Monday, December 27, 2010

A Good Look Back

Seeing as I had a bit of a rough spell a couple weeks ago, I want to end this year on a positive note. So instead of dwelling on something shitty that happened, I want to focus on what has been an otherwise incredible year.

I can say hands down, this has been one of the most incredible and intense years of my life. There are so many things to be grateful for. So I am glad to provide a retrospective on 5 things that people either said to me or did for me that made my year so wonderful.

#5 - The Cab Ride

New Years Day. It’s just after 1 am in Chicago, Illinois. Myself and 2 female friends are celebrating at a bar on the outskirts of the city. After some drinking and much dancing we decide it is time to go. We go to retrieve our coats which quickly turns into the most awful experience involving a coat I have ever been a part of.

We step outside to get cabs along with the 200 other humans, most of them blackout drunk, looking for cabs. We are in a very industrial part of town not necessarily known for its hopping night life. In retrospect, we would have picked a place easier to return from.

It is 0 degrees and I realize my coat, while stylish, is essentially useless against the cold. I am so cold I want to cry frozen tears while laying in the street but that thought freezes in my spinal cord before my body can make it a reality.

I am miserable. I have been cursed at, pushed, shoved, and told by the police that I can’t wait inside for a cab. A guy around my age, let’s call him Tom, is also hopping up and down in the freezing cold asks me where I’m going. I tell him. He tells me he’s headed in the same direction and that since he only has one person with him and I have 2, we should split a cab.

I readily agree with Tom, but my faith in this pact is lacking. If I get a cab and this guy is nearby, of course I will give him a lift, but I know I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to track him down. We are outside for 10 minutes, 20, a half hour. Tom walks further down the street to see if he can hail a cab. I go back inside to check on my friends. I get yelled at by police officers. I go back outside and that’s when I see him.

Hanging out the rear window of a cab is Tom.

Rich, Rich! Over here!

He is waving to me, flagging ME down to get in the cab with him that he has been circling in to find me. I am blown away. I tell him to hang on, I run back inside and grab my friends. We push through the hundreds of frozen drunk idiots and into our cab.

I thank Tom profusely. I thank him out of sheer gratitude to be out of the cold, but I also thank him out of guilt. Because I cannot picture myself circling to track him down. I am embarrassed and ashamed but also grateful. I give him my business card. I tell him to contact me that I need to thank him again.

We make it home and go to bed. I never hear from Tom again.

#4 – The New Job

After years toiling away in positions that I didn’t really believe in, doing things that didn’t really make me happy, I found a job this year that made me believe in my ability to succeed in a corporate environment. Since I was rapidly descending upon the possibility that I might have to become a career tour guide.

I make tons of new friends and as a ridiculously ridiculous awesome bonus, for my second staged play, my company purchases 40 tickets for employees to go to my show. I am blown away. They attend. They clap. They support me. I remain blown away.

#3 - Miami

Random Girl: Who ARE you?
Rich: Who are YOU?
Random Girl: Everybody here knows you as the guy who is always having fun.

‘Nuff said.

#2 – Glass Half Full

I spilled my drink. This is is not a new occurrence. I regularly do this. I also regularly knock cutlery off of tables and blow out candles using my nose.

I don’t do this on purpose mind you. As a human being, I tend to use a lot of air, and when I laugh, I dispense that air through my mouth and quick exhalations via my nostrils. And I like to lean over the table to be closer to whomever I am talking to. And that usually puts the candle in direct line of fire from my nasal blasts, so I laugh, and then the candle goes out. It happens. EVERY. TIME.

I was meeting with my writers group (sounds chic doesn’t it? Well it is.) and I was gesticulating grandly, as I tend to do, and I knocked over my nearly full beer. I quickly righted the glass but the beer was gone.

And right then I witnessed one of the greatest gestures of friendship I had ever witnessed. Without even missing a beat, my buddy Phil who was sitting to my left with a nearly full glass of beer poured half of his beer into mine.

He did it without hesitation. It was just, your beer is gone, here is half of mine. I absolutely LOVED that his first instinct was to make sure I had some beer, not there is a mess of beer on the floor now.

It might seem kind of small or trivial, but it was quite significant. And just another reminder for me how awesomely lucky I am to have incredible people around me. And that it really is the little things that stir us.

