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When I was home

My first time performing in my hometown

By Ruben De EscapadoPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 18 min read
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Late night discussions about our next adventure always kept us warm in the coldest of winter.

What was it like going home?

On Hemingway’s birthday I did an event at a bar. The idea of doing a gig wasn’t necessarily my style but writing custom poetry and drinking old fashions was. So, I did what I do, had a drink or two, and laughed with friends who came out to support me despite there being nothing I can do about their hefty bill. One of them, let's call him Donatello, suggested that I do this at the Ossining River Jam. A weekly event our home town began to do, giving live music on the waterfront to the residents. The same town where we’d play soccer endlessly, chase after girls just for the timing to be off, where apples were our bongs, where seven eleven was our church, sour straws our eucharist, where we rode skateboards and bikes down the hill just to walk them back up, where we’d watch sunsets by the water and find ways to work it out. I told him I’d think about it. We all parted ways that night with a hug and a handshake. A handshake that solidified for all involved that something had, in fact, happened here tonight. Friends were friends. Poets were poets. All was right in the world.

I went back to my apartment and my girlfriend went to bed early. I stayed up for a while and had a cup of tea. It sat on my windowsill as it cooled. The steam spiraled upward like the spirit of a waterfall. That might be as far as the story goes for that night. Just know I was confronted.

See though my hometown is the haven for some of my fondest memories, it is also the abyss for some of my worst. And I had been doing better. Like my career and quality of writing, sure. But myself. You know the person behind these words, beard, and eyes was doing better. Or is doing better? I am not sure, still unpacking. Nonetheless, I associated my overall improvements with having left some people and places behind, so I can leave moments of weakness and pain that are attached to them. Convincing myself that this was some sort of absolute. Not in a general sense, but at least as it comes to my own survival. There was too long of a time, when I looked in the mirror and saw shattered glass. For the first time in my life, I looked in the mirror and felt some sense of satisfaction. Some days I’d dare to say I felt handsome. Like who I was is who I am, but it doesn’t need to be. Somewhere within the cluster fuck of my imagination and disassociation, I was settling the debris within.

I think I read a poem by Ruben Dario, finished my tea, and went to bed. I’d like to go to Nicaragua someday. I deflected for two weeks. Putting off the decision to go to this performance. Knowing the number of days were dwindling. It showed in my writing, in my presentation, and in my emotions. Not that this was the most life-altering decision, but it was one that stirred something in me. If you are reading this and know nothing of me, when something sparks my interest, I need to hunt it down. Why was I so conflicted? Why was I not addressing it?

The Thursday before the Friday I went arrived. The pocket of time from when Donatello told me the idea to this specific Thursday, is quite the unique span of time. See, in my book the female main has just gotten to NY from Spain. She is conflicted about telling her father, that her half-sister’s suicide was—eh, you guys aren’t interested in that. But know that the thoughts of going back home were festering as I continued my habit of writing anywhere between 40-60 poems a week, twenty hours a week writing for other projects, managing my Instagram (Look in the mirror and see a brand, never look in the mirror and see a man. Or so they say.) and dealing with the emotions of my characters. In this brief window of doubt and insecurity, where it was specific instead of general, I danced with Marquez. The prose were delicious. It was chaos in a spectacular form. Addictive writing that kept me in it even during my moments of doubt for the Buendia family. Just for him take the knot apart with a single pull of the final three pages. It was as if Don Quixote had finally sat down and written. But he had; it was titled, Don Quixote de La Mancha. This was an exclusive Gabriel Garcia Marquez experience, and I was grateful for it.

