I went back today.
Know that smell, that wafting breeze that takes you back to a past place, a time, a precise moment that you feel one with? Where you think you felt a presence, saw a face, heard a voice? Powerful, it overtakes you - and upon your return to the actual moment you stay dizzy, overwhelmed by it all....
The "W". Ah, yes - thats what the kids are calling it nowadays. Williamsburg... Now home to yuppy-ville, an avant garde era of art and celebrity. Nothing but a shit hole when I was growing up. See, the primary heart of Williamsburg consisted of The Projects. Where I grew up, that in itself may have and could have very well been an entire little city. Puerto Ricans and Jews. Those two worlds. Cultures, each very strong, very ethnic - I got to view it and be in it. What a joy.
I go back sometimes....
I go back, I endure the stares, the looks, the nodding of the heads of the women, "ah, there goes 'nebach', a girl with a ruined life. Girls, mama has lived... My how times have changed. The success I have become, from the filth of your mouth's I am a phoenix risen from the ashes of the fires you created.
As an adult in the secular world, with a college degree and a hard earned career I try to see the world in many shades of color. See it the way I would like to be seen... Not to see an entire memory, an entire community as one. Try to see the individuals in the crowd.
Yet today when I went back....
The familiar faces. What may seem rabbinical to the secular eye, was natural for me growing up.... The garb, the facial hair, the mini-vans, the double parked cars, the running, the yelling, the lights and sirens. They all enmeshed. And all of a sudden, the thick skin I developed after being ran out of this neighborhood in itself, the scum, the underbelly of society I had sunk into which ultimately saved myself, veered its ugly eye on me and I felt like that vulnerable angry kid again.
All I saw was a face of an elderly gentleman. He wasnt even looking my way, but I could almost hear him, spewing fanatisicm, anger - spit on his beard, at the outcry and shock and shame I was bringing to a generation by "talking to boys"! How his daughters, the people in his shul to be advised on shabbos during prayers to watch their kids nto to be friends with me. The disgrace I brought to a community when I asked questions, challenged - only wanting to know the truth... A woman pushing a baby carriage caught my eye and I saw the teachers I so hungered to learn from, only to know that they themselves barely believed in what they taught - young and inexperienced they were, teaching adolescents and teens what was fed to them... I saw the resentment in the children's eyes, as if almost asking me how I dared. How I dared question, how I dared chase my questions, my dreams which may have turned into nightmares... How I searched and searched, injured myself, drowned in substances, drugs, pain, self mutilation, without a concrete answer. As my boots crunched at the freshly fallen snow, I treaded on what I felt were droplets of my blood long seeped into those concrete filthy streets. The days and nights I spent walking those streets endlessly, not wanting to go home.... Looking for an escape. Wanting to fit in somewhere. Wanting to belong. I fought feelings of anger, blame; I had to go through shit life because there was no room for me in your neatly packaged world. I was just an annoyance that wasnt to be dealt with. I was the "druggie", the 18 year old divorcee, the girl who made it to college and graduated an honor roll heroin addict.
I went back today.
I dont usually muse on this issue. But I am learning after being around for a good couple of decades, things may be going wrong and perhaps beginng at the original problem, yes lets go Freudian here for a minute... may be the right solution. I swore I forgave. My choices were mine, my victories, my losses, my deaths - mine.
But I still wonder. Outcast, Outsider, Different, all the terms that go on for days.... Maybe if those labels didnt have the sticky option behind them, and it would'nt have stuck would I have had a chance. Would I have not searched in the warm arms of drugs, alcohol, reckless lifestyles if I would have been loved and not been avoided like the plague. If I was understood, even if for a little while.
I dont hate. I dont cry. Perhaps I should. Perhaps I should cry over the lost childhood, the early adulthood, the survival methods self-taught, coming out of the despair I believed I was guaranteed. The core of my sorrows. The begining of my demise. Oh yes, I dissapointed "them"... But will I continue to dissapoint myself? Not if I can help it...
The "W". Crooklyn New York. Finest Outcasts. And I wouldnt have it any other way.
I went back to the "W" today.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I went back today.