When I turned forty, I told God I would let Him have control of the next forty years, seeing how I made a complete mess of the first forty. After His forty, if I didn’t like what He did, then I’d take the next forty! I’m not sure I liked what was happening with His forty either! At least with my forty, I managed to stay out of jail. I was zero for three. Three arrests and no jail time. He was already three out of three and was only in the first year, and unfortunately as you will see soon, He was just getting warmed up!!!
When I was being processed into the county jail, it was noted I was in the category “forty and over”. I appreciated this because I certainly did not want to be thrown in with a bunch of young gangsters or wannabes. I was shown my new home and carefully took in the scenery. It was in barrack-style with 48 beds in one section, some bunk-beds, a day area with a color television hung from the ceiling, three shower stalls, on the opposite wall of the bathroom consisting of three toilets, no partitions, in the open, next to three sinks! That made me totally uncomfortable. Women are freer in their bathroom experience, always taking company when using public restrooms. Right guys? But we men want separate and enclosed stalls. We even prefer our urinals to at least have a partition between them, but this was not the case here.
One of the guys who looked familiar came up to me said, “I know you”, however, his intonation and mannerisms made me feel totally uncomfortable. We men have what is known as our “homo radar”, and mine was picking up strong signals. It turns out I did know Tony, but the Tony I knew in high school was all man. Later I asked him what happened, and said he was gay then but during those times you surely didn’t want to let others know. Fine. Tony was gay, but as I looked over the other inmates, there seem to be more in terms of straight to gay ratio normally seen in the street. I couldn’t even put my bedding down. There was a serious mistake. I went to the “Pod” officer to tell him I was in the wrong pod. He asked me if I were over forty, I agreed I was and he said,
“That’s why you’re in this one. It’s considered over forty and gay.” Now I knew there was an error in processing me. I told him,
“Sir, I agree, I’m over forty, but I am not ‘and gay’. Please, have me reassigned.”
He thought I was funny and started laughing explaining older guys are placed with the gays because we’re able to tolerate them better than younger groups. I wasn’t so sure if this would be true in my case. I am definitely what you would consider “homophobic” and do not mind admitting so, vehemently. When I went to my assigned bunk, which caused me more uncomfortableness, it was on top and I have a strong fear of heights. As a kid growing up, I had the top bunk of three beds, but I had a wall beside me and I never trusted the ladder. I fixed my blanket so that it would be so tight, I would have trouble falling over the side when I slept. While making up my bed, one guy was particularly interested in making my acquaintance, which I ignored just as insistently. I knew this was not going to work. I just knew I would be fighting because someone was looking at me and lusting whiles either in the shower or sitting on the toilet. This was not going to work at all.
My first couple of days I began to feel more at ease once I fell into a routine. I learned to stay up at night reading whatever I could get my hands on and falling asleep after breakfast sleeping completely until lunch. After lunch, I would take my shower being careful to have myself covered as much as possible, play cards until dinner time, watch television until bed time where I’d read again. My days flew by. When I reached the first month mark, I was having some trouble because I wasn’t seeing anything happening and listening to veterans who’d gone through this several times, was not helping me to feel better.
For all those years serving as a prison chaplain and now finding myself an inmate was too upsetting for me. Now trying to avoid fights, watching fights, meeting friends from the past, meeting new ones and dealing not only with homosexuals especially the “flaming” ones as well as men who were transsexual and had breasts due to hormone injections, was way beyond my scope. I wanted out of here.
I learned prior to the ninety day limit, I was indicted on a fifth degree felony “receiving stolen property” (RSP) and not third degree of grand theft, which could not have been proven. I was grateful because I was facing five years alone with an additional year with the RSP charge. Now I was only facing one year.
I began to let my defenses down regarding gays even being invited to attend their Bible study. When they learned I had been in ministry they asked me to take over the class and I promptly made them aware their lifestyle could not be supported by God’s Word or His love. I came down on them hard, but truthfully. I could tell many of them heard this before and knew they weren’t going to have me as their ally. The class ended, but another one started and again was asked to teach and I did, faithfully, every evening for almost two hours and often counseling separately and prayer. For some it was merely a distraction which made the time go by, but for most it was a time of hope. For me, I felt the need and responsibility to give them the best I could using my own experiences, but in my heart, I was empty. All I could concentrate on was a little more than three hundred dollars I had stashed away in money orders. While employed at Finast I received money orders from the various district stores for purchases of monogrammed clothing the employees wore. Usually the money orders would come already processed but with no payee named. I kept them because I thought to use them to get more money for drugs. When I got out I was going to have enough for a room for a weekend, enough Crack for the entire time with a syringe of quality heroin to give myself a lethal injection. It’s what I wanted to do. This time I wasn’t going to miss in killing myself. My actions and tone must have conveyed my intentions to one particular inmate whose brother had been one of my closest friends while growing up in Glenville SDA Church. He was there as a result of drugs. He was concerned I would try to hurt myself while there, contacted his mother, who contacted my grandmother, who told my uncle, who called the administration who sent a corporal to have a little talk with me. He asked me if I were depressed. I admitted I was and my things were packed and I was shipped to the second floor. The Psychiatric Pod.
I was thankful to get away from the noise of almost fifty men, and have my own cell and privacy of being able to use the bathroom when I wanted instead of waiting for everyone else to go to sleep and my turn. There were others who waited until lights out, too! It was almost a written script. You knew when it was your turn by the sequence of the other embarrassed ones. I admired the gays if only for that. They could go, use and wipe while talking to each other. There was no way. Some things are just too personal to share with the world. Outside my new home was a plastic bag which contained my personal effects including soap and hygiene items, as well as my clothes! In this cell, I could have what they called a suicide blanket. It was a thick, 5×5 square foot material consisting of the fabric jeans are made of. If you covered yourself with your knees bent you were able to pretty much protect yourself from the cool air blowing from the vent. It was not comfortable at all. Breakfast and lunch were served to you and if you weren’t on any restrictive list, you could dress and be allowed out of your room and watch a little television while you ate. Once your meal was finished, you undressed and returned to your cell. The only other time you would be let out was when you saw the doctor; otherwise you stayed in the cell and stood at the door to watch the television. There wasn’t any way to lie down to view it. Twice a day, whether you wanted it or not, you’d be interrupted or awakened at night to respond to the nurse asking if you were okay. You had to respond.
There was the four-post restraint room for those who could not get with the program. You were given only one choice, up or down. You were restrained for increments of eight hours. It didn’t matter if you needed to use the bathroom or not. If you had to go, you went. Up or down really wouldn’t matter, you were going to be in your mess no matter what the position. What kept me sane and never desiring a visit to this room was how would I scratch my nose if I had an itch? By the end of two weeks, I was more than willing to assure the medical staff I no longer desired to hurt myself. It wasn’t true. I just didn’t need to let them know.
I was taken to another pod, this one in the newer section the style most jails are built today. There are two tiers with the day room on the bottom floor, housing about 120 men, two each to a cell which was really meant for one. Someone had to sleep on the floor. During my stay there, I always opted, as long as I had a comfortable mat, I didn’t see much difference between the metal-frame bed and concrete floor.
I was determined to pretty much stay to myself, without any plans to do anything other than wait my time and play cards. After lunch there was a small group who met in an adjoining room for Bible studies, and I was invited to attend. Again, as if by design, I was the teacher leading men to Christ. No matter what was going on inside my life, I was compelled to try to help others when I seemed outside of that help for myself. I began having too much conflict in my mind and growing unstable. Everything was beginning to bother me. In the beginning my roommate was fine. We got along well even if he did have trouble with gas. You learn to deal with a high-cabbage diet but some people can’t handle it. It’ll pass, no pun intended, but my sensitivity was wearing too thin. I reported to the pod officer, after only a month, either I would hurt him tonight, or myself, if someone didn’t help me. And they did. I slept in the psychiatric pod that night and for the next month but on the other side of the floor this time.
Having been before I knew what to expect. I adjusted quickly except the guys here were really nuts—literally. I just wanted to be left alone and they’d want to make friends when we were let out, this time for our thirty minutes per day.
The whole time I could not think of anything but that final syringe of high waiting for me. Even thinking about it would cause me shivers. I had drug dreams at night, feeling every sensation. No longer did I care about modesty when the nurse came around. I did not care how she saw me. I felt less and less worth a person. I was more of a “thing” to be observed and kept behind bars.
I eventually transferred to another pod, the doctor determining I needed to just accept what was happening and try to settle within myself all was not what it might seem. Whatever time I might be given certainly was not a death sentence as some guys were facing.
In my new home I roomed with a guy who I clicked with immediately. The pod was of older guys and very few problems. I was determined to make the best of it and not attend any Bible studies because I only had one purpose in mind. Dying. I felt like a hypocrite preaching to men a message that could not make the change within my own heart. It seemed the more determined I was not wanting anything to do with ministry the more the Lord was interested in getting me involved.
I was resident for two weeks when my roommate invited me to participate because he thought I did not know what was going on. I couldn’t help but notice the Bibles, and it was obvious with the singing and hand-clapping even though the room they met was soundproof. Funny now as I think back, my roommate invited me but he himself didn’t attend and later I would end up inviting him!
My first evening listening to a gentleman share the Gospel only fueled my desire to support his words with deeper insight into the Lord’s Supper. As I described the foot-washing and what it entailed which is mostly overlooked if not ignored, they were speechless, it seemed, having themselves been transported and taking part with Jesus. The leader of the study broke the calm saying,
“Brothers, you know I will be leaving soon and we have been praying for someone to come. God has answered our prayer by sending His minister. He is my replacement. Let us now hear from him.”
There I go again! For the next two months until I was sentenced and left, I spent every evening sharing with them the books Revelation and Daniel. I surprised myself how much I remembered having last taught it in 1983, fifteen years ago. I quickly realized it was the Holy Spirit who took over the class. One brother, once a deacon of a church outside now one inside the prison walls would lead the group in songs of praise then prayer and turn the service over to me. And for the next hour or so, I allowed the Spirit of God to open the prophecies to the men hungry for God’s Word and the peace it brings. The size of the room constrained us to how many could be permitted. Later, when we were restricted by an officer, his supervisor would increase that number saying if men wanted to study the Bible, we needed to make it available. Soon, while one group would get their daily bread and silently left, another group would eventually take their place for their serving. If you can imagine this, a pod of prisoners, criminals, usually a hundred men strong, gathered in a circle holding hands and having nightly prayer before returning to their cells to be locked in each night! Men! Some who never attended services but wanted to be included in the group prayer, praying for themselves, their enemies and even the institution and guards was impressive. Instead of a crime wave, we were sheaves waving in the breeze of the Spirit of God. But I still wanted to die.
