Monthly Archives: August 2012

Playing the game – A trip to the children’s psych ward (Part 1)

Before I ever ran away in a sheet my mother had me sent to the children’s mental ward at Mercy Hospital in Johnstown, PA. It was on the thirteenth floor, and overlooked the rusty Susquehanna River.  I was not the recipient of any electro-convulsive therapies, or even any drugs. They simply kept me there for a thirty day evaluation period, at the end of which, it was declared, by some nameless authority that there was nothing wrong with me, and I was sent home, angry at my mother. She should have realized this would happen. Surely she didn’t really believe that there was something mentally wrong with me.

It had begun over a fight over yogurt in the afternoon hours. One of us had eaten the last of it and the other was pissed off. I don’t remember who was on what side, only that we fought like teenage sisters. My mom was in her early 30’s and I was 13. I’m 35 now, and I sure as hell would not want to be dealing with a thirteen year old girl! I’d do the same as my mom and kick her ass.

Later, or maybe a few days later, my mom let me go to the mall with my friends Todd, Jason, and Denise. It was the first time she let me go out with friends who drove. Of course, we did not make it to the mall. We didn’t do anything that much more interesting anyway. Four teenagers on a simple, uneventful joy ride, except of course that we were all experiencing FREEDOM for the first time,  then, back to my place where Todd sat down next to my mom on the couch, and putting his hand on her knee, asked her if she was my sister. My mom laughed. Silly boy! We all had a good laugh.  Since it had gone well, I was allowed to go another time with the same friends on very much the same joyride, and returned home, this time being dropped off in the driveway.

When I entered the living room I greeted my mother. She was lying on the couch watching TV. I’m not sure how it came up, but my mom asked me if I had been drinking. I hadn’t,  and told her so. She asked me again. Here, I had already told her I wasn’t, yet she was asking again. I became defensive. An argument ensued and I, miffed, walked out the door. 

About a half mile walk, and I arrived at the mall, and having nowhere to go, decided to call my grandmother from a payphone to see if she would pick me up. Before I reached the phone, my mother pulled up in her brand new Chevy Cavalier purchased for her by her new boyfriend (who is her husband today, over 20 years later.

“Get in the car!”

“No! I’m calling Grandma and I’m going to stay with her”

My mother threatened with all sorts of punishment. I refused to budge. She screeched out of the parking lot and went home.

Later, at my grandmother’s house, I spoke to my mom on the phone. She told me that she was going to have me sent to the children’s hospital to be evaluated. And so she did.

So, this was 1990 or so and I guess antidepressants and anti-psychotics were not yet prescribed to children with as much ease as they are today, because I never had any of that. I did see some kids get put down with a hypodermic needle to the ass, but that never happened to me.I had spoken to my father, a largely absent alcoholic, once early on in my stay. He told me this: “Kid, play the game. You gotta play the game.” I’m sure he didn’t think I was listening. Even I didn’t think I was listening, but I must have been, because I knew what he meant without completely understanding, as though his words were some sort of code that only my subconscious mind understood.

I met Kevin, who was a teacher volunteering time there at the Children’s Psych ward of Mercy Hospital. I’d always had the worst time understanding algebra!! To the point of philosophical debate with my math teachers.  Suddenly, algebra was easy the way Kevin explained it, and I would ask him to give me more problems to solve to kill the time. I felt good about myself. He also taught me how to draw a bit, and gave me a drawing of a young girl in a field with a unicorn. It was pretty. I wish I still had it today.

Sometimes, in the evenings, we would play Gin Rummy, sans Gin of course, and I noticed that I could see everyone’s hands in the reflection of the plastic light cover on the ceiling, so I learned to cheat at a game that didn’t matter. And play the game that did.


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First Prayer (Part One)

It’s vivid alright. I had recently enrolled in my local community college after spending several months through high school waiting tables and working the counter at Hardee’s. My decision to enroll in the community college was easy. I briefly glanced at one of my coworkers slinging slop in the back and thought to myself “My god, she’s like in her 40’s! I don’t want to be doing this NOW, let alone when I’m old!” That was my thought exactly, I remember it VERY clearly.

In that moment, I literally ran, and when I say that I mean, I simply quit my job and jumped in my 1982 Pontiac T-1000 (a $250 purchase) and…Well, to be more accurate, I didn’t really jump. I shimmied myself into the seat belt that would never unlatch, prayed for the car to start, then headed up to Allegany Community College to see what I had to do to enroll.

At the time I was not privy to the business end of higher education, but they made enrolling very easy, helped me complete the FAFSA, and it was paid for, no problem. If you are wondering why they didn’t require my parents info, I aged out of foster homes after five years in that system, so I was “declared independent” by some authority and also considered poor. I wasn’t worried about that of course, everyone is poor at 18. I just didn’t want to be poor at 40!

