you were the understanding branch manager who let me make a cash withdrawal without my bank card or id (at 386 knickerbocker avenue and himrod street) – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

-education-
*by someone who believes
ignorance can be bliss*
(frankie leone, just a man)
*

*he always sits by himself on a bench in the corner of the yard. i watch him with a musing curiosity.

about twenty pounds overweight. white, probably italian. full head of thick gray hair slicked back with water. his uniform always fresh and clean. rarely mixes with the rest of us. usually doesn’t speak much. always eats and smokes like a king. his commissary fund must have thousands in it.

we speak occasionally. eaten together a few times. there’s a superficial friendly rapport between us. he even laughed and smiled once, saying i reminded him of him when he was young. we usually chat about writing and movies.

he avoids every personal question i ask him so i know he’s got a story.

i want it.*

*

*i approach him and watch him draw the last cigarette out of a soft pack of marlboro reds. my brand too.

sitting down next to him i ask, “is that your last one?”

“yeah, didn’t get my commissary request in on time,” he answers, voice deep and scratchy.

“i could spot you until you get in your next one. i know you’re good for it.”

“what the fuck do you want kid?”

i smile. he’s smart and hard.

“your story.”

“yeah,” he replies drawing in a lungful of marlboro.

“yeah,” i reply.

“you’re not going to get it. tell you what though. you spot me until next week i’ll teach you something worth thousands of what you’re giving me.”

“deal,” i respond without thinking.

something tells me i might not get ripped off. i settle in to listen, resolving not to interrupt.

he starts speaking in a low relaxed voice.*

*

*”never run into a check-cashing place. those guys are armed to the teeth and can physically lock down a place in a second. they can trap you in a box of bulletproof glass and shoot your crew and you like fish in a barrel. hit corporate bank branches. worst you’ll have to deal with is ink bags, homing devices, and alarms.

“the key to it is not hitting the place hard, it’s to guide the flow of the cops elsewhere.

“do your research beforehand. count the squad cars of the town precinct. see how many can respond. if another town’s station is near your target scope that out too.

“don’t bother with a city bank. look for small towns. response times are slower. multiple precincts won’t respond to an alarm trip.

“get professional disguises. no rubber masks. fake beards, mustaches, wigs, costume scars, sunglasses, and hats are smart. anything that can conceal your face and confuse your identity.

“don’t leave any souvenirs for the cops. take a good hot shower before hand to get out loose skin and hair. wear a hairnet under your hat or wig. wear surgical latex gloves. unpowdered ones.

“when the time comes to approach the target, put in a 911 call about the town school. say there’s an armed intruder in there. all units will respond, and at most one car will respond to an alarm tripped at the bank. that makes it easier to blast on your way out.

“in that case if only one car comes with a single officer he won’t get out of the car until back up comes. don’t aim for the driver’s side windshield. light up the front tires of his squad car so he can’t follow your exit. most cop cars are front wheel drive. no one has to die.

“come prepared. it’s not about how big your gun is, or how flashy your mask is. that’s for amateurs. a clean fast exit is most important. get two stolen cars, make sure the plates are stolen and changed too. park one a mile from the bank. roll up with your crew in the other one. make sure to burn the second you switched into later. don’t leave any prints or hair in the first. those kind of forensics can put you away for life.

“get a small police scanner that receives all channels. one you can clip to your belt. crank it loud so you’re sure to hear if you’re getting company.

“get in there on the first of the month. the place will be fully stocked with cash money for all the people coming in with social security or social services checks.

“don’t get there at opening. armored car deliveries could be there or coming soon. the men with those are strapped and will blast like soldiers of fortune. right before the bank staff is supposed to go on lunch break is the best time.

“no one inside the bank but the manager has the key to open the teller’s cage. don’t rush in guns out. keep your pieces concealed and ask for the bank manager. once he comes out of the teller’s cage to greet you pull the pin and pull out metal. have him open the teller’s cage and go in yourself.

