Young, Dumb, & High

For years teachers had told me I basically a piece of shit. Well, more or less. I had overheard conversations that teachers had with each other about me. “Oh that sucks you got that Micky Sullivan kid in homeroom, huh?” “That little shit was a pain in the ass when I had him last year, I’d throw him out even if he was just sitting there just to get him outta my sight.” Real nice to say about a kid that was just growing up, right? What little leverage I had really worked for me though. I was a stud on the court. I was good enough to skate by and do what I wanted. Coaches were always running up to the principal’s office trying to make a case for me and it always worked. Looking back, I have to think that was part of the problem. Ever see the movie ‘Friday Night Lights’? That’s what hometown was like. Only instead of the whole city being obsessed with football- our thing was basketball. Most of the movie you’re thinking those kids have it made. Teachers giving you free grades, turning the other cheek when you got in trouble. Awesome, right? And I guess for a time it was. A teenage kid with free reign to do whatever he feels like basically, that’s what I was. For most of us, just like the kids of ‘Friday Night Lights’, that shit ended after high school. And that’s if you were lucky to even make it to eighteen and get that diploma. Charlestown. That was home. That was your heart. Townies. That’s who we were. A word with two meanings. To us, especially when we were young, it was pride. We loved our city and what we stood for. Loyalty and pride. If your boy asked you to take a bat to someone’s skull, you did it. If you asked why and he didn’t want to tell you? You did it anyway. To an outsider, you might cringe at the word. You don’t want your kids hanging around kids like us. But I bet you never had a friend like that, and neither will your kids. Sounds a little silly right? When I was younger I would’ve told you to go fuck yourself. Still even today I might even though I’m sober and that part of my life is in the past. But I’m still a Townie. Back then, you’d lay down in traffic for one of your boys. Why? ‘Cause if you asked him to do the same thing he’d be laying on his back in the middle of Bunker Hill Street in a heart beat. In my day, if you were a teenage boy in Charlestown, you had a short list of priorities: drink, drug, fight, basketball. And that’s in no particular order, especially for me. I was good enough that I’d bang out an entire Perc 30 in my locker stall before a game and still go out there and drop forty with my eyes pinned. But I can’t change the past. SATs came, and I showed up as high as a kite. I knew I didn’t need a really high score, and I knew I was still a pretty bright kid even despite the Percs slowly turning my brain into mashed potatoes. But somehow, some way, I got the minimum score I needed to get into school. Thirteen hundred. I was that good on the court, that that was all I needed. I had so many scholarship offers on the table I could go anywhere in the country at the Division 1 level. I was going to be the first kid out of Charlestown to actually make a future out of basketball. First one to get out of the Town and make something of himself. But I was too much of an egotistical little shit to do it. Despite people pleading with me to get as far away as I could and go to school across the country, I didn’t. I chose to sign my National Letter of Intent with UMass. I got there in the fall and hated it immediately. These kids weren’t like me. I walked in on moving day with black eye, bloody knuckles, and shitty basement tattoos of shamrocks and Irish flags. I stood out like a sore thumb. I was a street kid. “What the fuck am I doing here?” When the season opened up, we blew out Boston College in their own gym. How’d we beat a top 25 team? Me. I torched the Eagles almost single-handedly. My teammates hated me. I was a ball hog with a big head. Shot the ball whenever it touched my hands, but it went in. What were they going to say if we were winning? After the game, of course it was time to go back a celebrate as a a team. But I knew they all hated me. I wasn’t like them. Rather than get on the bus and go back to campus, I gave my coach some bullshit excuse of how I needed to go back. I went down the hill and back to Charlestown. I went to party and celebrate with the kids who really knew how to do it. Townies. When I got back that night, I met up with the boys. Still in my UMass travel suit, I walked into our favorite packie, Paddy’s. SportsCenter was on and all the highlights were about me. The clerk gave me a free bottle of Jameson and said, “On the house, Mick. You just put Townies on the map.” I got to my boy Mikey’s house and got back to doing my second best thing. Snorting and drinking. After the Percs were gone and my Jameson was half guzzled, we went to a Townie party. I was having a blast. I fit in again. There was one problem, Southie kids walked in. The mere sight of them was enough to set me and my boys off. Idiots I think looking back now. Southie kids were just as tough as us. But we went after them anyway. That fight would end my career. I saw Mikey take a punch and a Southie kid pull out a knife. I went to save him. Big mistake. I hit that kid hard and he went down. As I turned my head I felt five inches of steel go into my spine. That was it. It was over. Now I’m a sober, paraplegic, Townie burnout. I go from school to school around the country preaching “don’t do drugs”. I don’t want a another story like mine popping on the news. Maybe this is what God always intended for me.

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