I received a visit from my uncle who told me he read the letter I sent to my grandmother and where I hid the money orders and wanted her to send them to me. He found me despicable in putting her in the middle of my thievery and implicated her. This was my nearly three hundred dollars I stashed and was going to use it to smoke and end my life. Now I didn’t have anything.
On March 3, 1998 I was sentenced to six months. I had been there for five and thankful only one month to go until the Judge, in his wisdom, made this pronouncement which surprised me, my attorney and deputies present when he said I would be serving the remainder of the time in a state penitentiary! My attorney tried to indicate there were no reasons to have me sent away since I had only thirty days left to the sentence. The court staff could only shake their heads in disbelief. He would not listen to reason. God had a purpose and I could not see it until later. Normally if you’re given a sentence of less than a year, you do the year in the county jail. By the time they would process me and ship me to the state’s receiving institution, they would be sending me home. I was not quite sure what kind of example the Judge was making out of me. When the call would come that early morning, I had seventeen days left!
I arrived at Lorain Correctional, where all inmates in Northern Ohio go for processing; I knew I was now a part of a society I never intended becoming. Because of the amount of men being processed and then shipped to what’s called your “home” facility, treatment of the inmate was not as good as it was in the county jail. You see, while in county many are still being determined “if” guilty. It can be assumed once you have stepped through the portals of Lorain, you “are” guilty. No longer was I “Mr. Martin”. I was now “Inmate Martin”, and there were many correctional guards who seemed to enjoy helping you accept this new identity any way they could with pleasure. I’m normally an easy-going guy, but I do take note of abuse and do not mind addressing it. I saw what I would consider “abuse” being done and wanted to challenge it, but then I realized it wasn’t happening to me because I did not cause it, nor did I need to involve myself especially since I were not a part of the treatment, just the spectator. It was a young man, on his knees, hands behind his head, on the muddy and cold wet ground. I didn’t like what I saw perhaps because it was a white guard and the inmate was black. I didn’t like how the guard was speaking, especially loud, just outside of the chow line, as if making an example out of this young black man. I looked around and saw more than two hundred inmates in my own unit and at least another two hundred in another unit standing and waiting for food and another unit already eating their meal, with only three to four guards at best! We could have taken them and did whatever we wanted—easily. Heck, many of these men would never see the outside again so what could they lose? Even if given the death penalty for the death of these guards would have only been a much easier way out of the further pain and humiliation they would be subjected to for the rest of their natural lives. I only had a few days left, and didn’t want to rack up additional charges to prolong my stay here, so I kept quiet but did raise my objections to nearby inmates.
I did challenge a guard one night during a “shakedown”. My “cellie” and I were talking and the guard decided to make a point, calling us out of our cell, having us face a wall while they tore through our belongings searching for something they would never find only because it did not exist. This was an overt act of trying to humiliate us. Once they were satisfied we’d spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes recovering our belongings and sorting through the tossed bedding. While standing and facing the wall, he asked me who I was, and I replied, “Roy Martin”. He insisted I answer, “Inmate Martin”. I turned looking him in the eye and replied, “Sir, my name is Roy Martin and I cannot say it any other way.” My cellie responded, as required, having been there several times before. The guard decided I wasn’t worth the effort returned us to our cell and locked us in for the night and left us in peace.
When I arrived at Lorain the staff showed disgust at the Judge and could only question “why”? Why would I be sent there for only seventeen days? They would have to do my “intake” the same time they would do my “out-take” processing. I knew enough when questioned by inmates how much time I was serving to say “only seventeen”. Let them assume years. I wasn’t going to tell them days. I would not be there long enough to be able to make it to “Population”, joining the others who’d been there thirty days. A man who has “short time” is usually picked on to create a disturbance, a fight, to pick up an assault charge to create additional time, all for the hope of enjoying your hospitality a little longer.
Those days were spent either laying in my bunk, playing cards or talking with my cellie. There was not much else to do. I wasn’t a smoker so the challenge of acquiring cigarettes would not make my days go by as the others did. We were permitted out of our cells three times daily to line up for meals. In March, the weather can still be very windy, cold and snowing. I had all three, with clothing not what I would have selected for quality, standing in line, outside, waiting to march to chow, to stand again in front of the dining hall since it was not large enough to accommodate us at one time, each unit holding approximately just under two hundred men and seating for sixty! You learn to eat fast, very fast, because when it was time for you to move to have the next wave sit, you had to be finished. The food was good, just not able to enjoy it. You learned how to stash food within your clothing to eat later. I caught a cold during this time but it did not matter. You were still expected to get up, stand in line and wait in the cold.
I did see some of the guys who attended the different Bible studies I was involved in back in County, they were surprised to see me and I them, they feeling necessary to assure me they were still studying, or asked questions while passing each other. I learned to think of my stay similar to joining the military, this was just my “boot camp” experience. Thankfully, not six weeks.
Days before my release I was interviewed by a man who told me I was being released in what was called “Court Supervised Release Program”, a fancy way of saying “probation”, since it would be the Probation Department in Cleveland, practically down the street from where this all started at the Justice Center and the company who’s computer brought me here. How ironic. What angered me, had I stayed in the County system I would not be placed on probation since their department refused to consider me saying it would not be worthwhile; however, the State of Ohio saw differently. Their requirements were I would be on probation for three years! Three years for seventeen days! Already I knew there was going to be trouble. During the probation time, if I violated the conditions, I could be sentenced up to one-half of the original sentence, or receive 90 days! In fact, I’d spend more days in violation than actually spent in their state prison system. Where’s the justice here? I couldn’t see it, but I signed the document anyway. After all, it was to get me out of here and as I think back, I wondered what they could have done had I not signed? It might’ve been something worth considering, if I had to do it again.
When my release day came, I hadn’t told anyone still of my sentence until the guard told me to pack it up. My friends were surprised wondering what happened,
“I thought you said seventeen years?” They asked.
“No. I said only ‘seventeen’. You filled in the blank.” My only concern was not in them wanting to lengthen my stay but why did I wait to go after lunch when it is normally done in the morning, the beginning of the day?
I went to the exit station, which is the same as the intake except you’re doing everything in reverse and noticed two police officers with shoulder patches proudly displaying the words: Ashtabula! Oh no! I was being sent to Ashtabula to deal with not paying the fine. There was an arrest warrant. I wasn’t free after all and had a two hour drive ahead of me. I was given my $25 exit money the state gives you when you are released with the remaining little sum of money I had left from my commissary account my grandmother sent me. I figured it was still enough to get a room for a couple of hours, buy some drugs and still have enough for some heroin, now that the larger amount was no longer available to me.
I was held in Ashtabula for just a day until I was able to see a Judge and explained to him why no money had been sent. They were able to verify I was now on probation which assured them of receiving money once I was released and got a job. It could be part of the agreement since my probation officer would know all of my legal business. The Judge agreed and I was released and took a bus to my grandmother’s.
Before reporting to my probation officer, she already visited my grandmother and met my Uncle who was staying there and caring for her since she had some medical concerns. She was able to get about but needed help in shopping and other needs she weren’t able to perform alone anymore. Having been susceptible to strokes, we felt necessary to provide live-in assistance for her. Up till now, my Uncle did this and when I was acting properly, I freed him so he could go about his own duties for a time. I did not care much for the probation officer when she told me on the first visit I would not be able to stay there and had to relocate.
Not having financial resources or a job, I was limited in what I could do. My probation officer and I were also having run-ins because she would tell me what to do and I’d do it except in my own way and timing and this did not suit her well. At one point she threatened to revoke my probation because I did not follow through her order. I became frantic not wanting to return to prison. The thought also occurred to me what I really did not like most of all was a white and young woman, telling me what to do. Had I known then what I know today our relationship would have been terminated much earlier than it was. There is a fear, when you are new to the system of being returned quickly upon release from prison. It’s no wonder veterans of the system keep returning as often as they do. There is no fear. They can’t hold you forever providing you did not do anything which carried such a sentence. I already did 180 days and the most they could give me was 90. If someone explained to me the truth of my situation I would have gladly returned. It wasn’t like I had a job or a wife to return to and my 90 day maximum would have ended my further need to deal with the probation officer for the next three years. Today, yes, definitely I would do it differently. There was a sign in their office which read, “Probation is another form of detention.” Well, if this is true, detain me. Don’t have me thinking I am free and I am not. Send me back until you have to let me go and I’ll be quite happy. While in the office waiting for my routine visit, the thought occurred to me about a title I’d heard many years ago. “Now I know why the caged bird sings.” If my parameters are set in place and I know where I am, how far I can go, plus you are going to provide me with my necessities and some of my wants, then I can be quite content, in jail, whistling a happy tune, too!
When instructed to look for either halfway or what I now learned to be three-quarter housing, and their differences, I now at least had some options. I called several and made arrangements to be interviewed. While traveling to a three-quarter home located near 153rd Street on St. Clair, I passed by a SDA church called Maranatha. Until then I was not aware there was such a church. The home where I was interviewed had a parking area facing the back of the church. I was that close! I had a deep impression it was God’s way of bringing me back to His House. I did not care to return to Glenville since it was no longer the church I loved. Southeast SDA church was where most of my friends and family were but I didn’t feel comfortable, so perhaps this was Divine Providence directing me where to go.
I had my interview, given the rules and moved into this four-story home which housed eleven men including the House Manager and his assistant. I took a bed in the attic shared with four other men. The level below had three bedrooms, a full bath which it was my duty to clean, and a kitchen fully equipped with two refrigerators. The living level, communal area had a large sitting room, with a 25” floor model colored television with cable, several couches, a large table and a nice scenic aquarium, plants and pots containing small trees. There was another larger room where house-meetings were held and several times weekly NA and AA meetings were scheduled. As a new member of the house, I was required to attend three meetings a week which suited my probation requirements. I had a curfew which could result in expulsion if broken, so I had to be in the residence by 11:00pm. After the first thirty days, one could overnight elsewhere only after giving the House Staff previous notice and there were no demerits being held against you for either non-payment of rent, broken curfew or missing required weekly meetings. Our house was coupled to another house next door similar except it was for women. These two houses were very popular in the world of sobriety and hosted parties where many would get together to celebrate their return to a lifestyle worth living again.