I had read the last fifty pages between my subway ride to the park and at the park itself. On my way in, I always take the same route. I walk by the playground; it reminds me of what it is like to be a kid. Then up by the statue of Balto. It always makes me think of Call of The Wild. This makes me think of Jack London; suddenly, I am entranced in the nostalgia of child-like inspiration. I drop $2 in the young sax man’s bucket, the way I always do. He had a sign out once that changed my life, about halfway through the summer. “The highest form of love is paying attention.”. It always feels like the timing in which I read that was so important, but an act of kindness always feels like fate. Then I walked under that beautiful brick archway. As I exit, I have the tenacity of a warrior. The wisdom of a philosopher. The patience of these trees. I am breathing, and I am okay. Maybe my mother raised me to be a prophet. Maybe my father raised me to be a man. Maybe my brothers showed me how to be a friend. I have the heart of a poet. The heart of a poet. It is the heart of a human, but belief is a wonderful thing. I nod to the polaroid man. “Another day in paradise” through the eyes. Fist bump a few portrait artists and wish them luck. I’ll go say hi to Ralph later today. I want to tell him that he is too good to be wasting his talents in the park, never saying it because I know he’ll tell me there is no such thing as being too good for anyone. And I know he’ll be right. Or he’ll tell me there is nothing like the park. And I know he’ll be right again. It’s a magical oasis where New Yorkers are willing to be patient because they are surrounded by green instead of dirt and depression. Nothing like a sunset on the literary walk either. Well, my lady and I know one other spot, but I think I’ll save that for us. I got to my park bench that day and I so badly wanted to write poetry for you all, but what I had read on the subway had enticed me. I set up and began to read. I devoured the pages until it ended. Then I was in a flux of wonder and disappointment. Wonder about all that the book had just done for my thoughts. Disappointment because I knew I was entering a book lover's rock bottom. When a book only makes you want to read, but nothing quite compares to the book that started the fire. We know we aren’t supposed to compare, but how can we not?

I sat there on that bench for some time in the ambiance of my own qualitative existence. I felt like the greenery was holding me, and I longed to hold it back. I stayed in a Daoist sanctuary after we hiked a volcano in Guatemala, making my relationship with the monks in the park completely spiritual and spoken but without a voice. I had a strong connection to their fate but in a different way than they did. I felt like I understood through the act of not understanding, and for that, I had moments that inexplicably filled my jar of satisfaction with simplicity in abundance at the acceptance of the vacancy that all things are. You can’t experience something like that and not recognize the eyes of another who have. Whenever I am in a flow state, Wu-Wei, (not a Daoist, you just pick things up when you read.), their presence is immediately felt as I know they sense mine. They walk back and forth all day, handing out bracelets and medallions. One of them entered my view as the bloody hand of my heart reached for a pink moon. On this day, he nodded and said hello. I nodded back, and my heart said safe travels. I had settled on the idea that I would go to my hometown at the risk of scrutiny and picking scabs that haven’t quite healed.

The next day came, and I packed my bags to stay the weekend at my parents's afterward. They were still around there, and they needed me to dog sit. I parted ways with my lady at Grand Central, and I knew it was all head-on from here. Roll with the punches. Take it how it comes. I repeated my way back into Central Park. The Call of the Wild, the innocence, and the jazz are all where they are supposed to be. Today I leave behind 100 years of Solitude and instead bring Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac in my bag. I read three chapters, and it was entertaining. I would enjoy it on another date, maybe. I knew I needed to leave Central Park by five to make it to Ossining. It was about an hour and a half from Central Park to the Waterfront, and the music started at seven. As the hours dwindled down, I felt Dr. Sax lurking in the shadow. This young kid selling paintings asked me if he could borrow a book and said his favorite was The Alchemist. This immediately calmed my nerves as I began daydreaming about my bookshelf and what I could potentially bring him.

I met a handful of interesting people in the park that day. One kinder than the other and maybe wrote fifteen poems. Not my best day, but not a bad one. But just because it wasn’t my best, my nerves were attacking me. When you go back home, will you not be at your highest ability? Do you think you can just write bull shit for people? No, it must be moving. It must be real. It must be honest. Deal with what you’re dealing with so that you can do what you do with a sense of clarity and noble intention. And the fate of kindness returns to me again.