“never let bank staff handle money or count on them to fill bags from outside the cage. that’s a sure way to get an ink bomb or homing beacon in your cash. an ink bomb will at the very least ruin a heist. the money will be useless and the ink won’t come off your skin for months.

“don’t worry about the teller’s drawers. that’s small potatoes for amateurs. hit the central cash drawer where the tellers fill their drawers from. there’s three large drawers and no time to empty them all. hit the drawer second from the top. that usually has the largest denominations and most money.

“the vault is a different kind of operation. you need a crew of three guys inside for that, plus the given one waiting in the car. only one guy in the vault at a time. if all three of you go inside they can hit a switch that will swing the door closed and you’ll all be locked inside until s.w.a.t. comes to pick you up. make sure only the second barred gate is closed before you try for it. it’s on a timer so if the main door is closed it’s just a no-go.

“only hitting the tellers cage is usually around an 80K score. the vault is usually 300K plus.

“when having the manager open anything don’t yell at him. speak normally and assertively. if you shout his hand can shake while he’s fiddling with keys or locks. and that can cost a lot of valuable seconds. time is more precious than platinum.

“when it comes to guns, you don’t have to look like rambo, but you should make an impression. if you go with handguns make sure you bring a larger sporting model, not a compact one. like, a glock 17 instead of a glock 16, or a 1911 colt .45 automatic instead of a colt commander. if you go with shotguns or assault rifles make sure to saw off the barrels and stocks. easier to conceal and ditch.

“for ammunition go with hallow points. if you fire a warning shot, hit a body, or throw one onto a vest the cops can do ballistics much easier on a slug. you don’t want to make it easy for them to put you in a cage.

“don’t get fancy when it comes to your words. communicate what you have to when you have to. when you set things off a simple ‘get away from your desks and don’t even think of touching a smart phone. no alarms, no ink bags, no heroes. we’ll be out of here in a minute. no one hast to get hurt.’

“if you’re unlucky enough to get in a gun fight make sure to dispose of weapons properly afterward. disassemble them as much as possible. run steel wool through the barrels to change ballistics markings. dump each piece of each gun in a different place. sewer drains and off bridges are best.

“get out in under four minutes after you’ve set things off inside. three is ideal. don’t waste time. response times to robbery calls are usually under five minutes.

“the bills could be marked or the serial numbers recorded. at least some of them. you need to clean all of them. go to ac or vegas. buy eight grand in chips at a time and cash them in after the casino’s shift change. that amount won’t attract attention. don’t gamble while you’re there. that’s a way to have to hit another bank as soon as you get back.

“that’s about a packs-worth of knowledge. hope you enjoyed bank robbery one-oh-one kid.”*

*

*i don’t say anything for a few seconds as a digest everything he’s told me. he smiles and lights another one.

finally i ask, “what are you in for?”

“tax evasion.”

i laugh and whisper, “strange world.”

“you’re damn right,” he answers.

“i think i’m going to stick to writing.”

“probably a good idea. i get out next year. i’ll give you the address of where i’ll be. just in case you change your mind. i could use a smart kid.”

“i’m good,” i respond.

“i understand.”

“yeah, it’s nothing personal. just don’t want to spend the rest of my life here.”

“you’re smarter than i thought.”

“have my moments,” i reply and put my hand out to shake.

he grins and grips it. his pointer and middle finger are extended, touching my wrist. a roman legionaries’ handshake.

“you take care of yourself,” he finishes.

“i’ll do what i can,” i conclude.*

*


i sold out to amazon.com. – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

question: why is every short story password protected all of a sudden?

answer: because i’m broke. published them into ten separate collections on amazon.com. they emailed giving five days to take the short stories off boroughoflostboys.com or else.

*

question: so i can’t read them free anymore?

answer: no you can’t. *wink wink.* if someone was to send me a facebook message or email asking for the password, giving it to them would be a personal favor to a friend (and not a violation of my contract with amazon).

*

question: what’s your facebook url and email address?

answer: http://www.facebook.com/frank.leone78 and frankie@bottleservice.biz.