I took advantage of going to Maranatha and had a pleasant experience. A small church, the outgrowth of one of the larger churches, Bethel SDA church, in the urban section of Cleveland, consisted of family friends whom I had not seen for twenty years. I was comfortable there and enjoyed the fellowship. I felt as if I found my way back home. The current Pastor, a young man in the ministry and I grew close, spending considerable time together.
The Probation Officer dissuaded me from taking any jobs where I would be in an office environment and near computers. It appeared most of the men in the house had at one time or another worked at the Dirt Devil factory. Although I never worked in a manual labor intensive position, at IBM, where I spent many years was considered a “factory” although high-tech. I got a job there through a temporary employment agency that could not understand why I would prefer working this type of employment, for $6.00 an hour, when they could easily find me work making twice the amount in the field where my resume definitely showed where my expertise lay. I just couldn’t admit to them I was on probation and lose the opportunity of working.
I had much difficulty adjusting to this new working lifestyle. First, to arrive at 6:00 a.m. and begin working by actually “punching” a clock, working until a break was called, or if you had to use the restroom and have someone relieve you (no pun intended) until you returned, and lunch in a lunchroom where hot meals were not served, then return to the floor to do it all over again until the supervisor called for machine shutdown once the quota was made, and having to wait until the clock said it was time to go! This was beyond me. I had problems working on the assembly line. My fingers were nimble on a keyboard with a record of 141 words per minute, but I could not put screws in their holes with an electric screwdriver! I just couldn’t do it as fast as the others and I tried. I tried working other areas, the tips of my fingers hurting or putting plastic bumpers into place. They would not go like the others could do it. Gratefully, my manager saw where I could be helpful. I became the line stocker. When I arrived in the morning, walking the line to see where they needed parts and fill them, unloading boxes and stacking for accessibility. From inception to completion, there would be many separate stops before a machine is assembled and tested prior to being boxed and then I’d move the boxed product to another area on the floor to be counted. When my inventories ran low, I’d inform someone else who’d ensure an ample supply to keep my line running. It was common to assemble nearly 1,000 machines during one shift! And just as someone who work at a fast food restaurant doesn’t eat the food for obvious reasons knowing how the food is prepared and stored, and someone who would not drive a particular car because they worked on that line, sufficient to say, I’d never own a Dirt Devil!
After working there a month, making money, I began drifting to my old behavior. Living in that part of town, it was not long before I notice where drugs were being sold and my sexual compulsion for exhibitionism was getting out of control. It was determined I might have been using drugs because of my pattern of behavior were easily noticed by those who have “been there, done that” and had me disciplined for one week where I had accommodations at a homeless shelter. During that week, my curfew was 4 p.m., the time it would take me to arrive from work. I would stand outside with the other “house residents” and homeless and/or hungry, for dinner, after first hearing a Catholic service by a Greek Orthodox priest. Our sleeping arrangements were about 14 men in a room, in a sitting position on couches. There was no room to lie down! At least they had a bag-lunch prepared for those of us who worked. We certainly had no money. After my week was completed, I was permitted to return, but I was sinking quickly.
I soon had my grandmother’s old car since she couldn’t drive anymore and I needed a way to get back and forth to work. I made a purchase and traveling back toward the house I passed a police cruiser going in the opposite direction. There was something about this car which got my attention and I kept it in view of my rear-view mirror. It turned around after passing me and began headed in my direction! I made a right turn off the main road and tried to get to the end of the block while keeping an eye behind and seeing it turn in my direction. I made a quick left and a right and sure enough the car stayed on my tail. I got the drugs out of my pocket and looking to find a spot to hide it is when the overhead lights on the police car lit. I was in shock. They could not have seen me make this buy but why follow me? I pulled over and put the drugs in the first spot as best as I could conceal them in the short time it would take for the officer to approach me. When the officer’s door opened, I was relieved, it was Kevin, my brother. He said he noticed the car, which was a definite stand-out, a flesh-colored, black-top, rusted Ford Zephyr. The car was so ugly and it did stand out. He introduced me to his police dog and I wondered if the dog would be able to smell any of the drugs and give me away. He seemed playful enough when instructed by Kevin to be friendly. After talking for a bit, we parted ways and I went back on my way to use my drugs.
During a routine visit with my probation officer, she asked me if I had a daughter. I told her I didn’t and mentioned a woman called requesting my phone number because she thought I was her father! I was very surprised to get Eve’s phone number and when I got home I immediately tried to reach her but could not get her on the first ring. It wasn’t until later that evening when Eve and I connected and arranged to meet each other at a local McDonalds within walking distance to my home.
I met Eve’s mother when I was sixteen and can still remember the day she walked into the church, wearing red. She was amazingly beautiful and I made it my goal to meet with this young woman after services. My brothers and I sat in the balcony with our grandparents and I saw her enter the main doors of the sanctuary. After services, I got downstairs quickly and walked up to her, she was with her aunt, who I don’t ever believe I spoke to before, who introduced us and invited me to her home to have dinner.
After her aunt got us settled and made dinner, she left the apartment for some reason or other and suffice it to say, Eve and I hit it off immediately. I was a little afraid because this was my second time having sex and we weren’t using protection. I told her if something happened please don’t do anything which would prevent me from leaving the area to work because of the promise of being employed with IBM when I graduated. She and I would continue having unprotected sex sometimes even at church. When I visited the church some four years later, I saw this little girl and someone pointed out to me it was Eve, Mary’s daughter. When I saw her there were some paternal feelings I didn’t understand. I always wondered if she were my child.
When I arrived in Cleveland a year before, my sister-in-law Joy invited me to a gathering of friends many I would know having grown up there and I curiously asked if anyone knew of a woman named Eve. I was told they did and she attended Glenville and one woman in particular asked why I was asking. I told her I believed I was her father and wondered how I might get in touch with her. I didn’t know at the time Eve was to be married and this woman was a very close friend and thought my inquiring into the matter would cause problems during this special time. This friend suggested if I wasn’t sure after all this time would it not be better to just leave the matter be. I thought about it and agreed.
Eve had taken her son to a hospital and couldn’t fill out the paternity questions. This caused her to inquire as to who her real father was. Apparently, having a discussion with her friend, she mentioned some time ago a man asked about her and wondered if she were still in the area. Eve was beside herself wanting to know who it was and why she hadn’t heard anything before. Her friend could only tell her it was one of the Martin’ boys. Eve knew Joy and called her husband, my brother Kevin, who gave her Brian’s number. Eve spoke with my nephew Brian and determined his father would have been too young and called Kevin again and told her it would have had to be his older brother and gave her the number to the probation department since he didn’t know where I lived.
When Eve and I agreed to meet neither of us told the other what we would be wearing or driving, so how would we know who the other was? I walked over to the restaurant and sat outside where I could see most of the cars coming and going. A car drove up and out stepped this woman who looked exactly as my memory would be of Mary. I went over to her and said,
“You must be Eve”, and she responded,
“And you must be my father.” And we hugged each other. While hugging her I noticed children in the back seat of her car and asked who they were and she said,
“Well, if you are my father, these are your grandchildren!”
In one day, I became a father and grandfather! She went with me to my home and downstairs in the recreation room, she and I spoke for several hours into the middle of the night. She wanted to know what all I knew about her mother and what happened and why I hadn’t tried to make contact before and I wanted to know all about her, her life, her mother and how she found me.
I told her how I was with her mother several times which would have corresponded to the time of her birth. I also told her how I had a job opportunity and told her mother I would provide for my own but I had to at least have a start and how I believed because I was so young that perhaps Michael, the father she knows, Mary’s husband being older, would have been more suitable than me at the time. I learned Mary had Hodgkin’s Disease and died in 1980 the same year my grandfather died. Later, I would stop by both graves, one, to see if I remembered where my grandfather was buried since I hadn’t been there for more than 28 years and I found Mary’s grave. I had a long talk with her asking why hadn’t she said anything about Eve and mentioned how beautiful she is and we’d have to have a long talk when Jesus came because she took the secret of who her father was to her death.
I was the proud father and announced to family and friends how I was reunited with my daughter and invited her to our family reunion held on July 4th. Although I tried my best to make her feel comfortable being around strangers, the reception she received when I introduced her to my mother was very cold. My mother and I still not being on speaking terms, I thought this would have been a time for her to relax and enjoy meeting her granddaughter and great-grandchildren, but it was not to be. I learned from some family members, later, my mother could not accept her as being family because there was no proof. It turns out my mother was correct. In 2006, I arranged to have a paternity test and it proved she was not my child! We both were devastated. We both wanted to have a sense of belonging. I wanted to have this daughter after knowing I was responsible for the abortion of two and she wanted to have finally found her father. For the next two major holidays and birthdays, we would call and greet the other, a lingering of what could have been until we both just drew apart completely. I, sometimes still would send an email not ever knowing if she would receive it. Until later when she, too, would respond in kind and forward me jokes through emails in 2008.
During the July 4th family reunion, I had an opportunity of voicing my concern of not having a place to live, soon, with several members. My drug addiction was out of control and I was being asked to leave the home. I was given some hope when an uncle suggested one of the homes he rented I could stay in the basement until I got something else but that later proved to be unfruitful. He thought his wife would not like the idea and yet he couldn’t provide any other solution to my problem. I would soon be homeless again.
I left Dirt Devil after being contracted to work for another company, but it proved to be someone else’s dream of grandeur and I could see it the first day, confirmed the second, so I quit and found myself again without work. This guy wanted to market himself as some sort of motivational speaker and yet had a speech impediment and I couldn’t stand listening to him. I fell into a deep depression, drove to Lake Erie, a spot I remembered my father and mother often took us on a Saturday evening to watch the sunset while snacking on round corn chips, and there I sat and sat until I decided to end it all again. I took a piece of plastic wrapping which came from having some clothes cleaned from a dry cleaner and covered my head in an attempt to suffocate myself. Sitting in a hardtop car, no air conditioner in eighty degree weather became too unbearable while waiting for the carbon dioxide to affect me, with sweat pouring into my eyes as I leaned over in the passenger side to avoid being detected by the roving security detail or other people walking and parking too close to me. I felt a little silly if someone looked over at me. I remembered having a box knife in the car from my Dirt Devil days and began carving my left wrist! As sharp as the knife was, it just would not break my skin! Over and over I tried cutting myself and I became uncomfortable imagining myself in an upright position, smiling at the passers-bys while bleeding to death. I drove to a convenient mart and purchased a forty ounce bottle of beer, but was unable to drink it. I hoped to have been able to get drunk and take the box knife and mutilate my wrist, mercifully passing out before experiencing too much pain. It just couldn’t work. I needed a way to do this with as little pain as possible.