#1 – Friends

Through everything that has happened this year, far and away what has made anything worthwhile has been sharing my experiences with my friends. Whether it was the good, the bad, or the heart wrenching, I know I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded with the people that I have in my life.

With the awfulness that happened, so many people went out of their way, to say, offer, and do things for me that I probably will never be able to repay. I hope those people get to read this and know just how violet with gratitude my heart burns. Thank you so much.

And now, enough with the past! Here is to the future, to a 2011 filled with all of everything that we want, and none of the nothing that we don’t.

May your new year be filled with big things, or little things, or whatever it is you seek.


Monday, December 20, 2010

...But They Can Take It From You

I open my eyes. I am still on the couch. The fire alarm has stopped. The sun is up. I look at my clock on the wall.

The time is 9:30 am on Friday morning.

I feel grateful I have slept, if only for a little while. My soul is numb but I feel OK, which is to say I don’t really feel anything at all. I sit up. I put my feet on the floor and it comes back quickly. I am in my apartment. My apartment that has been robbed.

What now?

I check my phone. Missed calls. Missed text messages.

What happened? Did they ever come? Are you OK?

I don’t know. Yes. I don’t know.

I walk around my apartment. I look at the mess I have barely touched. The idea of cleaning up a crime scene exhausts me. It seems impossible. Though it is just a messy apartment the task seems absolutely insurmountable. My heart sags in my chest.

I walk into my bedroom and stare at my window. An activity that will quickly become ritual over the next several days. My heart speeds up slightly as I turn the corner to see it. Every time.

I think about breakfast but I don't eat. My appetite for my life is nil.

I look at the footprints on the floor. Made in the dust from the cops’ fingerprinting efforts.

I stare at the fingerprint dust and digest how I never imagined seeing that in my apartment. I try to understand what it means to clean it up, try to understand if that is supposed to be a good thing.

But then I spend hours trying to get that dust out from under my fingernails. Because it’s everywhere. The windows, the floor, shelves. I don’t even see it. It just appears on my hands, my knuckles, and under my nails.

I clean up my apartment but not enough. I try to wipe up the footprints made of fingerprint dust in my bedroom. But that just makes it worse. Spreads it around into a bigger mess, a metaphor. I use paper towel after paper towel. There is still more than a trace of it. I still don't eat.

I call my insurance. I file a claim. The woman is apologetic and sincere. I appreciate her sincerity. She tells me somebody will get back to me in 24 hours. At some point I stop stepping over things and start picking them up.

I refold shirts, blankets. I put extra pillows back in my closet that don't fit. How did these go? I can't remember it seems so trivial and stupid but still it bothers me that I can't remember. I am awake for hours but I accomplish nothing. I lie down on my couch and take a nap. I sleep for hours.

I wake up somewhat more rested but still otherwise depleted. The insurance person calls me, a different woman. She is also sincere. Honest. She asks me if she can record the conversation. I agree.  I tell her what happened from the beginning. She tells me they can cover a fraction of the cash. The rest is gone. They can't cover the cost of all my watches and cufflinks, less than half of it.

I think I am beyond things. I think I have moved on. But then out of nowhere, it grabs me. And I cry. It happens fast. A flash flood from my heart. That lack of control scares me. But then again there was never any real control to begin with. I feel pathetic.

I know I have things I need to do but I fear leaving my apartment.

I fear coming back.

I talk to my super who speaks broken English. We watch 14 hours of security video in 30 minutes. We see nothing. He tells me in his broken English that I should put bars on my windows. I nod.

I leave him without feeling better about what happened.

I go to one of my banks to open a new account. An Asian banker who speaks broken English and ends every sentence with “my dear” sits with me and helps me through the process. She is sweet and polite to a fault. She asks me why I am opening a new account. I tell her. She tells me in broken English that it usually happens through the fire escape. I nod.

I leave her without feeling better about what happened.

I got to my other bank to do the same things. A polish banker who speaks broken English and is incredibly helpful sits with me and helps me through the process. She asks me questions about the robbery. She asks me if I have an alarm. I tell her no. She tells me that is why it happened, and I should have an alarm. I nod.

I leave her without feeling better about what happened.

I see people on the street wearing hooded sweatshirts and wonder if it was them. I realize safety is an illusion. I wonder if I should have kept my shades down more often. I doubt every single thing I've ever done in my apartment.

The phrase “scene of the crime” burns in my brain like a campfire that refuses to die.

