At The Speed of Life

I was late to graduation, just like I was late for everything. Flying down the right-hand lane on South Livingston Avenue, doing close to 90 miles an hour with my 1958 Plymouth Belvedere convertible top down, when I heard a police car hit the wailers and saw the lights in my rear-view mirror.

I pulled over, and Henry Blocker, one of the few police I had respect for, strolled over to the car and laughed when he saw me in the graduation gown. It didn’t stop him giving me a ticket. But, like my diploma, I earned the ticket.

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 get to, but sooner or later, 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.

Then I learned how to ride a motorcycle, and 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 about every few months my license plate would shatter. I was constantly tightening nuts and bolts, and my kidneys, between the vibrations and the drugs, 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 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.” The Worcester Police took me back to Massachusetts in chains, where I served two years, most of the time inside spent as the prison librarian.

How low can one go? Well, every time I hit a bottom, I found that there was a trap door beneath, which I’d open and fall through. Obviously I’m skipping much of the story, but 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, crazy like me, and we drank and danced the night away. But, as is always the case, I started using heroin again. Even though we both had fairly good-paying jobs at state psychiatric hospitals as Mental Health Workers II, I couldn’t stop shooting, and Sascha couldn’t stop drinking.

I burnt down a whole bunch 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 called them rat-bikes, and it broke down on a heroin run at 2 a.m. in the 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 that my wife and I collected a nice sum of money, and we bought two new motorcycles and a new pick-up truck.

We kept spending money on heroin like it would never end on, and sometimes on cocaine. From $57,000, in eight months, we only had $3,000 left, so we decided to move back to Massachusetts where the heroin was cheaper. We took the trip and rented a one room apartment, and then we had no money left.

I knew the end had 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 an ad in the paper so I could get twice as much. But our addictions needed the money now, and the motorcycles that we loved so dearly went into our veins.

In March 1993, I was selling a street paper called Spare Change News and heading toward sobriety, which I achieved, with the help of many people and spirits in March 1994. In 1998, my wife died of an overdose, and I put myself in a drug program where I lived for three years. You see, I had forgotten how to live.

I met my current wife, Mary Esther, in 1994, and we became fast friends but didn’t begin dating until May 1999. It was real love for the first time in my life, love without any mind-altering substances. I went back to school again and became a drug counselor, writing poetry and short stories and getting published constantly.

Mary Esther and I were married in June 2002 and have been living a reality 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 and the poetry editor, besides being a widely published poet and a member of the Spare Change News board of directors. Life, like I said before, has never been better. Now I ride a bicycle for aerobic benefit. I’m closing in on 70 years old. I never thought life would pass this fast.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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