My 19th year

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One of the weirder periods of my life was my 19th year. It was like being trapped in a twilight zone. I had flamed out after one year of college. So, for lack of anything better to do, I moved back in with my parents in their house in the suburbs of New Jersey. And that was weird. Being an adult physically, but sleeping in the same bed I had slept in as a child. It was an apt metaphor for my stunted state at the time. Physically grown up, but still a child.

I was having a nervous breakdown, basically, and would sometimes slip into this almost catatonic state. I would lie for hours on my back in my bed in the darkness of my bedroom, staring up at the ceiling, seething with rage and unhappiness and confusion. Periodically my Father would trot into my bedroom to offer me his council. Which always boiled down to: “It’s all in your mind. Your problems really aren’t that serious. Everything is fine.” Then he’d trot out of my bedroom with a perky smile on his face, having solved all of my problems yet again. And I would sink back into my catatonic misery.

Another weird thing. All my friends from high school had left town and gone off to college. So it was like living in a ghost town. There was this feeling that I had been left behind. Everybody else was off somewhere making lives for themselves. While I was already moving backwards.

The misery I experienced during this period was so intense and so prolonged, it was like it was permanently imprinted on my psyche. And I would be a much different person than I was before. I’ve talked to other people who have had shattering experiences, and they said they were never the same afterwards. Their psyches were like a ceramic tea-pot that had been shattered. You could never glue the pieces back together exactly as it had been before, and there would be these jagged, sharp edges sticking out.

Eventually my parents told me I would have to get some kind of job and pay for my expenses if I wanted to live in their household. I somehow managed to get this minimum wage job working the graveyard shift as an orderly in this home for retarded children. But that only added to the weird twilight zone aspect of my existence. Starting my day by getting up at midnight driving off to work in the darkness, while everybody else was ending their day. This vampire existence. And the retarded children added another eerie dimension to the mad dreamscape that was my life. They all slept in this big, dark room, eerily illuminated by night-lights so we could keep track of them. And they often made these weird, haunted sounds as they talked and babbled in their sleep. I particularly remember this one black kid named Charles who would shout over and over: “CHARLES GET BACK IN THAT CLOSET!! CHARLES GET BACK IN THAT CLOSET!!”

I was completely lost. Only barely functional. With no way out. It was like there was simply no options for me. There was nothing any good that was available to me in this life. My 19th year. It would take me years to finally start digging myself out of the hole I was in that year . . . Sometimes I wonder if I ever dug myself out of it.

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