I start to understand how other victims have trouble moving on with their lives. How they have trouble trusting. I feel withdrawn. Antisocial. I have no desire to see anybody.

From time to time I remember something new I lost. The watch my parents bought me for graduation. The tiffany cufflinks my sister got me. The Indian head penny I had since I was a child. Silly cheap jewelry I exchanged with girls I thought I loved when I was young and naive.

Jewelry I had never planned to get rid of.

I feel detached. I feel so uninterested in being around people I know. I don't feel like talking. I feel like sitting. Like not moving. Like forgetting.

It is nearly 6 pm. For the first time today. I get something to eat. I look around at the buildings as I walk. All of the buildings. So many. An impossible amount. Why me? Was mine just the easiest? Who knows that? Who knew that? I am so distraught one moment but sheepish at others.

Really it was just watches and cufflinks and a camera and cash. My first inkling isn't to replace those items. Whatever the insurance pays, when that check comes I won’t replace them.

I don't want to replace them. Part of me wants to forget them, or at least move on. I have a hard time rationalizing new stuff. New watches. New things that could be taken from me. Ephemeral. All of it.

Even if the rest of my life goes on undisturbed. Even if nothing ever happens to me and I am never stolen from again I imagine myself still feeling angry that I had to lose all of this to figure that out. That this had to happen. I will always be minus one. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't much, but the closest things I had to family heirlooms. My Father's cufflinks. The pocket watch I bought myself after I directed my first play. They aren’t items, they are events.

Friday night I don’t sleep in my apartment.

It frustrates me that there is no consolation. All I have is it could have been worse. And I know that. I know they could have taken my computer or my files or the art. But it doesn't change the fact that took MY shit. It wasn't theirs to take. They pulled my clothes out of the closet. My closet. In my apartment.

The one place that I rave about.

Oh I love living alone. Oh it’s such a safe neighborhood. Oh it’s so quiet in my corner of the building.

Yea I’m sure they realized that.

I am angry that I am not able to take my home for granted. It pisses me off to no end. I want to curl up in a ball in my bed. I want to feel safe. But I don't. I can't.

Saturday night I sleep on my couch again.

I want to move on and become a minimalist and forget those silly watches and believe that cash meant nothing. But I can't. I want to derive some renewed look on life and approach a scenario where the things I lost will pale in comparison to the things I will gain. But I worry that won't happen.

I worry that I will never get over this. I think about therapy. I worry about therapy. I worry about becoming the guy who turns this into a soapbox.

I don't want to teach every single person about fire escape protection. I don't want to always have something to say about homeowners insurance. I don't want to be any of that. I want to be done with this. But I don't know when I will be.

But they, he, it, touched my stuff. Turned the one place I felt safest into the one place I can’t trust. That window is now a gaping hole in my comfort. I can't walk into my apt without checking that window. Every creak and groan that my apt makes that I used to love now puts me on edge. I twitch and flinch with one feeling behind it all.

What if they come back?

It was easier when the sun was up. Nighttime puts me on edge. Even though it could have very well been day when my apartment was robbed, the night brings a fear. I don't know anything anymore.

Sunday night comes.

I will sleep in my bed tonight, or at least I will try. I pull down the covers. I climb in. I look at the window. A mixture of fear, paranoia, and hatred I try to ignore.


I set my alarm to wake up for work. To try and return to normal. To start again. I go to turn off my lamp when I notice it on my hand.

Fingerprint dust. Again.

I wonder if I can ever get it all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You Can't Take It With You...

I emerge from the elevator and approach the door of my apartment. My peephole is glowing white. That means the lights in my living room are on.

Strange. I never leave my apartment lights on. I have on occasion when I was really in a rush, but this particular morning I had actually taken my time. Weird.

I shake it off and put my key in the top of my 2 locks, the expensive one, and the one that cost me hundreds of dollars because the locksmith told me it is nearly impossible to pick. I go to turn my key, but the key won’t turn. That lock is already open.

Again, strange. I can count on one hand how many times I forget to lock my top lock. And it’s always intentional because I’m carrying laundry.

I put my key in the bottom lock go to turn it the one and a quarter rotations it takes to open the door, but after a quarter turn the door opens. That means I didn’t lock the bottom lock. I never forget to do that.

And now my heart rate picks up.

I walk into my apartment and all the lights are on. I can see my couch cushions sticking up. Why are my couch cushions sticking up? And my body is adrenaline. And mind is fog, and I’m starting to shake.

