Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

New York, New York USA



I was born some time in the afternoon on December 12th 1983 in Tarrytown New York. It was cold, being December and all, and my mother has told me a few times of how she brought be back from the hospital in the little quilt that became my favorite banket. I called it banket. Somewhere around that time, among the many stuffed animals I got from my parents, relatives, and other well-wishers, I got a stuffed white rabbit and a little pillow with a picture of three merrymaking rabbits on it.. I could not prounce any of the anmes of these things correctly when I started speaking, so I referred to them as buppo (b-up-oh), Banket, and Yabbit. I called my mother Ma and my father Da.
Our house was white with two modest wooden columns flanking the doorway that supported a small overhang, and our door was red and also made of wood. When you walked in there was a family room on the left and a dining room on the right. A staircase went up towards the back then doubled-back after a small landing, and there were three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms upstairs. When I was little I would wrap Banket around my neck and, with Buppo and Yabbit in tow I would go to the living room where Ma and Da would sit on the couch in the evenings. I would sit on the back of the couch and lay over top of Ma or Da's shoulders, and my mother called me a shawl.
Da worked in New York City, and that is where he went to work every day. My mother worked a few towns over. Da would always get home late from work, and once I could get out of my crib I would occasionally hear him come and get out to see him. One night Da came home and Ma was sleeping. I got downstairs, and he was eating a burger and French fries out of a take-away tin (probably from the neighborhood diner. When he saw me he sat me up on the table and gave me a fry to eat.
One day Da died. It happened when I was about to turn three, the afternoon of my first day of Nursery school. I saw my mother lean against the wall as she listened to the telephone. Next I was in the bathroom and as the neighborhood baby sitter sat next to me, my mother was putting on her brown raincoat, talking to the baby sitter, and moving quickly down the staircase. After he died my mother taught me the Our Father and the Hail Marry. After she tucked me in she would sit with me and we would say the prayers together, thank God for whatever good things happened upon us that day, and then I would go to sleep. If there wasn't anything good, which was a conclusion I frequently came to hold once I entered Nursery school, my mother would say that we could always "Thank God for the sunny day." I don't remember what would happen if it wasn't sunny out, but it doesn't matter.
We had to move. Because, mom said, with dad gone the house was too big for us, and cost too much money. We moved from one extreme end of the town to the other. I thought that this was a long way away. The first night in our townhouse we sat in the empty living room and ate fish sticks on a cardboard box. The next day, when we went to the local stores to get things for the house, I told mom that the stores here looked just like the stores where our old house was. Mom told me they were the same stores, but I was still convinced that we had moved a long way away. This gradually disappeared after I went back to Nursery school the following year.
I don't remember what I did that encouraged kids to make fun of me in Nursery school, but whenever my mother picked me up in the old Volvo 240DL (she was late a lot) I would always be ecstatic that she had arrived, because I was afraid she wouldn't come to get me, I think. One day my mother gave me a little stuffed tiger that I named Tigger, and she told me that I could take it with me to Nursery school if I wanted, and that when I saw it I should always remember that she would always come to get me.
I went to a baby sitter named Joan. She is an Irish woman who lives in the middle of town. When I was there my mother befriended another single mom named Patti and when she brought her kids (who I never really associated with when we were at Joan's) to our house one night for dinner I became friends with all three of them. Joe is four years older then me, Kelly is two years older then me, and Kim is my age. Joe became my best friend, and even though I was younger then him we always did everything together. It was around this time that we stopped being able to go to Joan's, because a mean mother ratted Joan out to the government because she wasn't licensed and up to code. But according to my mother she only asked for whatever my mom or Patti could afford.
When I started going to Elementary school I got made fun of a lot right away, and I don't know why. I was getting a bit fatter at that point I think. One of my friends, whose house I went to after school when my mom was working, was named Josh. The popular kids liked Josh because he could run fast. I couldn't run fast, and I was jealous of him. One day he was at my house after school, and when his mother came to pick him up we decided to show the mothers how fast we could go. First I biked to the end of the block and back, then he ran. When he started running I decided to race him because I wanted to go fast too. I overtook him on my bike and got back first. When he came back he started crying, and he was mad because I beat him. I got upset that he was mad and I hid underneath the bathroom sink in the cabinet. They had thought I ran away, and eventually they got so scared that they called the police. I came out after a few hours and they were glad to see me. Josh was still bitter, and I still felt badly even when our parents encouraged us to make up.