I drove back to the house and left the car in the church’s parking lot and started walking the same way I came, back toward the lake. Two and a half hours later, recognizing I was on the brink of doing something drastic, I walked into the lobby of St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital and in tears told the front desk-person if I did not get help, I would soon be dead. After they viewed my recent attempt with a scratched and bleeding wrist, they took me to be evaluated by a psychologist, and I was able to rest from the ordeal and become more stabilized by sleeping through the night. The following morning I was diagnosed being manic depressive, given a box of Prozac and sent to another facility for further stabilization. I would be in a group setting with other depressed, mentally unstable persons, sharing our feelings, between game playing and television watching. The environment was quite pleasant but I knew even with this medication, it would not be enough to fill the void that had been my heart for thirty years.
I was released seven days later and knew I could not return to the house. Again jobless and desperate, I did what I did best. I ran. When I got back to the house, I packed my car with all my belongings, told the few residents who were there I was leaving the area. I turned the key knowing I had no money for my next venture, but I had hope. Driving a loaded-down car, no money for gas, tires in poor condition, I began a 483 mile trip to New York. No one was expecting me, and I recognized once I crossed over the border of Ohio I would be regarding as a fugitive, but wherever I was headed had to be much better than what I was leaving, and at least I had to give it a try. It’s all I had left. Hope and a try.
I made this trip many times before and knew every turn and bump and red light between Cleveland and New York. I left about ten in the morning looking for my first gas station to get a full tank of gas, without paying, and then make it quickly for the border. Once the car filled and being almost twenty years old, I knew it would not be long before it would need another drink, so I began planning my scheme. I had all of less than two dollars in my pocket and knew I would have enough to satisfy the tolls I needed to pay, two of them, to make it. There would not be any room for failure nor drawing attention to myself, although it would be some time before I would be placed on any warrant listing, the fact my license would show who I was and reveal I was on an active probation status and not be able to produce any documents explaining why I was outside of Ohio, so caution became my keyword. But how do you cautiously steal gas? I prayed I would not need oil or any other mechanical needs before arriving at my destination. When I was 181 miles away from the end of the journey, I started noticing the car riding a little differently and a hum coming from the right side. Too scared to slow down and too scared to speed up, I went off a ramp to find a secluded spot to investigate. When I was able to stop, I left the motor running for fear I would not get it started again in case it were a mechanical failure with the engine. It wasn’t and there was no unrecognizable sound. I walked around the car and did not notice anything different. When I moved the noise started again. It had to be a tire. I stopped to check each one and found the driver’s side tire had lost a good amount of tread exposing softer rubber and metal belt and a bubble forming in the same area. I unpacked some of the trunk space and found no tire and no jack! This was it! I got back into the car and after having prayer decided to push forward. To go back meant covering three hundred miles just to be in worse shape then when I left, or go forward and just pray. I was still three hours away.
When I pulled into my friend Don’s driveway, a feeling of peace came over me. I made it. Of course, he did not know nor was this planned but you can always trust friends for support. He and his wife, Maxine, were such friends. When he learned I was there, there was a reunion. When he looked over the car, he was thoroughly assured God blessed my trip. He couldn’t tell which was worse, the car I had ridden over 480 miles in or the tire I rode on. Later we went to replace the tire and he asked to keep it as a sign from God of the miracles He still does on behalf of His children and fools. I think I qualified for both categories, and of course, I was invited to stay and begin a new life.
Although Cleveland is where I was born and spent the first seventeen years of my life, New York is where I spent the next seventeen and now considered it my home. When I left New York in 1993, I never intended to return, to just go where life took me. Well, it took me back home to have another go at it. July would prove to be one of nostalgia because I was able to see Karen briefly and Cindy, my first wife, who I had not really seen since 1979. Nineteen years is a long, long time. Those years were good to her with my being able to see her three children and her husband at a neighborhood basketball tournament where Don’s sons played. She noticed me but would not acknowledge me and we were not close enough to speak. Seeing her brought back the “what if’s” I held in my heart for those many years. I recognized then although I had gotten over her, which took five years, long after Louisa and I married, there will always be a special place in my heart for her. Being back at my old church in both Beacon and Newburgh, brought precious memories of a time that once was, but it, too, was different. I really did not belong anymore. They had gotten along without me, but it appeared I was the only one who remained stuck in time.
Within a week I found work, again labor type, working for a temporary agency working in a major medical supply company’s warehouse. My job, working alongside the same man who trained me once at IBM, filling orders on a three level conveyor-belt for medical facilities over the northern part of the United States. My shift would start at 2:00 p.m., often taking me through the night giving me plenty of overtime which means more money to spend. Yes. More money to spend on drugs!
The condition of the car and now the muffler sounding a bit loud, I decided to move to a residential motel on the same side of the Hudson which meant less time being noticed on the road. I was especially afraid to leave work at one or two in the morning making too much noise, drawing attention to myself, but never thinking about it as I returned to my old drug stomping grounds of Newburgh just a few miles where I was living. I cashed a check almost four to five hundred weekly depending on the overtime, stopped by the rental office and pay my weekly $135, then continue straight for my shopping—not groceries, drugs. I worked in the evenings, sometimes into the night and have the mornings to do drugs, or the nights when we quit on time. Again, I began to loose control. Since I worked at a medical supply company and I could not afford bringing my lunch all the time, I would steal some of the cans of vitamin-enriched shakes to keep up my strength. The job consist lifting boxes, some were heavy as well as the skids the products were loaded on and place them on a conveyer belt. My body weight was being reduced because of drugs. When no one was in the cafeteria, I would raid the refrigerator taking any and all lunches left over or thought to be left for the following day. I didn’t care. As long as I had a couple of rocks when I got home, I’d forget all about my hunger and problems, just to get a few hours sleep to start all over again in a couple of hours.
I couldn’t afford the steel-toed shoes required so I wore the shoes I left Lorain Correctional with. They gave the appearance of work shoes, until I dropped something on my foot which happened several times. Three weeks there I never laundered my clothes because I was too pre-occupied. Just as in Philadelphia, I would find a bag of marijuana outside my door, this time opting to smoke the whole bag, experiencing paranoia of spiders crawling all over the room and me. My drug addiction was becoming so chronic I started thinking of doing criminal acts. I planned either a bank robbery where the money was often in close reach unlike the urban banks in Cleveland, or I thought to rob the local convenient store, across the street from where I lived. I didn’t care. All I needed was just a few minutes to get to Newburgh with a pocket full of money to do drugs and I didn’t care if I got arrested later. I knew where some of the old gang lived I used to hang out with five years ago, and they’d cover me until the money ran out. Time was no longer a concern for me, anymore, even if I got fifteen years for bank robbery. I’d treat it just like I did the six months. It will pass eventually. At least the monkey would be off my back. I thought the convenient store would be more likely a good target since mostly at night there was just a middle-aged woman. At home, in my room, I took a pillowcase and cut out the eyes and nose! What kept me from actually doing it although I carried the disguise and went down the street to plan the escape route the night I planned to hit the store, I was getting paid the next day. I could wait this time.
The following afternoon as I pulled onto the road from the motel driveway, a police car drove past and gave me a hard look as I waited for traffic to open up to let me out into the main thoroughfare. I wanted to go left, the direction he went thinking it safer to be behind him. I would have chosen to go right if I ever went that way to work before, but I never did. I went about one-half mile and he was sitting on the side of the road. He was waiting for me! He pulled me over because my car sounded too loud. I had an appointment to put on a new muffler the following day. It might have worked but by now when he ran my name, I was listed as a felony fugitive from the State of Ohio! Plus, I never went to court over a ticket from 1992, and although I had a legal license from Ohio, I could not drive legally in New York. Another police car drove and parked behind him and I knew it was over. I was arrested—again!
He took me to Orange County jail in Goshen and I knew all the bad check writing from 1991 was going to have me looking at some serious time. When I was arraigned there was no mention of any additional charges. My sentence was ten days, and if Ohio wanted to pick me up, they could, otherwise on the eleventh day I was free to go. Ohio sent me a special ride called “VanCor” on the eleventh day just before I was to be released and I was back on my way to Ohio.
There have been times in my life when I have felt as if I were a celebrity, being driven around and escorted, but this was not one of those times. I was chained. My feet were chained together with only about a two foot separation. A chain around my waist kept my handcuffed hands in front of me just above my waist. I was led to an empty van by two armed officers whose goal it was to eventually become U.S. Marshals. This was that interim step to one day escorting more dangerous felons, something I hoped never to become. Their first stop was to get lunch at a nearby KFC. While one goes for their food I was guarded by the other. I didn’t know it until we left I could have asked them for something to eat, of course, my paying since my personal items did contain a little money when I was arrested.
Our next stop was across the river, in the opposite direction from Ohio, a stop at Camp Beacon located on the grounds of Fishkill Correctional, a prison camp for women. Amy Fisher, the infamous Long Island Lolita was there at the same time but I hadn’t seen her. We were picking up a female inmate wanted in another jurisdiction. I welcomed the company although we were separated. I sat in the back of a van, on a bench seat running lengthwise. It was set up so they could transport up to three normal sized inmates on both sides for a total of six. All women or males requiring a trip in a more secured fashion were seated directly behind the driver in a separate enclosed caged area. Our only exit from the van was the rear, whereas hers from the passenger side.
While waiting for her to arrive, I noticed a female lieutenant looking directly at me through the opened door, recognizing me from days long past. It was an embarrassing moment as she directed her comment to “Reverend Martin!” Her eyes wide open, asked me what happened. All I could do was shake my head responding I had a little trouble. She knew me from my days as a volunteer chaplain, spending several years conducting services at the male facility. During my last days I spent several months here holding services for the women. I always felt uncomfortable being there. There is something depressing seeing women incarcerated whereas you take men’s facilities as common. I felt badly I would come full circle of my better days to being transported now as a common criminal.
We made another stop in Pittsburgh, six hours later to receive another inmate. From there, I would be only within two hours, the most three from my destination when I noticed the van heading again in the opposite direction. We were headed for Erie, PA. I asked the guard would it not have made sense to continue west since I was closer and was reminded when I was picked up, they had up to 180 days to get me to my destination, and that’s all they could say, and I were to ask no further questions! Erie was where we spent the night.