I walk into my living room and now my heart is beating against the inside of my chest. My mouth is open and I am moving slowly. Goosebumps are running up and down my spine. I can’t feel the air around me. I don’t know how I’m moving but I am. I can see my computer across the room on my desk, lying on its side.

This isn’t real life. This is a movie. I don’t understand what’s going on. The blood in my ears makes it tough to concentrate. I am trying to be quiet to see if I hear anything or anybody. I can’t believe I am still moving through my apartment.

I move toward my bedroom and see that my closet door is open blocking my entrance, I try to close it but I can’t because all of my clothes are on the floor.

I have to squeeze by it, and step over all of my possessions to get into my bedroom where I see my fire escape window open.

And I die. My blinds have been ripped out of the ceiling. What was first confusion and disbelief is now a fact. I have been robbed.

And my world starts spinning further out of control. And I’m losing my breath. I have to step over the mess of my possessions and squeeze past my closet to get back into the living room.

I walk back through my apartment and out my front door and I ring the bell of neighbors I have never spoken to before. I call the police. My voice is fragmented and out of tune. I close the door to my apartment and I fall to the ground.

We’ve dispatched a car that will be there right away.

The time is 10:40 pm.

I manage to stand up. Now I try to process things for a second time. What do I do? I call my friend. Because I don’t know what’s going on. Waves of varying reality wash back and forth from my mind to my heart. My friend picks up her phone. And right away I’m crying. And I can’t stop. Because I’m discovering what is missing as I’m telling her.

My watches are gone, my watch box sitting in pieces on my bed, completely empty of all of my precious valuables. And my already sunken heart falls impossibly deeper into my body. I open my nightstand where I keep pens, and old concert tickets, and a marble box full of cash I made from bartending.

Too much cash to be honest.

Cash that was going to pay for flights and hotels and meals when I went to Fiji in January.

Cash that is now gone.

I am sick. My mouth tastes like vomit and I feel like a child. I have no ability to conceptualize what has just happened.

My stuff is gone.

And now I can’t breathe. And my friend is asking me what I should do and there are a million scenarios in my head. And I’m shaking. I can’t stop. I can’t process. I don’t want to touch anything; I don’t even close my window. The window through which somebody came to steal stuff out of my apartment.

I call my mom. I call another friend. I call a co-worker.

I start to doubt myself. Did I leave my window open? Is this my fault? Oh my god will my insurance cover this if I left my window open? Oh my god what does this mean?

What does this mean?

I am so emotional I don’t see that my window is broken. The metal latch snapped off because he or they or whoever it was, shoved my window open, breaking the latch. That latch, a false sense of security that had helped me sleep well for 2 and a half years.

Time passes. I sit on the floor of my living room.

The time is 11:40 pm.

The cops still haven’t come. I call again. My voice has not improved. It quivers at varying levels of volume. I sound like somebody who has been robbed. I sound like a victim, which now I am.

The car has been dispatched and somebody will be there as soon as they can.

I text friends, they text back concerned. People call. They tell me to stay with them. They ask if I want them to come and stay with me. I don’t know what to say. I cry sporadically. I can’t control it. I feel cliché. Violated. Betrayed. Naive. Insecure. Foolish. Childlike.

I don’t want to touch anything so I stay on the floor of my living room. I turn on my television and watch the channel that shows the video feed of my lobby, hoping I won’t miss the arrival of the police. I do nothing but sit and watch.

I sit and watch.

I don’t move. I don’t know what else to do. Should it take this long? My heart jumps every time the door to my building opens but it is just people who live here.

I sit and watch.

The time is 12:40 am.

I haven’t moved. I have texted. I have spoken to my mom. I have cried. But there are no police. I feel forgotten. I call 911 for the third time in two hours. I tell them nobody has come yet. A woman takes my information for the third time.

Somebody will be there as soon as they can.

Friends text me back. Are the cops there yet? What is taking them so long? Where are they?

I don’t know answers. I don’t know anything. I don’t know how somebody got into my apartment. I don’t know how this happened to me.

The time is 1 am.

My life zooms in and out of focus. My subconscious tries to contextualize what has happened. Should I go to work tomorrow? I thought I lived in a good neighborhood. I shouldn’t have had cash in my apartment.

