I was late to graduation, just like I was late for everything. I was flying down the right-hand lane on South Livingston Ave. doing close to 90 miles an hour in my 1958 Plymouth Belvidere convertible top-down when I heard a police car hit the wailers and saw the lights in my rearview mirror.
I pulled over and Henry Blocker, one of the few police I had respect for, strolled over to the car. He laughed when he saw me in the graduation gown. It didn’t stop him from giving me a ticket, but, like my diploma, I’d earned it.
That was how my post-high school life began. I was already hooked on opiates and I hadn’t even smoked pot yet. Life has its twists and turns and takes us to many places we thought we’d never go. But like a good friend of mine said to me, “Marc, if you keep heading in that direction you’re going to get where you’re going.” And I did.
When I learned how to ride a motorcycle, all bets were off. I hung with a wild crowd—about 30 of us riding together. My first motorcycle was a BSA 441 one-lunger, and the vibrations were so intense that every few months my license plate would shatter. I was constantly tightening nuts and bolts and my kidneys. Between the vibrations and the drugs, I took a real beating.
My next bike was a 750cc Kawasaki—a 1979, back when they still had kick-starts. This was a real road bike, and I was lucky to stay alive, because I was always under the influence of opiates.
In between drug chaos I managed to father—not raise—two beautiful children, and to become a fugitive living in Portland, Oregon for two years. I always said, “I’m not leaving here. They’ll have to take me in chains.” Well, they did. The Worcestor Police took me back to Massachusetts, where I served two years—most of it spent as the librarian of the prison for the other inmates.
How low can one go? Every time I hit a bottom, I found a trap door to keep falling through. After I got released from prison, I headed down that long stumble-bum, push an opium pellet around the world with your nose, heroin road.
After prison, I met a beautiful woman who was just as crazy as I was. We drank and danced the night away.
Still I returned to the heroin abyss. Even though we both had fairly good-paying jobs at state psychiatric hospitals as mental health workers, I couldn’t stop shooting and Sascha couldn’t stop drinking.
I went through an army of doctors for prescription drugs, and we felt the heat closing in on us. So, we moved to South Carolina. By this time, we were both shooting dope. When we first arrived, I bought a beat up old motorcycle—in the trade they call them rat-bikes—and it broke down on a heroin run at 2 a.m. one morning.
While I was trying to fix the clutch cable, a drunk driver hit me and the guy I was going to buy dope with. He died; I lived, but it took me over a year and a half to learn how to walk again. The good side of it was my wife and I collected a nice sum of money, and we bought two new motorcycles and a new pick-up truck.
We still kept spending money like it would never end on heroin and, on occasion, cocaine. In eight months our $57 thousand became just $3,000. So we decided to move back to Massachusetts, where the heroin was cheaper. We took the trip and spent the last of our money renting a one-room apartment.
I knew the end had finally come when I took the two motorcycles to a shop and asked them how much they would give me for them. They advised me to wait and put and ad in the paper so I could get twice as much. But our addictions needed the money now, so the motorcycles that we loved so dearly went into our veins.
In March of 1993, I was selling a street paper called SPARE CHANGE NEWS and headed toward sobriety, which I achieved, with the help of many people and Spirits, in March of 1994. In 1998, my wife died of an overdose and I put myself in a drug program where I lived for 3 years. You see, I had forgotten how to live.
I met my current wife, Mary Esther, in 1999. We became fast friends but didn’t begin dating until May of 1999. For the first time in my life, I experienced real love without any mind-altering substances. I returned to school and became a drug counselor, writing poetry and short stories and getting published constantly.
Mary Esther and I were married in June of 2002 and have been living a real life. Sometimes God saves the best for last. My young adults, Jasmine and Isaac, have adopted her as their grandmother, and Mary Esther keeps me spiritually awake. What can I say?
When I graduated Livingston High School in 1963, I was a train wreck. The good news is I lived through it and life has never been better.
Now I’m a regular columnist for SPARE CHANGE NEWS, where I serve as the poetry editor and a member of the board of directors.
Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the boar of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which operates SPARE CHANGE NEWS.
–Marc D. Goldfinger