The next day we headed north then east and north again. I didn’t mind the traveling so much as I minded how we traveled. When they applied the brake too hard or made quick turns not knowing exactly where they were headed at times, I’d end up being thrown to the floor, scrambling to regain my seat. Being handcuffed there was no way to hold and support myself to keep from falling. It was better when we were full, being wedged in offered some support than being thrown to the center of the benches. Our meals, while on the road, were from fast food restaurants, which was fine except you had to do the best you could while still being chained. You learned to bring your head closer to your hands in order to eat. Today I would have trouble, being older and having somewhat of a paunch in front of me prevented me from lowering my head far enough to eat. Drinking proved even more adventurous since they could not provide us with straws. At some time in the past, some enterprising, no, brilliant inmate, devised a way to use his straw to undo the handcuffs and leg irons, surprising his armed escorts, ruining all future trips for those to follow. I enjoyed our overnight stays at the various county jails. We would be given good breakfasts and one facility even washed our clothes. By my third day, without deodorant, I was getting to be a little ripe. At the county facilities, we’d be kept in receiving cells where prisoners are processed and there was only a toilet and a water fountain, and not in general populated areas, so showers weren’t often available.
To face public humiliation was the worse. We’d pull into a parking lot and one officer would go into the restaurant and ensure the bathroom was accessible and empty and then do a search of the area. This was to prevent someone who was following from leaving weapons or keys to unlock the cuffs. The other officer would open the rear door and get you out of the van and with shotgun in hand, escort you into the restaurant. You can imagine the eyes of the patrons and parents explaining to children this is what will happen to you if you don’t behave and eat! Or people conversing with each other wondering if the obviously chained bad-guy wasn’t recently featured on America’s Most Wanted! In the bathroom, one hand would be freed enough for me to maneuver my clothing in such a way as to be able to use the facility, with the door remaining opened and if you had to use the toilet versus the urinal, the stall door had to remain opened as well! No dignity at all. Wiping yourself became a major chore.
What should have been an eight hour trip, nine at the most, became a six day ordeal. I became a little worried when we picked up others who were wanted in places like Texas and two for Florida. I went from Erie, Pennsylvania to Portland, thank God, Maine and not Oregon! Although, if they wanted, they could have driven me there and there was nothing I could do about it. All the time sitting and enjoying the countryside is considered “dead time” and not counted as credit toward any sentence given. From Portland we went to New Jersey then back to the same spot they picked me up and then headed west again. I think they veered off and headed for Tennessee at one point and becoming quite depressed, I would be going along for another ride, was awakened at 2:30 in the morning, staring at the admissions gate of Lorain Correctional—again!
How bad could it be? My first stay here was seventeen days. My fear was would they consider my fugitive status as an “escape”, since probation is considered a form of detention? I knew some places you could have two or three years tacked onto whatever current time you had. Within a week, I was seated in front of the Probation Department’s representatives and my probation officer and learned my punishment was thirty days. No problem! At least this time I’d get to see what the population experience was all about, not having enough time the first time I had been here. This time whenever anyone asked me how much time I got, my answer was “30”. I let them determined how bad I really was.
I got a chance to renew some old acquaintances from those guys I left several months ago, surprised to see me back in the green jumpsuit and not the brown by those inmates in population. One inmate remembered my telling him this lesson was enough and I would never come back, saw me and called out from his window. All I could do was shake my head. He had no trouble reminding me what he said, “everybody comes back.” Apparently, it was true in my case. During trips back and forth from the cafeteria, they were able to talk to me while I had to remain in line and able to share with those I’d been close to, I would be here until the end of the month, and then released to try again. The days went quickly even though I spent another birthday here. I promised myself that spending my forty-first here there would never be another. Forty-two went by without celebration even the staff refusing me a second piece of chocolate cake for that day’s dessert.
I did make it to “Population”, a little ahead of the others since they still had a relatively fresh file on me not requiring the same paperwork as a new person—inmate. Being in population meant having recreation outside or in the gym, commissary and movies. The dining experience was less rushed since they were able to accommodate everyone. The officers were kinder and overall one could become quite happy there if their outlook on life was not too happy on the outside.
My release day came with the same delay and I wondered what else could happen to me. I was there on the same number, slang for “a” time being in prison, so I did not qualify to receive another $25.00 and this time my ride was being provided by authorities from Berks County, PA! I was now a wanted fugitive from them when I left town that June day in 1996. Fortunate for me, the ride was only about six hours, sitting in the back of a car just handcuffed. Again I felt that celebrity status when we took a break at a gas station, although not as visible walking into a restaurant, people still ogled me wondering if I were a recent member of America’s Most Wanted fame. What surprised me was they still checked the bathroom as if I had friends who could read their minds and who’d place handcuff keys and a weapon just seconds before they decided to use this particular restroom!
By now, all jails, county or otherwise were becoming all too common to me. Other than doors and counters being in different places, the routine was the same. I began to think of myself as some Jesse James type who could boast in being in at least ten separate jails, all within two months. Now you could see my point about questioning if God was taking His agreed term of forty years of my life seriously. And the amazing thing was, He still wasn’t finished!
I was in Berks County Jail where the best thing was the food. They gave you plenty and the accommodations weren’t bad either, provided you got a cell alone. Fortunately for me, I got an older guy who knew when it was time to stop talking. During the day you could roam outside your cell, watch television, and sit in a more comfortable lounge area, although we’d take our meals within our cells. This was probably to keep the garbage and sloppiness to a minimum. My cell faced the entrance so it served as my entertainment, watching people come and go. New inmate arrivals would come and stay, looking forward to the day when I’d walk the same path but in the opposite direction.
I went to court after being there for a week, stood in front of the Judge I should have stood two years ago. When my name was called, she questioned the Prosecutor asking if I were the same guy who’d left, writing letters and sending money, whose whereabouts they always knew and were kept informed of. ”That’s me”, I said. She thanked me for being honest and wished more were like me; however, I still broke the law, but due to my accepting responsibility she would drop any further jail time and refer me to their Department of Probation. I thanked her and learned I would be charged for the remaining restitution and court costs as well as foot the tab for the ride there. I also found out you paid to be housed in their jail! No way! There was just not going to be any way I’d pay to stay there. This wasn’t a Holiday Inn where I “chose” to stay. When I was in New York’s Orange County’s jail, I had the sense to have my last paycheck sent to my friend Don, who in turn sent it to Eve, my new found daughter. I wanted it waiting for me for when I arrived so I could activate my plan of having one last good weekend before shooting a full syringe of lethal heroin into my veins. It was good planning because my cellie told me he was there for lack of child support and any money you were arrested with is turned over to satisfy any court stipulated fines. I had $14.00 at the time of my arrest, so they let me leave with it.
When their probation department found out I was already on an active probation status with Ohio, arrangements were made to have Pennsylvania’s to run concurrently, so they released me. I tried calling Eve to have her wire money via Western Union so I could purchase a bus ticket to come home. I was not too far from Reading and could walk it within an hour, pick up the money at the bus terminal, get a ticket and be on my way. When I was released from Lorain, they gave me a short-sleeve blue shirt, blue work pants and another pair of shoes to replace the other pair of theirs I had on when I was arrested which was a big joke for them about me loving their footwear. It was early November and chilly outside. I could not reach Eve and my Cousin Paula from Philadelphia could not reach her either. I knew how to get to Beth and David’s home but I wasn’t too sure how far walking it would be since I’d always driven in the past, and I couldn’t remember their phone number. The sun was still up, a little warm and I figured I could walk it within two hours. I was terribly wrong.
I think it was two hours later when I passed a sign informing me Rehrersburg was six miles ahead, and I wanted to go another mile after that! The sun had gone down and I figured I walked about seven miles already and only half-way there. I never had been so cold before in all my life. As soon as the sun dipped over the horizon it took whatever warmth it had with it. All I could think about was continuing to put one foot in front of the other. My arms no longer had feeling and I was beginning to stumble having trouble staying awake, but I kept walking because I knew if I stopped to rest, I would not be able to get up and would fall asleep probably for the last time. It could not have been all that cold, but I was not dressed properly for it and the wind created a chill considerably lower than the air temperature, which I figured was just above freezing. Thankfully a pickup pulled over and waited for me to approach. It was nice he had the passenger side door opened and asked where I was headed. When I started to speak, I could not talk properly because my mouth and face had no feeling! He managed to hear me say, “Teen Challenge” which I figured was the closest place he would be familiar and could get me there. I was able to get into the van with a certain amount of trouble and he had to close the door. My arms and hands would not cooperate. He blasted the heat which helped me to thaw a bit and I couldn’t stop thanking him profusely for stopping to help me. He told me he had to do it because everyone driving along this stretch of road knows why anyone would be walking that road, at that time of night, improperly dressed, carrying a plastic bag of soap, deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush. “That guy just had been let out of prison.” He’d been there and knew from experience, joking if I had thrown away the bag, I would have increased my chances of getting a ride earlier, especially while the sun was still up. Who would have known?
I was reasonably warm when he came to a turnoff bringing me to the grounds of Teen Challenge and dropped me there. I didn’t have it within me to ask him to drop me at the home of Beth and David, since it was only no more than three miles, so I thanked him and started walking again. It’s amazing how quickly you feel again the cold after you’ve been temporarily warmed. A car shot passed me, stopped and backed up. It was Brother Jerome. He and I became good friends while there. He was a former student and now one of their better counselors. He was from Detroit having grown up in the neighborhood listening and knowing one artist, Diana Ross. He, too, was a victim of the heroin epidemic in the 60’s, more than a survivor with a lovely family. He’s an example it is possible to make it. When he drove by he recognized me and dropped me off at Beth and David’s, who certainly were surprised to find their caramel-colored, frozen friend at their door.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Beth and David and invited into their home, you cannot help to feel the love and warmth which just envelopes you even while standing frozen on their doorstep. They ushered me inside quickly, surprised to see me and without luggage. Even their huge golden retriever, Garth, welcomed me by pressing his huge body next to mine, stepping on my frozen feet with his own about 160 pounds! He’s big but warm and I welcomed every moment. As I began explaining my ordeal, I started crying. I had to get it out of my system. In a way I was back home. Their home was like a sanctuary for me and I felt safe but more importantly, loved. It’s the reason I adopted them as my “mom and dad”.
I rested well that night, in the same room I spent several months years ago. Sleep never felt so good. In the morning, I received two pairs of pants, two shirts and some underwear in a canvas bag, and a jacket I wished I had the night before. I tried calling Eve but to no avail and neither was my Cousin Paula any more successful than I was. I began to have a sick feeling inside something was amiss. I was able to reach Brian who sent money which got me to Philadelphia then Cleveland.