Mom and I would still say prayers before I went to sleep. She would still squeeze my hand my hand three times, which meant 'I love you' and I would squeeze her hand back four times which meant 'I love you too'. We would also do this if she was going to leave me somewhere, and I was too embarrassed to say it out loud in front of my friends. We still thanked God for many sunny days, and now that I remember we thanked him for whatever sort of day it was: rainy, sunny, snowy, cloudy, cold, or even "blustery". We called it blustery because, if you remember Winny The Poo, that was the name of one of his tales: Poo and The Blustery Day. That's also why I called the tiger that mom gave me Tigger.
I still spent a lot of time with Joe, Kelly, and Kim. Mostly on the weekends because it only required one baby sitter, and eventually we could all look after one another. By this time Josh and I stopped hanging out because we didn't have the same friends anymore. Still in elementary school, I also spent a lot of time with my friends Nick and Brian whom I met at summer camp. They had a father, and on some weekends I would go to their house while Mom worked. I was originally best friends with Nick, but when I met Brian he and I became 'better' friends. We would play Legos and G.I. Joes together and watch cartoons along with his brother. I got fatter, probably from eating all of the sweet stuff they had at their house, including soda, which Mom never had in the house.
I was still unpopular, and I kept getting made fun of. None of my friends were popular either, but we were what my entire mother called good people. She said people our age did a lot of mean things to each other. I was still unconvinced. I had to go to the principal sometimes because of the constant humiliation. I wrote lists of everything they said. Well, not all the kids, just one kid who kept calling me fat (and as many synonyms of that as you can think of), punching me in the stomach (that's how I learned what getting 'winded' was. When you got hit so hard you couldn't say anything for a minute after), and when he sat on me one day and made a farting sound and called me a toilet.
I got depressed and irritable more and more frequently. I would cry and scream with my mother, and she couldn't console me. Every once and I while there would be a kid I wouldn't like and I would be mean to. This happened once in Nursery school and two or three times in Elementary school. These wouldn't be the kids I was being made fun of by, but it would be because I wanted to be their friend, they would feel pretty indifferent towards me, and they were popular. The kid in Nursery school was my age, and was the only child of the parents who moved on to my old house. One day my mom asked me why I hated Chris so much, and through tears I screamed, "CHRIS HAS A DAD AND CHRIS LIVES IN OUR HOUSE!". Periodically Mom would get really upset. She changed jobs a lot, and often money became a big problem for us and it was hard to pay the bills. Every once and a while the lights went out for a few days or the phone wouldn't work. Those things didn't really bother me, though. Mom and Patti would go half-and-half on meals a lot of nights. I would console Mom when she would be feeling angry or frustrated, and she would tell me it wasn't my fault and that she would feel better soon. She always did. We would often read together and watch the news, too.
I was very disorganized in school, and it took me longer then most of the kids in my class to do the writing exercises when we were learning how to write in first grade. I scribbled really quickly so I could be as fast as them, and as a result my handwriting was very sloppy. When they put us in to reading groups in first grade they decided to put me in the lowest group because my handwriting was bad and if it wasn't bad it took me a long time to do things. I could read everything the popular kids in the high level reading group could read, but they would never put me in the high level group. I wrote a story for a competition that year, and my teacher told my mother I was a very good writer. She didn't understand the decision of the other teachers to put me in the lower reading group, but she told my mother she knew I could do the work. I won the prize, but this didn't help things. The next year they put me in the low level reading group again, and I did really poorly writing cursive, which never improved to this day. My teacher that year put all the popular kids at a table next to her desk and told them how good they all were, and she put me and some of the other kids at other tables and would generally yell at us when we started doing other things. That year I heard the high level reading group were writing reports on illnesses, and so I researched and typed a three page paper on Leukemia. I gave it to the teacher on the day all the other kids turned in their papers, and a few days later when the reports were all put out on a table outside the classroom I looked for mine, only to ask her and find out that she had lost it.
I loved my friends. Especially those I mentioned earlier. When I played sports the social situation was generally the same. I sucked at whatever sport it was, and the kids made fun of me and called me fat, slow and stupid.
My mother had always taken me to church in our hometown but when I was in fourth grade we switched churches because the priest was starting to molest me. It never got to the point where he touched me in any intimate way, but he would ask if he could give me a massage, and he asked my mom if he could take me up to a cabin he had upstate. My mother said no and we left the church, with her telling me why a few years later when said priest was kicked out of the church and disrobed for getting a bit farther along with some other kids. The point of this section is that we changed churches and went to the same church/Sunday school as Joe, Kim, and Kelly. It's funny because we never really wanted to go when our parents made us, but when I would stay at Brian and Nick's place the three of us would wake up on Sunday morning and read passages from an illustrated bible and give each other potato chips as Communion wafers. We did this because their mother and father didn't go to church much. Nick was one of two kids when he was born, potentially. His twin died at birth I believe. One day Brian and Nick told me that they decided that I was their third brother. There was a symbol that they made to illustrate this, and the drawings we had made to describe each other were at the extremes. After they told me this they asked me to draw mine in, and I did.
