School went by very quickly that day; it seemed as if everyone knew that I had no place to live. So very many people came forward and offered me a place to stay at their homes for a day here or a day there that I found myself overwhelmed several times during the day and hid in the bathroom. And even during this time I was being bullied in school.
Monday, May 24, 2021
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 my friend Kerry. Thank God, it was early enough in the morning that she was still at home and she picked up on the first ring. After hearing my story she said, “I’m not sure you can stay at my house, but we can ask around.”
"I walked another three blocks over to the corner Washington Avenue and Lark Street to catch the bus to Stuyvesant Plaza. I was feeling like a wanted fugitive, so I stood a little way 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 into the car or worse, they might have called the police, and I could be forced to get into the back of a police car. It took about twenty five 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 “wows” 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 said. “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? Even I knew that was almost too much to ask.
Kerry pulled into the school parking lot at Guilderland High and looked directly at me. “Are you okay?” 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 the 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 have 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 exposé on various cheerleaders in our homeroom. I quickly went into homeroom, and when I didn’t find her there, I knew right where to go.
Like every high school, the students at my school were all ganged up in familiar groups. Separated into various categories were the jocks and cheerleaders, nerds, potheads, and theatre people. I was part of the theatre people group. The theatre group also lumped together all the people in the band. If you played in the band, you were also allowed to hang out in the band room before school started, after you had checked into your homeroom. Being that I was in theatre but not in band, I was tolerated, but I was still breaking all the rules by going there for homeroom. Today, this point seemed a moot one.
I didn’t have a plan, but I figured that I would just start asking for 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 it would be a problem. Twenty minutes later Beth had 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 still 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.
at May 24, 2021
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
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 so pissed off. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve 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 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, and as she catches sight of me, she shakes her head in disgust. “I’ll be here when you get downstairs,” she says to me, 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 there. I am alone. No Donna, no staff. Then I notice that someone has left my file on the table. I walk quickly over there 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 staff’s private notes are now sitting in a file right in front of me. I act without thinking and grab a Yellow Pages phone book. Placing it on the table over my file, I grab 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.
Quickly, I head up the stairs and run into my bedroom. I can feel my pulse throbbing 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 onto the landing and slide the window closed. Very quietly I take each step towards the ground. These metal stairs don’t betray me. Now sweat is starting to form on my brow. I wipe it off with the back of my hand. At the last step I jump to the ground, run around the back into the alley, and disappear.
at May 19, 2021
Sunday, May 9, 2021
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.”
at May 09, 2021
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.”
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