sort of flounders through life on his back and I’m never sure if he’s breathing.
One unnerving habit he has is his nighttime routine of sleepwalking. Every night like clockwork I find him standing next to my bed staring at me. The first through the tenth time it happened it scared the living shit out of me. It’s no less scary now but I’m more used to it.
Being in Independent Living means that they will start helping me to become more independent and finally live on my own. That’s the main plan. I receive a weekly check that is to be used to buy groceries and cigarettes. Well, they never said cigarettes but I assumed.
I have helped Jonathan a lot in the past couple of weeks. I see it as tough love but really I got sick of the filth and the smell. I made him finally clean up his shit and take daily showers. Showers that I time him in, twenty minutes is the minimum he has to stay in there. After the first time he showered, he was just as dirty coming out as going in. I realized that he was just standing in there nowhere near the water, waiting me out. So I put him back in and for the next several showers, I scrubbed him.
It’s clear and a little sad to me that no one ever taught him the importance of this. The first day I watched in horror when he removed his clothes to get ready for bed. His white underpants were a color I have never seen in nature before. He liked to go to bed at around 7:30pm.
After closing my eyes and asking God to take my life while I was sleeping I dozed off. Several hours later when I woke up, Jonathan was standing by my bed staring at me. After screaming “What the fuck?” and jumping up to defend myself I realized that he was sound asleep.
It was the fact that God didn’t kill me in my sleep and how much Jonathan broke my heart when I just looked at him that made me really want to try to help him out.
I spent a lot of days trying to get a job. That was one of the “laws” that I had to follow living at Parsons Group Home. I was supposed to get a job. Can I tell you how hard it is to get a job when you live at a group home? I had one set of clothes and no skills.
The only job I could get was at McDonalds. The first two weeks I was in a tiny room near the fryers watching training videos. My money was wearing down and I was forced to wait for a paycheck. By the third week I got to work on the floor sweeping and mopping. I was so hungry that when I would take out the garbage I would hide by the dumpster and eat out of the bags.
I could tell by the looks I got returning into the store that everyone knew what I was doing. They also had a video camera above the dumpster, so everyone had seen what I did on the little monitors in the back of the store. I was humiliated and starving. No one would speak to me.
After I was fired for being caught eating out of the dumpster for the third time I was also told that I needed to return to school. I was told that his time I would be going to Albany High but I was terrified to even enter the building. The first day I stood outside and walked home after the first bell rang.
Every day at 4pm I would sit in the bathroom and press my ear to the door that separated me from the group home. I could hear the kids talking to each other. We were also under strict orders to never talk to anyone that we saw who lived in the group home.
I was so alone and had no one that I could talk to. One day while I was sitting in the bathroom, I reached out at 4:05 and opened the door.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 7
You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy steps through the door and the world is in Technicolor? Well this was nothing like this except I got the same shocked looks the Munchkins gave Dorothy from the people on the other side of the door.
Three boys had the bedrooms at the top of the hall. I immediately came face to face with a kid lifting weights in the hallway. His mouth was hanging open and his barbells were in mid curl. He was frozen in this pose when we came face to face.
“Holy shit! Who the fuck are you?” he says staring at me “My name is Geoff and I live here,” I say looking up and down the hallway. “You live with that freak?” he says looking behind me into the bathroom. “Yeah, I live with that freak,” I say defeated. ‘My name is Tony and were not supposed to talk to anyone in Independent Living.” “That’s ok, you don’t see me,” I say to Tony. “Cool he responds.”
Tony is about 14 years old with a shock of blond hair hanging over one eye. He is built like a brick shithouse. It’s clear that his therapy is lifting weights.
The door to the first room is yanked open and a skinny version of Tony walks into the hall. His name is Roger and he is much more wiry than Tony and clearly never lifted a weight. With a cigarette dangling from his lips he jerks his head in my direction. “Who the fuck are you?” Roger asks. I repeat my story and he asks “If I live with stinky?” and he jerks his head in the direction of my bathroom. “Were working on that,” I respond.
The last of the boys walks down the hallway attracted to the noise. He is much shorter and naturally built like a brick shithouse. His hair is longer and touches his shoulders. He is wearing a bikini bathing suit that is way too small. It is very clear that god blessed him with other talents. It is also clear that’s why he is wearing the suit.
His name is Leo and I am immediately reminded of Tarzan. My mind wanders a little as he walks down the hallway towards me.
Leo walks right up to me and stands half a foot away and smiles. He’s got this down to a science and I believe that this is his skill.
Roger, Tony, Leo and I talk for about 15 minutes before a woman’s voice calls them from downstairs. I recognize the voice as the women from the phone. She is telling them that food is ready. Everyone pauses and looks in the direction of the voice.
Leo puts one finger to his lips telling me to be quiet. Roger and Tony immediately head towards the stairs. Tony looks back and says “Dude we never saw you” before he heads down the stairs.
Leo, smile still on his face leans in close to me. “I will be on this side of the door and if you need me or I want to come in, I will knock like this,” he proceeds to knock “Shave and a haircut” He smiles and pauses. I respond with “two bits.”
Leo spins on his heel and slowly walks down the hallway. He stops turns around and smiles. I slowly back into the bathroom.
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 8
Life started moving pretty smoothly once I had a routine. I found it very hard to make friends in Albany High School. I was entering 12th grade and everyone in that grade had been friends for a very long time. There were so many cliques in the school and the horrible division between the races was something I had never experienced in my life before.
I made a whole group of friends one day when I left through the rear door of the school and literally smashed into the stoners. There was a group of them standing around being yelled at by one of the Principals of the school. Someone had ripped a large textbook in half and the Principal was trying to get to the end of the story. I walked out and one of the kids in the group pointed at me and said “He did it.”
I don’t know why but I agreed with them and told the Principal that I had done it. He reached over took my by the arm and dragged me back inside. On the way to his office he confided in me and said that he knew I had nothing to do with the ripping of that book and that I could leave but through the front door this time. I’m sure that he knew all the kids in the school and he could tell that I was new.
The next day I went out through the back door of the school again and ran right into the Stoners clique. “Hey,” yelled one of them. He was super tall with red frizzy hair that shot out in all directions. “You’re the kid that took the blame for the book yesterday. They all stopped talking and slowly surrounded me I couldn’t see his eyes because he was wearing mirrored sunglasses. I then looked around and realized that everyone was wearing mirrored sunglasses. It was a strange and surreal experience to see myself reflected in everyone’s glasses. I wondered if I was going to be elected their king.
“Dude you are so cool,” said another. He was very short with blond hair and a 70’s handlebar moustache. I was asked to hang out with them and sit on the curb. One of the girls in the group had long hair and started every sentence in her husky voice with the word “Man.”
“Man, I got totally wasted last night and woke up in my clothes.” She then reached in her bag pulled out a bottle of Southern Comfort covered with brown paper. After she drank she held the bottle out to me. “Man, you want a drink?” “No thanks,” I said. She then reached in her bag again and pulled out a joint. “Man, you want some?” she asked holding it out to me. The whole group looked at me.
Two hours later I became conscious and found myself lying with the whole group on the football field. My new friends were showing me a great time and shared many of their life stories. I found out their names Jon, Mike, Kenny, Rich, Myla, Steve, Anna and Amy. Myla was the girl who started everything with the word “Man.” She was also a huge Janis Joplin fan and modeled her life after her. I didn’t have the heart to remind her that Janis had died young.
“Man, you are so cool,” Myla said reaching over and grabbing my arm. “Were having a party tonight in my room” and she reached into her bag pulled out a piece of paper to write down her address. “Man, make sure you go around the side of the house knock on the basement window.” “I’ll open it and you can crawl in.”
Everyone started to pick themselves off the ground and as a group started to walk home. It was a week night; could I really go to a party on a week night?
Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 9
Jonathan addressed me like a wife that was being left for the evening. “Well, what am I supposed to do tonight while you’re gone?” he asks me. “Listen to your records I guess” I answer sweeping by him and into the bedroom. “I won’t be gone that long.”
Jonathan followed. “Can I come?” he asked his voice taking on a high squeaky pitch as he narrows his eyes. To me he looks like a ferret.
“Jonathan, how can I take you when I just met these people?” “How do you know that you will like them?” Jonathan teeters on his feet as his brain lurches back into gear. “Please?” he says bugging out his eyes. “I’m sorry I can’t,” I say grabbing my keys and heading down the front stairs. What I hear next is a fully fledged temper tantrum being thrown. “Can’t stop,” I think pulling the door closed.
As I hit the sidewalk I turn back to look at the house. Jonathan is standing in the window watching me walk up the block. All we need is a crash of lightning to make this scene even better. “God Damn, he can get so creepy sometimes,” I speak this out loud. An old lady with a wind chime collection watches me as I pass her house.
The directions that Myla has given me take me down New Scotland road and into a development that suddenly looks like I am in suburbia. So many houses have no porch lights on but I can see many families sitting around in their houses. They are being reflected by the light of the TV. It strikes me every now and then that I will never have that again. In some respects I welcome this. Living at home was no picnic.
I find the house that is supposed to be Myla’s. I walk around the side of the house. It is completely dark. Somewhere in the back of the house I can see that lights are on and that someone is home. I now can make out a low glow from one of the basement windows as I get closer. Getting down on my hands and knees I press my face to the window.
I can see a group of people lying all around the room. The music coming out is of course supplied by Janis Joplin. This is the right place. I push the window open and swing my legs through. I start to lower myself into Myla’s room.
Suddenly a window opens above me. “Who the fuck is out there?” a voice screams. “I have a shotgun and I will blow your fucking head off.” This makes me crawl quicker through the window. Hands grab my legs and guide them to a place to stand.
“Hey Man,” Myla says as I turn around “You made it!” I am standing on her dresser and I get a bird’s eye view of the room. “Jesus, someone opened the window upstairs and screamed that she had a gun.” I tell Myla as I climb off her dresser. “Man, that’s just Bernice my Mother, don’t pay any attention, she’s fucking crazy.”
As I climb off the dresser the smell of weed hits me full in the face.Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 10 Now on the floor, I try to see through the dim lighting. There is a mass of people on the bed as well as people all over the room. No one is moving or really talking. There is a low murmur and I can’t make out too many words. There is also a thick haze of marijuana in the air. “Man, would you like a hit?” Myla says as she reaches into the pile of people on the bed and pulls back a bong. I don’t have to think twice but I do remember what happened earlier when I woke up on the field. Myla holds the lighter to the bowl as I inhale. The record player drops a new record onto the turntable and “Message of Love” by The Pretenders blasts from the speakers. It is a new song to me. I have never really discovered The Pretenders and I make her play the song over and over. Myla finds this hysterical and starts the song again the minute it ends. By the tenth playing, Myla joins me in my reckless dancing. I am jumping up and down and Myla joins me with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and a bottle of Southern Comfort nestled in a paper bag. I assume that this is the way Janis drank it. Myla swings her head so that her hair flies around. The cigarette never leaves her mouth and the ashes fall to the floor. She is clearly being taken somewhere else by the music. Her head gets thrown back and forth caught in ecstasy. Someone slowly gets off the floor and walks over to the record player pulling the needle off the record. Myla and I fall down on the floor laughing. It was as if the music had been holding us up. Crosby, Stills and Nash is now on the turntable. I can hear a distant and rhythmic rapping that sounds like its coming from the other room “Shit Man,” Myla says opening her bedroom door and walking into the room on the other side of the door. I can now here the pounding much louder. The light goes on in the next room. I can hear someone yelling through the door at the top of the stairs. “Turn down that goddamned music,” screams the voice. I assume this is Myla’s Mother. “Shut the fuck up old lady,” Myla yells back at the door. No one in the room seems concerned. They actually snicker as the yelling continues between the two of them. “Get those hippies out of my house,” Myla’s Mother screams. “There is no one here you crazy old fuck!” Myla screams back. “I’ll call the police, I can smell drugs,” Myla’s Mother begins to kick the locked door. People stand up and head to the dresser. One by one they climb to the top and slide out the basement window. As the fight continues a hand reaches out and pulls me towards the dresser. “Time to go,” whispers the skinny girl with big glasses and a baggy army jacket. The guy with her reminds me of the comedian Gallagher. He has big black curly hair, a Grateful Dead tie dyed shirt and a mustache that he swirls between his one first finger and thumb. I climb out the window with them. From the yard we can hear Myls’a Mother screaming even louder. “Happens every time,” says Gallagher’s look alike. He puts his hand out and introduces himself as Brad and Amy with a head nod to the girl with glasses. She flashes me a peace sign. “Want to join us?” Brad asks. “We are going back to my house to play Dungeons and Dragons and watch the sun rise.” I look at Amy who is about 17 years old and in the street light coming from the front of the house lets me see Brad’s face clearer. He is in his mid to late 30’s. “”What is Dungeons and Dragons?” I ask. Hours later I am bored out of my mind lying in Brads loft as the dumbest game I have ever witnessed is being played by eight people. “You rolled a three so my dwarf can throw a power spell,” says Brad. The game goes until the sun comes up. I feel like I am at Nerdapalooza. Thank god it’s over and I can bid my new friends goodbye and head back to my house. Brad lives in a loft on Lark Street so it takes me about 45 minutes to get home to New Scotland Avenue. I am exhausted and wonder how I am going to go to school and make it through the day. Clomping up the stairs my head clears the landing. The house looks as if we were ransacked. Things have been tipped over and thrown around the room. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 11 Jonathan is nowhere to be found but the entire house has been ransacked. Everything I own has been thrown all over the house. I walk around seeing the damage and I am totally in shock. “What the fuck happened?” I yell out loud to no one. Suddenly there is pounding on the door in the bathroom that connects to the Group home. I run over to the door and throw back all the locks. I yank open the door and find Leo standing there. He is wearing a tiny little bathing suit that leaves no room for imagination. “Is that freak still here?” Leo asks pushing past me. “I heard him making a huge fuss and then I heard him throwing shit.” Leo looks around the corner into the bedroom before he continues to walk in. “Did that freak do this?” Leo asks looking at the mess. “I don’t know, I think he did.” “I wasn’t here. Walking over to my bed Leo looks up at me. “Is this your bed?” he asks. “It is.” I tell him. Leo pulls down the comforter and the sheets, climbs in my bed and slides off his bathing suit lets it dangle before it hits the floor. A giant smile crosses his face. “Nice bed.” Leo says. “It’s just missing one thing,” he says reaching out his hand. I don’t have to be asked twice. Two hours after Leo leaves I realize that he has taken a few dollars off the dresser, “Worth every penny.” I think with a smile. There is clearly no way that I am going to get to school today and I have a lot of shit to clean up. I start to pick up the house and stand the furniture back up. Anything that I find of his I put right on his bed. His pile grows higher and higher. It takes me hours to straighten up the house. Around 4pm I hear the front door open and the sounds of someone slowly clomping up the stairs. Moment’s later Jonathan’s face comes into focus. He is standing just below the landing and he is looking around the room to find me. Our eyes meet and he quickly looks away. “Hey!” I scream as he tries to turn around to get out of there. “Huh?” he says looking quickly back up. “Get the fuck up here!” I scream. Sheepishly he climbs the stairs. “Did you do this?” I ask pointing around the room. “No,” he says looking back down on the floor. It is clear that he has done this because he refuses to look into my eyes. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 12 Jonathan never admits to the mess he’s made and can’t seem to come to terms with what he has done. He avoids the topic every time it comes up. He looks at the floor and shifts his weight from leg to leg. It is more than clear to me that he has done it but I can’t get him to say it. I feel like living with Jonathan is taking a toll on me. I feel alone and helpless from having an emotional cripple looking to me for strength. I need to find somewhere to fit in. Nights are the worst when I am alone with him. I find the Gay and Lesbian Community Center located off Lark Street. It is located in a bizarre and slummy looking building. I climb the stairs and find the lobby is peppered with old men. They look at me as if I am a piece of candy and one by one slowly make their way over to hover near me. ‘Sit here honey,” a voice calls out to me. I turn to look at where the voice came from. The old men slowly move closer to me and some even bump into me. I am reminded of geriatric sharks, slowly swimming in on their prey. I don’t have to be asked twice and walk briskly across the room. I am a nervous wreck and plunk myself down on a seat in front of a sign that tells me that I am at the welcome desk. Sitting behind the desk is a curious looking man. He is the one who called me over to sit. He is about 6’5, gangly with bulging eyes and buck teeth. His legs don’t really fit under the desk and they pop out on the sides. He throws his hand out to me. “Hey Honey, I’m Bill,” he says giving me just a couple of his fingers to shake. One of the sharks brushes up against me and hisses “You have a sweet ass.” Bill rises back up and yells out “Move on Pops before I throw you out on the street.” The old shark shuffles on and the rest hover back. I am clearly 60 years younger than this crowd. “What brings you in here?” Bill asks. “I am here to find myself,” I say. “Good luck,” he says, “I’m still looking.” Several hours later Bill and I have become good friends. Several people have walked in who are more my age and Bill introduces everyone to me. One of the people I meet is Andy. He has sparkling eyes, an amazing smile and is clearly fascinated with his accomplishments. Andy is a performer and grew up in the area. He told me in the first five minutes, that he has a brother, a mother and a lot of family money. Andy tells me about an upcoming audition for Annie Get your Gun at the Four Seasons Dinner Theatre. The theatre is located on Washington Avenue extension and it will be hard to get to because I don’t have a car. Andy helps me map out my route. It’s clear that I can catch a bus that brings me close to the theatre but I will have to walk home every night. “I can pick you up and drive you to the theatre for the audition,” Andy says sliding one hand onto my leg and leaning in really close. Bill reaches across the desk and yells out “3 foot rule,” while pushing Andy back. Bill winks and mouths the words “He’s cute!” The next several days I see a lot of Andy. Leo see’s a lot of me the minute Andy leaves and Jonathan continues to throw temper tantrums. Andy comes to the group home so that there are no secrets between us. He is a little worried after meeting Jonathan who glowers at him the whole time he’s there. I do neglect to tell Andy about Leo. I’m not sure how that would go. On the day of the audition, Andy shows up early. He is excited and has a gift for me. I close my eyes and when I open them he has placed a cage with two white mice in it. “Surprise,” he says. “I have named them Mickey and Judy.” “They will take care of you when I can’t.” I look in and Judy looks up at me with her pink eyes. I place the cage next to my bed and hug Andy. For some reason I pull him closer and hope this moment never ends. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 13 The theatre is a dinner theatre located in the back of a four star hotel, hence the name “The Four Seasons Dinner Theatre.” It is run by a married couple named Mimi and Barry. Barry owns several jewelry stores and Mimi had her own television show in the 70’s entitled “Coffee Break with Mimi.” Tonight they are looking to cast “Man of La Mancha,” “Annie Get your Gun,” and “The Sound of Music.” Later when I got the job we would rename all these titles as “Mimi of La Mancha,” “Mimi Get your Gun,” and “The Sound of Mimi’s daughter. Every show either starred Mimi or someone in Mimi’s family. But tonight I was dancing and learning the choreography to be one of the horses in La Mancha. Andy was sort of a big star in the dinner theatre circuit and on the way in, he said his hello’s to everyone in the waiting area. He even sat through my audition and beamed with pride. The director was named Dick, and oh was that telling. He was an effeminate large blustering walrus of a man. His face and nose had been wrecked by alcohol and tonight he clearly was a “little off” the wagon. I could actually smell it coming from him. “Lift your legs higher when you prance,” blusters Dick the walrus waving the back of his hand in my direction. Mimi and Barry are sitting behind the directors table for casting as well. Barry keeps winking at me when Mimi’s not looking. I’m hoping that it’s a nervous tick. At the end of the audition, Mimi stands from behind the table and asks for everyone to be silent for a moment. Clearing her throat she sounds like a parrot that lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. To be precise, I would place her on 75th Street between Broadway and West End. Mimi’s thick New Yawk accent hurts my ears. It is the accent everyone does when they are making fun of New Yorkers. “Thank you for coming out,” she says folding her hands in front of her. “I saw a lot of talent and it is going to take a couple of days to put the casts together.” “You will hear from us in about four days.” “If you don’t hear from us, don’t call us,” interjects the walrus. Mimi smiles and her eyes crinkle, then she goes on to tell us her entire resume, how her and Barry met and that she was raised by a black maid. It was a lot of information that I wasn’t really sure where she was heading. I look around and people are taking notes as she speaks. It is clear that this bunch wants to work and will hang on Mimi’s every word. At the end of the night Andy is ready to take me back to the group home. Before I get into the car, he walks over and with the key and unlocks my door. As I turn to thank him he grabs me and kisses me. As he pulls back he looks into my eyes and says “I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.” To most people this would be the most wonderful thing to hear. Somehow this terrifies me to the depths of my soul. Andy pulls out of the parking lot and turns onto Washington Avenue extension. I look out my window for most of the trip home. Every time I look at Andy he is staring lovely at me. His eyes glance every now and then at the road. I should feel warm and safe but I feel the mounting dread that I am too young to think about spending the rest of my life with Andy. As Andy pulls in front of the house, he turns the car off and leans across the front seat to kiss me. He pulls his face back, “Can I come in?” he asks. “Of course,” I tell him, hoping that he can’t see the lies I feel that I am going to tell him in the future. He reaches out and grabs my hand. “You’ll get the job,” he tells me, completely misreading my hesitancy. We walk across the sidewalk and into the house. We silently try to climb the stairs hoping that we don’t wake Jonathan. At the top of the stairs, Andy reaches out and flicks on the light. I gasp when I see that Jonathan was sitting in the dark waiting for us to get home. “Mickey and Judy got out of their cage while you were gone and I don’t know where they are,” Jonathan says without missing a beat. There is not a moment of sadness in his voice. I also realize that he refuses to look into my eyes. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 14 Back in Albany New York Mickey and Judy are nowhere to be found. Every day they are gone, Jonathan comes up with new scenarios of how it must have happened. “Maybe, they were so skinny they could have slipped through the bars,” he says summoning tears to his eyes. This creates an image of Bambi. I imagine that I am a hunter and plan to shoot his Mother. I am not speaking to him and I’m making that perfectly clear. I enter a room he’s in and announce in a booming voice “Thank god, this room is empty!” Jonathan either stands in front of me or leans in my sight and clears his throat in the hopes that I will notice him when I say this. I know that he did it. I know it in my soul. I don’t know why but I know he did something. I had two friends in a cage and I left them in his trust and he killed them. I don’t need a confession or a body. I want to kill him. Jonathan mopes around the apartment constantly trying to get my attention. I walk out on the sun porch pulling the door shut behind me a light up a cigarette. I turn my back to the door but I can feel his eyes on me. Ten minutes later I hear the bell ring as he walks onto the street. The bell tells me the “monster has left.” He glances up to the porch when he hits the sidewalk. I blow my smoke and watch it drift to heaven, ignoring him. I know. Crazy to mourn over two little white mice that weren’t there that long. It is the story of my life, here briefly and then gone. I finish my cigarette and flick it through the air and it lands on the sidewalk. Turning around and walking into the apartment, I realize I am truly and finally alone. That night when Jonathan got home he took out sticky mouse traps he bought so he could help get Mickey and Judy back. I am back to sort of talking to him; every now and then I tell him that I think I can see him. In the following weeks, I discover that I no longer want to leave my house and am having a hard time going to school. One day, the house phone rings. Jonathan and I look at each other as the phone rings again. I’m not sure who would be calling. I get a little worried because I have run out of food and money and in the past couple of days. I have had to sneak downstairs to steal food out of the group homes refrigerator. Did I get caught? Do they really have the secret camera I always imagine them to have? On the third ring Jonathan jumps up and runs across the room to answer it. Clutching the receiver he crams it to his ear. “Hullo?” he says all slack jaw. He looks at me and begins to answer whoever is on the phone. “Yes, no, huh?, huh?, what?, What? He then lifts the phone and walks it into the bedroom and closes the door. The cord is stretched across the room.“Ohhhh, a secret,” I think. Who would be calling Jonathan? A short time later I am sitting in a chair in the living room when Jonathan comes out of the bedroom. He walks up to me and hands me a piece of paper. “Someone named Mimi called you.” I take the paper out of his hand and stare at him. His movements are slow and deliberate as if he is walking under water. “When did she call?” I ask Jonathan. “Oh that was her on the phone,” he says yawning and falling asleep. He is standing in front of me and his head slides to his chest. His legs bend and he starts to slink to the floor. As if a miracle has happened he suddenly becomes reanimated and stumbles back to the bedroom. He moves like a junkie during a heroin nod. I stare after him and have to close my mouth. “What the fuck just happened?” I silently ask myself. Several days later I call Mimi back and accept a job in the chorus of Annie Get Your Gun. I don’t ask who was cast as the horse in Man of La Mancha, sounds like sour grapes. Jonathan asks if he can go to rehearsal with me. I don’t answer him and walk away. I am back to pretending that he’s dead. Andy is ecstatic and buys me a dozen roses and takes me to the mall. At the end of the day Andy takes me to a pet store and buys me a white rat that I name Crawford……..after Joan. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 15 Back in Albany New York Crawford is beautiful and smart. She has white fur with beautiful pink eyes. I let her wander around the apartment out of her cage but only when I am there. In four days she already knows her name and comes to me when she is called. When I take a shower, Crawford enters the bathroom, climbs up on the tub and pushes her way behind the curtain to be with me. The first time this happens she scares me but now I look forward to it. She dances around my feet and plays as the water falls on us. I can actually watch Crawford think. Her little nose twitches while she comes up with solutions on how to climb furniture in the apartment. Nothing seems to be slowing her down and she will jump from counter to table and back. I run through the apartment and she follows me. When Leo comes to visit, Crawford will climb my pants and rest on my shoulder. There she leans in to Leo’s face and he kisses her. Jonathan on the other hand is not allowed to look, touch or talk about Crawford. I hope that Crawford has friends named Willard and Ben who will come and eat Jonathan but until then, he is to stay away. Jonathan whines that I don’t let him touch Crawford and he asks me “Why?” all the time. “Where are Mickey and Judy?” I snap back. This quiets him right away every time he asks and then he sulks back into the bedroom with his head hanging down. Lately when Leo gets ushered out the back door, Andy gets ushered in the front. I no longer feel alone, I have two men and one white rat to look after me and one monster to keep at bay. Rehearsals are in full swing, we rehearse at night and during the days on the weekend. The director is usually in a foul mood, smells of last night’s liquor, cigarettes and a lifetime of regret. When I look over at him I see the Walrus from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, except with blood shot eyes and a snarl on his face. I meet my lifelong friend Liz during rehearsals. She is a no nonsense Italian girl with a wicked sense of humor and a quick wink of the eye that tells you she is on your side. She laughs off anything that the walrus says to her. Tonight we are learning the tap break to I got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night. It sounds like a herd of buffalo running for their lives. The choreographer has upped the choreography from the well used “box step” and “Grapevine” to steps that are seriously tough. “Flap, flap, flap, ball change, triple time step, fall off log, step dig step dig, arms to Mimi.” We do what he yells; the herd stampedes left, right, left, turn in and extend our arms towards Mimi. Mimi screams out “Jesus Christ, what the hell was that?” Shading her eyes from the working stage lights Mimi screams out into the house. “Dick, do I have to do that?” she says pointing towards us. We are all breathing rapidly because it is the ninth time that we have run this number in a row. The Walrus has drifted off to sleep with his head on his hand. When Mimi’s voice pierces his slumber he slides off his hand, snapping his head up. “What is it Mim?” he says shortening her name by one letter. “Dick, I mean come on this is baloney. My tits are jumping up and down and who’s going to listen to my taps?” Mimi shoots back. “Make it a bit,” yells the Walrus. So far he has let Mimi make everything a bit. What this means is that she will make it up or mug to the audience or win them over with her charm. Mimi is in her 50’s and Annie Oakley is sixteen during this show. Blur your eyes, we all do for the paycheck. Liz has lent me a t-shirt tonight because I forgot mine. It is for a towing company called Glenville Wrecking. It is probably the manliest thing I am wearing besides my jazz pants and tap shoes. “Dick?” Mimi screams again. “Can the kids take a break?” “Yes, yes,” blusters the Walrus dismissing us with a wave of the back of his hand. I walk to the front of the stage and hop off. “Jesus, snarls the Walrus. “You mince like a little faggot,” he says to me as I pass. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 16 Back in Albany New York I choose to ignore the statements from the Walrus. I look back in his direction as I dig through my bag for a Marlboro light. He is still looking at me. His look tells me that he wants to do sick and horrible things to me, of a sexual nature. I am completely repulsed and vow to let things take its course, no need to create anything extra for my plate right now. He is clearly a sick man with a drinking problem. He catches my eye and makes a look of disgust before quickly looking away. Liz and I head out through the kitchen and into the back parking lot; it’s time for a smoke break. There is already a group of cast members puffing on cigarettes still wearing their tap shoes. They continue working on the number. Liz grabs my arm and pulls me to the side of the building. “Let’s get away and take a break.” I light up a cigarette and drag deep into my lungs. I offer one to Liz who shakes her head. “No thanks,” she says offering nothing more. Liz slides down against the wall until she reaches the ground. “I’m wiped,” she says looking back up at me. I blow the smoke into the air. It has been a long night and Mimi has stopped us every minute she gets a chance. Don’t get me wrong I am starting to adore her but she wastes so much time on her insecurities. People start to roll their eyes at each other. “I never knew how tired you could get from doing a box step and the grapevine, “Liz says shifting her gaze to the parking lot. “How are you doing?” she asks not looking at me. “I’m ok,” I say. “Did you ever find Mickey and Judy?” she asks. “Not yet,” I say looking away from her. “I’m sure they are ok,” she says. I suddenly have an idea. “Would you like to come for dinner next weekend?” I ask. “To your house?” Liz asks shifting her gaze back to me. “Yeah, I can only make one thing.” “I hope you like macaroni and cheese?” I figure I can boil a bag of peas as well. “It’s a date,” Liz says reaching out her hand so I can help her off the ground. The rest of the rehearsal goes about the same, Mimi stopping the flow every five minutes and the Walrus snarling and drifting off to sleep. Every time I look at him, he snarls. Even when I think he’s asleep he lifts his head to snarl at people. After rehearsal Liz drives me home. She pulls up in front of the house. Looking up, I can see that there are no lights on. Liz follows my eyes. “You gonna be ok?” she asks. I nod my head and thank her for the ride. She waits until I get to the doorstep before driving off. I quietly climb the stairs hoping not to wake Jonathan. He actually was wearing “feety” pajamas the other day. I guess too many people have thought about pushing him. They made a bizarre scraping noise as he walked. Climbing the stairs it’s as quiet as a church. I can hear Crawford in her cage getting excited that were home. As I walk into the bedroom she begins to throw herself at the bars. I reach my hand in and pull her out, she wants to nuzzle. By the light of the bathroom, I can see Jonathan asleep. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 17 Back in Albany New York I carry Crawford into the bathroom with me. She seems nervous and edgy and keeps pressing her body into me. She is extremely active and can’t seem to stop moving. I try to put her on the counter but she wants nothing to do with that and climbs right back up my arm. I get ready for bed and let her sit on my shoulder. As I walk back into the bedroom I lean over to open her cage and she wants nothing to do with going back in there, so I climb into bed with her and throw the covers over us. Crawford rolls into a ball and pushes into my chest. The next morning I wake up and Jonathan has already left. I didn’t hear him get up and leave. I lean up on my elbows and Crawford immediately climbs up on my chest and pushes her nose to my mouth. I kiss her on the head and hug her little body. I place her onto my shoulder and head into the kitchen. I need to be in school today, I have missed too much and I received a warning from Parsons Child and Family Center. I am supposed to be in school or I jeopardize my living situation. My situation is not so good but it’s better than living on the street, so I need to remember that. I quickly make coffee and breakfast. I run into the shower where Crawford follows me and plays under the water. School is hell and Albany High needs to have a metal detector. Security lines the hallway and students are randomly frisked. Well in reality none of the white kids get frisked which really pisses me off and I walk into the frisking line to prove a point. Security tells me to get out of the line or risk getting dragged to the principal’s office. The day drags on and on and I find myself in the parking lot smoking weed with Myla, Rich and Michael. Actually Myla drinks out of a paper bag as well. “Man, Janis was so misunderstood,” says Myla handing the joint to me and raising her bag to the sky. “She didn’t go to school and got to live her dream.” I look at Rich who silently shakes his head. Janis is dead as far as I know and I believe that she died from a heroin overdose. I’m not really sure why Myla wants to emulate her. It’s clear that she is in a dark place. Myla’s parents are out of town this weekend and she is planning a huge party. So this weekend I have Myla and next weekend Liz is coming for dinner. My dance card is filling up. For the next couple of days it is school and rehearsal. We work on the opening number entitled Colonel Buffalo Bill. It is a huge opening number filled with enough box steps in every direction, not to mention swaying and pulsing in place. Mimi is not at rehearsal tonight so the Walrus is extra cruel to the cast. When he wants your attention he claps his hand twice after he says what he thinks is your name. His direction consists of him telling you how many steps to take and then the exact way to say your line. Liz reminds me under her breath that she is going to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. I ask her “If she can’t learn everything she needs from the Walrus?” She responds by rolling her eyes. Liz drives me home from rehearsal again. I bid her “Good Night,” and open the front door. I wave to Liz as she drives away. I can hear Jonathan yelling at someone upstairs. I quietly climb the stairs and peer over the landing. Jonathan walks out of the bedroom and walks to the sink. He is still muttering something about someone not being a friend. I quickly climb the stairs. Jonathan turns around and is completely surprised to see me. “Who are you yelling at?” I ask him. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 18 Jonathan jumps a foot in the air and whips around to face me. “I….I….I was talking to myself.” Jonathan quickly states his eyes shifting from me to the bedroom. I take a step towards the bedroom and Jonathan takes a step away from me. Slowly walking forward, I don’t take my eyes off of him as I walk into the bedroom. Crawford sees me from her cage and begins to frantically jump up and down. Her little hands grab the bars of her cage as she tries to get to me. I open her door and place my hand out. She immediately climbs onto my hand and runs up my arm. Crawford perches on my shoulder and stands up, her little hands frantically paw at my face. If she could climb onto my head right now, she would. I turn to face Jonathan. “What’s wrong with Crawford?” I ask. “She, she, she doesn’t like me,” he says pointing at Crawford as a little bit of spittle forms on his lips. “She doesn’t like you?” I ask, my voice rising a little too loud. “I want to be her friend but she doesn’t like me,” his eyes look at the floor. I take a step towards Jonathan at the same time he takes a step back. “She’s a rat Jonathan, how do you know that she doesn’t like you?” “Because, because, “he stammers. I take another step. If he hurt this animal I will take his head and crush it like a walnut.This is a fact that I suddenly mention out loud to Jonathan. Tears well up in his eyes and he begins to blubber. Spit bounces off his lips and the tears come in torrents. “I went to her cage and put my hand in but she tried to bite me.” He pushes the snot from his nose with the back of his hand and wipes it on his cheek. “She hates me and I just want to be friends with her.” “Jonathan, you don’t touch her, her cage and the area within 10 feet of her should remain free of you.” I begin screaming and walking towards him, my finger begins to jab my point home to his chest. Crawford is trying to stand on my shoulder. I have never seen terror in an animal that I am seeing in Crawford as I walk towards Jonathan. Jonathan stumbles back with each poke. Someone from the group home begins to knock rapidly on the hallway door to the bathroom. “We’re not finished,” I say to Jonathan as I walk into the bathroom. I unlock the door to the group home to find Leo standing in the hall. “I can hear you through the wall, would you like me to kill the freak?” Leo asks looking around me. Crawford jumps onto Leo in an attempt to get out of the apartment. “I think I am ready to do it myself,” I say as Leo leans in hand me back Crawford. His eyes pause on me and he quickly kisses me. “My hero is here, he was listening through the wall and he’s here.” I think to myself. Leo takes a step into the bathroom and Jonathan pokes his head into the bedroom. Seeing Leo, Jonathan quickly pulls back. Like the superhero he is, Leo pushes past me and grabs Jonathan by the front of his shirt and begins to throttle him. In between throttles, Leo issues the following statement. “You….will…..not…..bother…Crawford….or….Geoff…and…if…I…have to come….back here, I will. Leo throws Jonathan to the floor where he begins sobbing worse than he was before. For good measure Leo takes his foot and places it on Jonathans back, smooshing him to the floor. He sobs uncontrollably.”Freak,” Leo yells down to him before heading back to me. He stops at Jonathan’s bed, grabs the blankets and walks back over to him. “Tonight, you sleep in the living room,” he throws the covers over Jonathan, walks back into the bedroom and slams the door. “If you need me, call me,” Leo says leaning in for another kiss. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 19 I arrive at Myla’s party. Its eight o’clock Saturday night and Myla’s parents are out of town. This time I get to walk through the front door to get into the house, instead of climbing through the bedroom window. Myla’s parents left around 4pm with complete instructions for her to not have a party. Myla was on the phone moments later and people started arriving at 4:15. By the time I get there the party is in full swing. The walls of the living room are sweating. People are everywhere. I can hear Myla screaming somewhere in the house “Man, I told you the only room in the house off limits is my parent’s room and you’re fucking in here?” Two half dressed people stumble out of Myla’s parent’s room with their clothes in their hands. Myla has her ever present bottle in her hand; tonight there is no bag to hide it. Myla slams her parent’s bedroom door and lifts the bottle to her lips. She turns and see’s me. “Man, you made it!” she throws her arms around my neck and starts to dance to Jefferson Airplane that’s playing on the stereo. She is already drunker than I have ever seen her. After two more songs, I am done dancing for the moment. Myla is turning around and around with her arms out. It’s a couple of more spins and she crashes over the coffee table, sending drinks, ashtrays and people scattering. I reach down and grab Myla’s arm. “Man, these fucking shoes need to come off!” Myla screams looking up into my face. She holds my arm with one hand and with the other removes her shoes. Myla throws her shoes over her shoulder without looking. I watch people in the crowd duck them as they wiz by. Myla begins to drag me by the elbow through the house introducing me to everyone that’s there. It’s the first time I have ever been upstairs and I put the family photos that are displayed to the people I believe are her parents. The house is pretty big with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and family room. The décor screams 1970’s, with macramé wall hangings and string art proudly displayed. There is also a pool in the backyard, it full of drunk and screaming hippies perfecting their cannon balls. An old lady with a beer in her hand fast asleep and her head resting on her chest. “She’s the neighbor my Mom asked to watch the house to make sure that I didn’t have a party,” Myla says lowering her voice to a whisper. I think to myself “If the drunken screaming hippies are not waking her, I don’t think Myla needs to whisper.” “Also if you’re going to eat the brownies,” Myla whispers to me “Eat one, she had four,” . Several hours later, Rich stumbles up to me and asks me if I will take a trip with him to go meet Sleestack. Sleestack is his drug dealer that everyone buys from. He can get you anything and tonight Rich wants to pick up LSD. His real name is Gary and he was named after the Sleestacks from the Saturday morning show Land of the Lost. I climb in the car with Rich behind the wheel. We thought nothing of drinking and driving back then. Rich is having a problem getting his keys into the ignition. Turns out that we are going to meet Sleestack in a graveyard and someone needs to sit in the car. Little did I know that Rich wanted to sit in the car and have me deal with Sleestack. Rich gets the car started and on the drive over he explains that Sleestack loves to hit on him. It turns out that Sleestack loves to hit on everyone and anyone. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 20 The entrance to the cemetery is up a huge hill. Rich turns off the headlights so the cops won’t see us drive in. “Sleastack always deals in the cemetery, he thinks its quieter and there are two exits just in case,” explains Rich as he squints into the dark over the steering wheel trying to stay on the path. Now, I don’t like cemeteries because they contain ghosts and zombies. I don’t care if you don’t believe in them but I do. I lean over and lock the door and roll the window up. I lean behind Rich and lock his door as well. I don’t need a Zombie dragging him out to get to me. Rich laughs and shakes his head. We pull to a stop where I can see a mausoleum at the top of a short hill. Rich turns the car off. “Sleastack is just behind the mausoleum.” Reaching in to his pocket he pulls out an envelope of cash and hands it to me. “Why are you giving me this?” I ask. “I need you to meet Sleastack so I can send you in the future.” He responds “And by the way don’t ever call him Sleastack, he’ll freak.” “Great safety tip,” I mumble. On my list of things I never want to do, this is at the very top. I unlock the door and Rich grabs my arm. “He’s going to give you a sheet of LSD, make sure that you don’t handle it or sweat on it.” Now I have never seen LSD or tried LSD. I have watched tons of movies from the 60’s and 70’s, I am well aware that LSD makes you freak out and jump out of windows. I climb out of the car and start my mantra “Zombies aren’t real, zombies aren’t real.” Rich leans over and locks my door, and then he leans back and puts his feet up on the dash. “Who can take a nap in a cemetery?” I ask myself. Every step towards the mausoleum is like walking in deep mud. I am having a hard time getting my legs to move. I am sure that I see things moving in the dark, I am ready to run if I have to. As I get closer I can see someone standing on the side with their leg resting on the building. “Please let this be Sleastack….I mean Gary.” I say swallowing hard. “Who are you?” whispers a voice from the dark figure. I force myself not to shit me pants. “I,I, I’m Geoff” I say extending my hand. “Please don’t be gross or freakishly hideous,” I silently pray to myself. “Where’s Rich?” the voice whispers again. “He’s asleep in the car,” I say swallowing dryness in my mouth. The shadow takes a step into the moonlight. He’s not hideous but I understand where he got the name Sleastack. Big bug eyes, glasses, feathered blonde hair, long skinny neck and tons of gold chains. I immediately stick my hand with the envelope out to him. “Are you in a hurry?” Sleastack asks. “I’m not one to hang out in a cemetery, “I say trying not to cry. Sleastack motions me to follow him behind the mausoleum. Once there he leans down and opens a briefcase. Wearing gloves he takes out a full sheet of LSD. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 21 I remember Rich’s words about not touching the page of LSD. “Wow,” I say not really knowing what else to say. “Do you have something I can put that in?” I ask. He takes out a cellophane envelope, folds the paper in half, slides it in and hands it to me. As he does, he leans in close.” You have a nice mouth,” he says reminding me of the hillbilly from the film Deliverance. I lean back as his lips try to press mine. “What the fuck?” my brain screams out. The words that come out are “Thanks.” I start to walk away and he grabs my elbow. “I said thanks,” I reminded him. He holds his hand out and motions for the envelope with money. “Oh, this?” I laugh holding it out to him. With one hand he grabs the envelope; with the other hand he grabs my wrist. “Is Rich in the car?” Sleestack asks taking a step towards me. “Yes, and he is waiting for me,” I say taking a step back. “I bet he’s asleep.” With this said he slides one hand behind my back and pulls me in. I am not sure what is going on, but feet don’t fail me now! I place one hand on his chest and shove him back; he stumbles, hits the ground and looks up at me. A smile crosses his face. “Want to play rough?” he says and slowly pushes himself back up to standing. The second thing on the list of things I never want to do is get raped in a graveyard. The first thing on the list is of things I never want to do is to go to a graveyard at night. Zombie sighting has slipped to number three. I turn and run. No questions asked, I just run. Sleestack is right behind me. I don’t ask why he is chasing me, I just run. I am running for my life in a graveyard with a drug dealing rapist hot on my heels. I can see the grave markers by the light of the moon. The grass is slippery and just like in every horror movie I’ve ever seen, I keep slipping and falling in the grass. All I need is some hands to pop out of the grave and grab my wrist or ankle to make this night complete. I can see the car about 100 feet in front of me. Rich has his feet on the dashboard, his head against the window and the dome light is on. His back is to me because the car is pointed to drive out. “Start the car!” I scream, “Start the car!” Rich doesn’t move. I zig zag throught the graveyard. Rich doesn’t hear me. I am running for my life at least that’s what my brain is telling me. Sleestack is still behind me. I slide in the glass past the car; I bring my hand down on the hood with a “BANG!” Rich jumps and hits the horn. “Start the car,” I scream as I run right. “What the fuck?” Richs screams turning the ignition. The car roars to life. I zig left, Sleestack skids on the grass. I circle back and head for the car. Sleestack slows down as I run for the car. I grab the handle and realize that Rich has locked the door. I freak out as he reaches across the seat. Sleestack waves to Rich, Rich waves back. I pull open the door, leap in, slam the door and scream “drive!” in Rich’s face. Rich laughs and begins to drive down the path between headstones. He pulls up next to Sleestack and puts his hand out the window. Sleestack grabs it and shakes it. “What’s up Rich?” Sleestack asks. “Not much man?” he responds. Sleestack winks at me and says “See you soon.” Rich drives slowly out of the graveyard. “How did it go?” he asks. I just look at him. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to him.” Hours later when I’m talking to the cops that someone called. I’m standing on the roof with Myla, listening to Jesus Christ Superstar and throwing fried chicken into the pool. When the cops ask me what I’m doing? I look at them and think…..isn’t it obvious? Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 22 The party goes on through Sunday. It is about 12 hours later and I have been buzzing around the house. Everyone thinks their thoughts right now are mind blowing. People are bursting into tears, hugging each other or swirling their cigarettes watching the trail of light while they talk. So many people tonight start their statements with “Have you ever realized……” and then they talk about entire universes living on their finger tips. Brad is at this party and they are discussing Dungeons and Dragons once again. “No Man, an Ork has little power over a fairy.” I stand up and wander away from them. Myla has 3 guys at the party who live in Rochester New York. One of them is named Rick. He is blond, dirty and model gorgeous. People hang on his every word. He is sitting in the middle of Myla’s bedroom holding court. His philosophies are a little too much for me. That and the fact that he keeps saying things like “I completely understand you man,” as a response to what people say when they talk about their life. His statements make me think of mind control. For some reason, we are having a love in. Rick started it and no people lying around listening to this fool. He tries to get to girls to make out after he gets their shirts off. I stand up and stumble out of the bedroom; it’s not my scene either. Rick follows right behind me. “Geoff, can I talk to you?” he asks. “Whatever,” I respond. “Why don’t you like me? I like you.” He says leaning in close. “I’m onto your game man.” I say leaning back from him. Why the hell is everyone looking to make out with me? I think to myself. “I’ll make you want me,” Rick says and heads back into the bedroom. I head back upstairs and into the backyard where people are floating in the pool. It is either really late at night or early in the morning. I read the clock, but it didn’t really make sense to me. I find Myla lying on a deck chair with a blanket wrapped around her. She motions me over to sit in front of her. I do and she warps her arms around me. “Man, I am so happy you are with us.” It is one of the first families I feel that I have. They make me feel like I belong. I lie on the lawn chair smoking cigarettes with Myla for hours. I try to close my eyes and my brain swirls with beautiful colors. By Sunday afternoon I head home. I am dirty, tired and buzzing. My skin feels electric to the touch. Everyone headed out at the same time so we could all make sure we got home. I climb the stairs and it is too quiet. Jonathan is not home. I head into the bedroom and look in Crawford’s cage. She is lying under shredded newspaper. I open the cage reach in and take her out. She is ecstatic to see me. I hold her close to my face. “I’m sorry I’m so late baby girl,” I say to her and she leans in for a kiss. I run one hand down her back. When I get to her tail I realize it is covered in dry blood and it looks like she is missing the tip of her tail. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 23 I waste no time in contacting my social worker and explain what’s going on and that I think Jonathan did something to Crawford. My social worker tells me to call the vet and that he will pay for me to take Crawford there. He also tells me that he will stop by later to talk with me and to see how Crawford is doing. I am in full panic mode. Crawford seems slightly panicked and wants me to hold her as close as possible. The nearest vet is a block away and I wrap her in a tiny blanket and head out. I can hear the bell tinkle as the door slaps closed. The vet is nice but explains that she knows of a rat expert that I should contact in the future. Crawford is hesitant to have someone look at her and will not stop squirming. The vet believes that Crawford might have gotten her tail caught in the cage door and that it got ripped. My theory has a whole different tilt to it. It involves Jonathan hurting her. The vet cleans the wound and explains that if she wraps it Crawford will just pull the dressing off. My social worker true to his word has called and taken care of the bill for me. The vet writes down the number of the rat specialist for me hands it to me over the counter. I now have to head home and wait for Jonathan to show up. I don’t know what I’m going to do but I am still in slight panic mode. The first person I need to find though is Leo. Leo will know what to do. I carry Crawford into the bathroom and open the door to the group home hallway. I look out and can see Leo is in his room wearing a tiny Speedo and smoking a cigar. “Leo,” I hiss, so no one downstairs in the group home can hear me. Leo immediately hears me and turns in my direction. He is standing in the doorway of his room, cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth. The Speedo is packed and bursting at the seams. I feel a quick tug on my heart as he walks towards me. Leo’s reaction to my story is not a good one. He vows to kill Jonathan. I beg with him to wait until we find out what happens. Leo’s plan is to sit and wait in the living room and wait for him to get home. What a strange little family we are turning into, Me, Tarzan and my rat. I can’t explain. It’s one of the first times in my life that I feel completely protected and I bask in it. I’m aware that Leo is capable of killing Jonathan and as great as that sounds right now, I’m not going to let that happen. When we hear the key turn in the door downstairs I sit in the chair facing the landing. Leo has stepped back into the shadows near the porch. Jonathan’s familiar stomp/drag way of walking makes my stomach lurch. My heart races when he turns on the overhead light. Jonathan reaches the landing and looks up into my eyes. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Back in Albany New York Part 24 Jonathans mouth drops open and he begins to silently mouth words. Then It happens in an instant. Jonathan takes one more step up the stairs and Leo pounces on him like a wild animal. Jonathan is almost to the top of the landing when Leo flies over the railing and tackles him. His face bounces off the top step. Leo is quick to his feet and drags Jonathan up the rest of the steps. Jonathan’s face and arms bounce helplessly over the last remaining stairs. Leo tosses Jonathan into the living room where he slides across the floor and slams into the stove. Jonathan is making guttural sounds and spit hangs in a long string from his mouth. “Do you ever listen to anything that I tell you to do freak?” screams Leo as he approaches Jonathan and grabs him by the back of the head. Leo leans in close and their eyes meet. I can see the fear in Jonathan’s eyes. Leo pushes him back down to the floor and places his foot on the back of his neck. Jonathan begins to gurgle, he is no longer making words with his mouth but these sounds come from deep within. He is crying and trying to push himself back up to standing. Leo grabs the back of Jonathan’s shirt and begins to drag him back to the staircase. Leo gathers speed and slides Jonathan over the top step. Jonathan is airborne for a brief moment before he lands face first on the stairs. I can hear him hit every step on the way down to the front door. Leo is right behind him. The bell tinkles as Leo drags him out the front door. I run to the front window just in time to see Leo dragging Jonathan across the New Scotland Avenue and up a side street. Jonathan looks like an overgrown puppet that can’t get his footing, he s flopping all over the place. An hour later, Leo without a scratch on him arrives at my front door. He is still wearing the tiny Speedo and smoking a cigar. His shoulder length hair is held away from his face by a leather string. Pieces hang in front of his eyes. He reaches towards me and takes my hand where he leads me to the bedroom. “You shouldn’t be seeing him anytime soon.” Leo whispers into my ear as he pushes me down onto the bed. Once again my superhero has saved and protected me. “Did you even ask him if he did it?” I ask. “That freak is guilty as hell, no need to ask.” Leo pauses on each word as he leans in close to me. “Is he dead?” I ask slowly laying back on the bed. “Not yet,” Leo sighs as he turns off the lights. At six o clock in the morning I can hear someone opening the front door. I reach me arm out and realize that Leo has left my bed. This must be Jonathan coming into the house. I can hear the slow “Clomp, clomp,” of Jonathans feet as he walks up the stairs. Swinging my legs over the side of the bed I place them on the floor and crack open the bedroom door. I can see Jonathan clearly. His face and hair are matted with blood, what’s left of his clothing is a torn mess. His long sleeve shirt is missing its sleeves and he has no shoes on. Jonathan is quietly sobbing to himself. “Are you ok?” I ask sticking my head into the living room. “He….he….he…tied me to a tree in the woods,” sobs Jonathan. The tears are released in chocking sobs. I put out my hand and place it on his back. He flinches as if he’s in a great deal of pain. I slowly steer him back to the bathroom. On the way I begin to peel whatever’s left of his clothing from his body. I sit him down on the closed toilet seat. He is sobbing with great heaving sighs. I reach down and turn the knob on the tub. Once the temperature is warm and the bath is full. I undress Jonathan and help him climb into the tub. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 25 Back in Albany New York Jonathan is covered with bruises from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. There doesn’t seem to be any space on his skin not bruised. His underwear is stained and has spots of blood in it. It looks as if Leo has literally beaten the shit out of him. I am still so angry and want nothing more than to have Jonathan suffer for what he has done. Jonathan keeps blubbering and sobbing. “Do you have any idea why Leo beat you?” I ask Jonathan. He nods his head up and down. A long piece of drool begins to form on his lip and heads for the bath tub. “I,I,I…….want to be her friend and she doesn’t like me.” Jonathan blubbers. “Are you talking about Crawford?” I ask. Jonathan nods his head up and down again. “How did her tail get cut?” I ask. Jonathan turns his head towards the wall and begins to rock back and forth. “If you hurt her, I’ll kill you myself,” I say lowering my voice. Jonathan’s sobs get louder and louder. “I tried to take her out and her tail got caught in the door.” “So you cut it off?” I snap at him. He nods his head no. “It got stuck in the door; it got stuck in the door.” He keeps repeating until it’s a whisper. Jonathan rests his chin on his chest and hugs his knees to his chest. I can’t stand the sight of him anymore, so I stand and walk out of the bedroom. I am going to make sure that Crawford will never be in danger again. I don’t know how I am going to make that happen but if I have to carry her around with me at all times I will. I need to get out of the house and clear my head. I reach into Crawford’s cage and take her out. I am wearing a pair of overalls and I place her in my front pocket. Crawford immediately crawls into a ball. I head down the stairs and out the door. Days later Jonathan’s bruises are still healing. His lip is split and his eyes are swollen and slightly purple. He seems to be having problems walking. Jonathans Social Worker has asked him what happened but Leo let him know if he talks that this time he will be dead for real. I am a little afraid that Leo will do it. He told me that he spent time in Juvenile Hall before he was transferred to Parsons. I have been keeping my distance from the both of them. Crawford on the other hand doesn’t leave my side; I even bring her to rehearsal in my bag. Everyone in the chorus knows that I have her with me. I am afraid that if Mimi finds out, it will be the end of Crawford at rehearsals. We are literally days away from opening. The Director tells Mimi at rehearsals how “genius” she is. She reminds me of Irene Ryan “Granny” on the Beverley Hillbillies, right down to the walk. Her voice is more Fran Dresher from the “Nanny.” The cast cringes and looks at each other during the run of “Anything you can do, I can do better,” when Mimi gets to the “Anything you can sing I can sing higher” verse. It’s clear to us that Frank Butler will win this battle for the first time. Later during rehearsal I am called over by the Walrus. “ It has been brought to my attention that there is a rodent in your bag.” “Who told you?” I ask. “That is not important, what is important is that animals are not allowed in rehearsal. I gently protest “But Mimi has her dog with her at all times!” “You are not Mimi, lose the rat or lose your job, it’s that simple.” He dismisses me with a wave of his hand. I walk over to my bag and place it on my shoulder. I can feel Crawford move. I am happy that rehearsal is done. Liz is waiting for me by the front door of the hotel. “What did he want?” she asks. “Nothing,” I mutter. We walk out to the car together. “Are we still on for dinner this weekend?” Liz asks. “Of course we are!” I say. I know how to make one thing and that’s Macaroni and cheese. I figure I will make a salad and boil a can of peas. For dessert I will take pudding and graham crackers and mix them together and top them off with frosting. “Is Jonathan going to be there,” Liz asks pulling out of the parking lot. “Unfortunately, he lives there.” I say. