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Monday, June 18, 2012

Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Part 26 Back in Albany New York


The main goal of independent living is to teach the kids that are part of the program, how to live on their own. We are taught about budgeting, money, goals, shopping, bills and cleaning. 

I am also am taken on weekly trips to look for an apartment with a counselor. 

The counselor uses these trips to teach me about to live and my own. Today's lesson is to help me to move out and find an apartment. She says this as she crosses her fingers and pulls out of the driveway.

Independent living is supposed to be a temporary place, 6 months being the longest that you are allowed to be staying there. Jonathan has been part of the program for five years and will not be going anywhere soon. “There is no place for him,” the counselor mumbles under her breath.

One of the first apartments I am taken to is in the basement of a funeral home. The room is literally right across from the embalming room. Even though I am a big fan of ghosts and scary places, this place is even too much for me. “The upside,” the Funeral Director points out to me is that “Albany High is directly across the street.” I ask if I will ever see a body coming or going. The Funeral Director ignores this question and leads me to a look at a shared bathroom down the hall. My counselor looks at me smiles and gives me thumbs up. I shake my head to say “No way in Hell.”

We thank the Funeral Director on our way out the door. My counselor has two more apartments for me to look at. The first one is literally in an apartment complex referred to as “The Projects.” We walk down the hallway past several doors where loud televisions blare The Price is Right and every other door has either a crying baby or a loud argument going on behind it.

My counselor is clutching her purse to her chest. She has a smile frozen on her face but in her eyes I see sheer panic. After five minutes of knocking on one apartment door, there is the sound of six or seven bolts and chains being unlocked. The final sound before the door is yanked open is a long bar that braces the door when its shut being removed.

The door gets dragged open and a small little man is standing there. He is dressed head to toe in traditional African garb. With no smile on his face and not a word, he motions for us to come in. My counselor looks at me and it’s clear that she doesn’t want to enter but has to decide between running down the hall screaming back to the car, or teaching me about independent living.

I try my best to avoid and awkward moment by putting my hand out.  “Hi I’m Geoff,” I say. He nods his head and motions for me to follow him. I am then taken on a tour of this man’s house. He doesn’t say a word or let his face change the whole time we are there.

In the living room there are glass museum cases filled with African statues, Masks and Artifacts. On the wall is a Zebra skin. It’s beautiful to look at but there would be no place for me to put my stuff. My counselor is still clutching her purse to her chest will she sits on the edge of his couch.

My counselor has sweat forming on her upper lip. “It’s nice here,” she stammers while looking around. The man never says anything he just continues to open doors and point. 

The room that is to be mine if I like, is gigantic.  It has white shag carpeting, white walls, white ceilings and 4 windows. It is beautiful. I call my counselor to come look at the room. She yells back from the living room that “She’s fine.”
To be continued………..

Geoffrey Doig-Marx holds all written and electronic rights to his writing "A Day in the Life". It can not be reprinted in part or whole without his written consent. 

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