*

question: where and how can i find your ebooks and paperbacks?

answer: amazon.com (their main site and kindle store). search “frankie leone” or “borough of lost boys.” they’ll come up. ten different titles in paperback or ebook. the first in the series of collections is “-self hating egoist-.” find it in ebook here or in paperback when that goes live in a few days.

*

question: so you’re selling out with no shame and abandoning guerrilla publishing?

answer: yes. yes i am.

*

dance with your devils,

(frankie leone, just a man)

*


you expressed i was crazy via phone call from your shithole in the lower east side (on 13th street and 2nd avenue). – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-unstable-

*by someone who’s accepted it*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*no one see the world

with the same conviction 

as the mad man

-

figments of his imagination

hurricaning his view of the world

-

emotions rocketing through him

with the intensity of a dangerous narcotic

-

envisioning

a revolution of thought

epic love

and a different future

that may or may not be coming

-

but belief is reality

-

and men like him

have unwavering faith*

*

*the madman walks

the streets of our city

-

a city with shiny skin

bittersweet fruit

and the potential 

to put someone to sleep forever

-

he feels

thinks

sees

smokes

fucks

screams

laughs

cries

loves

hates

and believes

-

like no other*

*

*his hope is only 

to see something different

-

a choice that isn’t his

-

because as he sees our city

through a gritty kaleidoscope 

-

images of saints

sinners

good

bad

and ugly

-

ghost dance through his psyche

to a torturous melody

-

but it’s fucking beautiful

-

and even though

he may yearn to give it away

-

it’s his

and no one can take it from him*

*

*when he speaks

his words may make a good listen

-

in madness

there is chaos

-

and all things worth witnessing

emerge from this condition

-

so it may not be unwise

to pay heed to the madman

-

just in case he’s right

because

after all

-

what do you believe in?*

*

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our fight sent me to a county jail in new jersey (at 15 elizabeth plaza). – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-closure-
(part iii of a series)
(part ii: -brawl-)
(part i: -dice-)
*by someone who’s chosen to walk in the light*
(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*janis joplin was a liar. i’ve lost it all, but don’t feel free.

acidic rage creeps through my veins. images of those i’ve deemed responsible light up my thoughts like muzzle flashes. i feel more a prisoner than i did on the inside. unanswered questions about events passed bloat and blacken my heart like a tropical disease. there’s no escape from my thoughts.

creating a hit list and turning myself into the count of monte cristo isn’t appealing.

he has answers. i don’t have anything left to gamble or trade with, but something in my gut suspects he might work something out with me. fear isn’t in his vocabulary but i have a feeling respect is.

i text his number with the gimmicky triple-six area code.

“i need them, but don’t have enough to shoot dice.”

to my surprise his response comes right away. the text reads, “will you fight me for them instead?”

i don’t formulate anything witty. i type back, “i can’t fight anymore.”

minutes pass. more characters jolt onto the screen of my obsolete blackberry.

“so you’re signing it over?”

“it isn’t with me,” i admit.

no answer comes until a few hours later. just as pink and orange starts coloring the sky for dusk.

“had a chat with the boss. they’re bought and paid for. see you soon.”

i despise taking charity but don’t have a choice. an odd mixture of anxiety and relief fills me.

the gates to east river state park are closed and locked after sundown. time to hop the fence for another late night meeting. *

*

*the skyline doesn’t make anymore dangerous promises to brooklyn’s shore where i stand. it’s lights don’t tell any more sexy lies. wouldn’t matter if it did. it can’t play on my emotions. i don’t feel much these days.

the cool night air caresses my skin and the illuminated concrete and glass juggernauts of the city stand solemn and silent. it’s a weeknight and williamsburg is mute behind me. it seems like i’m experiencing a new york city night objectively.

i scan the park for him. he’s not here yet. i light a marlboro and relax. his gangly form arrives when it does. i run my eyes over my clothing to see what colors i should search the night’s silhouettes for. black may be chic but it was a poor choice.

