Humans of New York@humansofny

New York City, one story at a time.

www.patreon.com/humansofnewyork

4,719 posts 8,503,723 followers 139 following

Humans of New York

“Every month in prison they had something called Inmate Council, where you get to meet with the prison administration and make suggestions. I volunteered to be the representative for my housing unit. And toward the end of the meeting, the warden asked if anyone had questions or concerns. The NBA finals were going on at the time. So I raised my hand and asked: ‘If the Cavs force a game seven, can we keep the TV on past lock up time?’ And she agreed. She agreed in front of everyone. So when game seven came around, all of us were excited. We gathered around the TV in the dayroom to watch the game. But right as the second quarter was starting, the television clicked off. The CO came down and tried to kick everybody out. I told her the warden gave us permission, but she said it didn’t matter. And that’s when things began to go downhill. We refused to leave. The CO went behind a protected gate and pulled the silent alarm. We grabbed all the tables and chairs and stacked them up against the door. We covered the floor in shampoo and water. The security team came back with riot gear and huge cans of pepper spray, but we kept the door closed for over two hours. When they finally got inside, they were slipping all over the place. We just laid down on the floor and put our hands behind our back. I was given thirty days in solitary confinement. But I had to do the right thing. Women are allowed to vote because some woman wanted to vote. The Civil Rights Movement started because Rosa Parks didn’t want to get out of her seat. And next time there’s a game seven of the NBA Finals, I bet they’re going to leave the TV on in Building Six at Rikers Island.”


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Humans of New York

“All my early memories are of my mom being an alcoholic. We lived in a pretty ghetto area. There was never food in the house. We stole electricity from the neighbors. Things were so bad that my dad got custody of us when I was five, but it wasn’t much better with him. He always chose his girlfriends over us. We moved around a lot. During this time my mom would send me drunk texts. She’d call me a horrible daughter and accuse me of forsaking her. My whole childhood was unstable. And I always craved stability. The more I saw the relationships that my parents had with other people, the more I wanted to be a part of it. I moved back in with my mother last year. I helped her pay the bills. I made sure she had food on the table. I woke her up in the morning to go for job interviews. It was awful. She was drunk all the time. But I knew that she needed me, and that gave me some sort of purpose. I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life. Or who I am. Or what I want to be. But if someone is dependent on me, then at least it’s a reason to stick around. All my relationships have been like that. I’m drawn to people who are insecure. Who need to be wanted. And then I do things to make them feel alone so they rely on me even more. And if they ever try to pull away, I use my feelings to make them feel guilty. It’s pretty toxic behavior. But I learned from the best.”


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Humans of New York

“I’m a singer and songwriter. And a bartender. And a babysitter. On weekends I host four course dinner parties for $65 a plate. And I make soap to sell online. And candles. And tea baths. And hair conditioner. And shampoo. Basically I’m broke. And I need a vacation. But I’m on the move. And I’m not stopping until somebody writes me a check for some of my music.”


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Humans of New York

“There were moments we had hope. At one point he took this trial drug that magically melted his cancer away. But despite the emotional swings, he only ended up living for sixteen months—which was exactly the initial prognosis. Our three kids are still in high school. Everything is uncertain right now. It’s like I’m twenty years old again but without the excitement. The only way I’ve been able to cope is by not stopping. I couldn’t control my husband’s death, but I can make sure my kids don’t suffer in any other part of their lives. We still get together with friends. We still plan things. I bought us expensive Broadway tickets on Father’s Day. And afterward we went to the horse track, which was his favorite thing to do. The homework is still getting done. College applications are getting filled out. So I don’t have time for a meltdown. People think I’m doing better. But honestly, life doesn’t seem good anymore. It’s all so unfair. Everything just comes to a screeching halt and you weren’t done yet. I wasn’t done having a husband. My kids weren’t done having a Dad. So nothing really excites me anymore. But I’ll still decorate for Christmas. And we’ll still go to Disney World in June. Because I never want the kids to think that they’re not enough. Not long after my husband’s death, my son saw me crying, and asked: ‘Aren’t we enough to make you happy?’ That broke my heart. I decided that I’m never going to let them feel that way again.”


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Humans of New York

“I’ve wanted to go into construction since high school. I used to help my dad out all the time. Everything in our house we built ourselves. But my teachers tried to steer me down a different path. They’d encourage me to ‘figure things out.’ They’d say: ‘Why don’t you do this?’ or ‘Why don’t you do that?’ But I chose construction because it’s what I like to do. I got my union card at eighteen. The pay isn’t bad. I get benefits. It feels good to be young and working every day. But I see all these advertisements on the subway, and they basically say: ‘If you want to be successful, you have to go to college.’ All my friends went to college. Some of them have liberal arts degrees that I didn’t even know existed. A couple more dropped out. The ones who graduated can’t find jobs and have a lot of student debt. But they still look at me like I’m on the wrong path. When I tell them I can help them get a job in construction, they always say the same thing: ‘Why would we want to do that?’”


