The winter wind bites my cheeks as I sit on my favorite bench in Central Park. I love to think here, reflect and watch people go by. The warm cup of coffee feels good in my hand. I take a sip and it burns my top lip, I wince in pain. I’m waiting for a friend. I see him coming towards me and I laugh as I remember a time when my hands weren’t so little and my five foot five frame was much taller. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it never happened. But it feels like it happened….
“Mom!” I scream as I frantically search my room for my green sweater. “Mom!”
“What!” She opens the door to my room without knocking and I’m standing in my underwear.
“Ma! Could you please knock?” I stare at her in frustration as I’m a senior in high school and she still treats me like I’m an eleven year old boy.
“What!” She stares at me waving her hands in the air. “I wiped your bum! Oh, I remember when you were potty training, you would spray that thing everywhere! You’re dad, cleaver man that he is, started throwing a Cheerios in the toilet and he would make you aim for it! You thought it was great! You wouldn’t go pee without a Cheerio in the toilet till you were nine!”
“Ma! Please! Could you not reminisce about my childhood now! I need my green shirt for band practice! Did you wash it?”
“Oh yes, baby it’s in the basket with all your other clean clothes, ya see you didn’t want me to put your clothes away so there they are in a basket.”
She points to a basket full of clothes on my dresser. I take my green shirt from bottom of the basket and it’s all wrinkled. I put it on and I look like an idiot, it’s so wrinkled it looks like a different shirt. I check my watch if I don’t leave now, I’ll be late. I grab my book bag and walk out as soon as I walk down the hallway I know I left an important book behind.
“You’re gonna be late Joey! Come eat ya breakfast!”
I turn and head towards my room, my book is on the edge of my bed. “Stallone, Paradise Alley,” I run down the hallway towards the front door, praying that my mom won’t catch me.
“Where you going? You didn’t eat cha’ breakfast!”
Dodged that bullet, I laugh as I get into my 1987 Chevy Impala that my dad helped me buy. I mean its six years old and it’s huge. Isn’t it enough that I’m short and I’m a skinny nerd who’s in band? I mean I only joined band because there isn’t a writer’s society. I get picked on and my best friend is a girl who doesn’t fit in either. Why couldn’t I be like Sylvester Stallone? The day of torture goes by fast enough and before I know it I’m home having dinner with my parents and my little sister, that could be classified as torture as well, just a different kind.
“So you still want to go to NYU and be a writer? You should study something more reputable, like journalism, not screenwriting.”
“Dad, why should I go to school, to study somethin’ I’m not interested in?”
“Cause I’m paying for it and I want you to make money when you get outta school, so you can make a livin’ you wanna work at the docks like me? I want better for you son.”
Dad, when Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky he had nothing, nothing, not a dime to his name. The studios, they wanted someone else to play Rocky! Can you imagine if someone else had played Rocky? I mean it would have ruined the whole movie.”
“Listen to yourself son, you think you’re gonna write a movie? Stallone took a shot and it paid off but he probably had no other choices. I’m telling you go to college, get a degree, and get a job. Dreams don’t put food on the table.”
“Ma, do you agree with dad?” I look to my mother as for defense, and that is always risky.
“Look, Joey, he’s always been different, odd, he’s not like other kids.”
“Thanks ma,” I shake my head.
“Tell him, would you just tell him!”
“Alright, alright, listen, your Uncle Lou is an extra in that movie “Cliffhanger,” he sent me two plane tickets to go hand out with him in California.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, but listen Joey I just want you to keep your head. I just want you to know, no matter what you do. You’re not going to wake up one day and be Sylvester Stallone.”
I walk to my room feeling alone and insecure about the things that I want and my ability to get them. Was I always going to be this kid in Brooklyn with dreams in his head that don’t come true? I get in bed and begin to read, “Paradise Alley”, chapter 47 . The crisp pages and words come to life. Fifteen minutes later I turn the last page and drift off to sleep. My dad’s words still in my head. “You’re not going to wake up one day and be Sylvester Stallone.”
To be continued…..