some time passes and someone walks towards the river bank. before the details of the tall slim figure are discernible i notice it’s gait- graceful and steady, moving with purpose. it isn’t him, a cop, or park ranger.

her form comes all the way out of the darkness and i see her face. tears well up in my eyes and i begin to tremor with violent intensity.

she still has the beauty of a siren.*

*

*she comes to an easy stop a few steps in front of me. i’m too consumed with emotion to speak.

i seize her in an embrace. she doesn’t recoil, but drapes her arms around the bare shoulders jutting from my dark wifebeater, and rests her chin on one. i squeeze her so hard i have to check myself. she’s delicate. a few minutes pass like this.

eventually i stop sobbing and shaking. pride is among my greatest weaknesses. i don’t want her to see my face marred with tears, so keep her squeezed tight against me. despite the yearning to look at the contours of her cream-colored skin and chocolate eyes.

tears keep flowing but i unearth the strength to speak into her ear.

“i didn’t think you really loved me. didn’t think you really cared. i thought i outlived my purpose. that i’d lost you forever.”

she doesn’t respond. i continue, “is this real? are you really here? are you going to stay? will you let me hold you and take care of you again?”

silence.

i offer more words, “i’ve missed you so much.”

i wait. no answer. panic overwhelms me. i keep speaking, “without you i’ve given away everything. please love me. even though i have nothing.”

another quiet pause. despair starts diluting anxiety. my speech turns desperate, “i promise i’ll get it all back. my money, our cat, my friends, even my loft at 151 kent. i’ll go back to the clubs. i’ll build you a beautiful life again, just like i did before. i can save both of us. i promise. i promise baby.”

her reply doesn’t come. his does. in his voice. or mine. i’ve never been able to differentiate the two. the sound of it crashes my heart lower than the end of a five day amphetamine binge. the sound of him pours from her mouth into my ear. slow. i resign to listening.

“she’s gone and she’s not. what you’ve resisted understanding is that it’s never been about keeping who you have. it’s about experiencing who you have while you have them.

you still have her. just in a different way.

“i’m sure you’ve heard the jesus freaks say ‘he giveth and he taketh away.’ well, he’s giveth’d you this so you’ll let him fucking giveth again.

“it’s not over. it’s not the end. it’s another beginning. take care of yourself. you and her weren’t meant to swim together. drowning people can’t save each other. find your shore and search again.

“you may not discover who and what you want, but who and what you need will discover you.”

i relax my grip on her and start to draw away, but her arms hold me fast with a strength matching my own. more words come.

“her, you, him, me, and all of them on the streets around us are cards in the same deck. we’ll always shuffle so you can be given another hand. he’s waiting for you to realize it’s not about what you’re holding. it’s about how you play it and how thoughtfully you bet. the pot is forever growing. you can’t fold whenever you don’t see the cards you had yesterday. wipe your fucking eyes and pick up the cards in front of you today.”

the tears stop and i start to process his words. before my thoughts reach a conclusion a final string of speech comes.

“they all end, but he plays innumerable songs in his set. everyone can dance again. choose to move on the streets of brooklyn, not to wait for the avenues of the afterlife. put the needle back on the record and move those damn hips.”*

*

*can’t remember how we let go of each other. didn’t notice the apparition leaving. there was no watching it walk away.*

still in the park, i find myself sitting on a piece of driftwood waiting. not for him. not for her.

for the sun.*

*

*it actually comes. for the first time i can remember i witness the night turn all the way to morning. the sun falls on my face and i can feel it. something inside me feels excited.

as the horn of the ferry blasts an epiphany hits me- it’s going to be different.

i realize i’ve always known this day would come. i learned long ago the only constant in our concrete jungle is change. in these moments this brings me comfort. a new sensation.

a smile spreads across my face when it dawns on me. the devil, after everything, turned out to be a stand-up guy.*

*

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we opted against san loco (on 160 n 4th street) to get something more authentic at the taco truck on the side of n6th. – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-the crystal death-

*by someone whose time to die hasn’t come*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i walk the streets after 12am on a muggy august night without tangible purpose. the exact hour’s obscured by apathy.