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 26 Back in Albany New York The main goal of independent living is to teach the kids that are part of the program, how to live on their own. We are taught about budgeting, money, goals, shopping, bills and cleaning. I am also am taken on weekly trips to look for an apartment with a counselor. The counselor uses these trips to teach me about how to move out. She says this as she crosses her fingers and pulls out of the driveway. Independent living is supposed to be a temporary place, 6 months being the longest that you are allowed to be staying there. Jonathan has been part of the program for five years and will not be going anywhere soon. “There is no place for him,” the counselor mumbles under her breath. One of the first apartments I am taken to is in the basement of a funeral home. The room is literally right across from the embalming room. Even though I am a big fan of ghosts and scary places, this place is even too much for me. “The upside,” the Funeral Director points out to me is that “Albany High is directly across the street.” I ask if I will ever see a body coming or going. The Funeral Director ignores this question and leads me to a look at a shared bathroom down the hall. My counselor looks at me smiles and gives me thumbs up. I shake my head to say “No way in Hell.” We thank the Funeral Director on our way out the door. My counselor has two more apartments for me to look at. The first one is literally in an apartment complex referred to as “The Projects.” We walk down the hallway past several doors where loud televisions blare The Price is Right and every other door has either a crying baby or a loud argument going on behind it. My counselor is clutching her purse to her chest. She has a smile frozen on her face but in her eyes I see sheer panic. After five minutes of knocking on one apartment door, there is the sound of six or seven bolts and chains being unlocked. The final sound before the door is yanked open is a long bar that braces the door when its shut being removed. The door gets dragged open and a small little man is standing there. He is dressed head to toe in traditional African garb. With no smile on his face and not a word, he motions for us to come in. My counselor looks at me and it’s clear that she doesn’t want to enter but has to decide between running down the hall screaming back to the car, or teaching me about independent living. I try my best to avoid and awkward moment by putting my hand out. “Hi I’m Geoff,” I say. He nods his head and motions for me to follow him. I am then taken on a tour of this man’s house. He doesn’t say a word or let his face change the whole time we are there. In the living room there are glass museum cases filled with African statues, Masks and Artifacts. On the wall is a Zebra skin. It’s beautiful to look at but there would be no place for me to put my stuff. My counselor is still clutching her purse to her chest will she sits on the edge of his couch. My counselor has sweat forming on her upper lip. “It’s nice here,” she stammers while looking around. The man never says anything he just continues to open doors and point. The room that is to be mine if I like, is gigantic. It has white shag carpeting, white walls, white ceilings and 4 windows. It is beautiful. I call my counselor to come look at the room. She yells back from the living room that “She’s fine.” Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 27 Back in Albany New York My counselor tells the man “We’ll think about it,” as she pushes me out the door. He nods and closes the door behind us. She hurries down the hallway clutching her purse to her chest. More screaming comes from behind closed doors and something crashes against a door at the end of the hall. The hair on her head is a fuzzy blond mess; her oversized round glasses have slid halfway down her nose. She is routing through her pocket book, pulling things out and laying them on the seat of the car. She looks like a frustrated owl searching for car keys. “If we don’t find you a place, I am going to be in a lot of trouble,” she mumbles suddenly confiding in me. She finds her keys, starts the car and drives across the grass to get to the road. We don’t speak as she drives back to the group home. I open my door as she stops the car in our driveway. “”Don’t worry something will happen” she says and then sighs. I’m not sure if she is talking to me or herself. The bell tinkles as I walk into the house. I feel as if I have failed and nobody wants me again. I climb the stairs and standing at the top is Jonathan. He has a big smile on his face and a tie around his neck. He has been working on tying a tie all day. It’s still a little lopsided and longer in the back but I say “Wow, you look great!” His eyes light up and a giggle escapes from his lips. He claps his hands together and shuffles back into the bedroom to practice some more. I poke my head into the bedroom and Crawford immediately starts making noise. I walk over to the cage, open it and take her out. She climbs to my shoulder and starts to clean herself. Crawford stands up and places her hands on the top of my head. I slide down into the overstuffed easy chair, she shifts to my knee. I close my eyes and Crawford snuggles up to me. The weekend comes fast and I have prepared Macaroni and Cheese for Liz for dinner. It’s literally the only thing that I know how to make. I empty a can of peas to boil into a pot on the stove. The apartment is spotless. Jonathan has worked really hard to clean. He has also taken a shower, shaved and is working on tying his tie again. Liz should be here any minute. I can hear Jonathan getting frustrated in the other room. He is now either talking to himself or to Crawford. There’s a knock at the door. Jonathan comes out of the bedroom. “Did you hear that?” he keeps repeating “Did you hear that?” I tell him I heard it as walk down the steps to the door. I pull back the curtain and see Liz standing there. She gives me a wave and the bell jangles as I open the door. Liz is dressed for a night on the town she looks amazing. She hugs me and climbs the stairs. “Nice place,” she says. I can tell that she is just being nice as she looks around, her hands on her hips. Jonathan is standing there about to bust out of his skin. “Liz this is Jonathan.” Liz reaches out her hand and Jonathan covers his mouth with one hand to stifle a little giggle. His eyes are wide as saucers. It’s clear that he has never been this close to a girl before. He is a giggling nervous wreck. I motion to the table and Jonathan runs around to pull the chair out for Liz. She smiles, thanks him and slides into the chair. A smile crosses his face and he runs around to pull out my chair. “Thank you,” I say. Liz keeps the smile on her face. Jonathan slides into his chair. He is very happy and can barely control his glee. I have a bottle of wine for the occasion and I pour 3 glasses. I propose a toast, we raise our glasses and Jonathan suddenly asks me if the zit he shaved off his face an hour ago, is still bleeding. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 28 Back in Albany New York The dinner with Liz slowly slid into the crapper after that. Jonathan tried his hardest to impress her but failed at every corner. Jonathan had never really been in the presence of a woman before and not one so beautiful. Liz was lovely, gracious and would never make anyone feel uncomfortable. At one point Jonathan sent the pitcher of water to floor but not before it soaked the entire table. “Thank you for a lovely evening,” said Liz as she hugged me on her way out the door. Jonathan with a large grin stood mid way up the stairs and waved at Liz, she waved back and smiled. It was clear that Jonathan was smitten by. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said leaning in to give me a kiss on the cheek. I closed the door and Jonathan began to giggle again. “Wow, she’s beautiful.” Jonathan blurts. “You’re too old for her,” I respond not really knowing how old he is but hope to nip this in the bud. He sighed and I could see the stars in his eyes. I knew that Liz would let him down gently if he ever approached the topic. Jonathan with a new bounce in his step walks over to the stereo and puts Saturday Night Fever on the turntable. I’m wiped and still have to hand scrub the pots and pans that I used to prepare dinner. “Maybe Crawford would like macaroni and cheese,” Jonathan says thinking out loud. He is dancing to The Bee Gee’s his hands high in the air. He looks like he is being force to dance at gunpoint but loving every minute of it. “Crawford is not going to eat macaroni and cheese,” I tell him. “Oh yeah,” he responds, “Crawford doesn’t like any food I give her. I don’t give the comment much thought at that moment, but I do wonder what he has tried to feed her that she doesn’t like. “Night on Disco Mountain” begins playing and Jonathan is swaying back and forth to the music. This has become a plot out of a crazy horror movie. I wonder what penance I need to pay for in this life. This is just getting weird. I finish the dishes, kick off my shoes and fall asleep on the bed. Hours later it’s now dark; I stand and begin to strip out of my clothes. Crawford is wiggling her nose and pushing her newspaper towards me. I slide my t-shirt over my head and step into my pajama bottoms. “Do you think we can ever be friends again?” Jonathan asks me from the darkened room. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 29 Back in Albany New York The immediate answer in my mind to Jonathans question was “No way in hell.” That’s at least what my first thought was, I never said it out loud. “Maybe someday we can, but for right now why don’t you go to sleep?” I said to him as I slid into bed. “She sure is pretty,” Jonathan sighs again. I can hear him roll onto his side. “Goodnight,” he says and immediately starts snoring. “I hate him.” “I hate him so much.” ” Jonathan is stupid and disgusting.” He follows me around like a sick puppy, needing constant attention. He’s dirty and sloppy and has a weird constant smell. I get angrier thinking about everything that has happened since I got here. I should have stopped Leo from beating Jonathan and tying him to a tree, but something in me is happy to hear the stories from Leo about pounding Jonathan. I am no better than any of the bullies that I encountered in my life but somehow, I take a perverse glee in Jonathan’s suffering. Is it because it’s not me? I feel protected by Leo. I feel that he has protected me from Jonathan and from this world I’m living in. It’s true that deep inside he is a wild animal who strikes and someday could turn on me. I let my rage start to grow as I think about how I got here. I try to think about my rage and how it bubbles to the top and spills over. I certainly am no saint. Lying in the dark I begin to reflect. My thoughts turn to my Mother. God I hate her. I hate her so much. The rage feel towards her is all consuming. Things according to the family picture album started out good enough. It was at about age 7, that there was a change. Mom was always nervous and edgy. She lived by a set of rules that made little sense. If you questioned her rules you would find yourself punished. If you questioned anything that was said to you, you would find yourself punished. Bad words would get your mouth washed out with soap. You could be made to sit with a bar of soap in your mouth for as long as 30 minutes. Finally, when you were drooling foam that burned your throat, she would then remove the bar. I came to loath Irish Spring. My mother is mentally ill. There is nothing more to this thought. She medicates it with alcohol as most people did back then. My father was always absent; he used to travel a lot for work. Whenever he was out of town my mother would strike and it would always be worse than when he was there. It was a pattern that would repeat itself for years. It would start in the morning as I sat at the breakfast table. Mom would wander into the room, cigarette dangling out of her lips, Kleenex poking out of a sleeve in her bathrobe. Hung-over, she was always looking to pick a fight. Alcoholics still scare me to this day. There is no reasoning to anything that they do. My parents had spoken of divorce on several occasions. We kids, always thought that they were going to split. We were sat down and they asked us who we would like to live with in the future. We chose our Father which made my mother ballistic. She announced that the question was nothing more than a popularity contest and stormed out of the room. That was my mother’s usual cry. The problem was that my father took his vows seriously. I remember a fight so bad one time between the two of them. Mom was screaming, Dad was leaving and we kids were crying. My father made it as far as the front steps with my younger sister hanging on his leg. There he sat thinking about what a hell he was living in and decided that he had promised for better and worse. It was at this moment that his world changed. He placed the blinders on his eyes and never looked back. My mother’s mother was mentally ill and I wondered when did we first notice as kids that something was off with her? Was it the time that my sister had to sit a doll at the thanksgiving table so there wouldn’t be thirteen people sitting there? Was it the piles and piles of articles, clipping and cartoons that she cut out of newspapers and slid between the pages of scrapbooks placed in the bathroom in stacks? Was it her love above all others of her cat applies named Miss Cat? Could it have been her constantly putting my mother down while praising my uncle? Was it her taking to darkened rooms when she didn’t feel well or the multiple pictures of Jesus Christ she placed around the house? My favorite thing she did was to ignore us and my mother, pretending we weren’t there. She would hold the cat close and talk about how much she loved her. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 30 Back in Albany New York My Mother would tell stories of how her Mother was rich for awhile as a little girl. Mom would drag out pictures of her Mother standing next to her, my Great Grandmother. In every photo she would look beautiful, her hair done up and a fur coat was draped over her shoulders. I never saw a picture of her Father. When I asked my Mom about this, she would roll her eyes and say, “Who do you think is taking the picture?” My Grandmother would see these pictures of her childhood and mist up. We all knew that her Father died in the great influenza epidemic of 1918, leaving her and her Mother penniless. If her Father was mentioned, my Grandmother would drift off into her own world, cover her mouth with the back of her hand and a girlish giggle would leave her mouth. She was always seven years old in her mind. My Mothers Father was my Grandmothers second wife. The first wife was never mentioned. It was a scandal to be the second wife of a divorced man in those days. We were told to never ask my Grandparents about that story, ever, period. Even if it looked as if you were approaching a similar story in the presence of my Grandparents, my Mother would shoot you down with a look. My Grandfather was a very handsome and strong man. He had raised his family in Syracuse New York. They had survived the depression, so everything in their house was reused. Use a paper towel, hang it out to dry. Want a chip? Then unwrap the rubber bands from the bag! Found mold in the cheese? Cut it out! It was a fascinating house of rules and secrets. If you travelled too far with your questions though, you might get a pinch that twists skin and leaves a bruise from Mom or Grandma. My Mother was very close and saw her parents a lot. Christmas wasn’t Christmas if we didn’t wait at the top of the stairs for Grandpa to come out of the bathroom. Hours would pass after he went in. We would try to push each other in there after he would emerge. Mom was always being put down by my Grandmother, either over the phone or in person. Nothing she did could ever rise to her level if it was done by my Mother. When my Grandparents would return home from visiting us, my Mother would slide into a funk. She would take daily naps for hours opening her door to scream at us. She would have her pre-cocktail in the middle of the afternoon and more at 5pm. The biggest threat to me was always “Wait until your Father Gets home.” If she was really mad at me, she would call him at work. Mom tended to embellish stories, so when Dad would arrive home he was furious as hell and ready to kill. I remember beatings so bad with a belt that I would black out. I also learned at a very early age to feel nothing. I would shut down and not feel pain, not feel emotions, just not feel anything. This would make them crazy and my Mom would stand at the door and egg my Father on to beat me again. Sometimes I would enter a black hole where I would come out of it and not remember much of anything that had just happened. My Mom’s rules were just that, her rules. She was a completely different person when my Father wasn’t home and when he would arrive she would play the victim in the house. Once, my Mother had so embellished a story to my Grandfather, that he grabbed me around the throat and began to strangle me. He was so angry he didn’t realize that I couldn’t breathe as he repeatedly banged my head on the wall. When he let me slide to the floor, I could see my Mom standing in the hall with a smirk on her face. Then she reached over and shut my bedroom door. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 31 Back in Albany New York Annie Get your Gun was close to opening, so every night I was at rehearsal. The stage was a series of platforms attached to each other and stood about 3 feet off the floor. During the dance of “Sun in the Morning, Moon at Night,” the stampeding of the herds was amplified to a deafening thud. It was clear that we were all tapping our own version of the show. A rumor ran through the cast. It had Mimi and the actor playing Frank Butler romantically linked. The actor playing Frank would wink anytime anyone in the chorus would ask him about the affair. There was a lot of grumbling about it from many in the cast, because Mimi’s husband was the Producer. I figured it was none of my business and I stayed clear. I had the Walrus up my ass at every turn. I adored Mimi and her husband Barry. They would go out of their way to ask if I needed anything and if everything was ok. When the Walrus would get to be too much I would excuse myself and go to the bathroom. In the stall next to me I could hear the man playing Charlie putting away the booze. He would sneak in there as often as I did but to drink. If you were near him on stage you were forced to hold your breath because if you didn’t, the fumes would kill you. I had to get back on stage. We were working out all the problems in our Indian number. One of the classic numbers in this show is a racist little ditty sung by Sitting Bull. It’s called “I’m an Indian too.” In the number Annie was being made an Indian by Sitting Bull. Mimi and sitting bull would dance around each other while the chorus donned “Orange Face” and joined in. Sitting Bull was 250 pounds, curly blonde hair and had a heavy Brooklyn accent. The color of his skin was nightly changed to a deep brownish orange, he was dressed in a tunic and a giant headdress topped off his look. The actor playing Sitting Bull was blind as a bat. He didn’t have contacts and was forced to not wear his glasses on stage. As a solution; the cast would walk him in the right direction for the whole show and his number. When it came time for his big dance break, he would stand center while Mimi danced around him. “I’m and Indian too, a Sioux oh oh, a Sioux” Mimi would squawk in her nasally New Yawk accent. The Walrus called me over and leaned in close to me I could smell stale booze and cigarettes. I stared into his bloodshot eyes. “I’m sure that no one in the Sioux nation minced around like you do,” he hissed at me. Shocked, I just smiled and walked away. We were 4 days from the official opening and I wanted to scream “Fuck you,” and quit. Instead I headed back to the bathroom. The actor playing Charlie was in there again. He finished hiking up his pants and headed over to the sink to wash his hands “Jesus kid,” he slurred “You’re in here more than I am.” I nodded and briskly slid into a stall. When I came out of the stall, Barry was standing there. “Is everything alright?” he asked me placing a hand on my shoulder. I was trying to just keep it together at the moment when I burst into sobbing. I blurted the whole story out about how the Walrus would say the nastiest things to me. Barry was shocked to say the least. He handed me a Kleenex and promised me that something would be done. An hour later Mimi pulled me to the side and had me repeat the entire story I had told Barry. “Don’t worry honey,” Mimi said to me. “It will all be alright.” She patted my hand and went right back to rehearsal. That night when I got home, Jonathan had a million questions for me. “What was Liz wearing?” “Did she look pretty tonight?” “Did she ask about me?” He literally was in my way every step I walked. “Did she have fun at dinner?” “Does she want to come back?” He was jumping out of his skin. “Jonathan, give me a moment,” I said as I pushed past him, dropping my bags and heading into the bathroom. He continued to ask me questions through the closed bathroom door. I turned on the water to drown him out. Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 32 Back in Albany New York Annie Get Your Gun opened and the reviewers hated it. They ripped everything apart. Mimi was a little long in the tooth to play Annie. It was pointed out that Annie in real life starts the story at age 16; Mimi added 40 years to that number. Anything that could go wrong during the opening week went wrong. People dropped lines, forgot cues and had dance steps blow out their ears. Someone in the lobby was overhead to say “My dog would have howled all the way through that show.” Mimi was repeatedly compared to Lucille Ball in Wildcat. I was having a blast and so was the rest of the cast. Who cared if the leads would go up on their lines and speak directly to the audience? Or forget their lyrics, look at each other and burst into laughter? The audiences for the most part loved it, loved us and loved when something went wrong. There were so many times Mimi would ad-lib and I would have to bite the insides of my mouth to keep from laughing. She was hysterical and had great comic timing. So she veered from the book a little bit. After the first night the cast party was held at Mimi and Barry’s house in Albany. The house was a huge mansion with several bedrooms, bathrooms, a baby grand piano and a swimming pool. We all brought or suits and if you didn’t you got thrown in anyways. Everyone was in the pool at least once that night. Barry and Mimi were lovely and warm and made everyone feel so welcome in their home. Barry would pull me aside periodically at the party and check if everything was alright. I told him that “Everything was fine” I assured him. “Let me know if that changes,” he said with a wink. The bar was stocked and there was food everywhere. The music was pumping and local celebrities were flooding through the door. I noticed the Walrus leaning on the baby grand surrounded by smiling faces. Everyone was singing and every now and then he would get his arm jostled and his drink would jump I saw him several times trying to catch the liquid with his mouth as it spilled to the floor. He would snarl, grumble and lean down to put his lips to the glass and someone would hit his arm again. He would also reach out and swat the air with one hand as if he was hitting someone. It was quite comical. I stayed my distance and was at least 20 feet away from him for most of the night. It wasn’t until I let down my guard that he caught me by the elbow and pulled me to sit down next to him on the couch in the living room. “You miserable little faggot, “he snarled an inch away from my face. “Who the fuck are you to tell Mimi and Barry what I said to you?” “Don’t you know who I am?” “Don’t you know how many shows I have directed?” “I will ruin your career, you mincing little faggot!” His voice got louder and louder until everyone was listening to him. There was no music, nothing but the sound of his voice and the sound of his drink hitting the floor. “You know who I am?” he asked again and he took his finger and poked me in the chest. “You are a little shit and I am highly regarded in this town!” He poked me again. Barry rushed across the room, grabbed his arm and helped him to standing. “Hey, why don’t you come with me?” Barry asked him and pulled him towards the doorway in the living room, his drink slopped all the way out and onto the floor. “All of you, all of you!” he shouted, pointing around the crowd as Barry removed him from the room. The music started up again as if nothing happened. “Sorry Honey, he’s bombed and got a problem.” Mimi said while hustling me to the bar. The party went late into the night. That night I got home and the house was eerily quiet. There was no music and no sounds as I climbed the stairs. I couldn’t hear the familiar sounds of Jonathan snoring. I walked into the bedroom and could make out Jonathan’s bed in the light from the window, he was not home. I dropped my bag and turned on the overhead light. I sat on the bed and looked at Crawford’s cage. Crawford lay on her side; her fur was matted and soaked with blood. Her little mouth was gasping for air as her paws grasped at the air. She had several puncture marks covering her body. Lying on the floor was a pair of blood covered scissors. A New Chapter Starts Part 1 So what happens next? I immediately began screaming for Leo as I reach into Crawford’s cage. Blood leaks out of the corner of her mouth and her head twists around as I lift her. Tears begin to fall from my eyes as I slide to the floor. Leo is at my door and by my side in less than one minute. The rest of the kids from the group home quickly climb out of bed and gather in the hallway outside of my door. The kids, who were awoken in the middle of the night and ran to my door, were in pajamas and shorts. While I explain to Leo what happened, he begins to pace back and forth punching the wall. The counselor, who got stuck doing overnight this week, runs up the back stairs and pushes through the kids to get to my room. She stands and stares at me with her hand on the jamb. She is trying hard to catch her breath. The counselor stares at me because I am sobbing; blubbering and have blood is all over my shirt and I am holding a close to dead rat. “What the hell is…….?” The counselor starts to say when Leo takes his arm, and sweeps everything off of Jonathan’s dresser. “I’ll kill that Mother Fucker! Leo screams. Leo leaves in search of Jonathan. Instead of going back through the group home, he storms down my front stairs. The bell jingles and jumps, when it slams closed. Leo vows on the way out, that he would not come home until he finds him. The kids from the group home stand in my doorway with their mouths open, as I cry over Crawford who is now dead in my hand. I hold her to my chest and rock back and forth. She was all that I had, and she was now gone. Jonathan is found by Leo as he hides in the bushes behind the group home. Leo grabs him by the back of the neck and once again, gets dragged back into the woods. The police and neighbors are attracted to Jonathan’s screams and he is found beaten and tied to a tree. Leo is arrested and the court sends him to Juvenile Hall where he allegedly stabs a nurse to death on the grounds. Jonathan is removed from the group home Independent Living apartment and sent back into the system. He will end up at another group home in the system and no one will read his records. He will find that he has a clear slate. I will be sent to live in the apartment of the man from Africa. A counselor calls a cab for me and I pack it with all my worldly belongings. I am given cab fare and a check to give the man for rent and that’s it. The next day I am starving and eat a little of this and a little of that out of any food that I can find in the apartment. My hopes are that he won’t see I am stealing food. Two weeks later I am on the streets. I spend my days sleeping in a Laundromat. That way I look like I am waiting for my clothes to dry. At night I am in Washington Park hiding under bushes. The rats are bold and will walk over the top of you to go where they are headed. I spend most of the nights wide awake. A New Chapter Starts Part 2 I start to sleep wherever I can and my friends start to pass me around. I sleep on different floors, in hallways, in people’s yards, anywhere I am invited to sleep, I sleep. The nights that I am on my own I wander through the streets of Albany. I nod off sitting on people’s porches. I vow that “Someday I will have a home that I can call my own.” Friends of Friends even volunteer. I sleep on a couple’s floor so they can go out on a date. They leave me in charge of their daughter who is one at the time. This is where I start to have a belief that “Angels” appear and do good deeds to help you get through rough times. The husband of the couple is a horrible racist who refers to me as “Queer as a three dollar bill.” He is a chain smoker with a Nazi Tattoo on his upper arm. They live over the pharmacy on the corner of Lark and Western and show me such kindness. I get to stay with them for a whole week. So I am able to stay somewhere a little more consistent. They feed me, give me cigarettes and let me shower. I listen to him say horribly racist comments every time he looks out the window and across the street to the “poorer” section of Albany. I spend my days looking for a job, any job that I can do I will. I start to clean people’s houses to make any money I can. I meet three rich spoiled college girls who hire me to clean their apartment on a weekly basis. They have no idea that I am sleeping on the streets. One of the girls holds her nose and mouths the words “He stinks” when I am scrubbing their toilet. I pretend that I don’t hear her. I am making $40.00 to clean their home. The list they leave consists of scrubbing floors, cleaning bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, washing and folding clothes, making beds and cleaning their rooms. The whole job takes me hours. When I am done and I survive the finger test (this is where one of the girls walks around the house and wipes her finger over everything that I have cleaned) I am told I will be paid “Next Time.” I don’t want to tell them my living situation because I am afraid that I will lose the job. My friend Rich tells me that I can sleep at his house on the floor of his room for a couple of nights. I am told that if I hear his father come home that I am to make no noise at all. He says that his father will kill him if he finds out that someone is staying there. It is just Rich and his Dad living in the apartment. His Dad was recently divorced. The house is filthy and newspapers are everywhere. This is the lowest I have ever felt in my life. I spend so much time silently crying when I realize this is my life. One day while Rich is out of the house I lay down on the floor of the kitchen after I have opened the stove and turned on the gas. Rich returns home because he has forgotten something and finds me. My suicide attempt has not worked and Rich tells me I can no longer stay on his floor, so I am back on the streets. My friend Anna sees me on the street and invites me to come to her house. Her Father is rich and divorced. She will let me hide in her basement. Anna sneaks me into her house where I can take a shower. She makes me some food and takes my filthy clothes and throws them into the washer. She gives me a pair of sweats and a t-shirt to wear until my clothes are clean. We listen to Simon and Garfunkel, Jodi Mitchell and Anna’s all time favorite band “The Who.” We dance around her room and when she gets called to dinner she tells me to hide under the bed. It doesn’t take long for Anna’s father to get wise to what’s going on. Anna makes a plea to him as if she just found a puppy on the street she wants to keep. The answer is “No!” and I am once again back on the streets. It is several days before I return to the Gay Community Center looking for any help that I can get. Bill at the front desk listens to my story as I sob uncontrollably. He is moved and explains to me that he has an apartment down on Madison Place that I can stay at. He has two roommates named Adam and Tom and he has four bedrooms and two baths. It is an hour later when he tries to step into the shower that I realize what he expects in return for his help. A New Chapter Starts Part 3 When I threaten to rip Bills balls off by reaching down his throat, he steps quickly from the shower. I open the curtain and point one finger at him. “This will never happen,” I say. “But I,” Bill stammers. “I’m not playing,” I snap back and point at the door “Get the fuck out of this bathroom.” With that said, Bills head drops forward and he skulks out of the bathroom. This scenario will repeat itself again and again with both Bill and his roommate Tom. The result is the same. I have to give it up to them for believing that it will happen but it is a clear cut case of the definition of insanity. Their third roommate, Adam is very quiet and stays mostly to himself. We become fast friends and share similar experiences dealing with Tom and Bill. One of our favorite things to do is waiting while Bill is taking a shower, then we go on the roof and lean in through the bathroom skylight. All we have to do is say “Hello,” and Bill jumps and runs in place. Scaring him becomes a weekly treat for us. Tom and Bill go out almost every night to bars dressed in leather gear. The parade of losers that they bring home becomes a daily walk of shame for us to view over breakfast. There is something fun about watching a grown man with ass less chaps trying to act nonchalant as he pours himself a cup of coffee and nibbles on toast. Tom and Bill never see their tricks off, so it becomes something that Adam and I have to do. I offer more than one pair of pants to them to help them maintain their dignity. Adam and I develop a rating system and a secret code so we can talk about the trick in front of him without him knowing or feeling bad. If the guy is a total ass we will just speak in easy to decode “bad pig Latin.” One night Bill brings home another twink named Billy, who needs a place to crash for a couple of months. He has come to Albany after leaving home in Lake George. He talks like a Kennedy and actually one corner of his mouth curves up when he laughs. It is clear from the first moment we meet him that he comes from a family of privilege. Billy’s sister is a fashion model with an eating disorder. She lives in New York City and is battling anorexia. He tells us that she actually sews rocks in her clothing so she will weigh more at the doctor’s office. Billy, Adam and I now become a close knit clique that waits by the skylight to scare Bill when he showers. He is quick to pick up our secret code and rating system. There are no extra rooms so Billy and I share a common bedroom wall. We communicate along with Adam at night by knocking out another secret code. We soon rough shod over Tom and Bill. They go crazy trying to decode what the hell we are talking about. Bill and Tom throw parties in the living room that is the size of a small ballroom. People who don’t make it home end up spending the night. You can go to sleep and you find someone trying to climb in your bed. In the beginning it’s a little shocking but we soon create a code to throw the bum out of the house. A couple of mornings I find out that Adam and Billy have not always thrown out late night visitors found in their beds. Billy comes home one night and tells us that he is “Hopelessly in love with a guy named David,” that he met at the center. A New Chapter Starts Part 4 Over the next couple of weeks, Billy tells me and Adam all about the wild love affair that he and David are having. “I couldn’t be happier,” he says one morning while buttering his toast. Adam shoots me a glance and kicks me under the table. Adam and I am so happy for him but I become perplexed when Billy won’t introduce him or even bring him home for us to meet. We are not sure that David even exists. Billy dances out of the room eating his toast and I turn to Adam and say “Ow!” Bill slides into the kitchen and slips into the seat that was just occupied by Billy. He leans into Adam and I with his elbow on the table. “Tom and I have met David and he is just lovely.” Bill tells a story about the night that David and Billy met at the center. According to Bill it turns out that he and David almost have a thing but that Billy swooped in and grabbed David when he was about to make his final move. David it turns out is an ex marine that looks like George Michael from Wham. Adam and I look at each other. Bill reminds me of and looks a lot like Charles Nelson Reilly. Now add severe buck teeth and a bigger lisp and you have Bill. Bill pours himself a bowl of cereal. He makes a face when he sniffs the milk in the carton but carries it along with his bowl into the living room. Later that morning after everyone has gone to work; Adam and I climb to the roof. I have paused from looking for a job. Everywhere I go, they don’t need anyone or they just hired someone. Today we will spend hours up there getting sun. It’s a quick trip up through the trapdoor in the roof in Tom’s bedroom at the back of the house. We learn to be quiet, because every day there is someone new sleeping in Tom’s bed. While he is at work, Tom lets his “dates” from the night before, wake at their leisure. When Tom is approached randomly by us about what he does for a job, he skirts around the issue. Every morning he sneaks out the front door wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase. Even Bill doesn’t know what he does. Adam and I begin or quest to get an answer and question everyone. We even try to follow Tom one day but he becomes wise and gives us the slip. Adam and I joke that Tom aka “Leatherman” is a mild mannered accountant by day but keeps bad guys in a “Sling” at night. Bill almost kills himself with laughter when he overhears our scenario. ‘That’s hysterical,” he says sounding like Sylvester the cat. The spit even sprays off his tongue when he says it. Bill is gross, weird, not smart, sad and slightly dumpy. As much as I torture him I regard Bill as my lifesaver and I find a protective place in my heart for him. I would never let him know this but I show him in other ways. I am Bills ear when someone has lead him on all night and then leaves him flat at last call. This becomes a nightly conversation. Bill weeps at the foot of my bed while I listen. “I just want to be loved,” lisps Bill. A New Chapter Starts Part 5 The day comes and we get to meet David. It’s true, he is George Michael in his late 20’s, tight white tee shirt, cigarette hanging from one lip, tight blue jeans no imagination needed. I am immediately jealous of Billy. David walks in slow motion across the room, extends one hand to me and I hear him say blah, blah, blah. His hazel, sometimes green eyes reflect back light that bounce into mine. Billy jumps around behind him and mouths the words “This is the one!” while pointing at David. Adam jabs me in the ribs with an elbow after 5 minutes of talking to David. Apparently, I am mumbling incoherently and blabbing. Billy continues to flit around David. I am blown away by David and everything about him. While we talk, he winks I am suddenly in ‘All about Eve” and Billy’s understudy and I want to go on. It’s been ten minutes since I’ve met David. Billy now becomes whiny bore. I have rarely felt a connection like I have after 30 seconds of being in David’s presence. I want to be his everything and I want him to want me as well. Adam stops me from making more of a fool out of myself and drags me away. The weeks that follow become all about David. I ask Billy what kind of toothpaste David uses, how often he sleeps at his house and “Does David always smell so good?” I secretly seethe when Billy talks about David and how often they bathe together. My friendship with Billy is spinning out of control. I am so jealous of everything in his life and I am beginning to hate him. When Billy talks about how happy he and David are, Adam grabs my hand and stops me from choking him. I talk to Adam and tell him everything. I am a horrible person. I am a pile of shit and I need to stop. Bill sits on my bed at night and I imagine that it is David. He has snuck in the house to break up with Billy and carry me off. It gets me through the day, but I stay far, far away. Friendship is very important to me. David asks via Billy to have me come to the house and have dinner with them. I am busy until he dies, I think. Weeks fly by. I finally get a job. I am the only man working at The Dora Dee figure salon on Central Avenue. I am teaching exercise classes to fat housewives who wonder “When the place became integrated?” Daily, I am ignored by women who wear black tights, lay around in the exercise room, slip into thinness on the fat rollers and smoke cigarettes in the parking lot. It is the 80’s and Jane Fonda (that bitch, but that’s a future story) is all the rage. I am the women’s Richard Simmons. Anyone who is gay and in the health field is compared to Richard Simmons daily. There is actually a Dora Dee. She is 4 feet 2 inches, has her hair blown up to Jesus and talks with a Texas accent. “Suck it in girls and oh yeah..Geoff,” she says as she slides behind the front desk. “Steers and Queers,” she says as she looks in my direction but doesn’t explain any more before walking off. A New Chapter Starts Part 6 Working at Dora Dee’s Figure Salon for women, is pure hell. The little Texas spitfire that the place has been named after has a folksy way of telling you what to do. The problem I have is that I cannot understand a goddamned word of it. Dora speaks, looks at me and can’t seem to figure out why I’m not moving. She’ll then clap her hands and shout “Feet on a Jackrabbit.” I begin to understand that this means “Don’t just stand there, move!” Where I am supposed to move is another thing that I am confused about. Rachel, who works at the front desk, explains to me how things work around here. My job consists of several duties that I need to check off on the daily chart. These I will rotate for the next 8 hours. My first job of the day is to start on the floor. I am supposed to be helping women understand what they are doing and teach them the proper form for lifting weights. There are a couple 2-5 pound weights. These are the heaviest weights the gym has. They can usually be found propping up the bookcase overflowing with old dusty issues of The National Enquire and People Magazine. I suck in my breath as I approach two women. They are both in their late sixties. One of them wearing a long sleeve black turtle neck and full black tights. The other woman is wearing the exact same outfit except she is wearing the turtleneck version of the leotard. The first woman looks up at me and says “Meow.” The woman with the turtleneck crosses her arms to cover her bosoms. “Good Morning, Do you ladies need any help with anything?” I say pushing on. “Anything?” purrs Catwoman rolling into a reclining position. Turtleneck keeps repeating “Were fine thank you,” without once ever looking into my eyes. I smile and walk away. Catwoman purrs “Shake it, don’t break it,” she says loud enough for me to hear then breaks into laughter. There is not a lot of equipment in the club.There are 2 body rollers, a pull down and a leg machine that just opens and closes. The body rollers are these large tables with spinning rollers that roar to life when their switch is turned on. The theory is that if you lay on the roller the fat will be pushed out. I offer magazines and to dump the ashtrays to the women on the rollers. That’s another job I find I have. Dumping the ashtrays that line the work out floor and the club. This is supposed to be done while walking around. My boss and the 2nd in command is Sharon. According to Dora, “Sharon had the big balls to hire me,” even though I am all “Catty Whompus.” Dora never says this to me but I hear her through the wall of the men’s room. The men’s room is nothing more than a broom closet with a piece of paper that’s says “Men’s” taped to the door. It is also located directly outside of Dora’s office. The smell of Dora’s Aqua Net hair spray penetrates the Men’s room and I am always in a giddy state when I change my clothes. Sharon explains to Dora that “The world is changing,” and that they need to make this club co-ed or they will have to close the doors for good. “Hell rules the day this place gets pole axed” shouts Dora at the top of her lungs and then slaps her hand on the desk for emphasis. Sharon is an expert at the rolling machines. We are supposed to get her anytime a new member wants a rolling. A New Chapter Starts Part 7 I knock quietlyon Dora’s Door. I am looking for Sharon. Dora calls me into the room. Takes one look at me and says “Hell’s bell’s what the hell do you have on?” My uniform consists of tight black shorts and a t-shirt with a Dora Dee Figure Salon logo on it. The logo is a shapely pair of older woman’s legs wearing heels. “I was told to wear this,” I stammer. Dora sighs and looks at the ceiling. Sharon stands and walks me towards the door. Dora glares at me. “Rachel is wearing the same outfit,” I say to Sharon. “I know honey,” she says walking me into the hall. Motioning her head in Dora’s direction she says, “Sometimes it takes her awhile to know what’s best for her.” “You have a line forming at the rollers, can you show me what to do?” I ask.Sharon picks up the pace getting to the front. The line is now 3 large women deep. Sharon motions one of the women on the table and directly on the roller. Sharon speaks loudly enough for everyone on the floor to hear. She explains the health benefit of letting the roller massage the muscle and the fat surrounding the muscles. Apparently lying on this machine forces the pesky pounds to fall right off. Sharon reaches over and throws the switch. The rollers sound like a small airplane taking off.The woman’s entire body begins to jiggle at a rapid pace. “I,I,I,I, I, can feel it working,: the woman on the rollers moans. The other two women giggle and clap their hands. “I’m next,” “No, I’m next they argue and begin to push each other out of the way. I bite the inside of my mouth to keep from laughing. “Geoff, go find Isabelle in the back to finish this up for me.” “She should be in the exercise room.” I walk to the back of the club and into the exercise studio. There is blue shag carpet on the floor, paneling on the walls and an old crusty wall length mirror in the front. Isabelle is finishing up class. There are two women in there with her. She has her hands on her waist and is twisting back