Looking at those old photos

Looking at old photos of myself past the age of 14, I have a vacant unemotional stare, smiling seems to be an impossible task, I’m completely broken, a shell of my former self, a lost sheep in a herd of tigers, I gave up on life.

I can’t look at these photos without feeling shards of emotional glass, ripping my heart into a million pieces.

These were my lost years, blurred memories; who was I? What was I feeling?

Hope had evaporated for me and I went wherever the wind took me.

I took so long for me to genuinely smile; to allow myself to be photographed.

Last night I cried, a mixture of sadness and joy, I thought of the many friends I had and how they cared, I thought about how much better I felt these days, I thought about the opportunities I had to help others. I thought of all the reasons I had to smile and that made me cry, healing tears streaming down my cheeks, no shame in that.

It’s been a long road but I can finally say that the hope is slowly coming back, so is the joy. And I can love and be loved. I have no other words to describe it except now I feel I can finally move on. 💜

 

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Basketball days..

I’m about Eleven years old and I signed up for Turnpike basketball because one my childhood best friends loved basketball and his dad was the coach, I joined their team, I wanted to play sports and fit in with my friends. I knew I wasn’t great at basketball, I wasn’t coordinated and I got tired easily, I just wasn’t good at sports in general but I did hustle and played with heart. I was always nervous because I knew I wasn’t good and the crowd being there didn’t help, it was too much pressure. I knew my friend’s dad who was also the coach was not impressed by basketball abilities, I’m sure if he could have, he would have kept me on the bench for the entirety of the game.

I remember one game, in particular, I was on the court trying my best but I missed every shot, I fouled a couple times and I was intimidated by all these other kids who were bigger and better than me. At some point, I managed to steal the ball from the kid I was guarding and for whatever reason, I ran toward the basket on the opposite end of the court, I wasn’t even paying attention to my teammates or the crowd, I made a layup and score a goal until I heard the crowd boo me and my teammates looked very angry including the coach. In my excitement, I didn’t realize that I had made a basket for the other team, I saw parents from the stands grumble in disgust and the other team laugh at me, it was totally humiliating.

From that moment on, I really hated sports, I hated the competition and that everything was about winning, I hated how mean my teammates were with me when I made a mistake, I was frustrated at myself that I couldn’t play sports well despite my best efforts. Even now, the mere mention of sports annoys the hell out of me and I am sure it comes from the moments where I was made to feel like nothing because I threw the ball into the wrong basket. But what I hated the most was how grown adults could treat a child so poorly because he wasn’t the best basketball player in the world, it’s cruel. And that sticks with you the rest of your life.

I played a few more years despite me not liking it, I wanted to be with my friends but as my friends and I drifted apart, I stopped playing sports in any kind of leagues and just stuck to shooting hoops by myself in my driveway, no crowd, no pressure, just me, a basketball and my boombox. As I write this, I am filled with sadness but also pride that I had the courage to make the effort to play and came to the realization that sports wasn’t for me. And you know what, that’s ok. There is more to life than sports, I just everybody else could see it that way. 🏀

 

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Last moment of freedom

After the meeting, I’m sitting outside of this church in Alexandria, smoking a cigarette with these people who knew my brother Joe when he was in Sunrise, one of them drove me there, I am not quite why I was there, I guess I was struggling with using and I needed some kind of support. It was one of my first meetings and I was nervous about being there. I had actually just gotten kicked out of school because I had a punched a hole in the wall and they were ready to ship me off to Lynchburg. I was talking with this girl from Sunrise who I had the biggest crush on and I was telling her and this other guy that I was leaving and if I could write to them. They gave me their address but I never wrote to them and they never wrote to me. But I never forget sitting in that church parking lot, enjoy my last moments of freedom with these people I barely knew and I’m sure were never comfortable with me, to begin with.. 😥

Why can’t things stay the same?

I’m older than I look and it feels like the world is changing so quickly and there so much that I experienced as a kid that is non-existent today and it doesn’t feel like that long ago, technology, places I visited, just daily life back then would have no place in today’s world. I will never forget that when I was small, we didn’t even have a VHS player, we had Betamax, Betamax!!. Most people my age have never even heard of that. We used to rent videos at Erol’s video ( a long-defunct video rental chain and internet provider) and I have this memory of watching “Raiders of the lost ark” on Betamax and each tape had only an hour of tape time, so you have to have two tapes to finish the movie.

When it came to music, we went to Tower Records or the Wiz, both meccas of buying music, they had everything: CDs, cassette tapes, LP records, laserdiscs, VHS tapes ( all dead formats) the idea of going into a store and buying any kind of physical medium is dead now, everything is streaming and if it’s not available to stream, then you are out of luck.