my thoughtless hope’s to find her even though she’s long gone. lost to me and our city.

she haunts me still and i search the streets of downtown manhattan for her specter.

i remember her beauty. i remember her warmth. i remember her coldness. i remember her horror. i remember her in every light. flickering dim ones and blinding bright ones.

and i know i’d do it all again if another six shooter of love, with only one round in its cylinders, found its way into these long scarred tattooed fingers.*

*

*my mobile phone’s fished from the pocket of skin tight levi’s and i search for a replica.

something i can grasp and gasp onto through this night. it’s dark enough in my mind and on these avenues to get black lung from a breath of after-dusk air.

even though the street lights shine onto my five o clock shadow i can’t feel them anymore, but i will feel something with someone.

desperation can be a wild sexy beast. especially in a city that can’t lower its lids.*

*

*he’s a pretty man, looking much younger than his years. i assume the soul that might reside inside him matches his youthful looks.

jonathan young.

a makeup artist i met by chance in the waiting room of her rehab clinic midtown, on the east side.

i went there to support her. him and i exchanged cards after a pleasant chat. gorgeous blonde hair, feminine mannerisms, and pretty features caught my eye.*

*i text him at this inappropriate hour to see if he’d like a cup of coffee. i love gay guys.  they are always ready to get a cup of coffee.

…as the kids call it these days.*

*

*”hey you. >=)”

“hey handsome devil. :-) what’s up?”

“nothing just wandering around downtown. wanted to know if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee. ;-)”

“i’d love to but i’m in for the night and live in harlem. you could come up here. i don’t have any coffee but i have something 5000 times better.”

“sounds interesting. :-) i’m close to the train at union square.”

“oh great. i’m on 127th between park and lex. take the 5 train uptown a few stops to 125th. the night can go wherever you want. ;-)”

“i’ll text when i get off the train.”*

*

*the neighborhood’s desolate except for blatant crack spots every two blocks. one is right on his corner. it’s staffed by a fat look-out in his 40s, three teenagers from the neighborhood, and a silent og sitting high up on the building’s steps.

the people on the streets greet me with unusually friendly salutations for our city. even men who seem like they don’t often talk to strangers. a lot of what’s goods, what’s poppins, and ‘sups are thrown my way. even by those who aren’t peddling controlled substances.

i’m used to this when passing through the hood. 

a man who used to be famous once referred to my look as “80’s junky rock star.” it’s out of the norm here and people are welcoming the rough-around-the-edges novelty that happens to be me. despite the combination of the depth of the night and my white skin*

*

*jonathan young lives in a rooming flop house on 127th street. i text i’ve arrived from the front door.

a disheveled looking woman runs down the hallway steps as he lets me in. a large man wearing a gold rope necklace walks coolly down the steps behind her from the common restroom on the second floor.

i mind my own business and walk through the door with three locks into his room. 

the bed’s on fire and the room’s filled with smoke.

it takes a few minutes to put it out  and open all the appropriate doors and windows.

luckily there are no smoke detectors.*

*

*he apologizes profusely in the most charming manner i’ve seen in a while, and invites me to sit on the damaged bed with him. 

jonathan offers me a 4 loko- 22 ounces of candy flavored malt liquor. i decline.

a flash of her lightnings through my psyche and i agree after his second offer. it’s funny how little i’d missed the taste of alcohol in the five years i’d been free of drugs and alcohol previous to this first sip.*

*we speak candidly and flirt without restraint on his singed sheets. a connection is there.

he tells me he’s of lithuanian descent. i notice his arms have almost no hair.*

*

*time passes towards dawn and many verses of conversation are exchanged.

in our words jonathan shares the secret to his success as a seven-day-a-week hustler in nyc’s fashion industry- meth amphetamine

i’ve never seen it before. it’s more of a west coast and midwestern thing. except in small pocket’s of our city’s gay community. 

he offers me some. it looks like splintered quartz. i love pretty things, but hesitate anyway.

the ghost of her floats through my mind. as it does most moments of most days. i accept on his second offer. 