At some point, I don’t know when, I suddenly feel vulnerable. Weak. Like a target, like an easy target. I close the window of my bedroom and lock it. I don’t even realize at this point that the latch is now broken. The remains of the shitty metal sitting on the floor like corpse.

The time is 1:15 am.

They stole my change. The empty Gatorade bottle I fill with coins at the end of the day that I usually turn into cash at the bank that I then use to buy dinner or drinks. My change. My fucking coins.

The time is 1:20 am.

The cops finally arrive. Two police officers knock on my door, a man and a woman. But they look like teenagers. The man enters first followed by the woman who closes the door and locks it.

Oh shit, I just touched the door.

Are you fucking kidding me? They look clueless, they walk through my apartment, and they ask me stupid questions. They ask if he came through the window. I want to scream at them that I don’t know. That I wasn’t here. That they are the fucking police and they need to figure that out.

They ask for a list of items I lost. I give them one I wrote on a piece of notebook paper, it won’t be until the next morning that I realize I left off half of the items stolen from me.

They call their supervisor who comes with his partner. He asks me if there are any junkies in the building, any drug users. I tell him this is a safe building, a good neighborhood. He tells me he has never had a call here before. For a fraction of a second this makes me feel better, until I remember I have been robbed and the past doesn’t matter any more.

They tell me they are going to check out the roof. They go up the stairs and push open the fire escape door, which sets off the alarm. They walk around the roof and come back. They close the door, which doesn’t shut off the alarm.

Over the raging fire alarm tell me they haven’t seen anything but they are sending forensics to take finger prints. They tell me they will tell my super to turn off the alarm. They leave.

The time is 2 am.

I watch the video feed of my lobby over the sound of the fire alarm, which has not gone off yet. I am realizing it is going to be too late to sleep anywhere else tonight. I am hateful, I am broken, I am afraid. My mouth still tastes like vomit.

The time is 2:30 am.

The forensics team comes. They take fingerprints off the window.

Are there any other places there might be fingerprints?

Are you kidding me? How the fuck should I know? You are the police. Fix this. This is the crime scene, figure it out. Find fingerprints. Please don’t ask me. I don’t know. The fire alarm is still going off.

So I look, I point here, I point there, I point to my computer.

None of it works. There are no usable prints they tell me.

The time is 2:45 am.

They tell me I can clean up my apartment now. I can get on with my life now they say. I can’t comprehend any of this. I can’t function. They tell me they will tell my super the alarm is going off. I feel beat up. My chest is tired. I pick up my computer and fix it. I see they took out the cords, they were going to take it, but for some reason they didn’t.

Why not? Too heavy? Too bulky? I plug it in and it works. I am grateful for something tonight.

The time is 3 am.

The fire alarm is still going off.

I have no desire to sleep. My mind thinks a million thoughts. I think about everyone I know. I think about what tomorrow will bring. I think about how I am scared of my bedroom, of that window. I contemplate staying up all night.

I put the cushions back in my couch.

The time is 3:30 am.

The fire alarm is still going off.

The time is 4 am.

I grab earplugs from my nightstand. I take a blanket that was in my closet but has been ripped off its shelf and is now hanging from a nail. I lie down on my couch. The alarm has not stopped. It will never stop. I pull the blanket to my chin. I close my eyes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm Tattooing My Face

I’m tattooing my face.

I mean it’s not going to be a real tattoo, it will just be in pen, but I’m still looking forward to it.

You see, I’m not particularly “tough” or “edgy.” I’m more “complacent” and “ticklish.” People like me don’t get tattoos, we get screen printed t-shirts. It’s not just the needle that scares me, though lets be clear, the needle really, REALLY scares me.

They don’t even make any bones about calling it a needle. They don’t try to make it seem less painful, the way my dentist calls his scraping hook and stabbing stick his “instruments.”

As though the hygienist is in the room cleaning out his saxophone.

Ok Michelle, would you hand me my instruments… so I can play rich some JAZZ!

Nope, when you get tattooed, they use the needle. And they hold something in their other hand to wipe away the blood that comes out of you as they draw a picture on your body with a needle.


I mean if that doesn’t make you cringe you must be much tougher than me, which actually, isn’t saying very much.

But the other reason I never contemplated getting a tattoo is because my life is always changing, as is my outlook. The things I like one year aren’t necessarily the things I like the next. I’d be terrified that 6 months after getting a tattoo of something seemingly significant to myself, I would no longer like that thing.