When I arrived in Cleveland the following morning I took a bus to Eve’s home. I was so excited already imagining and reimagining the fun I would have just moments before I would plunge the fatal spike into my arm. I didn’t care anymore. It would be Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks and I had no reason to be around. Thankful for what? I didn’t celebrate Christmas and I certainly had no hopes for a New Year if it were only to bring more of the same from the previous. I was ready to die and at least go out feeling good.
It was snowing heavily but I parted with the $1.25 fair to make the trip faster than saving it and walking from the bus station to her home, which would have taken about two hours. When I got to her home, there was a charge of electricity running through me. I could feel already the effects of that first hit of Crack. In fact, my plan was to take at least $20 worth and melt it, maybe another ten, then put a whole twenty and hit it harder than I’ve ever hit a pipe before and hold the smoke for all it’s worth! If I was as successful as I hoped, I would not need the heroin after all. Perhaps if I could get a good hit like that I would die of a brain seizure or stroke, if not a heart attack first. Either way, I was out of here.
Eve or her husband, Steve, didn’t respond when I knocked and surely someone had to be there. I could hear movement. I knocked and knocked and waited until I heard and saw a vehicle I hadn’t seen before with her at the wheel leaving from the backyard. I immediately presented myself so she’d see me. She did and the look on her face left me with a feeling my plans were going to be altered. We dropped little Stevie at nursery school and in the parking lot, confessed to me she spent the money for clothing for the children. What could I say? For the first twenty-five years of her life, I never contributed one nickel toward her and even after having known her since May, and working, I still had not given her anything. She also requested me to arrange for a paternity test and I could never save the money needed, although I did make arrangements, because of drugs. How could I be angry? I told her to never, ever think I would be angry over money. To never think I would hold it against her. I needed her to understand this. She mentioned getting a job and paying me back; but although my need was immediate, my remaining good sense still held a footing. I did not tell her then, only later, God used her to save my life that day. The daughter, whom I gave life, now was responsible for giving me another chance at life.
Only an addict can understand what it means to have a plan to enjoy whatever drug is used. You plan for it. You scheme. You imagine doing it over and over and over again in your mind. You’ve done it so many times and even feel the effect of the drug. If you smoke, you have drug dreams often awakening yourself from a sound sleep, still holding your breath and waiting for that exciting rush, only to be disappointed because it was only a dream. My dream was shattered. I now had to go on living in a world I did not wish to live in. If there was one bit of hate or anger toward Eve, it was I didn’t even get a nickel to get at least a good high—just one good high! She dropped me off and drove home probably feeling bad enough for disappointing me, but at least relieved at having faced me and not having that pressure in front of her. But, what was I going to do? I caught another bus headed for my brother Brian’s home.
One of the requirements of my new probation officer, a male who seemed easy-going and wouldn’t give me such a hard time, would be to get through all the little pending charges like traffic court. I took a bus to the Independence Police Department and turned myself in on a Bench Warrant issued for not paying a fine when I was stopped for a traffic violation for a missing headlight. I also had drugs at the time of the initial arrest but managed to hide them in the cuff of my pants while at the police station and later giving me a ride back to my room after confiscating my car, enjoying my rocks sooner, courtesy of the convenience of their ride. Now that was bold taking the drugs right into the station! What’s an addict to do otherwise? We do bold and stupid things.
The following day I was brought before the Mayor since they were too small for a Judge, and I told him I would not pay any fine due to the fact I had no job, just released from jail and prospects looked bad since I was actively addicted. The Mayor thought jail would be a threat. To me it was only a place to call home for however long he would get tired of paying additional taxes to house me. So, I spent the next two weeks, watching a nice color television with cable, seeing other guys come and go, except one I would meet again later. They only bad part of this jail was their food were from vending machines. Everything! After the first week, I got a little tired of the same thing heated by microwave. As rich as this town was I expected better food. But I still didn’t budge from my stance of not willing to pay any fines.
While there I had a telephone call. Brian broke the news to me our grandmother died and if I wanted, he would pay the fine so I could make it to the funeral. I declined his offer because I knew I was at the best place I could be under the circumstances. Even the police offered to release me, either escorted or on my own, if I promised to come back. I declined again. I knew enough about myself to know I could get, or would get into a depressed state, where I might do further damage to myself or someone else. Since the mid 80’s I determined after watching a friend die and the pain of seeing the family, remembering my own pain from the funerals of my other grandparents, made a decision never attend another funeral. To let me out especially at this time would have been very dangerous. I was in their jail now directly related to my brother Sean’s death. The night I was stopped was because I went to get drugs because of a call, from the same brother, announcing Sean’s death. I needed to stay right where I was.
The report got back to the Mayor who asked to see me before Thanksgiving. He could see I was pretty adamant about not paying and obviously no desire to leave, made an agreement for me to work at their recycling station for one day, then I could leave at the end of the shift. I gathered everyone wanted off for the holiday and didn’t want to stay and babysit me bringing me heated vending items, so I agreed to the terms and went home.
Having lived a life of privilege, at least I did when I worked at IBM, I had no idea how to rise again. This was new territory. Brian gave me $50 to have a fresh start, but $50 is a lot of money for someone still wanting to smoke Crack. I received an education from him when I returned to his house after spending the night smoking. I returned without having anything to show for it. I even went to work, twice, but still had no money. I got a job working day labor at a bolt making company, made $48 which they cashed, and spent it doing more drugs. When I determined this was definitely a dead end proposition, I went back to his house. He thought I would have had enough sense to go to the Salvation Army and get some clothes and then look for work. I had no idea to do so! I never went there before and when I did I was surprised at what one can find. I was able to get enough decent looking clothes plus a couple of suits at ridiculously low cost and started interviewing for work again.
Before that, difficulty would be my friend again. Although reporting as scheduled to the probation office, I was becoming more and more depressed. I had to go back to Ashtabula to deal with not paying their fine from having looked in on Angela at New Life Health Institute, and how I learned that was while hanging out in the streets, cold and desperate I walked into the Sheriff’s Department asking if they had a warrant for my arrest and they didn’t but they did the following week when I again offered myself! I’d figured Ashtabula would eventually get around to putting me into the system. The same officer who drove me the first time from Lorain drove me from the county jail where I spent two days waiting on them. We had an even better chat going back, like two buddies who hadn’t seen each other in years. We learned we shared the same birthday although he was one year older than I!
It was the same story to the Judge I’d been telling everyone else,
“I’m not able to pay anyone any money because I am an addict.” He must have seen the look in my face and dropped the fine and sent me on my way. Even one of the sergeants at the county jail felt sorry for me telling me I was too smart to be caught up in this lifestyle and if he had the money he would pay my fine. I think it was about $90, but I didn’t care. That much money could buy me a nice party. I could get a room and enough Crack to last a night for that amount.
When they released me, I had absolutely no money to get back to Cleveland and whatever friends I had at New Life were probably enemies now besides there was a full-blown blizzard kicking up outside. I did not even have any money to get a snack-box at the KFC I had lunch the last time I was here. One young woman overheard my plight took pity on me and told me I could ride with her in a cab, the Salvation Army a lot closer to her home than where I presently was. I gratefully accepted. God has His angels everywhere.
From her home I managed to find the Salvation Army who was holding a holiday dinner since it was the day before Christmas, so I was able to eat pretty good, and the site’s director took me to the bus station, purchased a ticket for me to return. I was becoming quite fond of the Salvation Army.
When I got to Cleveland, it was quite a storm blowing because of lake effect snow and it was really coming down when I arrived at the bus terminal. I called Brian hoping he would be adventurous enough to venture out in the bad weather, but he was reluctant, even when hearing I had no money to catch a bus. Actually, I wasn’t even aware if they were running. So, I did what I have always done, well, at least for the last seven years. I walked!
Mayfield Heights is quite a ways from Downtown, Cleveland, (Note: October 15, 2007, using MapQuest, I learned I walked 13 and a half miles.) and if anyone knows anything about this neck of the woods, one thing I realized while walking, I now know why they called it “Downtown.” All roads leading to the suburbs were actually going up hill. It might be gradual, but it’s up hill nonetheless and doing it in a blinding blizzard, through drifts of already accumulations of a foot of snow and rising, I felt every uphill step.
On my way down to the Sheriff’s Department before going to Ashtabula, I stashed my glass stem on a Superior Avenue side-street under a loose brick at a school. I wondered if it were there. It was. The bad weather hadn’t affected it nor did any school children or other inquiring addicts. It took me out of my traveling plans but any addict will tell you, finding your stashed pipes is like finding money. It’s a good thing.
I continued my journey, looking up whenever it was not directly blowing in my face. Again, I was putting one foot ahead of the other, just making certain I didn’t stray off the sidewalk, although covered and watching for streets and sliding cars. The total time it took me was almost four hours! Frozen—again, but filling fulfilled for having taken the challenge, my brother commenting on my having nerves, using a slightly different terminology and surprised I had done it. I had no choice really. No money or food and eventually they would have chased me out of the bus terminal, his home would be the only place I could go until he broke the news to me, this day before Christmas, I could not stay with him any longer. His reasoning was he would rather live alone, but I could stay the night!
When morning came, he offered me a little heavier jacket than the one I’d gotten from David and Beth, packed my little canvas bag and headed out. I had a little money left and decided to spend it on a motel room in East Cleveland and drugs. Use it all up and then see what happens.
I’ll never forget that morning the following day, it came faster than I wanted since I had been up all night doing drugs. I got my little bag together and started walking straight towards downtown, about three hours away, and when I got to 82nd Street in Euclid, about an hour and a half walk, I decided to stop at an aunt’s home, hoping she’d be there. She was and greeted me with Christmas greetings, which fell on un-holiday ears. I stopped celebrating the holiday when I was twenty-one years old, having been fully convinced of its pagan roots putting it right up there with Sunday worship. She invited me to stay for dinner she was preparing for a family reunion, a trend she wanted to start. She had a friend over and I overheard them whispering, she saying to him:
“You know, he once was making six figures!”
“Is that right?” He sounded shocked, then followed it with, “If he’s addicted, don’t let him stay here. It’ll be problems.”
He was only telling the truth, and he was accurate. I would be problems for her. There was time before guests arrived and she graciously offered to wash my clothing. I hadn’t the chance to do that nor showered the last couple of days and with the previous night of drugging, I can only imagine I was a little ripe by now. I felt refreshed later and sat awaiting family and friends.
There were family and friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time, years in fact for many of them. One was the sister of the brother I became reacquainted in the country jail who recognized my cry for help and had me sent to the second floor psychiatric wing, now an accomplished attorney and a cousin demonstrating his new digital camera, whose interest I should have been able to share because of my own interest in electronics, now postponed until further notice.