In August I began a series of enjoyable classes, just taking the basics, and also found a job at a local convenience store. My day began with my 8am Algebra class, I mention the time of the class because I always had an unexplainable problem with algebra: I like word problems, it’s the equations I had problems with. This was followed by a full day of classes I was good at, and then work at the convenience store from 4pm to midnight. Things were going well until November.

I was renting a small one bedroom apartment on the second floor. Rent was $190 per month which was fitting since my wage was $4.25/hour. A massive snow storm blew in one night in November and piled enough snow on the roof that when I arrived home from work one late night, I found the roof in my bedroom had collapsed and there was snow all over everything, To be more precise, there was snow all over the ONE piece of “furniture” I owned, a futon mattress. At least I didn’t lose much, but it was damn cold. I decided to go to a friend’s house, but unfortunately, I could not get my car out of the parking lot which was packed with icy snow. I chose to view my night in my cold snowy apartment as camping, a reintroduction the survival skills I had learned in the Wild a few years prior. Over the course of the night Bedford, PA received a whopping 4 feet of snow. Sparingly, when morning came, the sun began to shine, and the temperature began to rise, eventually reaching a comfortable 52 degrees and melting all of the accumulated snow so quickly that the entire town flooded. The convenience store where I worked was hit hard and I lost my job.

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Panic at the Traffic Light (Part 2 – unedited)

Green light!!!! Okay, good, we are moving! Breathe breath. On to the free way.. just cruise, some music. Light a cigarette, and cruise to 38th street exit.
Wait how did I end up at Airport and 35th? oh shit! red light. can only turn east when I want to go west. Shit. Well, okay, I’m not lost, i jsut took a wrong turn. I know exactly where I am and where I need to go. No worries. This is going to be a long redlight. Oh man, okay….um more ac!! yes!! okay, no, no no, that is too much, turn it down. you know this music is too loud. maybe Iggy Pop isnt good music for a panic attack I shoudl reconsider my choices. Yes and you should also reconsider smoking that cigarette Nicole. Is this killing me or making me more alive? Jesus, I dont know. Okay, I’lll just focus on some music.. you know nicole, if you would quit smoking you wouldnt be having a panic attack about the potential health effects of your continued bad habit. and you know that is ALL that it is, it’s a habit. period. you CAN just change your mind.. you are free at anytime to do just this… to free your mind and make a new decision….

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The Exhibitionist Within (Part One)

My grandmother has a photo of me when I was in first or second grade. I’m standing at the front of a stage, with my arms thrown skyward, in sheer and total ecstasy. Beneath me, there is a sign hung from the stage and in large letters it reads: “Music Moves Me”. Nice to know your own destiny!

A friend of mine, who is a talented aerialist, would like to start a pole dancing studio. Sometimes her behavior makes me think she’d be a good Grifter. I’ve seen her in complacency and ferocity, and emotions in between.  I love her just the same. It’s not my job to change her; it’s my job to experience her as she is.

Today, I was listening to some music that led me to reminisce about the joys of pole dancing. The sheer JOY of it! Moving your body to the ebb and flow of the tune, that reverberates through the stage floor, through the pole, through stiletto heels, though YOU! A crowd cheering, clapping, coming to the stage to GIVE YOU MONEY!

THAT is what any woman who fantasizes about stripping is thinking about! THAT is the driver, the motivating factor. Its exhibitionism, its physicality, sexy heels, and adoration in the form of attention and cash! Ha!

No surprise that when I realized it was time to quit, the first thing I did was audition for a play. Not quite the same adrenaline rush as the strip club, but…it sufficed. For a time.

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Panic at the Traffic Light! (Part One)

Looking back I think I know what started it, but at the time…

6:45 pm = headed to the Local to meet with friends and long term acquaintances…

Upon arrival at the second intersection, I begin to feel slightly dizzy.

Oh god is that a shooting pain in my arm? no just a mild ache.

I think my chest feels tight. Green Light!

probably a muscular thing…yeah, but your heart Is a muscle nicole!

feels a bit fast…I feel kinda cold. dizzy…

oh no no non no, snap out of it, Nicole you are fine.

shit! red light!  oh god, cmon cmon cmon.

I tap my fingers on the steering wheel.

Oh god no no no no, dont pass out…

blood rushes to my head, my heart pounds or so it seems, I catch my breath!

Ignore it! youre fine youre fine. it’s not real. find something something something….

I look around…what?

deep breath.

something, there must be something, something interesting to focus on, something… oh god! None of this is interesting… but theres too much of it!!!!

Looking down, I jiggle the gearshift around in neutral with my right hand, glancing up at the red light, back at the gear shift, back at the light (green yet?).

Note the pattern of traffic…oh god, the perpendiculars are jut making the left and they go first….okay, hold tight, breathe breathe breathe…

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