“it’s better when you smoke it,” he explains, and takes out a water pipe he uses to smoke the drug.

instead of water i see he’s it filled with pink fruit drink from the corner bodega.*

*and so it began.

mind-blowing sex. stealing. exposure to dark pornography. a return to hustling various things. the most intense one month relationship of my life. lying. brutal physical fights. the rise and fall of a small club kingdom. deals gone terribly wrong. my forgetting of her. loss of my friends, sanity, money, job, home, and even bicycle. the end of my will to write until now. 

it’s nearly been a year.*

*looking back from the end of the line with sobered eyes i blame no one.

not her. not jonathan. not even myself.

it’s simply the way the cards had to fall.

but unanswered questions haunt me.

why am i still here? why have i survived when so many i’ve known, who were better people than i, have fallen after less insanity? why have so many of the fires smoldered out, but my passion for her memory still burns like an inferno through my core?

i call upon him to answer to these questions. i challenge him to show up, if only to finally kill me after all his reaper’s attempts at seduction. i want to know why. in my heart i know he’s not coming.

i know the hard truth. the replies to my questions will come as my personal answer is lived. or they won’t at all. either way, i’ve got to keep putting one of these battered wing tips in front of the other. 

the angel of death is looking for action somewhere else, for now.*

 *

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you were the radical feminist who gave me the first blow job that ever made me come (on 247 starr street and wyckoff). – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-chloe-

*by someone finding freedom

one humbling experience at a time*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

 

*a dollar store fan

missing a blade

-

blows onto my skin

coated in a thin layer of sweat

-

clothed only in powder blue boxer shorts

covered with a print of cowboys and indians

-

and an unfiltered camel burns in these long digits

decorated with cut scars and tattoos

-

before being put out into an old coffee mug

resting on a small table

adorned with black and bronze mosaic tiles

-

while i remember*

 

*

 

*she lives uptown

and loved her bicycle

-

saying it gave her freedom from our city’s

subterranean network of grinding metal

and tired faces

-

freedom from its control of her time

and stolen moments from the streets*

 

*

 

*someone likely pursuing

powder and liquid relief from reality

-

relieved her of it

with a pair of bolt cutters

and a relaxed conscience

-

she’s petit

so her bicycle was pint-sized

-

pink

-

and like a child’s

had streamers coming from the handlebars*

 

*

 

*she’s taken the subway to see me in brooklyn

and we walk along an empty north 8th street

as the sun drops

-

towards my idea of a romantic evening

on the water at east river state park

-

the sky breathes an easy summer breeze on us

-

and she tells me more about grieving chloe,

the name she’d given the pink bicycle

-

moments before we see it

chained to the gate of a building

near the corner of berry street*

 

*

 

*”whoever lives here stole my bike”

-

she says in wide-eyed shock

in a normal speaking tone

-

“lucky you”

-

i respond

drawing a trouble-filled smile

-

her expression shuffles into irritation

-

“how do you figure that”

-

“i know a decent booster

let me call him

-

if he’s free

chloe will be yours again

in a half hour

-

if he isn’t

you’ll have your freedom from the m.t.a.

back by midnight

-

because i have a decent hack saw

four blocks away

in my roomie’s toolbox”

-

her irritation morphs to surprise

-

“that’s illegal

you could get in trouble”

-

i don’t respond

and watch her face go contemplative

-

she continues

“i guess this is this person’s karma though”

-

“probably not”

-

i answer

-

“what do you mean”

-

“it’s the booster’s and the fence’s karma

this person was just dumb enough to buy a stolen bike

-

rich girls in williamsburg

with apartments on the north side

-

aren’t cutting bicycle locks uptown

to pay rent”

-

surprise shifts to sadness

-

“don’t call your friend

don’t come back here later

and don’t ever mention this again”

-

“what”

-

i respond

-

“i’m not going to inflict

the pain i felt losing chloe

on someone else”

-

“bullshit

you’re getting your bike back”

