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Who we really are
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Anonymous
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Chapter OneRelishing the blue sky from a hammock on the balcony of my current apartment, I cannot stop thinking about my past. So many years have gone by; where did they go? How did they manage to fly by so quickly, was I asleep? Half of my life went by in a flash, and yet it all seems as yesterday.
I am disappointed, realizing that I wasted significant years of my life, because, through all those years, I created nothing worthy. Therefore, when my time comes, there will be nothing to show that I walked this planet, and that I was here. I wonder what misled me, and when it happened. What did I do to deserve such tremendous feeling of guilt, and remorse?
In my youth, I thought that all my loved ones, and all of my affairs were everlasting; that nothing would ever change. As it turned out, I was living in denial; I took life, with everything in it, for granted, naïve to recognize the fact that very beginning always concludes at the end. Neglecting my free will, I let my destiny ride like a roll of dice, and in conclusion, my life path had designated for me, and not by me.
Now I grieve for those people I will no longer see; I will never hear their voices, it seems as if just yesterday we were full of passion and joy. Many years went by in a glint, today they are gone, and I am not the man I used to be.
I have come back to square one, and again, I am starting my life over. Only now, I have a quest to distinguish myself from today, and the way I used to be. Who am I? Why, back then, did I act so selfishly? Why did I obtain so many losses? How could I consume fluids that my body resented? Is it true that we all pay for our sins at one time or another? Did I pay for mine? On the other hand, am I still condemned? How much and how long does the punishment goes on? Will it ever end?
Sometimes, I think my life span is not enough to pay of my debts and start from a new page. Regardless, today I am certain that the mental punishment is greater than any material or physical loss.
I was born in Russia. At the age of ten, I immigrated with my parents to Israel. I enjoyed my youth in the beautiful state of Haifa. At the present, I live in New York, happy as I can be. Most of my acquaintances, including my shrink, have stated, "You are forty-two years old, and life with everything in it is ahead of you."
I never understood that statement, and it came as a surprise to me how they could know what is waiting for me, or where I will be tomorrow. Will tomorrow arrive for me? Where shall I place my past? How will I manage my future? What have I accomplished? What am I supposed to achieve?
I have so many questions, and often, those questions circle in my head, revealing exhausting thoughts that dissolve my wisdom, then I see myself on a crossroad to nowhere, standing there, I do not know where to turn.
How did I become so confused? It is odd that, with age, I recognize how much I do not understand. Because of my past, all those who loved me are long gone, leaving me with regrets and only shadows of good times. Now, I spend most of my time looking back, and hope to find the path, which rotated my life upside down. If I am lucky, I might also find a way to correct what is still correctable.
However, sometimes I wander, is hope the only engine that drove me through life, and onto the ultimate quest for tranquility and happiness? What is happiness? When I ask someone if they could define happiness, most say it is love. Well, we are all seeking love, but how often do we actually know what we are really looking for?
When I was younger, I was never satisfied with my credentials nor pleased with my lifestyle and was always seeking more. Everything my mother had taught me, and the way she brought me up apparently worked against me. Not recognizing nor cherishing the warmth that surrounded me, I comprehended compassionate feelings only upon their loss. I lived my life by one principle, one rule: "Trust no one, and no one will lie to you."
That rule grew in me and became my shield. It sheltered and preserved me from betrayal. Unfortunately, that same rule pushed away all my beloved people, until ultimately; I was on my own. Sad but true, back then, not for a moment would I recognize or realize my standing. In fact, I turned out to be doubtful and suspicious toward everyone I encountered. I always kept my distance, just to be on a safe side.
That behavior clinically labeled paranoia, and maybe defined as being overly suspicious. My ex-shrink stated that my only cure was trust, which I needed to learn and learn badly.
How could I have faith in others? How far did I need to extend that belief, and how deeply should it go? What must a person do for me to earn that trust and what should I grant him?
Not knowing the answers, I let suspicions overcome the pleasure of intimate feelings, so I decided to stay on the safe side and play a selfish role in life. As I matured, that role became a big part of my life, and soon, without warning, my ignorance turned me onto the road of selfishness. Egoism played a big part in my behavior. Though surrounded by people, I always kept my distance. With time, that neglectful space wearied me, and I felt obstructed and could not blend in.
It was not long before alcohol came to my rescue, and was my only comfort in my life. With time, it converted into my companion, my trustworthy pal that provided me with warmth and peace. I considered alcohol a friend, since it comforted me, and did not drill holes in my head as some people I have known.
In my youth, when I encountered alcohol for the first time, I did not like the flavor or its scent; moreover, I hated that feeling of dizziness in my head. Subsequently, all that changed, and alcohol showed me a newly colored world. Periodically, I lived in a dream world.
