While the lowest point of my life was sitting in a recliner in someone’s basement doped up on pills, there were many previous disasters that dragged me to that point.
I had lost my job, then my house and then the final blow… I lost my children. Surely I could have taken immediate action and changed my ways ASAP.
But first I had to get high and oh yeah, get drunk too and let’s not forget going out to bars and to make bad decisions about people that put myself in serious danger.
What the hell was I thinking? That was just it… I was NOT thinking. I was too busy playing the victim and blaming my life on everyone and everything else.
When I first lost my job I could have probably done the following: FOUND A NEW EFFING JOB!
I could have done a lot of things… but that didn’t fit my ‘victim mentality’ and while I was playing the ‘damsel in distress’ I was really a disastrous damsel spitting hellfire and burning every bridge I crossed. That life seems a world away now. Thank goodness for second chances.
Disastrous damsel; wicked and free
Who is this angel you pretend to be
Blackness is your state of mind
Your screaming soul, so unkind
Is this really who you are
Or did your game go too far
Take your breath and suck it out
Breath back in without a doubt
Life really can be joyous and true
Have faith in love and have faith in you.
People really do change… they just need a really good reason to change.
When I was little, I was a kid. And when I was a kid, I did things because I wanted to do them. I had no insurgent idea about right and wrong or good and bad.
I just was.
Others instilled inside of me the fears, doubts, hopes, dreams, love, hate, good and bad that leaked inside me and I carried this into society as I grew.
That’s how it goes.
One day, I was standing in my grandmother’s yard, awed by the beauty of flowers by the front step. Their bright petals with the dark colored faces stunned my thoughts as I stood motionless; the beauty captivated my little mind and I needed to be closer.
I bent down and smelled the brilliant blooms and just like that, I plucked the delicate flower from its bed.
I plucked it for my own selfish needs – for no other reason. I just wanted it.
I stole its little life.
I skipped away with my new trophy.
I would steal flower lives intermittently as my life swirled and changed. They were so pretty, so magical.
I wanted to be like the flowers I picked.
Then one day long after that day…
It didn’t matter how many flowers I picked.
They would always die. And so would my happiness.
Later, after many withered flower carcasses…
I let the flowers just be – as I just was – and I would visit them.
My grandmother was my weekend sidekick as we drove all over Northeast Philly and Bucks County, PA on ‘outings’ to mystical places like New Hope, PA, and Clover on Frankford Avenue. We were in the Acme on Torresdale Avenue across from Lindenfield projects (they have since been torn down) and we went through the usual routine. Gram would get food for the weekend along with whatever I wanted. All I had to do was ask.
“Gram, can I get these people snack crackers?” I asked her once excited at the fact of me being able to ingest mini, crunchy people.
“People don’t taste very good,” I garbled between crunches. I ate two of them before I read the box and figured out that they were dog biscuits.
Clearly, I needed therapy long before it became a thing.
Once, we were in the checkout line and I eyeballed rows upon rows of Snickers, Milky Way, M & M’s chocolate candies along with boxes of colorful gum. Oh, the gum! There were skinny seven-stick packs of minty stuff stamped Wrigley and then the best of all: Chicklets and Bubblicious! There were these little snack packs of gum that came in a yellow pouch. I forget what they were called but they were eye catching.
This day my eye was drawn to a pack of watermelon Bubblicious. I stared at it for a good two minutes, imagining a big, juicy wad of that gum in my mouth, sticking to my tiny teeth as the scent of fake watermelon wafted to my nostrils while drool puddled at the corners of my mouth.
I looked at my grandmother who was busy putting groceries on the conveyor belt. I looked behind me. No one there and on either side of me was racks of candy and magazines.
I could hear my heart beating as I snatched the watermelon wonder off the rack and slid it in my shorts pocket. I looked around again. No one was staring at me. No sirens or alarms rang. No dog came charging down the aisle with gnashing teeth ready to bite off my thieving hand.
I played it cool. I did it. I got away with theft. I was a bonified genius.
We went out to the car, loaded the groceries, got in and before we even pulled out of the parking lot, I decided… I wanted a piece of my new gum.
Bonified genius my ass…
I pulled it out of my pocket unwrapped a piece and popped it in my mouth. It was glorious! It tasted better than I had imagined and I truly had little drool pockets at the corners of my mouth. I smiled and looked at my grandmother who was staring me down which made me super uncomfortable.
“Where did you get that?” she asked me calmly.
I just kept staring at her like a corrupt criminal under the blazing spotlight of degradation while I flipped through a catalog of excuses in my mind.
“Darlene, did you steal that gum?” she asked in the same calm voice.
My catalog was empty, after all, I was seven. I had no justification except, “I wanted it.”
Again in her same calm voice, “I am so disappointed in you,” she said and pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street.
The gum, now rancid and bitter, sat in the cheek of my mouth as we drove home. I looked out the passenger window filled with shame and discomfort. My eyes welled with tears but I wouldn’t let them fall. I had to get rid of this gum. Just holding it – my tainted prize of pushing boundaries – felt dirty.
I threw the gum in the trash (chewed piece too!) as soon as we got home. I never stole anything again.
Hard lessons stick the best… sometimes better than stolen gum.