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 out into the night. “Tonight is your last night,” said Laroy. “Go back to your rooms. In the morning you have to leave.”
Saturday, May 8, 2021
I return to the Equinox shelter, and life returns to my “new normal.” 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 all this makes it even harder.
Two weeks pass in a blink of an eye. I am now standing out in a hallway at Child and Family Court in Albany, New York. My parents are at one end of the hall, and I’m standing alone by myself at the other end. Donna and the lawyer have gone in search of the women’s bathroom.
For the next several months I settle into 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. Then she takes 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. Jay T. Tucker and I are the only ones from the original group who are still living at Equinox. Donna, my social worker, has been trying to find me a permanent home, but it has not been as easy as you might think. According to them [the staff ??], I’m not a problem child, so it will be harder to place me. One solution 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 facilities. The main buildings are located just off New Scotland Avenue. As we climb out of Donna’s car she tells me that Parsons has group homes in both Albany and Saratoga, as well as an independent living center in Albany.
We are let into the building by security. There seem to be security guards posted everywhere. One guard walks us down long hallways that have locked doors on each end. There are more security guards posted in front of them. So far this does not seem like the kind of place where I want to be left, and I look at Donna. She seems to be as nervous as I am.
Then we are lead into the director’s office. The director is a large woman dressed in drab blue. I guess she thought that black might be too dowdy for this institution. She smiles at us and I sense that it is just for show, and she seems more uncomfortable doing it than we do seeing it. I feel that Donna and I might as well be Hansel and Gretel.
With a sweep of her hand, she motions for us to take a seat. Pulling out the chair, I look at the name plate on the desk. Her name is Margaret. She notices that I am reading her name plate and 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 might 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.”
Back in the kitchen, I can hear Donna’s 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 as though I am about to be interrogated.
“I have to go through a couple of things with you,” she says, pulling a pen out of her hair, starting with what you can 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 asks, preparing to write. “Well once,” I say, my voice breaking, “my mom took me to a recruiting station to have me join the Army while my dad was at work.” “How old were you?” Donna asks, her eyes getting big. “Fourteen, I’d say.” She sighs and leans 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 squints her eyes.
“What happened last night?” Donna asks, trying to change the subject. “Can we talk about that later?” I beg, as 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 dial Information for the number atGuilderland High School.
Sitting in the chair, I am a little worried. We have started rehearsals for the school show. We are doing Brigadoon and I’ve 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 gets 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, she 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 throughout 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, waving the brush at me. “Want to help clean the toilet?” “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 lie down on my back and stare up 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, and am 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.” In my head 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. “Okay,” Donna says, “well, let’s see what we can do.”
That night I call my friend Kerry. She has been worried about me and what happened. “It’s all over school that the police were at your house last night,” she tells me. The only plus is that Kerry knows my parents. It’s been hard because I’ve never been allowed to have friends over at the house, but Kerry would always pick me up in her car and drive me wherever I needed to go. It seems like I’ve always been in trouble and always grounded while living at home. In many ways Kerry is saving my life that day by offering to help out. The plan is that I will take a bus from Albany to Stuyvesant Plaza, and Kerry will meet me there and give me a ride to school.
The next day I tell Donna, and she thinks this is a great idea.
I look over at Jay T., who is still stuffing his face. “She’s a bitch,” he says through a mouth full of egg. Someone behind me asks, “Are you Geoff?” I turn around. Standing in the door is a large woman dressed all in black. Her hair is piled on top of her head, and she has glasses on a chain hanging around her neck.
When I wake up the next morning, Vinny is still snoring. Someone is walking through the house and 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 sound asleep, still snoring away. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I slide out of bed, throw on my jeans, and slip out into the hallway.
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