A sweaty man who looked eerily like my best friend who moved to Argentina. A quick stray from the subject matter, I do entertain that I am in a simulation regularly. As far as my tools of deduction go, no. The possibility of it happening can’t be denied (but anything can be a possibility). Tell me why I am not a Billy goat that ate magic mushrooms and began fucking another goat, and I am just the projection of this Billy goat’s drugged-induced mind now at the moment of climax. Seeming like a lifetime for me, but just a moment before rest for the Billy goat. Tell me why it's not possible. I mean, our sense of being, in terms of our consciousness, feels like its own substance compared to our bodies order of operations, but even making the argument that we are just the substance, and the body is the vehicle of simulation feels like a stretch. Solely because our bodies experience trauma and pleasure that influence our substance turned subjective turned subject with mood swings. Find me a bike that is upset because you popped the tire. If our bodies are just mechanical catalysts for our minds, then how do we explain co-dependency? Also, the possibility that we are in a vat somewhere experiencing endless sleep feels horse shit. Not because it’s impossible, but because there is no way to recreate human spontaneity. Even when AI develops art. It receives its knowledge from the only source of knowledge that exists. Human knowledge. Therefore, it is not the spontaneous creation of art; rather, it is the synthesized production of the human experience in the highest form of expression that it can only emulate in production and never in originality. Accumulating it all into a single production. But even that is generous. Though the AI may be able to associate the word empathy with a definition, it cannot feel sorry for starving people. Or women losing basic health care rights in this country to continue the cynical and cyclical nature of poverty, depression, incarceration, and death (Yes, women will still need to get abortions, and they will do them in potentially harmful ways because, in the end, legislation is the common lie we agree to for the safety and peace that can exist in a free state. But this is not a free state. Simply ask yourself, is this country and its citizens safe and at peace? Then we are either not free, or we no longer believe the lie). The cataclysmic spontaneity that exists in all things. There is no way to emulate that. Because technology is repressive and orderly in conception. While nature is the potential for violence and silent serendipity. Anything conceived in repression cannot contain a potential for violence. Anything conceived orderly opposes serendipity. There are both flowers in the garden and in the jungle, but only one is considered wild. Our consciousness is a natural phenomenon. Your mind is not as stagnant as you may think. Allow it to be once in a while. You will find that it is at one moment a still lake, another a rushing waterfall. Whatever we design as a species may be able to deceive our senses and even our deductive reasoning, but in the end, a lake and falling water can never be placed in a bottle. Anyways, a sweaty man who looked eerily like my best friend approached me, offering a joint. He and his friends were smoking beside me and were about to head to JFK to go home. I asked them where home was. Argentina. Holy fuck! Maybe it is a simulation. I want the red pill! I want the red pill! I shook their hand and they got on their way.

Maybe this is a sign for me to get going too. It’s only four fifteen. You got forty-five minutes before you need to leave; why not enjoy the park instead of working? So, I walk, and my phone has a low battery, but that’s no bother. I walked and found a tree with a beautiful branch arching low from the ground to the bark. Drooping leaves making a camouflage tent on the floor. I sat under it and with my last fifteen percent, played Rubber Soul by the Beatles and smoked that porky joint. I laid under that tree for the full thirty minutes. Never once feeling the second pass. I thought a thousand feelings. Felt a million thoughts. I thought it is these brief moments I live for. And I experienced something like heart break when I had to leave that wise old tree.

I walked over to the six train climbed on to a crowded subway car, grabbed a wrap I didn't eat, drank some Ashwagandha root drink, and got on the train at Grand Central. I still didn’t feel like I was on my feet. So, I opened my journal to see if I could write a poem. Just dump from the heart and see what I tell myself.

The light is cut

A passing train

Returns refraction

Leather reflection.

The bells ring behind

My head.

Maybe I am dead.

Maybe this is a dream.

The light flickers

A tunnel of darkness

To transcend

A hickory voice

Laughs at Darwinian hierarchies

I am intelligent and creative

But maybe wisdom is pawned

The clouds begin to invade

A tired evening sky

Then they are gone

To the passing of bricks

I remember the countless ways

I die--

Pieces of me

Fall apart.

Then they are mended by

The slow sway

Of fatigue and misery

On my ever-aging face.

I closed my journal. I had only four percent on my phone, and the conductor hadn’t come for my ticket yet. I tucked it into my pocket and continued to look out the window. There is nothing like that ride on the green line to send your imagination wandering. Just above the seat were blond straight hair and green eyes. They were perched there observing me. She’d look out the window and back at me. Then to the wall, and back at me again. They got to her stop, and she was so invested in whatever game she was playing that the doors closed on her, and she rode a stop standing over me. Waiting for the next one and calling someone to pick her up.

I had only a handful of stops before home. Tarrytown was next, then Scarborough, then Ossining. I might be missing one. I think it was Phillips manor. Whatever, I’ll look it up later. In this span of time. I thought of the girl missing her stop. I could pretend to do the same. There was still a way out of this. But I know I owed something to all the fears I have felt to get off and at least sit there. I allowed myself a break from anxiety and a moment of reality. I’ll climb the staircase and climb down the other. There will be a crowd and food trucks and the stage. And they would be there even if you weren’t. You will be, and it won’t make the biggest difference, but some difference, sure. You may see someone you haven’t seen in a long time. It will be nice to know they are alive and well. Even if it is someone you knew briefly, you have changed so much since then, and it’s possible that they have too. Give them the opportunity that you’d want them to show you. Well, what the fuck is my brand? My train actually arrives. Not the train of my thought, but at Ossining station. I rush to grab my things and head up the stairs. Maybe you don’t have a brand? Maybe you just have an identity?One formed by a past that empowered you in good moments and strengthened you in your bad ones. Maybe you just love this town, and you are afraid that love will hurt you? Because I have been hurt before and always feel like I don’t have another in me.