The sadness of the whole affair was saying good night to everyone, leaving as late as I could so I would not have to be seen not having anywhere to go. Everyone going to their comfortable homes, warm, and filled with food and holiday cheer. Me, just hoping I would be able to get into a shelter for the night; too cold to be outside. That week, a homeless man found frozen to death, having made a bus shelter his home for the night. A cousin drove around the block not sure if he should ask me if he could give me a ride. Saw me then decided to just drive off. Where would I have gone? No one thought to ask me where I was headed. I didn’t know either.
I did make it in time to gain entry to one of the shelters before it closed for the night. A large room serviced one hundred men, lying on foam mattresses with a blanket, hopefully clean. The bathroom always filled with others using dope or smoking a rock, with one toilet and one urinal. One television if you were fortunate enough to have gotten a space on the floor close by, but I didn’t care to watch television. I pulled my bag close to me and used it as my pillow for security reasons. You slept with your clothes and shoes on if you wanted them by morning. A new day would start by being awakened at 5:00 a.m., to get into the filthy bathroom not for any other reason other than to urinate, no hygienic purpose possible, get a stale donut or two, or three, if no one was looking, then hit the cold winter morning by six, only to step out the door to figure out how you’d spend the day. Two goals in mind: where to find food and where to stay warm.
I tried to blend in with others who’d found at least warmth in the Terminal Tower building, which housed two shopping levels, open atrium, lower area leading to the rails for the rapid transit public transportation system. If you were fortunate, the bathroom would be opened and if you were quick you could get in a little wash before someone chased you out. The whole day spent looking at closed restaurants or on normal days they might have just as well been closed—no money to patronize them. It also seemed to be an art for those restaurant personnel who’d mingle to offer you bites of a particular item; the special of the day on a toothpick. They’d soon spot the patron versus the homeless who’d try to make a meal out of a bite or two off a toothpick.
I was amazed how much money one could find by just keeping your head down. Shame weighed so heavily upon me, I had no reason to look up into anyone’s face, so I’d stare downward, seeing a penny here and there. I remember the many times when I pulled away from a fast-food’s window or bank dumping pennies because they were too cumbersome to deal with, “only put holes in your pockets”, I’d say. What I’d give to have those pennies today! There were days you’d strike gold, finding two coins together or in close proximity which meant perhaps there’s more nearby. Usually were, if you were the first on the scene and your eyes could focus in the cold weather. One day I found nearly a dollar in loose change. What should I buy? So many choices.
My second probation officer not really being too helpful and pretty much just left me alone, encouraged me to push forward. My outlook began to change when I was able to get into The Mission, a homeless shelter ran by various churches. You had to be there by 4 p.m. otherwise you’d loose your bed. Sitting in the day room until 6:00 p.m. waiting for that day’s church visitor to show up and put on a program of music and preaching then to the cafeteria for normally an excellent meal, and often a snack for the next day to hold you over until the next dinnertime.
You’d be ushered after dinner to the showers, given soap and a towel, pajamas and assigned a bed. Lights out at 9:30 p.m. and lights on at 5:00 a.m., strip the bed, get dressed, a light breakfast and out the door by 6:00 a.m. to find something to do again until time to get back in. Unfortunately, these shelters don’t provide for those who found a job and just needed a week or two, maybe even a month to get your money right and able to make a good start. It’s hard to be homeless and have determination to do better.
I laid in the bed, awake, thinking about my life and it being New Year’s Eve. I reflected how everything had gone so bad from being so good at one time. It isn’t like I woke up and there it was. I remembered all the bad choices I made which led to this point, but I wasn’t sure what I needed to do to get back on track. I wished for someone to just take me by the hand and lead me back to where I needed to be. The reality of it was, nobody was going to do that. From my bed I could see out the window and thought if there was one holiday I did look forward to, this was the one. Instead of being with family and friends, gathered together with good food and conversation, peering into the night as fireworks were going off or with a television waiting for the New York Times Square big crystal apple to drop, here I was with a group of homeless men, drug-addicted, no one sitting and waiting for fireworks, I felt a revelation from heaven. God was giving me a message:
“Remember this night and compare it with where you will be this time next year. You will see how I move in your life.”
One night after a snowstorm they called for volunteers to help shovel the walkway and parking lot. I volunteered because my time would be up soon and I would have to leave until the following month. You could only stay seven days a month. One of the staff noticing me shoveling without a hat, gloves or winter coat felt sorry for me and gave me those items. The coat, from a fire department surplus with reflective stripes on the sleeves and bottom, yet I wore it proudly, the warmest coat I’d ever have except for my three-quarter length raccoon, long since gone.
On Sabbath, I walked to Maranatha SDA Church, taking me two hours and a half, arriving too early for the doors to be opened, so I sat in a bus stop whose fiber glass walls provided some relief against the wind. When someone finally arrived, I gladly went inside to discover my ears were peeling having been wind-burned by the cold wind similarly to when I peeled having been sun-burned. I would take the heat any day than being cold. Especially this kind of cold.
When the other members began arriving and seeing me, my first-time back since leaving that summer on my fugitive run, I broke down and started crying. I was pitiful. Several collected money for me. I now had $75.00. At least I could go to the malls and could be a patron and not worry about being chased away. I could use their bathroom with dignity. I could get on a warm bus and ride from one end of the line to the other, instead of walking outside. I had determination not to spend it on drugs. This was my chance to make my situation just a little better until something or someone provide me with a break, a chance to get started over again. It did happen. It was good to have been in church that day.
A man introduced himself to me as Charles who wanted me to talk to his wife, Pat. Pat and I spoke and she shared needing someone, like me, capable of assisting her in one of her houses. She was involved in the care-giving of persons mentally disabled but high functioning. Although they did not work, some of them, there were facilities in the city; agencies which provided them with activities to keep active during the day. Many were chemically addicted and needed guidance in ensuring they went to the various NA/AA/CA meetings. Pat was looking for a man who would run one of her homes, assisting at that time three men, in a home able to accommodate five, to provide adult supervision in getting them up in the mornings, prepare meals, making sure they did their chores, and reside there in case there was an emergency over night, to provide responsive attention. I would have my own room and television, access to a phone, no charge for food since I’d eat what they eat, and receive a small weekly stipend. It sounded like a dream come true.
The dream did come true when my last day at The Mission became my first day working for Pat. The home was a ranch-type, very clean, in fact immaculate, well-kept property. Plenty of grassy areas to effect therapeutic-type care not only for the men but for me as well. Although the men would come and go, there were two who were the mainstays. They were high performing, chemically-addicted, and good natured men for except the unfortunate life debilitating problem, would be considered normal. They were easy to care for, so much so, I found having the home to myself during the day quite refreshing. Because of my relationship with Pat and Charles, my attendance to church became stronger and with the fellowship, I was very glad to go. My probation officer visited the home remarking I was doing better than most of his charges and felt more at ease with me now since it appeared I was assimilating into society better than it appeared in the beginning.
By the spring of the year, when the snow was gone and weather more conducive to wanting to be out and about, I was able to find work, and with the work, good money, since I did not have to pay rent and again restarted my addiction. My other addiction for exhibitionism also became a factor, both I shielded as much as possible not wanting to terminate such a good lifestyle I was now enjoying.
By the summer months, despite the church going, being involved in a relationship, a promising good Christian relationship with an old family friend’s daughter I had known since I was 16, despite all good appearance of a good job, buying a car, I was still drugging and increasing alarmingly, counting days before and after my scheduled probation meetings to avoid testing positive for drugs, staying out later, sneaking women into the house to smoke drugs, my life was becoming unmanageable again. I was spending more time away from the home, reporting on Pat’s clients seeing them at drug spots, so they would fail their own probation status and be confined, just to keep them from seeing me there, it was time to relocate. I stolen money given to me to keep someone else from misusing their own money and instead I partied.
Old behaviors are hard to beat and I found myself in the same situation, over and over again and had I not listened to my then girlfriend when I was apartment hunting, I would have been in bigger trouble. I found a reasonably inexpensive, former hotel now operating as a residential hotel and had I moved, a week later, was closed because of drugs and prostitution. My friend suggested I answer a second ad and had an appointment scheduled before making up my mind on the hotel. She was right. The second was a home in one of the better neighborhoods of Cleveland called “Shaker Heights”, in fact, not too far from where Mike Tyson owned and lived at times.
Albion Road was located centrally to rail and bus transportation making it very convenient to get to work since my car was inoperable due to my inability to fix minor problems which became major because of the money used for drugs. The home was a brick three-level, with a basement apartment large enough for a couple and laundry room. The entry or second level had a fully equipped kitchen, half-bath, dining and living room, pleasantly furnished and later with a large, very large-screen television one resident left when he was unable to pay his rent, with another bedroom. The top floor had four bedrooms, one having its own full bathroom, with another full bathroom. I lived on this floor. The house stayed full of mostly decent, well-acting people who genuinely cared for each other and got along well, so much so, we often had large dinners with everyone sharing and during the holidays, we would have our own home dinner and videos. We were a family of sorts because many of us either did not have or could not go to family’s homes for whatever reason.
I moved into this home August 1999, and enjoyed living there, nicely kept tree lawns, where police patrolled regularly, and just felt well about this whole experience. I still attended church regularly and took better steps in keeping my addiction under control. But either you control it or it will most assuredly control you. I remember sitting at the desk, in my room, reflecting upon the promise of last year’s New Year’s Eve when God told me at the homeless shelter to keep in mind where I was this year and see where I would be the following one. He fulfilled His promise to me. I never thought I would be in such a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood having such a beautiful second chance.
I worked for an international company, Rockwell Automation, making the most money I ever made as a temporary employee, another agency offering me blindly four additional dollars more per hour than whatever my current agency agreement was paying just to woo me and secure me to take this position. The job was from April to November, the former position was only from March to May at $12 per hour. The other position required overtime and I was making about $720 weekly! Good money for a temp! My job consisted of being available to assist their Event Planner coordinating their annual convention, in Los Angeles. The principle person I worked for did just about everything there was, not leaving me with much to do other than surfing the Internet. In fact, truth be told, I found a website and read all of Ellen G. White’s writings during my time there. Every one! My drug addiction would cause me to not have money although I was paid well, and soon I would be walking again, at least only from work to home, never had to walk there, which took me about 2.5 hours. Eventually I would start stealing candy from desks to have something to eat and provide some type of energy source. I stole one hundred dollars from a co-worker’s purse and another laptop. I was questioned later by security whose ill-equipped video showed me but they were unable to prove who I was. This time not falling into the paranoia I had from the past, I continued to work there until the assignment ended.
