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.”
Monday, May 24, 2021
"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.”
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.
Now, I’m not sure what a skull fuck is, but I can figure it out as Vinny takes a step closer to me while unbuckling his pants. I slide as far up to the top of the bed as I can get. “Scream and I’ll kill you,” Vinny says to me, a crooked smile crossing his face. I’m thinking as quick as I can, looking around the room for anything I might be able to use to stop him.
I follow quickly. Laroy is walking and talking. He’s giving me the history of the house as we go. “It has two additional stories to it,” Laroy tells me. One floor is for the youth who need to stay, and another floor is just for the staff. Climbing the staircase to the second floor, we pass the bathroom. “That’s one of four,” he adds. Slightly winded, Laroy pauses and places one hand on the railing. He coughs into his hand and waits to catch his breath.
“The first rule,” Laroy says, leaning forward on the desk, “is to never talk about Equinox while you live here. There are several at-risk teens who call this home. The second rule is to make sure that no one follows you to the door. We have had a lot of people try to break in to get to someone.” He stands up and walks over to the office door. “That’s why we have this.” Leaning over, he grabs a baseball bat. He swings it and hits an imaginary ball, watching it fly into the crowd, and then makes cheering noises. “Home run,” he says, and laughs. He walks back to the desk, using the bat as a cane. “Rule three: no drugs of any kind. You can smoke cigarettes, but no weed.” He continues, “I was in the Hells Angels and I know what weed smells like, so please don’t test my skills.” He wiggles his eyebrows up and down and giggles.
The cops proceeded to drive out of Guilderland and get onto the highway in the direction of Albany. “Are you okay?” one of the officers asks me. There is a mesh grate separating the front seat from the back. I just stare out the window into the night.
To say I was having problems with my home life was an understatement. I couldn’t continue to go on living with my parents. My mother and I were not getting along at all and then she would involve my father. Our fights had gotten out of control: Much like my Mom’s relationship with alcohol. The arguments, the quarrels, and the screaming had become so bad that one night my parents called the police and had me removed from their house. Its ‘1979 and I’m a sophomore in High School. It had been a living in Hell — a hell that I no longer wanted to live in and a hell that they didn’t want me to live in either.
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