Okay, as I was saying (I am finally home)…Whole Foods Market. This is an expensive store. Kind of a fake health-foody supermarket for upscale people. Very trendy. I suspect they sell a lot of…you got it…yeah…bottled water. Packaged untested water from god-knows-where that tastes weird. Half the people that drink it don’t even recycle the plastic bottles, mind you. These bottles sit at the dump forever. Yes, forever. Okay, enough about that. I don’t know as a fact that WFM sells bottled water anymore. Maybe they’ve caught on that Coca-Cola and all that big business that thought they could rip people off charging more for water than they do for Coke were doing us all a disservice. Okay, anyway….I was thinking Whole Foods Market and where these stores are located. I’ll bet there ain’t any in places like Mattapan, Dorchester, Southie…I’ll bet Brockton doesn’t have one either.
Then I got to thinking about Brockton. I don’t happen to recall if I’ve ever been there. It’s a city outside of Boston, an area of its own. I don’t know much about it. I could be entirely wrong, but I’ve heard there’s a lot of poverty there, or at least that there are pockets of Brockton that are impoverished and places where there are a lot of drugs and prostitution.
So this was my thought process, just as I was leaving the house on my way to Boston to run an errand. I was wondering what it was like to be a teen living in Brockton. I figured it was a tough place to grow up. I wondered what it was like being a teen in a really poor neighborhood in Brockton, or living in the “projects.” I wondered what it was like if both your parents were hooked on heroin or really bad drugs and were out cold all the time. I wondered what it would be like to find your parent real bad off, and have to call 911. As I lifted my backpack to my back, I remembered that when I was a young teen, I was able to carry both brothers on my back simultaneously, the smaller one on my shoulders, and the middle child on my back. This is why to this day I am able to carry heavy backpacks. I pride myself in this. I carried both brothers literally and metaphorically. I am guessing that any teen with absentee parents, (absentee either literally or in their hearts), would have to raise his or her siblings and take on the role of parent.
But to be a teen in Brockton, or anywhere…being a teen is hard no matter where you are. It might be tough in Brockton, but then again, there might be a way out for those kids. Cuz all it takes is one adult in a kid’s life, one special adult that listens and cares. This adult is more important than where you live, how much money you have, or anything. When this thought came into my head, I started crying. I stood by the computer with my backpack half-slung over my shoulder, and wept.
I did have someone like that in my life. She wasn’t really an adult, not yet. She was in my life f0r a very, very short time, but she was there. I wrote about her in my book. I believe that I first introduce her in my chapter, “Locker #47.” I call her “Maria,” which is a pseudonym. Before I met her, I had no clue what human closeness was. I thought you had to keep all your thoughts, everything, to yourself. I thought that humans were bad people who did nothing but tease me or dominate me and kick me around. I always had to watch out for myself and be careful not to say something that would get me teased yet another time.
She was my camp counselor. She was only eighteen years old, about to go off to college. I was twelve, and had just finished what had turned out to be a nightmare for me: seventh grade, that is, my first year of our two-year junior high school. Is twelve too young to fall in love?
I couldn’t get enough of her. When I was with her, it felt like nothing else mattered, only that I was sitting beside her and I wanted to soak up all my emotions, everything I felt right then and let them surround me and bathe me, because what I felt in my heart for her was sweet and tender beyond what I had ever felt before. Even if the sun had set, I felt that it was upon me, keeping me warm from the other side of the earth. Maria! Maria! I could summon her up at any time, when I was walking to dinner, or singing at the lake with the guitars at sunset, even naked in the shower with the water, not quite warm enough, thoughts and images of her were always in my heart.
But summer ended. She went to college and I went to eighth grade and my parents. I didn’t hear from her much. Long distance phone calls were very expensive, so we had to send letters instead. I kept these letters secret from everyone, and I still have every single one of them. They came so rarely. High school was a very hard time for me, but I survived, and escaped, and ran off to college.
We kept touch for a number of years, and I’ve seen her on occasion. Sometimes it’s been okay, sometimes it’s been a little strange.
Sometimes she lived in the city and sometimes she lived in the country. Once, I went to see her in the city. I don’t know exactly, but what I recall is that there was something, this drive in me…I needed to run out of the car and into her place to see her. I didn’t lock up or bring everything in. I had to see her right away. There was this urgency. She was at the window and I saw her, too. I ran up the stairs and inside and she was there and we embraced and we were together and this was all that mattered.
We spent a long time together, lying there. It had been dark out for hours. Eventually, I went back outside to get the rest of my stuff. It had been stolen out of the car. We reported it, but it never got recovered. Just an old, chewed-up pair of hiking boots and a vest inside a knapsack, that was all. I guess I was lucky. I guess I was the luckiest person in the world.
I don’t know how many years it’s been. Ages. Like, twenty years, maybe? Has it been that long since I’ve heard from her, since her last letter? More? Dang!
What is she doing now? Does she know I’m alive? Does she ever think about me? Where does she live? Google, Facebook…how can I find her?
This afternoon, while I was walking to the bus, I was thinking that I must, must get in touch with this woman, that I was desperate to do so, to at least say hello or something.
Maybe she has already Googled me, and thinks I’m really weird. Dunno.
Just have to find her.