My next job was within ten minutes walking. I could leave there, grab a few groceries and be home within one-half hour. This company was the regions largest interior landscaping company and I worked directly for the owner and her two sons as their administrative assistant. This was refreshing for me because again I would have the opportunity to be a full-time, permanent employee. Although the owner was very strong-willed, to the point of sometimes like a spoiled child, I took any affront light and did my job. My involvement made me feel good and I was well-liked by the other employees and felt good about myself. My drug addiction went into remission for awhile.
Two months into the job, we changed locations requiring me to take public transportation, and I was determined to never walk home from our new location which I projected would have taken me at least three hours. I did not want to relive my Philadelphia experience again, and I would also have a change in probation officers. When I was sentenced, they ran my Ohio probation with my Berks County probation. When the Pennsylvania probation ended, they moved me to another officer who wanted to verify and meet my employer! I was devastated. My former officer was satisfied with my only reporting and supplying him with payroll stubs. He did not want to ruin my earnings capability knowing the hardship I suffered being homeless. He was impressed with my earnings commenting I was making nearly as much as he did. However, she, my new officer’s reasoning was my troubles were directly related to my job and she felt necessary to be involved. Graciously, she gave me one month to give them notice, saying my work should speak for me, and if I were a worthy enough employee, they would no doubt keep me. It was an insurmountable period of stress for me. Fortunately, I received the position on the merits of my resume and not having to fill out an application, that particular line questioning one’s history of criminal activity. They could not hold it against me and said I lied if I checked that box which asked “had you been convicted of a felony” within a certain period of years, normally five.
One of my employers was an attorney and I got along very well with him. At the end of the third month, I spoke honestly and candidly with him about my circumstances and left that evening knowing everything would work out well. He would have to inform the others, his mother and brother, but I’d shown myself capable and they were pleased with my performance. After my probation officer met with him, I was still an employee. Now they would be aware why every two weeks and then later once a month, I needed to visit her for a meeting and drug test.
I had an episode of relapsing and so afraid of being found out because it was very heavy usage just prior to a visit with my probation officer, and I just knew I couldn’t go into her office and not expect to have problems. I was nearing the end of my probation and I didn’t want to get sanctioned, for sure, by her. I still had sixty days she could have sentenced me and no doubt she’d probably also say, “Well, if they still love you on your job, maybe they’ll hold it for you while I put you in prison for another thirty days.” It wasn’t going to happen. I had to devise a scheme to prevent me from going to her office.
We were moving things around in our new offices and I was moving something with someone and it was quite heavy. I said to her, lying of course,
“Ohhh, wait! My head is spinning.” I put my hand to my head and faked being disoriented. Acting in high-school years ago proved to be a tool I would use. She suggested I take it easy. I told her I just needed to rest for a moment and I would be okay to move this planter over on the far wall. She left the office and I went to where the planter was and moved it a few feet and tipped it over, then laid right there on the carpet, beside the planter, and waited to be discovered. It took them awhile but eventually someone did and sounded the alarm. I was assisted to a chair and asked what was wrong. I was told I passed out and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said I thought I should and instead of them calling an ambulance one offered to take me to Cleveland Clinic not too far from our new offices.
At Cleveland Clinic, I waited until about three in the afternoon to make a call to my probation officer and she immediately questioned why I hadn’t been in at the normal time because she could set her watch to me previously and thought something had happened. When she learned I was calling from the hospital and was being prepped for a MRI, which I was, she told me the words I wanted to hear,
“Now, Roy, you take care of yourself and don’t worry about meeting with me today. In fact, I don’t need to see you until, say, next week, okay?”
Having accomplished my goal, I needed to follow through the hospital’s desires in wanting to determine why I had “passed” out. When I left the hospital after six in the evening, being there for five hours, I also walked away with a bill for over three thousand dollars! Lying can be so expensive. And, “no”, they didn’t get paid.
Eventually, I was back to pawning laptops and having found another plasma donating facility, having myself poked again to make ends meet. And again, especially on weekends, I would be out doing drugs or exposing myself.
With my last twenty dollars in my pocket and about two o’clock in the morning I went out to search for my last rock of Crack for the night. On the street I normally made my purchase I saw only one guy who I hadn’t seen before. Most people would have recognizable dealers but for some reason or other, I had difficulty remembering who sold me in the past unless I had a really good relationship with them, so it was not unusual for me to go up to someone I didn’t know in hopes of making a drug deal. He asked me what I wanted and I told him. This proved to have been a mistake. He told me to give him the money and I asked him let me see the drug. He asked again this time putting a pistol in my face, standing about a foot away. I had never seen such a big hole aimed at my head and for a second my heart dropped but my desire for the drug would be greater. I told him if he thought he could shoot me and then search my body laying on the ground, for twenty dollars, having made the noise of the gunshot, in the dead of night (no pun intended) not far from a police precinct, which coincidentally where my other brother Kevin worked, to go ahead—shoot. He looked at me as if I was out of my mind. I told him,
“No, go ahead. You see, this is my last bit of money and I worked too hard to get it, and my life isn’t working out too well and worth about nothing, so you’d be doing me a favor to just go ahead and shoot me. In fact, so you can’t miss, let me do this.” I walked closer to him positioning my forehead in front of the gun’s barrel! If people tell you that time slows down when facing death, they’re telling the truth. For what seemed like an awful a lot of time between the time I positioned him for a better and assured shot and the time it took to squint in anticipation of being shot, ever so briefly I sent a prayer upwards,
“Lord, just save my soul.” He pulled the trigger!
I heard a noise, the clip had fallen from the bottom of the pistol grip. I looked downward and saw the cartridge holder on the ground and backed away from him. Then I got my courage up again and backed another step and said,
“Listen, why don’t you bend down and get it. But I can’t guarantee that when you do I won’t be all over you.”
“I got one in the chamber,” he responded and still pointing the gun at me.
“Yeah, well, you might, but as you can see, I’m willing to take that chance.” And I got myself in a position to pounce on him. He looked at me for a long moment and slowly retrieved the cartridge and started walking backwards. Someone called from a parked car I hadn’t even noticed telling him to come on. The gunman, before getting into the car said to me,
“Man, you’re crazy.”
Yeah, I am, I thought to myself. Yeah, I really must be. I was more afraid he’d try and take another shot as they drove off, but they didn’t. I went to the corner and made a call to the police and a unit was sent immediately. I described the car and the guy with the gun and the officer asked me before leaving why I was out here. I told him. I thought I could buy drugs but I wasn’t giving up my money first. The officer gave me a hard look, shook his head and drove away in the direction where I pointed.
I walked too far and went through too much to go home empty-handed and I eventually ran into someone who did have something and I made my purchase. I got home and used it and all the while thinking I had crossed over the line now and there was no coming back. That’s how much the drug meant to me and I knew, for certain now, I did have a death wish. I wasn’t afraid to die and that is a very dangerous position to be in.
Sobriety would occur when I re-committed myself and tried better. I knew going to meetings would not help me although part of my probation requirement. I went to three meetings just to get their stamp impression, and then through my job, since I was responsible for ordering supplies, ordered three identical stamps to stamp my own meeting sheet, copying their representative’s signature to satisfy my probation status. When I went to a meeting, just hearing about drugs would have me out prowling around to relive the experience.
July 2000, I was enjoying a freedom of sorts from all addictions when I received a phone call from my brother who invited me to “house-sit” for him and take care of his dog while away on business. I felt honored he would consider me to do this since before he had thrown me out. He admitted to me, that day when I left, he knowing I had nowhere to go and no money, and it was cold, it was one of most difficult decisions for him to make but it would either get me back on track or come to an end. Either way, progress would have to be made. He even made overtures of my considering, since I was gainfully employed and doing well, to relocate with him to help ourselves with expenses. I was grateful for the offer, but I needed to live alone to overcome my “demons” and not involve him. We were brothers—and brothers could still be angry because of disappointment. We’d do better separately.
While house-sitting, I would have the most pleasurable experience of meeting Mayra. My days were spent on the computer meeting friends and I had two, from China and the other from Thailand. Both were somewhat serious relationships and I was trying to determine how to deal with them. Obviously, one would be happy and the other disappointed. After meeting Mayra, they both would find eventual disappointment. After meeting her and speaking for the first time, I knew there was something within me that would affect me forever.
Mayra lived in Puerto Rico, had a pleasant voice and from her pictures a very attractive appearance. There was something about her, totally, that connected me and I felt comfortable with her. There was not a need to prove anything. She was a Christian and her voice, nature and manner of speaking was satisfying.
We would continue meeting each other every morning and evening on the computer, later speaking on the phone before going to bed. We fell in love looking forward to the day when we agreed to meet each other in November, at her son’s home stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. One night in October, I had a dream and saw two wedding bands floating and their joining together. I awakened because it disturbed me, so I had to call her. Her comment to me before I could tell her my dream was,
“Roy, would you like to get married in November?!” Why not? I had already been given the sign.
Mayra and I met on November 18, a Saturday. On Sunday, we selected our rings, the saleslady supplying us with a relative’s name who was a pastor. We got our license on Monday, and on November 21, 2000, Mayra and I were married, witnessed by her son and daughter who accompanied her from Puerto Rico. The upcoming Saturday, we shared a sad moment saying “good-bye”, she headed back to Puerto Rico and me, Cleveland, same home but a changed man. It would be the first time I would wear a wedding band and proud of it.
My probation terminated early although I never learned the real reason for it. I had been sanctioned once and even with the absconding record, they decided to “cut me loose” early. My relationship with Mayra was wonderful and I just wanted to be with her. I left Plantscaping shortly after my probation terminated, because now I didn’t have to deal with the attitude of the owner and took another temporary job working for Lincoln Electric, working in Human Resources through Manpower. Manpower liked my association because often I would get the host company to extend the contract for whatever reason, and this usually netted me additional monies.
I spent the Christmas holiday with Mayra and was sad to return to the States. The job originally was to terminate in December but I got them to ask me to come back in January and then it was to go until March then April. During March, although I could have milked it further, I was tired of winter and remembering the warm weather of Puerto Rico and warmer wife waiting for me, I terminated the job much to the dismay of Manpower.
March 3, 2001, I packed my bags, said my good-byes and made my pilgrimage to be with my wife. For the first time in a long time, I felt I was going home, a real home, where I would be part of a family.