And I see someone familiar after I see the distance in the crowd. We were so different that all I could think was what he was thinking, where have you been?

I tucked myself in a distant corner to the left of the stage. I listened to two songs before I had the courage to set myself up, but I did it at my own pace. The sun was gravitating towards the mountain ridge across the river. The sunlight ice skating across the wind on water, passed a rocking sailboat, and warmed my page. An old woman sat next to me, and we listened and watched the sunset together. She was petite and had sad eyes. We never spoke a word to each other despite sharing the bench. I felt like she was asking herself that. Where have you been? She looked at me and saw someone different. Maybe an old friend. A dead husband or cousin or brother. Maybe I resembled her father, but she would look at me with earnest confusion. Like none of it made sense, but she was grateful. She looked at me this way, the sunset, the mountains, the boats, the passing people, and the musicians. She was very alone.

I was searching for my soul. That was what I had concluded. I have been searching for it for so long that I forgot how much of it I possessed. I don't think I have it down to a science, but I know I am trying. I know that if you put good into the world, it will put it into you.

It wasn’t until the sunset, and the music stopped that I wrote a few poems. My phone had been dead for hours. I sent my location to my girlfriend, hoping she would come to get me eventually.

Someone who must have read my Instagram post from earlier this week was behind me because they yelled, “Look, it’s Gandhi!”. This was to be expected by some, so self-indulged in hate, that they skim the surface of life wanting to critique those they have no capacity to understand. I told a story about when I gave the advice I needed to hear. That you can become your heroes if you do it in your own way. Expressing the pain of that boy potentially not understanding what I tried to tell him but something similar. Trying to emphasize how passionately I want people to be excited about life. To believe in things and allow wonder to carry you in the wind. Besides the point, the pain that person tried to inflict made me feel pity for their circumstance and gratitude for my own. I was extremely motivated to write after it, and in the setting sun, people began to arrive.

In this window, I met people from my hometown I had never known. They were wonderful people trying to do something. What that something was eluded me, but they were people engaging with their lives. All of them were excited about what I had to offer. I left these foreigner friends speechless when writing a poem about missing home. I wrote another on new beginnings. Music. Film. Hot dogs. Spice. Rice and beans. And achieving your goals. Some were better than others, but I felt like everyone I interacted with was better for it. That meant so much to me that I don’t think I will ever run out of ways to express it. I am forever grateful to those of you who I have had the opportunity to write poetry for. You all carry pieces of my heart.

For me, what I do is easy. It’s as natural as breathing. I have tried to do what everyone else has done. I have worked so many different jobs. Been to so many different places. Always getting knocked down and seeing broken glass. But a part of my hurt has been seemingly misunderstood. Misunderstood my own limitations as a person, and now, I don’t know. My scope is widening, and I am grateful to the neighbors I met.

Maybe I was avoiding the fact that a lot of my pain may have started with a reaction to an outside source but was always self-inflicted? Maybe I am so perpetually conflicted by the status of the world and reality, that sometimes being a local and enjoying simple pleasures can be difficult? What if you can't hate a place, but only who you were in that place? That sometimes memories of lesser versions of yourself weigh you down? Maybe denial is a defense mechanism of the mind to keep you safe from the pain that healing is?

I left the waterfront that evening and went to my childhood home. I spent the rest of my weekend with my family dog, a little white maltese and poodle mix. Pondering these questions and always concluding they bear truth and they bear lies. Lies that will only reveal themself with time. Following what is true to show me the rest behind the lies. And I wrote this down for me to interpret just as much as you, the reader. Because I just move my fingers on the tail of my heart and try to see where it has been.

Steaks were cooked over the fire. Music was played. Drinks went down. Our moods went up. Then the day drifted away while the crickets took the night. Family was family. Friends were friends. Poets were poets. All was right in the world. At least for now. Under the camoflage tent of Central Park trees. But beyond it? The only way to know is to look, for the highest form of love is paying attention.

“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.” -Alexis Carrel

Thank you for reading. I hope you are better for it.

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About the Creator

Ruben De Escapado

Most know me as a poet sitting on a park bench in Central Park. Writing poetry for strangers. Before that I lived a life and learned a few things. Now I listen to what the world had to teach others. Believe in yourself and be honest. Okay.

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