It is the middle of October. Pressure had been put on schools to offer ‘in-person’ teaching. Our city now planned to bring students into the buildings starting next week. It had taken some juggling to figure out how I would make this work for me personally, but I was now prepared.
All employees of the district were called into a meeting in order to be given more details on what to expect. Sitting in chairs placed six feet apart and wearing masks, we had just listened to our superintendent talk about protocols around ‘keeping kids and staff safe.’ She had now handed the meeting over to someone I did not recognize; to discuss administering MAP testing to students when they got back.
My mind wandered as none of this was relevant to my class. (Not to mention the fact I hated all this testing b.s.)
There was a ‘creative writing’ contest that I decided to enter. Telling my students about it, I promised to share my entry with them on Friday; it would be this week’s article I gave them to read and reflect on.
Paying little attention to the voice in front of me talking about “the importance of this data driven analyses,” I struggled with the words I would use to end my story…
Week 6- (10.16.20) – “dIverge”
What if I could have caught a break? What if I didn’t give up?? What if…they believed???
As I walk the quiet streets in darkness, the ‘what ifs’ come and go like the streetlights passing bye. One after another. This had become my life now. Even though today would be the day, it was truly no different than any other.
My life was like a movie playing over and over in my mind. But it is only now that I finally accept not all movies have a happy ending.
When did life dIverge on me?
I knew the answer to this question far too well…
It was the day of that fire; the day I watched my life go up in flames. I would never recover from the burns that fire left on my heart and soul. Maybe it was my destiny all along?
The date today is April 15th, 2040. Where had the time gone?
Please do not think I did not try. I wanted to get better for my kids, my family, my friends- For all those people that believed I could. But I just could not defeat the demons that tormented me. I remember everything so vividly. Relentlessly, day after day, the dark clouds blocked all light from entering my world.
What else could I do but use? To open that box??
They wanted ‘Happy Me’ again, and that was the only way I knew how. I was just doing what they wanted…wasn’t I???
It worked for a while, but of course it never would last (I know that now). Eventually they got fed up with that me as well. Even then, I did not give up. I did what I had to do to try and get back on that bull; to be the father, son, and husband they all wanted me to be. That I wanted to be. But it was too little too late.
My wife left me. My kids were kept from me ‘until I got better.’ My parents had to walk away from me completely because watching what I was doing to myself destroyed them. Everyone did what they had to for their own personal salvation. I never blamed them, and I do not blame them now.
For a while I stayed in sober living and was grateful to have a roof over my head. I say that now that I know what it is like to live on the streets. Maybe I wasn’t truly grateful back then…who knows?
I remember everything today…
I remember that for a while, the minimum wage job gave me some purpose.
I remember that for a while, I felt proud sending what little money I could to my kids.
I remember that for a while, I did my best to do ‘the next right thing.’
But unfortunately, I could never accept where life had taken me. I needed to escape.
So today, I remember that for a while, Vodka did the trick.
It was never my ‘drug of choice,’ but it was cheap, and it helped me forget. I wasn’t hurting anyone. At first, I remember….
Today I am sick. I know I should not have left the hospital, but what was the point?
My liver is failing, and I don’t have much time left. My body is shaking because it needs its medicine. But it is late, and no one is on the streets. During the day I could scrape together a few dollars for a cheap bottle and a bag of chips (that was my diet for so long now).
Slowly walking towards the tunnel entrance, I recall the first time I begged for money. It was at this intersection right here. I was ashamed, obviously, as I remembered how I looked at beggars earlier on in my life.
Quickly, however, I realized that no one here knew me. Even if they had known me in the past, no one recognized the person that the P.A.I.N had turned me into.
Life on the streets became normal. Never easy, but normal.
Over the years I was laughed at and ridiculed more times than I can count. Little did those people know that I once dreamt about being the person to save the world from self-destruction. How delusional I once was.
As I descend the stairs, tears begin to gather in my eyes. Which is a feat in itself as someone so dehydrated usually cannot cry. But the swelling in my brain must be causing enough pressure to push what little water is left out of my system.
My body knew it was time.
My friends were in their usual places as the last train would be making its final stop for the night. We needed to find a place to sleep down here before they closed the gates; or we would be left out on the streets for what remained of the night. Sometimes we were kicked out, but not tonight. “Thank you for that,” I thought to myself.
I could smell the moldy air and moist concrete as the sound of rumbling made it’s way to my ears.
It was time.
I lowered myself onto the tracks; in the shadows so that no one would have to see- It was the least I could do. If I timed it right, no one would know. That is how I want it to be. Finally, to detach, forever.
As the rumbling became louder, I thought of my three boys. I once had dreams of making them so proud.
Quietly, I whispered into the darkness, “If there is anyone listening, I am sorry. If you want to grant me one wish, let it be that they forget me.”
With those words directed to the universe I closed my eyes and hugged Billy’s tattered book to my chest. I could sense the bright light approaching as the noise became louder and louder. Calmly I took my last breath, finally accepting…
“I am insignificant.”
Week 6- Question for Reflection:
What do the words diverge, destiny, and detach mean to you?