Every Saturday, we’d see our Grandparents in Arlington, VA and got to Ballston mall          (Now it’s nothing but an ice rink), then it was a flourishing indoor mall with shops and was connected to a metro that would take you all over the DC area ( The metro is the only thing that’s still there).  I heard they destroyed the mall and replaced it with trendy hipster shops that could find in any other place ( nothing unique about it), damn that’s depressing to me. Anyways, we’d spend time at the food court almost every weekend. Sometimes we’d go to Rosslyn and go to eat at Roy Roger’s, they sold fried chicken and it was really good, much better than KFC and about as good as Popeyes. The whole restaurant was like a cowboy-style with pictures of Roy Rogers all over the wall of this place that looked like a saloon. Roy Roger’s is gone; just a faded memory for most people but for me, it’s ingrained in my mind as a sort of magical place where I spent time with my dad and grandfather.

I think of all the little mom and pop places that surrounded the neighborhood where my grandparents lived; gone; replaced with CVS’s and hallmark stores, Harris Teeters and yoga studios for all the hipsters who live there now, some call it progress but for me, it makes me sad. And speaking of CVS, whatever happened to People’s drugs and drug emporium? These places existed at one time, I remember, they were all over the place one day and the next day gone, replaced by CVS, what does CVS mean anyways, I miss stores that had names that told you what kind of products they sold, you know?

I remember Black-eyed pea ( and no I don’t mean the band), the restaurant. We spent so much time after church, it was just American food but it was one of the first sit down restaurants I remember going to and I always ordered the chicken fingers, I loved their honey mustard sauce, as a kid it was paradise. That place is gone, just like all the others, it’s a transient area, no one living there now has ever heard of that restaurant and they don’t care because it’s a not a chain, the people that move in love chains because it reminds them of the boring place they came from before they ruined the place where I grew up.

I know time must move on but does it have to move so fast? Why close businesses and change a neighborhood to cater to people who didn’t grow up there. Our experience are not only attached to people but the places that are associated with them. And when you destroy that neighborhood and destroy it with trendy shops, you’re erasing my childhood, am i the only one who sees it? Is anything sacred, can’t some things stay the same forever? I know I can’t live in the past but it’d be nice to take a vacation there every once in a while.

 

Erols Video (@erolsvideo) | TwitterBetamax tapes - gota Beta before VHS as dad felt it was better quality. The Beta player (was it a VCR?) had a cordED remote. lolRoy Rogers RestaurantsTower Records, Sacramento, CABallston Common Mall is the major shopping venue in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia.  Shops, plenty of restaurants, a movie theater and the convenience of being right on a Metro stop.  Come have fun and play a while!

A neighborhood party

I’m about 7 and my neighbors are having a get together with everyone in the neighborhood, I’m excited, they are roasting a pig and everyone is wearing Hawaiian t-shirts, suddenly fear overtakes me, the clouds grow darker and an eerie silence comes as the birds stop chirping. Worry fills the looks on the neighbor’s faces, I feel my forehead get slightly wet and before I knew it, the sky lit with lightning, soon I was drenched with rain, I ran for the shelter of the house “Mom, mom, I screamed, come on let’s go” I was terrified, storms scared me and I felt helpless, she finally came to my rescue and wrapped a towel around me and tried to calm down. I went in my brother’s room, I could see the neighbors yard from there, the once crowded festival was now empty with only the lone pig getting soaked with rain, I couldn’t help but feel sad.

Evening music in the car seat ( memories)

I don’t know how old I am but I’m little, in the backseat of the car, my mom’s driving, it’s dusk and I’m looking out the window at the orange painted sky and those clouds, oh those clouds. We’re on 495 heading towards the airport, picking up dad. The Bee Gees are playing on the car radio, I think it’s “Night Fever”. I love this kind of music, it sounds like it was made in a faraway time in a different world. I let the music take me away and I’m lost with my head still staring out the window, the feet tapping to the beat.
We arrive at the airport and I’m awakened from my musical trance; elated, I run to my dad and give him a big hug, he’s wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt, he just came back from a business trip to Hawaii for the VA, I missed him, it was a long week without him. Music brings those memories to the surface. Circa 1987

 

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I guess this is growing up

I wonder about all the people I knew so long ago when I was entering my 20’s, what they are doing with their lives, the journeys they’ve taken and what road they ended up on, I wonder if they still live in the same town and are dealing with the same things or did life change trajectory at some point. I wonder if they are the same people I knew or did they inevitably change and I’m the one that stayed stagnant in these memories. I wonder if after all these years they think of me or have I been forgotten with time. Why do they take up occupancy in my mind, the past is gone, it slipped away from me, bitterness when I think about the card I was dealt, to face this alone, well I guess this is growing up. 😕

One night after work

I was so tall, I felt like a Giant at work, next door they were playing Dominoes, someone invited me a little get together. After work, I walked to the party with my new friends, it was close by.

We sat on the lawn and admired the grass, it was nice because I was tired from a long day’s work, my head felt heavy and eyes were beat red.