I did get a henna tattoo when I was 16 on my forearm that I believe meant “courage.” It was about the coolest thing I had ever done, which gives you a pretty good idea of how cool I am.

But I had an idea recently. Really I must credit my buddy Phil for inspiring this genius within me. But I (we) had an idea for how I could get tattooed and not have to cry in front of strangers!

So why now? Why am I going to get inked (washable) all over my body? Well, it’s my job.

You see I work for a pretty awesome company, and because we are a pretty awesome company, we do pretty awesome things – things like putting a ping pong table in the lunchroom, insisting that there be a giant bowl of candy at least somewhere in the office, and allowing people to wear a onesie to work.

But the most awesome thing they’ve done so far is decide that they are going to fight cancer.

Now I’ve worked for companies with philanthropic interests before. Heck, for 2 years I worked for a non-profit and spent my days in front of people who probably didn’t like me, trying to convince them to donate money, to a cause they probably didn’t care about.

But we’re doing something different. We’re not just donating money, or asking people to help out, we are going out and putting the pedal to the, well… foot.

You see a couple of years ago a good friend of our company’s founders named Jennifer Goodman Linn was diagnosed with a rare cancer. So she started a spinning fundraiser called Cycle for Survival. With 50 stationary bikes in a local gym they raised a bunch of money.

And Jennifer beat her cancer. And all was good.

But then her cancer came back. And again. And again. And today, she is currently battling cancer for 7th time. It’s kind of bizarre to see a vibrant attractive individual describe themselves as a patient, as Jennifer does. And when you think about the word itself its almost ironic seeing as patient is probably the last thing Jennifer wants to be right now.

So our company has agreed to raise money for Jennifer and her cause. And I was thinking about how I could raise money. Seeing as my goal is to raise a thousand dollars, I thought of all the ways I could do it.

-I could demand that every one of my 500+ Facebook friends donate $2.
-I could demand every person on my email list donate $2.50.
-I could demand my richest friend donate $1,000.  (After further consideration though I think I came to the conclusion that I don’t have rich friends)

But none of that would work. Giving is a very personal thing. And after 2 years in a nonprofit listening to people talk to me (and sometimes swear at me) regarding their philanthropic priorities, I feel I have some insight. I have a better idea. I’m renting real estate.

On my body.

That’s right friends I am combining 3 things – my hatred of cancer, my curiosity about tattoos, and my fundraising effort. Basically it breaks down like this. If you donate any money to my cause at THIS LINK HERE I will write your name on my body for the day of the fundraiser and take a picture of it and send it to you!

Warning: I may be wearing bike shorts.

It doesn’t matter how much you give, I will write your name on my body. If you donate a buck I will write your name. If you donate 100 bucks I will write your name. The more money you donate the bigger your name will be.

Here is the kicker. The person who donates the most money will get their name written on my rather sizeable forehead.

Studies show that people give more money during the holidays than at any other time during the year. In fact, the majority of donations come in during this season. Am I demanding you donate? Of course not. Everyone’s got their own thing going on and certainly I’m not here to judge.

All I’m saying is if you are so inclined, and if you have some bucks to spare, I would love your help in fighting cancer.

Because while I am scared of needles, Jenninfer Goodman Linn fears nothing. She’s beaten cancer 6 times before. I’d love to help her with her seventh.

 Click the logo to donate!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Greatest Lie I Never Told

I pushed Haresh off the slide.

I say this to you now because I believe the statute of limitations for playground bullying is less than 15 years.

But nobody knows that I pushed Haresh off the slide. The only people who know are the people who were in my classes at the time, well, and the rest of the people in the school. But that was a long time ago and people forget childhood memories easily. Except of course myself.

People who do not know that I pushed Haresh off the slide include my parents, who for the entirety of my life have had no idea that Haresh broke his arm and I was the one responsible for it.

Haresh was new in our school. Some time around the second or third grade, he showed up in our classroom as the new kid. And instantly we realized he had all the attributes required by a person to demand being made fun of.

He had a funny name.

Haresh came from Brooklyn with his parents and his little sister. He was eastern European and I vaguely recall his mother wearing a head covering when she came to the school to pick him up. That made her extremely different than the rest of our relatively white suburban moms. Haresh’s family moved into a huge house that they refurbished a couple blocks away from my family. The house looked out of place and had white columns that went all the way up to the roof.