If life is all about choices, then the choices we make define who we are. There was a time I had to confront myself with difficult choices: what is acceptable, and what is secure to me? Should I explore people for what they are, by exposing myself to right and wrong, or should I stay in my new world with the friend that I know, and see where that dream world will take me?
I did not like or enjoy the atmosphere in my life. Therefore, I chose my new friend. The kind of friend I could purchase when I felt lonely or sad, "fueling" myself with that friend to the point of self-fulfillment and joy. Ultimately, without realizing it, my life turned upside down. All that I was and all I had known slowly began to perish from my soul. In my mind, alcohol created a world of my own, where I was the king, a ruler with tremendous abilities, apprehending anything and anyone in my way. I came to believe in my self-esteem. Whom do I trust? Me! Whom do I believe in? Me. Before I knew it, a selfish user and abuser is what I became.
When I was younger, twenty-five years younger, I thought I was the expert of all things. The world and everything in it was like a 24/7 store that was always open for me. All I had to do was reach out and grab whatever I liked. That feeling arose in me, and with time, it outgrew me.
It all began when I arrived in New York; I was eighteen years old, naive, righteous, and full of pure hope. Then without my consent, and reluctantly, my mother decided to send me to the United States because she was against the idea of me joining the Israeli army. She thought that, by sending me away, she was saving me from wicked and hideous tragedies that soldiers encounter in the army, especially during the war. And boy was she wrong!
She entrusting me to my biological father, whom I hardly remembered, and brought me the good news. "Al, I have great news for you! I spoke to your father, and you will be leaving to New York next week!"
"You must be kidding me! Right?"
"No, here are your tickets."
"Ma I was recruited! So how will I attend the lineup on Thursday if I depart on Monday? And why would you call him my father? You know who my pap is! I am not going!"
"Oh yes you are! And you will call him that for as long as needed! Besides, it's only for few years."
"What do you mean, a few years? My return ticket is in one week!"
"How naive could you be? That ticket is a masquerade for your sergeant; you will bring him those tickets along with this file and request to postpone your pledge."
"What is in this file, Mom?"
"Nothing important, your birth certificate proofs that he is your father and Tom's medical records states that he is very sick, and has less than one week to live.
"Is he really dying?"
"Okay Al; that's enough. Just go there tomorrow and I will handle the rest."
Back then, my mother was everything to me, and more! I was Mama's boy, so when she said, "Jump" my reply always was "How high?"
All I knew about Tom was that he was my biological father, whom I had not seen since I was three years old. He was now living in New York and I needed to go live with him.
While growing up in Israel, I had many great friends, and most of them dreamed to visit America. I also thought about the life in the USA, but never imagined that one day I would be actually visiting. I thought of America as a place were all dreams come true, and if I ever were to go there, wealth and happiness would be waiting for me upon arrival.
Mom's plan worked out fine, and just like in a dream, I arrived at the New York Airport. It was a great feeling touring JFK Airport and inhaling the scent of that new, affluent life; or at least that was my first impression.
Recalling all I had seen on TV, I thought, Wow; here it is, all of it. As I passed through Customs, somehow my eyes locked onto a man who turned out to be my long-gone father. I came to that conclusion by watching him waving and shouting out my name. When I approached him, we looked at each other as two strangers, and he said, "Come on, let's go to my car." That is all he could say.
A Lincoln Town Car. Wow. I had seen them only in movies. While we were driving, I could not stop thinking about this car, and what a luxury it was.
He probably has a big house, with a pool and tennis court. There are probably more cars there. I will select a sports car, and I will drive it everywhere. What a life! Mom was so right, and I am so glad I listened to her again!
My imagination took over me, and I let myself float through the rest of our trip; it was a new, great feeling. Until the moment when Tom shouted with joy, "We are here!"
As he was parking, I noticed a small, dilapidated, five-story building, so I thought that maybe he had to pick something up. Then I heard him say very scary words. "We are home, let's go!"
At that moment, I felt my heart dropping to my knees, thinking it could not be, but as he was pulling my suitcases out, unfortunately for me, that was my new home.
As we were climbing up the stairs, I thought, oh well, how much worse could it get? We arrived on the fifth floor, and it got much worse.
He turned left at the hall, and pushed the first door open, which appeared to be hanging there by some kind of miracle. "Come on in," he said.
I slowly walked in to a tiny hallway; there was a small kitchen up ahead. By the aroma, I could only tell that too many people were living there. Unwillingly, I turned my head to the right and saw a room filled with strangers, apparently waiting for my arrival, all seated by a long skinny table, mashed one to another like sardines.
Right there and then, all my dreams vanished and a huge dim cloud rolled over my eyes.