I managed to walk to the party with as much confidence as I could muster, I found myself more sociable than usual, funnier, in fact, I thought I was the life of the party.

I had so much fun, the time just flew by, come to think of it, I don’t remember a thing.

I left the party and walked back to my car, I walked through the park, I felt like a King in that park ( 😉) What a night!

 

 

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Snowy day

It’s winter in 1992, I’m 9, there’s a snowstorm and I walk down to the creek which is frozen over, I’m on my own, I feel the sun warm my face but it’s still bitter cold, which is odd to me. I look over to the pool and ponder how only 4 months before, it was sunny and I could hear the kids jumping from the high dive from my backyard, now it was a snowy desolate wasteland, I shrugged my shoulders and crossed Braeburn to the other side, with my plastic sled in hand. The forest hill full, of snow was empty, where were the other kids? What does it matter, they don’t want to hang out with me with anyways. I put my headphones on and hit the play button, Pearl Jam’s “Ten” album. And I’m off sledding, trying to have fun even if I’m by myself. I sled down the hill with glee; “I oh I’m still alive” ringing in ears as I sled down the hill, the soundtrack to this cold and dreary day.

Sledding by yourself is boring but the music drowns out the loneliness, as I walk home, I’m saddened that I had to spend this snow day by myself but the promise of hot cocoa when I get home lifts my spirits and all is well again.

 

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The beach trip

We’re going on a beach trip, I am sitting in the backseat and I have my coloring books to keep me occupied for this long journey, mom and dad say it’s going to be 6 hours, that is forever kid’s years, Off we go, I can’t wait to go to the beach, I’m just giddy with excitement, hyper as always, my older brother is looking at me in annoyance but who cares what thinks, we’re going to the beach.

We drive further and out of the city and into the country, miles, and miles of open farmland, boooring, I tap my feet and sing along to the oldies station tape playing from the front seat which annoys my brother even further. After what seems like an eternity, I see the sparkling blue ocean below a towering bridge coupled with the bright blue sky with the piercing sun shining on the water, I am in awe at the military ships in the distance, it is magical to me but we are still only 2 hours from our destination, aww but I want to swim now.

My dad says “Ok, we are going through a tunnel now” It gets really dark and very noisy, all I see are orange streaks by my car window, I love it, it’s like an amusement park ride, we get through the tunnel quickly and we have crossed the state line. More farmland and country houses, I’m growing impatient. After an agonizing two hours, we finally reach our beach house, I want to swim in the ocean but mom and dad just want to rest from a long trip, this is torture to me.

After a short while, we drive to the beach, the smell of suntan lotion feels my nostrils and my feet are burning from the firey sand, I tell my mom that’s enough suntan lotion and I flee for the cold ocean. waving my arms in delight, my brother soon joins me in the water with two boogie boards, in my excitement I forgot about the boogie boards. I try my best to stay on top of the board but I always slip off, frustrated, I throw my board onto the sand and let the waves crash over me. Suddenly I find the waves dragging me down, seawater fills my lungs, I panic and my brother pulls me up.

I have had enough ocean for the moment, I go to sit with my mother and watch my dad and brother who are still in the ocean, as I walk towards my mom. I feel a pinch on my foot and I cry out in pain, my mother runs to me, consoling me, I was bitten by a stupid crab, it really hurts. Soon after that, I limp with the rest of my family back to the car and back to the beach house.

Although my foot hurts, it’s nice to get cleaned up, lay down and just relax, going to the beach took so much out of me, we are all really hungry, so we go out to dinner.

We go to this nice seafood restaurant, I love the hushpuppies and looking at the fish in the fishtank, I am fascinated by little fishies swimming around.. I avoid the stare of the crab because he bit me today and we are no longer friends. I order popcorn shrimp, my favorite. I can see the men bringing fresh fish fresh from a boat from the window, I love that. Everyone is done eating and my belly is full and I have a content smile on my face.

After dinner, we go to a movie: “I framed Roger Rabbit”, it is soo funny, how are the people talking to the cartoons? Are the cartoons real?. Jessica Rabbit is really pretty, I like her.

After the movie, my parents drag us to the shopping district, another boring adventure and we go to this store called Rose’s. I actually like this place, it has a distinct atmosphere with bright florescent lights and Hawaiian T-shirts everywhere. My brother runs up with a Guns and Roses t-shirt which is cool to me because it has guns and skeletons on it, I have no idea who Guns and Roses are but it’s a cool shirt, my parents tell him he can’t have the shirt and a disappointed look appears on his face.

We are finally back at the beach house and we have had quite a long day, I am in an unfamiliar house, in a strange room, laying in a bed that isn’t mine, there are weird stripes on the wall and the lamp is too bright. I still feel the rush of the ocean as I lay down, I hear the seagulls in my head and I can still smell the beach, it was a good day and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring but now it’s time for sleep. sweet dreams little Dave, sweet dreams.

 

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