and forth. Isabelle is in her late 60’s. She is wearing a turtle neck long sleeved black unitard, her long grayish hair has been braided and piled on her head. On her feet she has high heeled character shoes. “Three more, two more and done,” she yells into the corded microphone. The women clap their hands to signal their gratitude.There is not a drop of sweat on anyone. “Hi, my name is Geoff,” I say extending my hand to Isabelle. She looks at me as if I am handing her a fish. She turns her torso away from me and mindlessly covers her breasts. I am the first and only man to ever work at Dora Dee. The women’s enthusiasm for me being there runs the gamut. Several women are excited that the club is changing and others are horrified that I am there and tell me so to my face. Isabelle looks at me as if I just got off a UFO and I am asking to probe her. She quickly realizes that her mouth is hanging up and quickly composes herself. “Hello Geoff,” she says to me and looks at the other women. “Are you in here to teach class?” she asks me. “I teach in about an hour, but Sharon sent me to find you.” Isabelle straightens up and suddenly looks as if someone finds her being here important. “Then I shouldn’t keep her waiting,” she says to me walking past. I return to the desk and finish my training with Rachel. A New Chapter Starts Part 8 Two O’clock rolls around and it is time to teach my first class. Behind the front desk is a microphone that can be heard through the entire club. Isabelle has warned me not to make my announcement until exactly five minutes before two. She is teaching a step class for beginners from one until one fifty five. I am told that she doesn’t want any announcements to mess up her class and to distract her students. The ages of the women in Isabelle’s class range between sixty five and eighty five. The only stepping they do in class is to step touch again and again in different directions, resting for ten minutes for every five minutes of exercise. Watching her class, I’m sure that Isabelle was quite the tomato in her time. Its five minutes before class. I pick up the microphone and announce “Come take step and stretch with Geoff at two O’clock.” I can hear it booming through the club. Then I add “It will be fun.” Nothing happens. No one in the club moves. “Maybe people are already in class waiting for you,” Rachel mumbles under her breath to me. I walk into the exercise studio and see that there is no one in there. The clock on the wall reads exactly 1:59pm. I walk back to the desk and ask Rachel what to do. Rachel grabs the microphone and announces “Only one more minute before Geoff’s class, you want to get in there to find a space before it gets packed.” Again, nothing happens and no one moves. I see Dora standing around the corner with her arms crossed looking at us and looking at the clock. Suddenly she walks behind the desk and grabs the microphone from Rachel. “To hit spit in the wind you have to catch it yourself,” she says looking at us before bringing the microphone up to her lips. “Hello everyone this is Dora, of Dora Dee Figure Salons,” she shouts into the mic. “You have exactly thirty seconds to march your fannies into the back room to take this class.” “I want to know that my money is well spent or I’ll have to fire him” she says. She then plunks the mic on the desk causing it to feedback. Rachel does a slow pan to me. Her eyes are wide open and she is shaking her head back and forth. Dora points to me and says “Lickety Split.” She then walks back towards her office. The women begin to file into the exercise room very slowly. “At least you now have a class,” Rachel adds. I walk into the room and it’s now packed with women milling, standing, sitting and literally laying on the floor. I have to step over people to get to the front of the room. “Hi everyone,” I say. “My name’s Geoff and I,” Use the microphone someone screams from the back of the room. I apologize, walk over and turn the mic on. “Hi everyone, my name is,” Too Loud,” screams someone else from the back of the room. The rest of the class follows this pattern. The women scream out “Too fast,” Too Slow,” “Talk Louder,” Talk Softer,” “Speed up,”and “Slow down!” I constantly lean over and manipulate the speed control on the cassette player. I also have a corded microphone in my hand the whole time. Unwinding the cord with every move becomes part of my routine. I am sweating my ass off, climbing up and over the step, swinging the cord into the air so it doesn’t trip me up. Several women in the back of the class have done nothing but sit there and talk the entire time. Every now and then one of them will do a random leg lift. The class goes on forever. With ten minutes left, I do a cool down. Several of the women walk out of the room during this time. I can see Dora standing next to Sharon in the back of the room with her arms crossed shaking her head. As I collect my cassette tape, more women file out. No one thanks me for class. I am a disaster. Dora walks past me on her way back to the office. “Well that was one hell of a waste of time,” she says to me as she passes. A New Chapter Starts Part 9 The rest of the day I am sent to the phone room. The phone room has 4 chairs and 4 phones and stacks of old member’s files. They want us to call to renew past memberships. Rachel sits next to me, one stack of files in front of her and a discard “ already called” pile on the floor. The first call I make is to a woman in her 70’s. After of 10 minutes me yelling into the phone, she understands that I am calling from Dora Dee Figure Salon and that I want her to renew. After realizing that I am male and that the club is not going co-ed just the staff is, she hangs up on me. I write “ Doesn’t want men in the club,” under her reason to not return. Her file gets tossed into the discard pile. Rachel seems just as enthused as I am to be making these phone calls. She constantly holds her middle finger up to the phone when she talks and writes “Die” on a piece of paper that she holds up for me to read. After an hour of rejection on the phone, I begin making calls using a feminine voice and saying that my name is Genevieve. Rachel has to mute her phone after spitting water out her nose. Thirty files get thrown into the discard pile. Rachel writes “Dead” under reason to not return on 50% of her files and then launches them Frisbee style across the room. She tells me that she does this so she doesn’t have to call them back. It is our jobs to take the discard files of someone else and call them. Past members will be called at least 7 times before they are completely removed from our paper system. Isabelle peek’s her head into the phone room to make sure we are working. Dora told her that someday she could be second in command under Sharon. This way she is guaranteed that Isabelle will spy for her and report back. The day is finally over for me and I have to punch out on the way out. Sharon waves to me from the front office. Rachel punches out moments after I do, waving to Sharon and then rolling her eyes when she looks away. Half way down the stairs Rachel bums a cigarette from me. “Oh my lord, I need to graduate and get out of here.” “How long have you worked here?” I ask. “Not much longer than you,” she says taking a deep draw of the cigarette.” “I didn’t know you smoked,” I say as she heads into the parking lot. “I don’t,” she says and flicks the cigarette onto the pavement. I stand around the corner and wait for the bus to bring me back to Albany. The sign that reads Dora Dee Figure Salon gets turned off. I wait for the bus for about 45 minutes to arrive. The trip home is slow and we stop at every bus stop on the way home. No one is on the bus except for 3 people and no one is at the stops. I am supposed to stop over and pick Billy up from David’s on the way home. A New Chapter Starts Part 10 I arrive at David’s house later than I thought I would. David answers the door and immediately tells me that Billy has already left. David holds the door open and asks me to come in. David’s house is a tiny two story residence that sits right on Washington Avenue before it splits into Western Avenue. The house is decorated in floor to ceiling Art Deco. Statues and cherubs line the walls. There is a bar that sits on a push cart just ready for entertaining. An antique decanter filled with scotch sits center surrounded by several glasses with designs cut into the crystal. David pauses briefly on our tour and introduces me to a woman who is sitting on the couch knitting. David lives on the first floor with his best friend Anne. Anne is a 65 year old woman, who briefly pauses her television watching, to sneer in my direction and then goes right back to knitting. We immediately dislike each other. David goes on to tell me that his Mother died when he was very young. His father remarried a woman that he never connected with. It quickly becomes very clear what Anne represents to David and the apartment. He takes me on a tour of the rest of the house. It’s a cute two bedroom apartment with a living room, dining room, music room, back porch and fairly large back yard. The appliances in the kitchen are all from 1920-1940’s and the stove has to be lit with a match that he keeps in a tin on a shelf. Every room has glasses that hold several cigarettes which he buys by the caseload. There is a screen door that creaks when opened and slams shut behind you. I’m reminded of camping. From his backyard and by standing on the stoop you can look directly into the back entrance of the Waterworks Pub. Over the fence he points out his car a 1935 Packard that sits in the shared parking lot. He tells me that he owns a 1965 Pontiac that he keeps in a garage several blocks away. He has a hammock in the backyard and several folding chairs that sit around an open fire pit. He excuses himself for a minute as he runs back into the house. Moments later the sounds of The Policemen’s Other Ball and Sting singing Roxanne can be heard in the backyard. David returns carrying drinks and several cigarettes. An hour later I am sitting in the hammock with him. My defenses are no longer up and thoughts of Billy are in the front of my mind and I stop David as he leans in for a kiss. “I can’t do this,” I say “Billy is my best friend”. “Do what?” David asks. “Cheat on Billy with you.” I respond coming to standing. “Billy and I aren’t together,” David says standing next to me. David goes on to explain that Billy and him are not sleeping together because Billy doesn’t want to. Something about Billy having issues with letting someone in. Several hours later I realize that I am not going home. In the morning I step from the shower leaving David there, Anne has already left for work and we are completely alone. I am standing in the hallway completely naked drying myself off when I hear a pounding on the back door. I look up to see Billy pounding on the glass, he jumped the fence and climbed in through the porch. A New Chapter Starts Part 11 Jonathan is nowhere to be found but the entire house has been ransacked. Everything I own has been thrown all over the house. I walk around seeing the damage and I am totally in shock. “What the fuck happened?” I yell out loud to no one. Suddenly there is pounding on the door in the bathroom that connects to the Group home. I run over to the door and throw back all the locks. I yank open the door and find Leo standing there. He is wearing a tiny little bathing suit that leaves no room for imagination. “Is that freak still here?” Leo asks pushing past me. “I heard him making a huge fuss and then I heard him throwing shit.” Leo looks around the corner into the bedroom before he continues to walk in. “Did that freak do this?” Leo asks looking at the mess. “I don’t know, I think he did.” “I wasn’t here. Walking over to my bed Leo looks up at me. “Is this your bed?” he asks. “It is.” I tell him. Leo pulls down the comforter and the sheets, climbs in my bed and slides off his bathing suit lets it dangle before it hits the floor. A giant smile crosses his face. “Nice bed.” Leo says. “It’s just missing one thing,” he says reaching out his hand. I don’t have to be asked twice. Two hours after Leo leaves I realize that he has taken a few dollars off the dresser, “Worth every penny.” I think with a smile. There is clearly no way that I am going to get to school today and I have a lot of shit to clean up. I start to pick up the house and stand the furniture back up. Anything that I find of his I put right on his bed. His pile grows higher and higher. It takes me hours to straighten up the house. Around 4pm I hear the front door open and the sounds of someone slowly clomping up the stairs. Moment’s later Jonathan’s face comes into focus. He is standing just below the landing and he is looking around the room to find me. Our eyes meet and he quickly looks away. “Hey!” I scream as he tries to turn around to get out of there. “Huh?” he says looking quickly back up. “Get the fuck up here!” I scream. Sheepishly he climbs the stairs. “Did you do this?” I ask pointing around the room. “No,” he says looking back down on the floor. It is clear that he has done this because he refuses to look into my eyes. A New Chapter Starts Part 12 David tells me to have a seat in the kitchen, we are going to talk with Billy and have a seat. Billy eyes me, watching me walk into the kitchen. David slowly releases Billy after he gets Billy’s promise that this scene is over. Billy rubs his throat with his free hand, clean this up David tells Billy pointing to the debris. “I am putting clothes on and I will be right back in.” Billy is on his hands and knees slowly picking up broken plates, dishes and everything else that got swept onto the floor during the argument. I look around the kitchen and find a box of plastic garbage bags. I pull a couple of them out and walk towards Billy. “I am so sorry,” I say as Billy tries hard not to meet my eyes but takes the bag I hand him. “I don’t know what to say,” Billy says dropping broken plates into the garbage bag. “I thought you were my friend.” “Do you want me to leave? I ask. Billy shrugs. “I’m sorry,” I say opening a new bag. Billy shrugs. Ten minutes later David is dressed and we are sitting around the kitchen table. The whole story begins to unwind directly from Bill’s lips. David and Billy are not dating, nor have they slept together. Billy has issues about letting anyone get close to him. He is still mad at me and feels as if I cheated on him. I am wrong and ready to take the blame. David tells Billy that he has feelings for me and that he wants to date me. I tell David that I need to return to Madison Place to get ready for work. Billy asks if he can have time alone with David. I leave the house with my head hanging down. How do I even begin to repair this? This is another time that I will shut off and run from the situation. After telling Adam the whole story when I get back I decide that I need to find a new place to live. It would just be too uncomfortable for me around here. I quickly get ready for work and head out the door. I don’t see Billy for about two weeks. It is clear that he is staying out of my way on purpose. Our paths cross briefly as I run into the bathroom as he heads out. He refuses to even look at me. On the other hand I have been seeing David every free minute that I have. David told me that Billy was fine at that he wants to date me. I have no problem with that. David has asked me to move into his house, it was three days after the Billy episode and I am still not ready for that commitment. I have a meeting with a potential roommate named Bill M. at a potential apartment located on Jay Street. I have spoken to him on the phone and we meet at the State Street Pub. Bill M. is a button down, tie wearing reporter who works for several news stations and does his news over the phone. It is the broadcast on the radio. There is nothing special about him and he seems like a really nice person. We meet at the apartment that night and once again hit it off. The apartment is on the corner of Jay Street and Dove. It is located in the basement and the landlords Tommy and Roy will live in the building above us. Tommy and Roy seem very happy with us and wave the security deposit. It’s all set with a handshake that we will be moving in. Bill M. and I go over all the particulars. He will move in one day before me because I will have to work and can’t get there on the first. I turn over my month’s rent to him to pay Roy and Tommy. Adam is sad to see me go but we know that we will see each other a lot. I move into the apartment on the 2nd of the month. My key isn’t working in the door and I am forced to pound. After about 10 minutes Bill M. answers the door. He is dressed in pajamas, bedroom slippers and a bathrobe. It’s clear that he was asleep. I tell him my key doesn’t work in the door. He mumbles something about changing the locks and walks back in the apartment. I drop my suitcase and follow him towards the kitchen. He stops, looks at me and asks me where I put the toilet paper. My Spidey sense begins to tingle. A New Chapter Starts Part 13 Living with Bill M. gets strange fast. At first I think it’s just the usual getting used to living with someone but in short time I notice a lot of things that I have to take note of. These are things that should have rung warning bells very loudly to me. The problem is that I tend to like to see where something is headed before I react or speak. I have heard that I am over dramatic and tend to speak too quickly. Bill M. calls in his newscasts to the various radio stations that he works at. Watching how this works is so fascinating to me. Bill M. speaks into the phone, attached a recording device attached to the back of the earphone and then looped it into a mini tape recorder. The station adds there on air logo and he records the whole thing. Bill M. then runs around putting all the radios on to the station that he just called, so he can hear how it turns out. It starts to get weird at these moments. Wherever I am he will walk in, place one finger to his mouth, shush me and start talking. Places I can be found when he does this are 1. Sitting on the toilet. 2.While I am in the tub. 3. Sleeping, and my favorite # 4. While I am dancing in my speedo, in front of a tanning lamp, that I bought at a garage sale, while locked in my bedroom. Bill will knock and knock and knock and knock and knock, until I open my door. The tanning lamp has one timer switch and I have to wear goggles. I give myself a zap 15 minutes a day. Bill M. won’t let me turn it off but will stand in my room and talk into the phone. One of the first things I notice in the house are his Bottles of pills. These pills line the counter in the kitchen, the bathroom, and from what I can see from the doorway of his room, all over his dresser. The bottles have various medical prescriptions written on them. I write them down and I go to the library to do a little research. He is doped up so bad. Most of the medications point towards schizophrenia. What I also notice are that his behavior leans the same way. Bill looks completely normal, almost scarily so, but Once in the middle of the night I turn on the bathroom light and find him standing in the dark, staring into the mirror. While he mumbles, I walk him and his matching pajamas, back to his room. I am not allowed to “ever” enter his room and I need to rap loudly 3 times, stand in the doorway and speak in a loud voice before he will talk to me. I can hear him talking to people that don’t exist and some weeks he doesn’t bathe. The rules quickly become crazier and I turn to David. A New Chapter Starts Part 14 I walk into the kitchen one morning and I find Bill M. cooking eggs, making toast and talking to someone that doesn’t exist. He is excitedly explaining the news business and how to get things done. I pause in the doorway and Bill M. notices me out of the corner of his eye. He quickly turns, faces me and with spatula in one hand he lifts both shoulders in a shrug that clearly say that I interrupted his talking to his guest. He pauses for a moment, listens to the air and “poof” it’s just the two of us in the kitchen again. “Who are you talking to?” I ask. Bill M. makes a face and says “Just you.” There are two place settings on the kitchen table and Bill M. begins to spoon eggs on to both plates. “Coffee?” he asks me walking over to a fresh brewed pot. I just stare at him, Bill M. and I never have breakfast together, never discussed it and it wouldn’t be in my top 100 things to do before I die. Truthfully Bill M. scares me. It is clear that something he is doing is not working. One of his medicines is not playing nice. I slowly slide into one of the chairs at the table. Bill M. pours juice and adds a piece of toast to my plate. Sitting down across from me, Bill M. brushes the crumbs off his hands, unfolds his napkin and tucks it under his chin. “Did you have a good night last night?” he asks crunching into a piece of toast. “Yeah,” I say dragging the word out. He is creeping me out big time right now. He is staring into my eyes and chewing his piece of toast until I am sure there is nothing left of that toast in his mouth. Bill M. looks like the male version of Frida Kahlo to me. I reach out and grab my coffee. “How was your night?” I ask. “Did you know that the Borgia’s also poisoned members of their own family?” Bill M. says without looking away from my eyes. He crunches another piece of toast. “Fascinating,” I respond. “Bill?” I say, cutting to the chase, “Are you ok on your meds?” “What do you mean?” he asks. “Well, you seem to be under a great deal of pressure.” I say, not breaking his gaze. “Pressure?” he begins to repeat the word louder and louder and each time he says it he begins to stand up. He has now said the word about seven times and spittle flies from his lip. “You don’t know the pressure!” he screams at me. We have gone from 0-100 in five seconds. “Bill?” I say reaching out for his arm. The minute I touch his arm, he returns to earth but seems to be confused by what has happened. Slowly he sits back down, picks up his toast and begins crunching again. “Bill, are you taking your medicine?” I ask “No, I don’t need it, I’m feeling better.” he responds. A New Chapter Starts Part 15 Soon, I start sneaking around the apartment reading every medicine bottle I can find. I follow the directions on the label and start grinding up his medication to put it in his orange juice. In the fridge he keeps a large pitcher of it and every day he would finish it and replace it. I start to notice an immediate change in his behavior; Bill M. no longer speaks to invisible people and seems to be in the same room with me at the same time. David and I were great; he is still working downtown at Jacks Steak House. He would come home late every night with his shirt unbuttoned, black bow tie still around his neck and a cigarette behind his ear. Imagine George Michael coming home to you every night, sweaty, needing a cigarette and bringing food. I became possessive and watched my friends with caution. David also has a lot of friends that make