But I was never with anyone in class, and school was this social hell that never remotely resembled that time. When I was nine years old I stopped becoming periodically depressed and became consistently depressed. One night I was in the bathtub by myself and I started crying uncontrollably, screaming and yelling. I started saying the Our Father and the Hail Mary over and over. I started screaming to God. I asked him why I was so bad at everything, I asked him why Dad died, I asked, "What is my worth, God?! What am I here for?!" I kept repeating this until I couldn't cry anymore, and I went to bed after my mother tucked me in.
A couple weeks later we were getting flowers in the flower shop for my First ("real") Communion, and I was singing a Loony Toons advertisement to myself
(to the tune of Bethoven's, er, bum-bumbum-bum-bumbumbumbumbum). There was a woman in the flower shop who asked me what my name was and after my mom turned around she told me that she was a classical violinist, and she insisted I go to take voice lessons at the conservatory. I did, and when I came in to audition I was on crutches because I was angry a few days previous and kicked a wall. I met my voice teacher Emmy. She and my mother and I would become good friends and eat dinner together at the mall near the conservatory. I was still fat, and I was still getting fatter slowly. So school was still hell, but when I was singing, even though I would get picked on by some of the meaner kids in the choir, I didn't care. I joined my church choir too. I performed in upwards of thirty concerts in the month of December when I was ages 9 through 11. I sang a one line solo in the University of New Mexico's production of La Boheme, I got chosen to sing with the other good kids in all the productions Emmy could get us in to. We performed in a choral production of Carmina Berana, Carmen, and we even debuted an original piece written by her now ex-husband at Carnegie Hall. I did theater camp every summer. All the kids in my elementary school had to go to Glee Club/Chorus once a week, and when that time came around I could finally show my classmates that I wasn't bad at everything. They would still make fun of me or otherwise exclude me from being at their tables and in their conversations, but I was happy to be singing and I still enjoyed hanging out with my good friends on the weekends.
When it came time to graduate my resource room teacher (yep, I was still in remedial classes) introduced me to a kid from another elementary school who was also ostracised. He and I became friends. We both liked computers, and so we would talk about that and role playing games. We would read fantasy books and once we got in to middle school we started watching anime.
It was around this time that I watched my first porn at Brian and Nick's place and Joe taught me what masturbation was. I started going through puberty, and I was still getting fat, so unlike the popular kids I was definitely not having sex. Through being nerdy I made friends with some fellow nerds, and through being "artsy" as the stereotype goes I made friends with most of the thespians.
I made my confirmation and I stopped going to church regularly, though I was still in the children's choir that performed every few weeks at mass. Eventually I stopped doing that, too, because the choral director was a rather nasty woman at times and I decided I'd rather not be around her.
I got my first girlfriend in middle school in 8th grade. The first time I kissed her was a song-length French kiss during one of the numerous epic social events known as Middle School Dances. The first time I touched her breasts was during a movie that her parents drove us to, We broke up because we were young and had no reason to stay together, but I never got another girlfriend till I started going out with her again in my junior year of high school, and I kept that memory of the theater in the back of my mind until then.
School still went pretty poorly on the social front, and I hung out with Brian and Nick less and more with the niche of friends I had made in middle school. I liked them but even among them I was the farthest out of the loop on everything (with the exception of Team Nerd which had no confidential information other then dialup passwords).
I started smoking pot with Joe when I was twelve. The first time was out of this crack pipe he had gotten from a friend of his. I felt funny, but I don't think there was any crack left in it. He started to drive, and when my mother went as a chaperone on an exchange program for two weeks I gave him the keys to my mother's brand new Jetta and he taught himself how to drive stick while we drove around raising hell. She knew that we took it, but she never told me that till I let he know a few years later.
Socially everything went in similar waves until Junior year of high school where I really started smoking pot habitually. I became less inclined to do more then the two obligatory shows per year. I was still fat, and I was SICK of getting the minor roles of the old guy that had one song two thirds of the way through the second act, and not the lead. I thought it was because I didn't look good enough, but the truth was that I was too intimidated and too introverted to even know how to channel it in to acting. My second to last audition I secured the lead role in the king and I, only to loose it to another guy who wound up not showing up to rehearsal and then another that couldn't sing. I took a role that didn't even involve singing, and then I stopped performing during the summer.