-

now she’s angry

-

“no i’m not

you’re not doing shit

and i don’t want to hear about this again”

-

my ego absorbs the blows

and i keep my mouth shut

-

before we walk

the last two blocks to the park

in awkward silence.*

 

*

 

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you didn’t get upset when i fought with the waiter for not letting me smoke my electronic cigarette at beco (on 45 richardson st. between union and lorimer). – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-a love letter-

*by someone who’s heard,

“even if doesn’t work out, it’s just another way of it working out.”*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*my dearest love *****…*

*

*i told you once that i spent three years of my adolescence in confinement. a few days before my birthday i was sent away. my birthday is in december so it was right before christmas.

the beginning of those three years i spent in a boot camp for juvenile delinquents. it was in the desert in idaho. we didn’t have tents or real food, and had to hike with very heavy backpacks miles and miles a day.

i tried to escape.

while i was lost in the frozen desert (it was winter) with no cold weather gear to speak of, no compass, and no way to find help i wandered. i wandered all day and night. soon, i realized help would not find me. thick fog was everywhere, which is why helicopters couldn’t be used to find me. i gave up on being rescued.

i realized i was going to die. i started to take off my clothes so i wouldn’t freeze to death slowly.

once i’d removed most of my coats and sweaters i laid down on the desert floor. it was in that moment i saw headlights through the fog. it was a rescue jeep.

the people in the jeep were surprised i was alive and took me to a medical compound. they were kind to me, and gave me chocolates and dorritos.

then they sent me back. two more years or reformatories came after that, but i lived. i survived.*

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******, you are the jeep that came through the fog in the frozen desert that was my life.*

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*years did pass. hard years.

i was the youngest in the homes for bad children. making friends was difficult. no one loved me or took care of me besides myself, and i could only do the latter because i hated myself. my family could only see me a handful of times a year.

i had to fight all the time and endure abuses. i never understood why i deserved what was happening to me. every morning i would wake up in my bed at the reformatory and realize i wasn’t home. every night i would pray i would die in my sleep.

eventually, i was selected to go on a trip with the other bad children. it was going to be the first real trip i’d taken in years. it was to bryce canyon. it is the most sublime place on earth.

when the setting sun hit the natural red rock of the canyon it changed my life. i watched it and was able to forget the years of pain and loneliness. i knew i wanted to enjoy it in a way that would make it even more memorable.

at the time i was dating my first girlfriend. her name was ******* *******. she was four years older than me, had just turned eighteen, and was the daughter of an internationally renowned chicago brain surgeon. she wasn’t very smart, but she was pretty and loved me. she said i was sweet and beautiful, and that i made her feel special and loved. she said this was more than enough to forget my age.

i knew how to make the sunset even more moving. i wanted to smoke a marlboro red (my brand too when i smoked) with her, watch the sun set, and kiss.

we did. it was almost the most beautiful moment of my life.*

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******, you are my marlboro red and sunset, and you turned my poorly insulated loft filled with fellow weirdos into bryce canyon.*

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*someone snitched on us for smoking. we were caught. we were punished. i lost everything, including my upcoming release date.

as one of my consequences they put me in a huge field in the back of the housing units. (the reformatory was in utah.) it was filled with acres of tall tough desert grass.

they stationed a guard and gave me a hand scythe. then they told me to start cutting, and not to stop until sunset. it was noon at the time.

i cut the grass with the scythe for hours. i was refused water. it was a hot summer day. i dehydrated badly and started to hallucinate. still, i kept cutting.

then i had the most beautiful moment of my life. an almost-fifteen-year-old me realized, looking up at the desert sun, that it was all worth it.*

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******, this morning i realized it was worth it. no matter what happened or is going to happen. you gave me something no one has ever given me before, even if you didn’t know how to do it in a way i could consistently feel it.

you loved me, and i loved you, and i’ve never had that before. for that i will always be grateful.

i love you *****. thank you. i wish you all the best. no matter what i say or how angry and bitter i get i will always love you.*

*

*…your man,

frankie.*

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