Today is my sober anniversary!
Twenty years ago today I appeared on the steps of the building pictured above, 19-25 Saint Mark’s Place in New York City’s East Village. That morning I had traveled from my home in Pennsylvania to attend a rehab in the Bronx, but then I had been denied admittance to the rehab and had nowhere else to go. I was literally penniless.
I was also hungry. It was about 5pm and I hadn’t eaten anything that day. Dealing with the Bronx rehab’s admissions person, a Puerto Rican man named Americo, had been an epic fiasco, all of my own making. When he gave me the subway token and directions to the East Village, I felt terrified. Really scared. But by the time I got off the train, I had already acclimated to my new situation.
I asked the other homeless people at the shelter if there were any food. People looked to their left and right. Someone coughed into his hand, another person brushed lint from her shoulder. Food was tight. Finally a large black woman took pity on me and ladled a heap of plain macaroni noodles onto a paper plate. She waited for me to respond to her kindness. I looked at the plate in front of me.
“What, no tomato sauce?” I asked.
The black woman chuckled. “Aren’t you something,” she said. She was absolutely right. I certainly was something. And twenty years later, I hope I’m something else.