me nervous and jealous. One of them, Ralph, has steely blue eyes and looks like a Norwegian Sailor. Not just any Norwegian Sailor but one that Tom of Finland would create. He lingers all over the house and only speaks when spoken to. I came home one day and they were both fully clothed and sitting on the bed. I am sure that I am not crazy and that I’m not imagining anything but what is really happening? David also has a friend named Joe, who I thought was in his 90s. It turns out that Joe was in his 60s but looked 90 up until his death. Joe would come over early to David’s house and for some reason he had his own set of keys. One morning, David tells me Joe’s story. Joe, it turns out was a leading fighter in the Gay Rights Movement. He gave up everything and in the late 1950s and suffered through much. He suddenly had a life of people screaming horrible things at him, burning things on his lawn and blowing up his house just because he was gay. I understood, but why did Joe drive around town shirtless, car top down, while wearing ripped shorts that would peek out a testicle every now and then? It was hard for me to let him be himself because we were all supposed to be quiet and we were taught not to flaunt our lives. If you were really lucky Joe would be dressed in an electric blue thong and drop his shorts. Joe would follow this up with a noise that sounded like he was slurping on sticky candy, it made me dizzy and nauseous. I was bouncing between David’s house and my apartment with Bill M. I rarely saw Bill M. and he seemed to be out of the house every time I would come over. The apartment was usually filthy and I would clean as quickly as possible. Often I would be there to grab a quick change and head right back out the door. Today Bill M. was home in his room. He was screaming at someone I assumed was on the phone. I slid into my room, grabbed clothes and slid back out into the kitchen. Bill M. was in the middle of his argument when I noticed the phone in the cradle on the kitchen table. A New Chapter Starts Part 16 I look at the dishes in the sink; they are stacked one on top of the other as they climb towards the ceiling. Food has been left out on the counter to rot and there is the strong smell of decay. I open the fridge it looks as if he hasn’t touched any of his orange juice in days. I begin to wonder if he has gone off his medication again. The screaming coming from Bill M.’s bedroom is intense. It’s time to check on him to make sure that he is ok. I knock on the door and he continues to scream. I raise my fist and begin to pound, he immediately becomes silent. “Bill, are you ok?” I ask. It takes a few moments but he responds with “Just a minute, I’m busy.” “Can you come out and see me?” I ask through the closed door “I want to make sure that everything is alright.” A few more moments go by and then I hear him turn the lock and open the door. Bill M. steps out of his room and take a step towards me. The look on his face immediately worries me. “Hi, I was just checking I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Bill M. keeps his gaze steady on me. It is clear that he hasn’t taken a shower in days, his smell is overpowering. Bill M. is wearing matching red pajamas that are covered with green Christmas trees. He is unshaven and has several days of beard growth on his face; his eyes are pinched and bloodshot. “You haven’t seen me in awhile?” he asks walking towards me, every step he takes forward is a step I take back. It takes me seconds to realize that Bill M. is clearly off his medication and delusional. “You haven’t seen me in awhile?” he asks again his voice rising. I step back and put the kitchen table between us. “Really? Really? You haven’t seen me in awhile?” Every step around the table I counter, I will not let him get that close to me. “How come you’ve been listening to me?” he screams. “Do you know what it’s like to have you and everyone hovering over me and listening in to everything I say?” “Do you know how hard it is to do all of this?” he says waving his hands around the kitchen. He slowly starts to walk around the table, step for step I keep away from him. It is scene out of every horror movie, where you realize that you are talking to someone who is not there. His talking becomes faster and I can’t follow his thought pattern. “This!” he screams pointing to the sink.”This!” “Bill are you ok?” I ask trying to change whatever subject we are on at this moment. “Am I ok?” he screams, “Am I ok?” “Why wouldn’t I be?” he screams as spittle flies from his lips. “Bill are you on your medication?” I ask. “I don’t need medicine!” he screams. “You are all the same!” he says as his hands rise up and grab his face, he then begins to pull handfuls of hair in opposite directions. Bill M. is flipping out and I am going through the index box of my brain trying to figure out what to do. “If I take the pills then they can hear what I am thinking and I don’t want them to do that.” Each word is slow and punctuated and he starts to get even more distressed. “Bill,” is there someone I can call for you?” “Call for me?” “Call for me?” his eyes roll towards the ceiling “Maybe they need to call someone for you!” he screams and points at the ceiling. “Holy fuck, I’m screwed.” I think. My brain tells me to remain calm, keep him talking and head to the front door. I am going to ring Tommy and Roy’s bell, hopefully they are upstairs. I take a step to my right and Bill counters my steps. ‘Stop!” he screams “Stop, listening in on me!” Suddenly Bill lunges and I jump out of the way. With one arm he sweeps everything from the kitchen table to the floor. I fake a step to my left and make a run for the door. Bill pushes the table out of the way and is right behind me, I bolt towards the door. “All of you!” he screams “All of you!” Bill M. is right on my heels as I make it to the front door. I get one hand on the knob and the next thing I know I am flying through the air. The Devil you Know Part 1 Jay Street in Albany during the 80’s is a street in transition. There were drugs any other thing else you might need to buy at the one end of the block. On the other end is a park that consists of a broken bench and dead grass. I ran through it once after a drunk night out. It’s the middle of the street that you need to really look out for. It’s like walking on a paint strip sample, except the shades get scarier in one direction. Tommy and Roy have bought a beautiful house on the corner of Jay and Dove Street that is in need of serious repair. It is a three story pre-war building. They have been doing a lot of the work themselves because Tommy is a contractor and they have spent a lot of time on the outside and the main floor. Bill M. and I live in the basement. It really is a cool little apartment. You enter under the front stairs, unlock that door and step into a little mud room area where you have to open a second door. This second door leads into our apartment. On the other side of this door, I am crawling around on my hands and knees trying to get to it. Bill M. grabbed me, threw me through the air and is currently right behind me. Bill M. jumped on me and just like in the cartoons we are rolling back and forth on the carpet. I shove Bill M. off and I’m crawling, rolling and throwing anything that my hands can find at Bill M. Bill M. is screaming nonsensical sentences talking about the walls listening to him all the time and that he’s sick of it. I’m screaming for help and every time I yell he tells me that the landlords know what’s going on, they have been videotaping it for days. Thank god for Horror Movies because they have taught me survival skills. Even though several skills are useless like screaming, I quickly adopt the language I see when you are dealing with a lunatic. I began to talk in a soothing voice, saying things like “I understand, it’s a terrible thing that they are doing.” Bill M. cocks his head while I’m talking. I think of Frankenstein picking flowers with the little girl, my window is not open long and I need to wrap it up and get help. I come to my feet and bolt for the front door as I do I see Tommy coming home and walking to the front steps. I reach the door and start screaming, Bill M. springs back into life and lunges for me. I grab the knob with all my might and Bill M. is trying to pull me fingers off the knob. I can see Tommy talking to a neighbor and I scream. Tommy’s head turns in my direction and I unlock the front door. Bill M. and I fall into the mud room. The Devil you Know Part 2 Bill M. is completely out of control and trying to kill me. He is yelling a theory he has about me being a part of some plot to get rid of him. The more I try to talk sense the angrier he becomes. Bill M. has hit me from behind and knocked me once again to the floor; he is now punching and kicking me. Tommy has been working on the flower beds that sit in front of the building; they are storing the materials when not in use under the front stairs. I grab a bag of peat moss and knock it to the side, Bill M. is in a full incoherent rage and is making even less sense. I begin to grab handfuls of dirt and start throwing it in his face. He is sputtering and spitting the dirt back out, all the while he is swinging his fists and pummeling me. “Is everything alright?” I can hear Tommy screaming through the closed front door and I begin to scream “Help!” in response to his question. Bill M. has now grabbed the shovel and he has started swinging it, he is trying to hit me and achieves this several times. I can hear Tommy fumbling with his keys and trying to unlock the door, Bill M. swings the shovel again and I roll and he hits the floor with a “clang!” He is covered with dirt, there is dirt in the air, and Tommy is wrestling the door open and screaming for Roy to help him. Roy and Tommy always yell out the windows to each other when someone is down in front of the building. I can now hear Roy running down the stairs above me. Bill M. takes his arm and wipes his face with the back of it. I see this as my window of opportunity and hit him with all my might dead in the center of his chest. He immediately gets knocked off his feet and the shovel clatters away from him. I grab the shovel and swing it hitting in the stomach, and then I swing it again and again. Bill M. is fighting back and when Tommy pushes through the door I have the shovel above my head ready to bring it down on Bill M. Bill M. screams that I am trying to kill him with the shovel and that is exactly my thought process at this time. I have to kill him. Tommy knocks me in the chest and I drop the shovel and begin sobbing and shaking. Bill M. is telling Tommy the whole story of how I bugged the room with listening devices and how Tommy and Roy set up video cameras to film him in the apartment. Bill M. is making less and less sense by the time Roy flies through the door. I am still screaming and sobbing, Tommy has a “Holy Shit” look on his face and Bill M. is babbling. Roy seems to immediately sense that Bill M. has gone off his medication and grabs Bill M’s wrist. He begins to lead him back into the apartment and into his bedroom. Tommy helps me up and walks me out the front door. He then helps me climb the stairs to his house. He leaves me in the living room and immediately dials the police for help. Ten minutes later there are two squad cars in front of our building. Tommy meets them on the street and explains what he believes happened. I am watching them from the front window and I see them enter the basement apartment. One of the police officers walks upstairs with Tommy to take a statement from me. I can see the other officers escorting a dirt covered, rambling Bill M. into the squad car. It is clear to the officers that he is off his medication and they take him to CDPC, Capital District Psychiatric Center. He will end up staying there for six weeks. The Devil You Know Part 3 David and I talk very seriously about moving in together after Bill M’s freak out. We don’t know at that time how long Bill M. will be gone but Roy and Tommy have allegedly spoken to Bill M.s mother and are getting all the news about Bill M. from her. Roy visits me in the basement later in the day and tells me that I should probably clean up parts of the house that need it, at least look for any spoiling food left lying around. I ask if he will come in and go with me into Bill M.s bedroom. He sighs, shakes his head and walks into my house. The house still looks like a bomb has gone off in it. I still hadn’t touched anything or picked anything up from the scene earlier. Even after I saw them take Bill M. away, I still searched inside house to make sure he was gone. David promised me he was coming over later that night because I didn’t feel comfortable and I just wanted someone to be there. David makes me feel safe. Roy walks up to Bill M.s room and pushes the door further inwards, then takes a step up into the room. I stay down the one step and peer around the corner. I don’t want to go in and earlier when I searched the house, I never enter his room but stand in front of his open door listening for any movement in the room. Bill M.s room is filthy; it is just as unclean as he was when I saw him. The smell of rotting food is overpowering and Roy is talking to me while pinching his nose. “The cops tackled him here,” Roy points to the corner of the room “And dragged him through the kitchen.” Roy now pointed towards the living room and then towards the street. Roy then reaches down and pulls a rotten banana from the floor, its skin splits and its insides run over his hand to the floor. Roy gags. It takes the rest of the day until the house is clean; we finish just 10 minutes before David arrives. He just came from working a shift at Jack’s. When I answer the door to him, his shirt is open and the bow tie is around his neck. I suddenly feel safer. David and I lock my bedroom door just in case we are going to be killed in the middle of the night. By morning we are talking about how safe I might be living with Bill M. I need to make more money if I am going to move in with David because there are so many expenses that come up with moving and I want to make this break as quick and clean as possible. I start by letting Tommy and Roy know my plan, they are concerned that I will leave without paying rent and because Bill M. is in the hospital they fear that they could get screwed. I swear to Roy that I will not screw him and I even cross my heart with my index finger to show how serious I am. I have taken a new job at the Jewish Community Center in Albany and will take any shift that I can. It will not make me enough money and I still have been looking for another job. Luckily, I have a couple of leads. A friend of mines mother owns a new business that makes balloon bouquets and delivers them. I lie at the initial interview and tell them that I have a driver’s license; it’s pretty clear by the way I look that I walked to the interview. All I have to my name is a GED, a roommate that recently tried to kill me, a hot boyfriend and a fear of the dark. I tend to not say that at any interviews I go to. My friend and co-worker at the JCC is worried about my state of mind, she asks me if I want to go on a one day trip to New York City. She’s originally from the Bronx and she’s driving. The Devil You Know Part 4 The trip to the Bronx is both amazing and terrifying. We start the day in New York City. I quickly notice that New York City is a magic land of burning cars, homeless drug addicts, Hookers on the stroll and shady deals going on everywhere. The crazies here are aggressive and in your face. We park in a lot near the Port Authority and then step out into the world that we just viewed from the safety of the car. I immediately notice a giant poster for the musical Nine as we are leaving the parking lot. Its nine feet tall and I plan on acquiring it before I leave. I touch it as we pass and I figure out that I just have to pop it forward and it will come right out of the frame. Sue and I link arms to each other as we stumble onto 42nd Street. The world around me swirls with Peep Shows, bruised Hookers in windows, 3 card Monty being played, drunk business men slapping each other on the back and boys spinning on their heads to hip hop music. I am in love. This is where I need to be and it’s never been clearer in my life. Broadway is gritty and exciting, Madonna look alikes are everywhere, Keith Haring is the art, women have giant teased hairdos and beautiful boys in eyeliner line the streets. The subways are filthy and there is no air conditioning. I watch as a homeless woman with a mountain of garbage bags takes up one side of the car. We ride into the village chanting 8th street, 8th street. We have to stop in at Trash and Vaudeville and ask the man with giant spiked hair and kilt where the 8th Street Playhouse is. The Playhouse is showing Rocky Horror at Midnight, I have to touch the side of that theatre today or we are not going home. I am in a swirl of people that I am fascinated with. It is a beautiful bizarre carnival filled with Freaks, Old women in house coats next to Models next to Junkies!!!! Sign me up! I’m coming! This is it; I will be back as soon as I can to live here forever! The day is memorable, I have met the love of my life and it’s New York City. Sue and I stop in a liquor store and get a bottle put in a brown paper bag with two straws. It’s late when we head back to the parking garage, the sun has set and we have had a full day running around. Sue pays the man behind the cracked bullet proof window for her car and we walk to where she’s parked it, a spray painted penis is pointing the way to our aisle. I climb into the passenger seat as Sue starts the car and backs out. I remind her to pull up next to the Nine Poster; it’s going to be mine. I swing the door open even before Sue stops the car; I jump out, run up to the poster push it up and pop it back to me and It becomes free in my hands. If Sue can pop the back of the car there is a huge space in the back of the car where I can lay the poster on top of our suitcases. My heart is pounding as Sue and I heave the poster into the car and run back to the front. We both slide in to the front and Sue peels away from the empty poster frame. Laughing as we head out of the garage I raise my hand and notice that I have cut the side of it. Blood is all over my palm and I slowly put together what’s going on. I look in the back and under the poster is nothing, no luggage, no boxes, nothing. I then notice that a hole was punched in the back side window and broken glass is all over my seat, I cut my hand on the glass sliding into the seat. Sue and I start to freak out as the clues to what happened to my hand become clear through our boozy haze. Someone broke into our car and stole our suitcases. Sue is freaking out as she figures out what’s missing and what has happened. The plan is that we will spend the night as planned in the Bronx, leave in the morning. We can sleep and drive in the clothes we have and we can shower at Sue’s house. Good plan. We pull into a McDonalds in the Bronx to get a hamburger, we have very little money and when we get back in the car we see that our front seat has now been stolen. The Devil You Know Part 5 Sue has had it, through her sobs I listen to her, all she wanted was to go away for a day, have fun and show me her home in the Bronx. “Goddamned Motherfuckers,” she screams into the air. There are large groups of people hanging out who begin to laugh and mock her. “Sue, get in the car and we will figure it out later,” I say gently taking her elbow. “Where the fuck am I supposed to sit? “Where the fuck am I supposed to sit?” She screams again towards the groups of people hanging out. “Boo Hoo Hoo,” screams a male voice back at her from the crowd. “You better control your woman Faggot,” someone screams at me from the group. “Get in the car,” I hiss at her, all I need now is to take on a group in a fight in front of McDonalds, in the Bronx. “I want to go home,” Sue sobs. “Get in the car and we can go,” I say opening her door. “No, I want to go home!” she screams. ‘We are going home,” I assure her. “To Albany?” she sobs. “Yo, is there a problem going on over here?” one of the guys from the group asks as he begins to walk towards us, the rest of the group starts to snicker. Sue turns on him and starts screaming “Someone took my mother fucking car seat while I was in McDonalds for five minutes!” The guy stands still but pushes his head back as Sue approaches him. “But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you!” Sue raises her hands as if to pound on him and I rush forward, grab her hands and pull her back. I figure we have about one minute to get out of here before we will have a real bad problem on our hands. “Get her Faggot,” a male voice screams. I grab Sue and drag her back to the car and make her get in. “How am I supposed to drive?” she sobs and pounds on the steering wheel. There is really no way to drive the car without a seat and I look around about fifteen feet from me there is a milk crate. I close Sue’s door and walk over and grab the milk crate and run around to the passenger side and climb in. “Here sit on this I instruct her.” Sobbing, Sue sits on the milk crate and starts the car. She backs up, turns around and pulls out but not before giving the finger to the large group of guys, who break into hysterics the minute she does it. They mime “Boo Hoo,” as we drive away. ‘Keep driving,” I tell her as she cries openly. Twenty minutes later we find another milk crate in the gutter and I sit on that for the long drive back to Albany. This experience has sobered us up, and I do my best to cheer her up on the way home and make her laugh. The next couple of days we laugh and tell everyone the crazy story of us driving to the Bronx and getting our car seat stolen. It’s been chalked up as “Just one of those things.” I am offered a job at the flower/balloon delivery company called Balloon-Age. My friend Marcie’s Mom owns it and I spend the first several weeks dodging giving her my non-existent driver’s license. “Tomorrow,” I tell her as I climb into the driver’s seat of the van. Balloon-Age will deliver anything for a buck and they do. Marcie’s Mom gets the idea to also offer singing telegrams and brings on a girl that tap dances and changes the lyrics of songs to fit someone’s name into it, she rides along with me in the van. I am told, that I will do the role of the Singing Gorilla, Good Humor Man or any other male role that she can sell to have her flowers/balloons delivered. We get several calls for a male stripper and Marcie’s Mom tries to entice me with the pay of $35.00 per strip if I’ll do it. After the fifth call she turns down, I decide to do it. A call comes in later in the day for a male stripper, it’s for a Bachelorette party and I am asked if I can dress as a cop. We only have the Gorilla or the Good Humor Man costume so those are her choices, Marcie’s Mom answers back while she gives me a thumbs up. I am a nervous wreck, I weigh about 150 pounds soaking wet and I haven’t really been working out. I