In the midst of my own angst and my mother's long hours and frustrations I lost the ability to deal with anything, so I coped by smoking a lot of pot and doing a lot of other things I won't get in to. I started to get social security because I was over sixteen and my mother was a widow over fifty. I bought a nice car that I drove around smoking pot and listening to music in. I stopped hanging out with the thespians and was angered by the incessant arguing of the geeks and devoted myself to darker tasks. During this time I started going out with my first girlfriend again. I first touched a vagina in my car outside her parent's house and after a few months of thinking about it we took one another's virginity in my bed one afternoon while my mother was at work. I did two things at that point: installed a window shade in my bedroom, and bought a digital camera. Don't get the wrong idea though; I'm being a bit rhetorical here. I bought the camera before I started going out with her again.
But your right, there was some of that, along with an insane amount of sex. We would argue about dumb stuff all the time but it didn't matter. Sex, sex, and more sex. More ways of having sex then I ever thought possible. We photographed one another.
She was beautiful, and after gaining a bit of confidence through here I shed a massive amount of weight until I became the normal looking guy I am today, I was still depressed though.
I only figured out it was the pot that was fucking me up (even though it would take three more years to stop doing it) when Joe took my car out one night and wrapped it around a telephone poll. He flew out of his pants and shoes, out the back window of the car (breaking the glass on his way out) and hit a tree thirty someodd feet down the way. He was in a coma for a few weeks. I was not in a good state of mind. The cops found my stash but I got out of it. After he started walking again (a task he achieved at wolverine-like speeds considering he broke a good amount of low-number vertebrae, his pelvis, his arms, and his legs) I started calling him my brother, and Kim and Kelly my sisters. But I would distance myself from them because I was still messed up in the head. I distanced myself from everyone including my mother. I was mean to her. Had been for a while. Thankfully, through a haze of haze I applied and was accepted in to this sort of alternative hippy senior year thing where my teacher Roy looked at a picture of Twin Tower aftermath that I had taken, and advised me to pursue photography. I applied to one college, and it's the one I got in to.
My girlfriend and I had a horribly fucked up time breaking up over the course of our entire freshman year of college. She was four hours away from me and "cheating" on me the whole time. I got back together with her that summer, and we decided to call it quits at the end, only to hook up every few weekends until she finally found another decent guy up there. I took some photographs of her that wound up being among the best work I did in the two years I was at SVA. Consequently, she had just committed to her new boyfriend that day and up until this day she holds it against me. I spent the first year of college in a good bit of social isolation. Hippy school had put me on a different page then my childhood friends and so my new friends were the ones I saw when I was on break. I became friends with the people I was in my classes with my freshman year and wound up living with one. He still owes me about six hundred dollars, but he was the exception. I have great friends from a few years ago that have formed my peer group of fellow photographers and artists. I moved around the city to a few different places. Have known a handful of different women, and the lessons they have taught and are teaching me about myself are so important I cannot explain them here. I have made many friends and very few, if any, enemies (nemesis is a better word). I changed schools and began going to CUNY City College where I've been working to bring back the ability to write that I know I still have. I apologized to my mother and everyone who I treated poorly when I was busy being introverted. I got passed the Why's and started thinking of the How's. I still procrastinate, and I still to an extent sell myself short. I have had immensely rewarding things happen as I have learned to be better and better to people and think less and less critically of myself. I love my mother, and every day now I think about how I could spend the rest of my life telling her that and still not appropriately convey it. I told her that in front of her friends on her sixtieth birthday the other week, and she almost cried. I told her about the mushroom trip that helped to remind me of that, and taught me so many other important things that I have been working on since. I keep meeting more amazing people, and going to more amazing places, then I ever previously thought possible. I have befriended some of my professors that, though my conversations with them and with good friends, have served to let me know how wrong I was about thinking I could ever not do anything I wanted to. I have dinner and wine with some of them occasionally. Joe and I still call each other 'brother', and if anything ever happens to either of our sisters I'm going to cut my hand and hand him the knife to do the same. I love my friends from childhood as much as I love my mother. I can't explain that to them, either.
Last week I started my last semester for my undergrad degree, and I have made my schedule such that I will be forced to push the limits of my photography instead of backing away from it or doing what's easiest, and after a seven year hiatus I have started taking voice classes again. I walked out of my first voice class last week and cried all the way to the subway. After deciding to do this assignment I sat down tonight and began writing. I spoke to the last women I've become close with, and as I unfortunately avoid speaking with her in lieu of writing this I think of how much I want her warm body next to mine, and, given she's also in a very cold city right now among other things, might want me next to her as well. I don't know who I will spend the rest of my life with, I don't know exactly what I will do for the rest of my life, I don't pretend to know exactly what God/providence, or whathaveyou really is, but I know I am as much a part of it as everyone else, and I will spend the rest of my life being the best person to as many people as I possibly can, including the one that's always hardest to please: myself.