Red sticker in my car window

 

09-02-80

 

Iím ready now, a coin poised for deposit, a key waiting to be inserted and turn in an old rusting lock.

The day begins darkly behind me as if it was still night and I have only the light of my alarm clock to tell me differently.

 I'm awake but my eyes want to close again.

I desire for sleep, but my dreams made me sleep so fitfully, I felt little worth of the dreaming.

School is here, a dream that comes to me out of desperation, like the one years ago when my mother and I spent our times in the housing projects, barely surviving.

I only had half days school back then because the city of Paterson swarmed with kids, and I wandered the streets for the second half of the day trying not to get beat up.

I always dreamed back then of fighting back, beating up the others the way they beat me up, trying to dream a dream in which I didnít feel trapped.

Sometimes I feel just as traps now as I did then, only I need to dream bigger dreams, and try to be less selfish so as to include other people in my dreams so they might feel less trapped, too.

I quit high school as an act of defiance, a way of telling teachers and my uncles I wasnít going to be bound by their restrictions and not tamed by their wit.

Returning to college after all these years is an act of defiance, too.

So is forcing myself awake.

I stare at the clock trying to focus on its arms, knowing I am way too early for any of my classes.

Iím scared to move my car too soon, thinking the law will stop me and impound it.

I keep thinking how unfair justice is, how weak I am in defying this vicious society, and how much institutions serve those who can best afford to pay the high cost of living.

This is the kind of society that killed Socrates for asking too many questions, Christ for having too many answers, and the Jews for getting in the way.

I am an angry not-so-young-any-more man trying to control myself through reason, trying to cool down the rages that are inside of me, rages stoked again and again to life by my frustration and my sense of helplessness.

I move the car, the cops will arrest me, I think, seeing without going outside, the all too obvious red over due inspection sticker that will cause the cops to stop me, cause them to find out I have a suspended driverís license, cause them to ask me for an insurance card that is no longer valid.

So I get up, get dress, then stumble to the bus, passing my car as if a stranger, pretending I do not belong to it and it does not belong to me.

Iím not yet certain when I will have the money to pay all those tickets that I have left unpaid for which my license was suspended, and over which society will put me in jail if they actually know who and where I am at any given moment.

Iím safe on the bus, just one more nameless person without identity, traveling from here to nowhere, struggling to read books for classes I canít concentrate on because I am so afraid, when the one most significant less to be learned is right here on the street: donít mess with the man, boy. When he wants your money give it to him. He knows how to get you if you donít.


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