am driving the van dressed as the Good Humor Man when I pull up to the hotel with the party in it. I walk into the room shaking, flowers in one hand, poem with Bachelorette’s name in the other hand. The place is packed and the Bachelorette’s Mother and Grandmother sit on either side of her. Everyone coos in excitement. The minute I finish my song, I begin to strip. Well strip is the wrong word; I am more like Coco in the movie fame except for crying, I am on the verge of tears and I really don’t want to take anything off. I look and feel pathetic and the look of anticipation that all the women had when I arrived is now gone and replaced with a look of “What the fuck?” I finish my strip and the Bachelorettes Grandmother says “That’s it? And then they all go back to talking as if I am not there. I bend over and grab up my clothes but I am reminded by the piece of paper near my clothes, I am still supposed to get the Mother of the Bachelorette to sign the form to say I was here. I have to wait a good five minutes before I can get the Mother to turn around and sign, she shakes her head as she sighs. The Devil You Know Part 6 Very quickly I come to hate my job at Balloon-Age. Marcie’s Mom is annoying, loud, pushy, obnoxious and almost helpless when it comes to doing anything. She constantly reminds us that she is the boss but makes us do all her work. She will answer phones, write up the tickets and hand them to us. Another problem for me is that she begins to suggest a male stripper to appear at everything from a Bar Mitzvah to a bris. My current job for Balloon-Age consists of filling balloons with helium, arranging flowers, driving the van without a license, delivery, stripping and singing telegrams. I am miserable. I talk to David about how miserable I am and he suggests finding another job, surely I am going to be fired when she finds out I have been driving the van without a valid license. David has added another job to his growing list of jobs as well. He has started taking shifts as a bartender at The Gemini Jazz Café on the corner of Lark and Madison. I meet him one night after work and fall in love with the place. The first night I am there I meet Bob from Sesame Street. I ask him for his autograph and he signs a cocktail napkin “Oscar says have a rotten night.” He is appearing in a show at The Egg down on the plaza. The Egg has its own theatre company Run by Pat Snyder. It consists of a twelve company ensemble, rehearsal studios, dance studios, offices and enormous theatres all run by the State of New York. The Gemini Jazz Café sits right on the corner and is four stories high. There is a kitchen and bar on the first and third floor and a bar and dance floor on the second. The owners are a straight couple named Jack and Frankie. Jack is about sixty years old, red hair, little glasses, handlebar moustache and a smoking pipe permanently affixed in the corner of his mouth and Frankie is a little blonde in her late twenty’s who used to be a waitress there. Jack was married and divorced once or twice before. They live on the fourth floor and have a glorious loft space. The first night I am there I become fast friends with them and soon I am there almost every night. One night Frankie and I have a whipped cream fight while the place is open and serving dinner. Frankie has a bull whip that she keeps cracking it while she chases me through the place. I keep tackling her and spraying whipped cream in her hair and on her clothes, finally Jack puts an end to the nonsense and we stop long enough to surrender the bull whip to Jack who then chases me and Frankie through the place while cracking the bull whip. David and I start to spend a lot of time with Jack and Frankie. Jack is constantly tweaked out of his mind and sniffing and sometimes I find David in the same state of mind. There is a waiter named Mark who works there and Jack and Frankie keep inviting us to come upstairs and use the bull whip on him. I gently decline. I’m so excited because I go to a theatre audition and get a bit part in Albany Civic Theatres Heaven Can Wait. I am in the first five minutes of the show, I play a recently dead body that drowned and is entering heaven with about twenty other people also playing dead bodies. I look sporty with my hair slicked down wearing a forties bathing suit. I am told that I have to wait around all night for the curtain call. It’s ok because one of the main actors in the show is this guy named Duncan and I am completely taken with him. The Devil You Know Part 7 I became fast friends with everyone in the cast and was totally excited about seriously making my life in the theatre, even though it was community theatre, I was in another show. Heaven Can Wait was interesting to watch from the wings for the first week and then I started to get bored. I was hoping to be discovered as dead body number 3, drowning victim, by someone in the audience within the first five minutes I was out there. I was hoping to get a chance at a second show somewhere. I was always trying to get everyone’s attention in the cast and lived just to be onstage. Fifteen minutes before the show ended, me and the other dead bodies would run to the dressing room and reapply our corpse make up for the curtain call. We had to look freshly dead as the curtain came down. One night after the show the director pulled me aside and reminded me that corpses don’t wear rouge. I reminded her that I was freshly dead. She reminded me that what she said went. Two of the friends I made at Albany Civic Theatre were Ann and Iris; they both played maids in the show and were very close friends. Iris had a twisted sense of humor and a wicked laugh that came quick and fast. Ann was a little more low key and had a laugh that reminded me of a fog horn, if you made her laugh she would bleat like a goat and then snort it back in. Iris loved to make Ann laugh onstage and we would often draw attention to ourselves in the wings while Ann was out there. Iris was a little dizzy and referred to herself as a “Total Blonde.” Even though her blond hair came from a box and she was a little zaftig, she adopted what she believed was the proper behavior to go with her hair color. Iris even went as far to adopt the voice of Marilyn Monroe, not only onstage but in life as well. So many times I would tell her that I didn’t understand what she said in a breathy tone, that she would repeat it in her native Bronx tone. Ann on the other hand wanted to be a serious actress, which was her goal in life. Standing at Four foot ten with a face that only a mother could love she cut a shapely figure with a tiny waist. Her ass on the other hand was enormous and would often leave the stage five minutes after she did, but it was a spectacular ass. We would joke that it had its own dressing room. When Iris and I were not on stage we would hang out in the costume shop and try things on. Rumor had it that the costume shop was haunted along with the theatre. It was a converted old firehouse and the closet in the costume shop lead to a tower. There was a metal ladder attached to the inside of the closet that leads to the roof and it would slightly bang on the wall during a windy day. If we listened close we could always hear the ghosts of dead fireman calling to us, or at least that’s what we thought. One game we would play in the costume shop while the show was going on was to go into the closet with a costume in your hand, turn out the lights and try to put it on. We never made it and we were sure that someone was in the closet with us; we would end up scrambling to get out. Iris had a roommate named Pam. Pam looked very much like Pam Greer in her afro phase and she had exotic records that she was always listening to. One album cover that we sneaked a look at had a naked effeminate guy totally on the cover. The title of the album was Prince but we thought Prince would be better titled Princess. Pam would tell us to shut the fuck up whenever we talked about Prince. An apartment opened up downstairs from Pam and Iris and Ann moved in. Everything was great until Ann took out a restraining order against Iris because she believed that Iris was stalking her. I knew that Iris was completely consumed with Ann but did not know that many times Iris would climb down the fire escape and sneak into Ann’s house when she wasn’t around. One night I spent the night at Iris and Pam’s. We tied a glove to a broom handle lowered it out the window to Ann’s window where we taped on her window. Iris told me that she wanted to scare Ann and Ann thinking that Iris was breaking in to her house called the Albany Police. Five minutes later just as I was pretending to be Linda Blair on Iris’ bed the police arrived. I was bouncing myself into the air pretending I was possessed when the bell rang. Iris began to panic when the police announced through the intercom that they were here. Iris looked at me and I quickly told her to take off her clothes. I followed suit, stripped my clothes off and messed up our hair and pulled the sheets from the bed and wrapped them around ourselves. I told her to tell them that we were having sex and that was the noise that Ann heard. Ann screamed “He’s Gay!” when she overheard Iris’ excuse for the noise. “And you’re crazy!” Iris screamed down the stairs. The cops clearly didn’t want to get involved, told us to keep the noise down and returned to their patrol car. From there they drove to the top of the hill where they had a direct view into the front window of Iris’ apartment. We came up with an idea as we watched them with the lights off. I stepped in front of the window and dropped my sheet, and then Iris came to meet me and stand naked in the window with me. The cops believing our story quickly drove off. Ann was a good friend but I also enjoyed torturing her a little because she was always so dramatic with every story. I introduced her to Jack and Frankie and she became part of our little group. One night I went to get David from work and was told by the bartender that everyone was upstairs at Jacks house. I climbed the back staircase and knocked on the door. No one answered but I could hear people in there. I pushed the door opened and stepped into the room. The sounds were coming from the living room. As I turned the corner I saw Frankie wearing an SS Uniform, Ann was chained naked to a wall and Frankie was beating her with a riding crop. When Frankie sees me she holds out the riding crop and asks if I want a turn. The Devil You Know Part 8 I am completely shocked by what I see as I slowly walk into the room. Jack is sitting completely naked in a chair, his legs are crossed and a pipe hangs out of the side of his mouth and he has a devilish glint in his eyes. David is also sitting in a chair but has nothing more than a pair of underpants on. I feel like Rosemary from Rosemary’s Baby, when she enters the Witches party and confirms that her baby has been fathered by the Devil. I don’t want anyone to talk to me it’s a lot to take in. “Hi Ann,” I say pretending she has all her clothes on as I walk around her. Frankie still has the crop extended in her arm towards me. “No thanks,” I tell her and just that moment Mark walks into the room in a harness. “What the hell is going on in here?” my brain asks. I don’t even know how to process this and I decide that the best way is to excuse myself and get out of here. Jack stands up, his little belly covers his penis and I realize that I just glanced down at it so I quickly that I switch my eyes up and notice his handlebar moustache is curled up on each side. He still has that twinkle in his eye and the smoke from his pipe, circles his head like a bow. I move my eyes to the table that split Jack and there is a pile of a white substance that I know is cocaine. It is piled high on a mirror with additional lines and a straw separated off to one side of the mirror. A smile crosses David’s face and Jack takes a step towards me. This is a little too much to put together in my brain and I take a step backwards from this little group. For a brief moment the thought to stay crosses my mind but I am not comfortable and need time to think on it. I do what I do best when confronted with a situation that makes me uncomfortable, I run. I just turn around, take a step around Mark in his harness, Frankie in her SS uniform and Ann chained to the wall and hit the stairs running. I don’t stop until I make my way back to Jay Street and enter my apartment. It is exactly how I left it and Bill M. still hasn’t returned and we haven’t heard anything in a couple of weeks about his progress. David and I are supposed to officially move in together and I have begun the packing. I want to give Bill M. plenty of time to find a new roommate before I leave but I haven’t even had that conversation, I don’t want to visit him in the psych ward and tell him my plans. It’s hours later that David appears at my apartment, he wants to apologize for freaking me out, everyone is sorry that I wasn’t told or asked in advance and Jack and Frankie want me to come back later for a drink. I tell him that “I will think about it,” but I know I will. I don’t return that night but several days later I do. Jack teases me about how I ran out and how if I stayed he would be gentle. Frankie comes downstairs and sits on the side of me as David stands behind me. We form a twisted, bizarre little family who at this moment need to be in each other’s lives. It’s weird when I see Ann but she just shrugs and says “A moment in time.” Soon David is over at The Gemini Jazz Café on a nightly and most of the day basis, he will come home and five minutes later its Jack or Frankie who need something and David is back there. When Frankie calls the house because Jack has punched, kicked or slapped her when he is drunk, David’s there to hear Jack apologize for doing it. I start to watch a slide in David’s behavior; he is constantly on beck and call for Jack. I believe that he cares deeply for both of them and has tried to talk Frankie out of staying again and again; he is also there to protect Frankie. How do you get someone to leave who won’t? Five of the six weeks are almost up for Bill M. when I walk up the block to go to work at the Gemini Jazz Café as I get closer the smell of burning wood fills my nostrils and smoke hangs in the air. As I get closer I realize that there is no building left on the corner of Dove and Madison. Over the next three hours I am about to learn that the Gemini Jazz Café has burned down, the fire started in two places and the owners have left via boat for somewhere. The Devil You Know Part 9 It would be twenty years before I would learn the truth about what really happened to the Gemini Jazz Cafe. Two days after the fire was put out, the insurance company refused to pay for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons was that the fire started in two places and they couldn’t determine what the accelerant was and the second reason had something to do with the smoke and fire alarms. Rumor circled through the community and through Albany, which is how we got our news. No one knew what had happened for sure and David had gone out of town for two days for some emergency. The staff of the Gemini Jazz Café, had not been paid in about two weeks and I had officially started working there. Jack, pipe in hand given me a piece of advice, so I had told the owner of Balloon-Age to fuck herself. Jack had heard me talk about how I was being booked repeatedly to do nothing but stripping with a balloon delivery. “Seriously”, I told Jack, “I wouldn’t have hired me as a stripper for bachelorette parties.” Clearly when I showed up, I was a skinny, scrawny extremely gay kid who would put his all into it. The problem was that I was a nervous wreck and couldn’t wait for it to be over. The only good news that came out of this was that I never had to produce my nonexistent driver’s license to the owner of Balloon-Age. I had bills to pay and no money. Jack and Frankie were allegedly arrested on their boat in Florida during the week and maintained that they had nothing to do with the fire. There was no way that anyone was getting paid. Unbeknownst to me, Bill M. would be on his way home from the hospital soon. I was screwed and I needed a plan. The next day, I go to the SUNY Albany Art Department and start to work as a nude model for their advanced drawing classes. It was easy; I could start that very day. No one tells me what to do or how to do it, so I wing it. I’m wearing a tiny robe with nothing on underneath. At the front of the room was a little stage and the chairs surrounded it. Students were already sitting there with blank paper on their easels as I spot the teacher. She smiles and motions me to the stage. I turn my back on the students, drop my robe and pose without moving for about 15 minutes. After the third fifteen minute pose, the teacher kindly come over and asks me if I wouldn’t mind facing front for “at least one” of my poses. We negotiate for about five minutes and I get to sit in a folding chair if I will face front. During my legs crossed, sitting on a folding chair pose, I began to think. This was money and I needed it and it was money and it paid bills and got me things that I needed. Soon I began to ask around about other jobs and looked in the help wanted ads in the back of the paper. I walked up and down Lark Street looking for a job. One day I walked into a gay card store that was located in a basement building and asked if they knew of any jobs. From behind a small row of poppers, the desk clerk tells me that I should meet his friend, a photographer named Joe Romeo. The Devil You Know Part 10 Joe Romeo had a shop on Lark Street where he sold knickknacks; he lived above his shop and could access his home through a back door. I had a 2 pm meeting with him and dressed as nicely as I could. I was told that he was looking for models for a book he was working on. Joe answered the door on the first ring. He was handsome with his dark Italian looks in his little white tank peeking out through a cut up short sleeve flannel shirt. His arms were strong looking and he flexed a muscle as he placed his hand on the door frame. He was impeccably groomed with a little 70s porn moustache, twinkling blue eyes that had just a hint of mischief and he was wearing tight blue jeans with black work boots and had a body that clearly lived at the gym. He smiled, cooked his head, put out his hand and said “Geoff, You’re much more handsome than I thought you would be.” His eyes twinkled and a smile crossed his face. He was charming and I could tell that I was not the first that he turned his charm on with. Joe motioned for me to follow him into his house. “Can I get you something to drink?” he asked holding the door open for me. “Just water,” I responded. Joe pointed to one of the light brown leather couches that were separated by a coffee table. “Of course,” he said and then walked into what I was sure was the kitchen. Quickly, looking around the room, I saw frames filled with pictures of muscle men they decorated the walls, the pictures sat on bookshelves, in piles on the coffee table and on the sideboard. It was dark in his apartment, the curtains were drawn over the windows but I could see the light peeking through the sides. The furniture was early Art Deco and a full ashtray sat on the coffee table, its ashes had spilled over the side and lightly dusted the table. Joe walked back into the room, placed the water on a coaster in front of me, pulled out a cigarette. He lit up while sitting down, his eyes twinkled again. “Do you know what I do?” he asked his eyes showing that mischievous twinkle. “You are a photographer and you’re looking for models for a book that you are doing?” I responded reaching for the water. It was suddenly hot in here. “I am,” he said reaching under the coffee table for something. He fumbled for a moment then pulled out several photo albums that all had varying thicknesses to them and placed them on the table. He opened the first book and slid it towards me. The pictures in the album were all soft porn and the models all had something over their privates, a hat here a drape there. “I shoot for various magazines and you would look great in their pages,” Joe said pushing another photo album in front of me. Each album started to show more skin and less soft porn. I pulled a cigarette out of my pack and lit up; it was getting hot in here! I took another sip of water and said “Do you think so?””Be cool,” I told myself. I was learning to work the game as well, let’s hear where this offer was going. “Can I get you a drink?” Joe asked leaning forward on the couch. “I’m fine with water,” I said thumbing through the books. “I would like to shoot you in your own setting,” Joe said suddenly getting back to business, “The pay is good and it’s a one day shoot.” “Can you stand up for me?” he asked dragging on his cigarette. I placed the book I was looking at on the coffee table and slowly stood up. “How tall are you?”he asked looking me up and down. “Six feet,” I responded. “Can you take your clothes off for me?” Joe asked waving his hand as if to make my clothes disappear. “I’m sorry?” I asked again. “Can you take your clothes off?” he said waving his hand again. For some reason I hadn’t thought that this would be part of it. “Sure,sure” I said putting out my cigarette trying not to seem nervous. Joe leaned back on the couch and looked at me. I stepped on the back of my shoes and slipped one foot out at a time, and then I reached down and took off my socks. I could feel the sweat forming on the back of my neck as I reached down and grabbed the bottom of my shirt. I pulled in up in one quick jerk and over my head and threw it still turned inside out onto the couch. Joe smiled and motioned with his chin for me to remove my pants. I grab my belt buckle and yank it back and the top of my pants slide to my knees, bending over, I push them to my ankles. Joe pauses for a moment as I step out of my pants. I look at him and he motions again with his chin “Your underpants as well,” he says through whispered breath. I turn and face the couch with my back to him, my stomach starts to lurch, this doesn’t feel right at all. “Your underpants as well,” he says a little louder this time. I hook my thumbs in the front of my waistband and slide them to the floor and step out of them. “Turn around,” he whispers. I stand frozen. “Turn around,” he whispers again. I swallow hard and slowly began to turn towards him. “Nice, nice,” he says in that whispery tone. I stand facing him with my arms at my sides; I never look in his eyes, I’m not really here. “Now……I….need…..you….to……get…..an…..erection, “he says slowly pausing on each word, I continue to look at the ceiling. The Devil You Know Part 11
8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 4
8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 13
8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 16
To be continued……
Geoffrey Doig-Marx holds all written and electronic rights to his writing “A Day in the Life”. It can not be reprinted in part or whole without his written consent.