Meeting all those people, I came to realize I had a half brother; at the time, he was nine years old. There were cousins that I knew of from Mom's stories.
So there I was, settling in and living in Brooklyn. I learned later that my new neighborhood called Borough Park, and I missed my previous life very badly. Walking on the streets of Brooklyn, I found myself in a hibernating state, walking and thinking about my life transformation and not knowing of my next step.
Boredom tortured me, so after a few days of torture, I decided to approach my so-called father and ask him for a favor. "Can you help me find me a job?" I asked.
"Okay. What would you like to do?"
"Anything; I don't care, I have ninety dollars in my pocket, so any job will do."
"Let me make some phone calls; try to stay close. I don't want you to get lost."
A few days later, he found me a job, and I began working at the gas station on Tenth Avenue and 27th Street in Manhattan. Night shift was the only opening at that time, but I did not care. There I was, living in a dreamland as a gas attendant, pumping gas at night.
Tom and his family spent the nights at home, so he let me use his car. However, shortly after that, he also needed it, so I was left with a problem and needed my own a car. I had no money, and had to confront Tom, but did not know where to begin. I needed to approach him for help again. In reality, I had no idea who he really was. My only option was to fabricate a story and hope he would buy it.
So come Saturday, I decided this was the day, and I approached him. I said, "You know I have no knowledge of the city, and most of all, I have poor English vocabulary. When I use the subway, I often get lost. I can't drive your car, so having my own car will make life easier for me. So I need your advice; how can I obtain a car?"
"Al, you see the way we live. We are not rich; in fact, I consider us to be slightly below middle class, but this is temporary. Anyway, what I am trying to say is, unfortunately, I don't have any money to give you. I wish I had."
"I see, so you can't help me. Maybe you know somebody that can give me a loan?"
"What loan? Nobody would give you a loan! You have nothing to show! However, I can get you a car loan; of course, you would have to pay it off! Can you?"
"Of course I can! I'm working now! Where do we have to go?"
"Let's go now; never postpone for tomorrow what you can accomplish today!"
Wow! All this time, that was the wisest thing he had said. That phrase impressed me.
He took me to a Dodge dealer. I did not know anything about Dodge, but did not care much either. There were so many great cars there my eyes began to jiggle. While looking at so many varieties, I became confused. At the end, I chose the most expensive one, but he quickly turned me toward a vehicle I could afford.
It was the cheapest car there, but it was new and supposedly, all mine.
I watched Tom, as he sat with the sales clerk in that glass booth for hours; then finally, they pulled my new car out and parked it on the opposite side of the store. Strangely, in a good way, from a distance, it looked different, maybe because there were no upscale vehicles nearby, or maybe because it was far away.
Nevertheless, I was happy. Considering where I came from, owning a car seemed as a fairytale to me. In Israel, most people could not afford that luxury, especially eighteen-year-old kids. When I drove away from the dealer with my new Dodge, that fairytale turned in to reality.
Successfully arriving and parking by the dilapidated building, I was a bit tense, bearing in mind that this was my first time driving in the area. As I sat there playing with all the buttons and being acquainted with my new toy, suddenly, out of nowhere, he appeared.
"How do you like it?" Tom asked.
"I like it a lot! Thanks!"
"Come on; we have to rejoice this occasion! Let's celebrate!"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, come on, and you'll see! You have a lot to learn."
As we entered the crummy apartment right off the bath, he pulled a bottle of scotch and poured two shots.
I looked at him, then at the glasses, and said, "You know I don't drink. Didn't my mother tell you?"
"We spoke only of your immigration issues, and nothing else."
"Well, anyway, I don't drink; never tried and don't wanted to, either!"
"Listen, don't be embarrassed. I was shy also at first, but I was younger than you and still overcame that fear, so become a man, and see what it feels like!"
Sipping my first shot ever, it felt as if a ball of fire glided down my throat, and when it arrived below, my stomach exploded. Suppressing that burning feeling, I thought of this celebration as a taste of hell, and tried to retreat from his enjoyment, but he would not let me go.
"Hey, where do you think you are going? The party has just begun!"
"No, thanks I can't drink anymore. Besides, there is no food here."
"Food is for chumps," he commented, and poured me another and another. After a few more drinks, I passed out.
When I woke up, I went to the kitchen and there he was, still by the table, clutching an empty bottle of scotch in his arms, and out cold.
Now I knew what rejoicing really meant in his vocabulary, and my version of rejoicing was still pounding in my head. I rejoiced nausea with tremendous vomiting, and complete body wreckage. I sat in the bathroom for an hour, and I could not stop thinking about how cruel destiny can be.
Excerpted from Who we really are Copyright © 2012 by Anonymous. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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