And as my friend Tom Peters would point out on a regular basis, if your house had columns, it meant you were rich. Never mind the fact that my house had columns. Tom Peters bothered me too.

Harish’s features were a bit of a hodge podge. His eyes made him appear kind of stoned, which at this point in our lives, he just appeared sleepy. As soon as Haresh opened his mouth the ridiculousness spilled out. One of the first things he ever said to me was

In Brooklyn we’re tough.

Oh… OK.

Be that as it may, we were 9 when he said that to me. Tough meant not crying when you fell down on the playground. Haresh did not carry a bat with nails sticking out of it; he did not have a gun. He did not ride a motorcycle. He readily appeared to be quite the opposite of tough.

In fact, he was pretty goofy.

He had that pale, kind of pasty looking eastern European complexion. He wore baggy clothes and t-shirts and when he ran he looked like a robot with a dump in his pants. Every time he threw a ball it looked like he was doing it for the first time.

He was not coordinated, he said stupid things, and he was different.

Naturally, I couldn’t stand him.

More than anything it was the things he said. He would continue to spout stupidity well into high school.

During our 6th grade maturation class, (a class we had to have a permissions slip signed to attend) where we were sequestered in the library with an uncomfortable male gym teacher from another school to discuss sex and the reproductive process, Haresh would be the origin of many ridiculous questions. Ones like:

Yo Mr. Stephens, I read that like, in 25 years, all men are going to have breasts.

There wasn’t a boy in that room that wasn’t interested in breasts, but Haresh had managed to kill that interest in record time.

Later on in 6th grade he told everyone he changed his middle name to Ferrari, apparently his favorite car. He signed his name “Haresh Ferrari Rezicka” in yearbooks.

But for all the hatred I directed towards Haresh, I never really had any intention of hurting him. I was too paranoid as a child. I thought about the consquences of nearly everything. Plus I didn’t really know how to fight. If somebody pulled down my pants on the playground, I dove at them… and then cried.

I had no intention of pushing Haresh off the slide that day.

It was a tall metal slide that was probably dozens of years old. It leveled out about about a foot and a half above the ground, so you’d get to the bottom and have to hop off the edge. This was the edge that Haresh was standing on.

I wasn’t playing soccer with the rest of the kids or hanging out on the jungle gym, which kind of scared me. I was just running around when I saw him.

I remember my intention had been to run up to him as fast as I could and scare him as though to make him THINK I was going to push him off the slide. It would be hilarious… in my mind.

I started towards him, with every intention of screaming like a lunatic to freak him out,  but then something happened.

My brakes failed.

Within feet of approaching Haresh, at the point where I should have stopped… gravity took over and I just didn’t.

Examining the rest of my life the only similar sensation I can think of is being within kissing distance of a beautiful woman. You have to move yourself so far, but at a certain point, you couldn’t stop yourself if you tried. It just happens, automatically and without effort.

It is beyond control.

So I didn’t stop. And with my arms extended, screaming, I pushed him off the slide. I realized as soon as he hit the ground that I had screwed up. He was writhing in pain, screaming and moaning. The teacher’s aide made me take him to the nurse.

I was holding some kind of squishy koosh type things that I handed to him.

Here, rub this on it, it will make it feel better.

He did… it didn’t.

The events after blur together but I do remember getting sent to the Principal and her telling me I was going to have to tell my parents.

Looking back now I find this to have been a massive oversight in the public schooling system that I was a part of that they did not take it upon themselves to call my house and tell my parents that I BROKE A CHILD’S ARM!

Hey Rich you’ll definitely tell your parents that you pushed a kid off the slide so you can get in trouble right?

Oh yeaaaaa.

So I never told them. To this day. They still don’t know.

My Principal pulled me aside the next day and asked me what my parents had said to me.

And what did they say?

No T.V. for a week.

And what else?

Umm… no Nintendo.

Anything else?

Umm… I can’t go outside.

And just like that it was over. I apologized to Haresh. By the time his cast came off and he had a functioning arm again I was relieved.

Granted I still stressed about it every day until I left elementary school, because from time to time, when Haresh were not getting along, he would say something like

Oh yea? Well you won’t be laughing when my parents sue you for breaking my arm!

And my heart would sink and I would stress for the rest of the week.

But the time of that stress has now passed, and I don’t even have to tell my parents.

Because they read my blog.