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Humans of New York

"I lived in chaos for a long time, but I’ve been sober for thirty years. And I’ve got a tremendous amount of gratitude for that. Right now I have no money, no job, and no man. But I’ve never been happier. Because my only addictions are chocolate ice cream, gossip, and feeling good.”


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Humans of New York

“We normally spent time together on Sundays. Because that was the only day he wasn’t drunk. We’d watch football together. I could name every player in the NFL. Then he’d take me out to the backyard and have me throw footballs through a tire. He wanted speed and accuracy. He said he didn’t want me throwing like a girl. He showed me how to use my hips to get extra power. On weeknights he’d usually come home and pass out in the living room. But if he’d been drinking hard liquor, he’d get angry. That’s when I’d go up to my room and put on my headphones. I’d listen to Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath and turn up the volume. But I started to notice a pattern. The yelling would get louder and louder until it suddenly stopped. And that’s how I knew the beating had begun. The next morning my mother would have bruises or fractures or missing teeth. She’d always give me some lame excuse about falling down the stairs. But I knew what was happening. And for years I had this rage building inside of me. Then one night, I finally took off my headphones. I went downstairs and caught him in the act. I ripped the phone off the kitchen wall and threw it as hard as I could at his head. Right through the tire hole. He woke up on the floor, called me a terrible daughter, and never touched my mother again.”


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Humans of New York

“Everyone is at war, except for me. One uncle is fighting with the other. My aunt’s not talking to Grandma. Grandma isn’t talking to anyone. She said that nobody’s coming to her house this year. Christmas is cancelled. I guess it’s always been like this. But now everyone’s old enough that they don’t have to pretend for the kids anymore. All of it’s out in the open. I miss the ignorance of childhood. When we’d all go to church, cook a big dinner, gather in a circle to read the Polar Express, and I wouldn’t notice that the adults were talking to the children more than each other.”


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Humans of New York

“I was working as a prep cook at a BBQ joint in Harlem. I got off work early one day, and I discovered my wife with another man. That was the beginning of all this. I’d been with her for twenty-one years. I was devastated. I got right back on the bus and headed back to the city. I went straight to the bars on 42nd Street. I got wasted every day. I lost my wallet, my phone, my contacts. I didn’t want to do nothing. I just said ‘F it.’ I’ve been out on the streets for eight months. When it’s time to rest, I find a place to sleep. But I spend most of my time here on this block. These are the best people on this block. I’ve never experienced so many good people in my life. Some of them help me out every single day. They say: ‘What are you doing out here? We’ve never met anyone like you.’ Lily and her daughter brought the whole family to meet me on Thanksgiving. I felt like a celebrity. Then there’s Cheryl with the glasses who just walked by a couple minutes ago. Love her. John and his wife, love them too. David and Michael are the best. And what’s up to my man Sean from the beauty parlor. Shout out to T and Marianne. So many good friends on this block. But they aren’t going to see me much longer because I found a program that’s going to give me a place to stay, and a job cleaning the streets. I’m done with this life. I don’t belong here. And I know my grandkids miss Grandpa. So if you don’t see me here soon, you can say: ‘He’s done it! He’s gone!’ But I’m going to shock everybody. Cause I’m coming back with Christmas cards.”


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Humans of New York

“Back in college they called me Mailbox Head. Because my head was pretty big. Mailbox Head was a little bit reckless. I didn’t really have a plan in life back then. I drank too much. I threw illegal parties on campus. I climbed abandoned bridges. One time I broke my tailbone because I thought it’d be fun to make a toboggan out of a beer banner. The wild behavior carried over into the first few years of my marriage. But when I was 27, my daughter was born. Three months later I went hiking with my buddies, and I started to climb a cliff without ropes. And I got about eighty feet up, and I couldn’t get any higher. But I also couldn’t get down. I was so desperate that I was about to jump. I kept thinking about my daughter. Somehow my friend talked me down, and I ended up surviving. But that was the end of Mailbox Head.”


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Humans of New York

“When my kid was twelve years old, I told him: ‘There are three things that are bullshit in this world: Santa Claus, professional wrestling, and politics.’ Yet people get so emotional about politics. They’re always spouting sound bites from their favorite cable channel. It’s so boring. There’s no creativity. Nothing but sound bites. Then on Election Day, my newsfeed is filled with people posting smug pictures about how they voted. Like it really matters. In the end, the people with money are still going to be calling the shots. Nothing matters. But I guess it makes people feel like their life isn’t meaningless if they’re spouting off on Facebook. I hardly ever post anything. My profile picture is Uncle Sam and my cover image is an eagle shitting on him.”


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Humans of New York

“There was a permanent dark cloud in the house. It was abuse in every way. Mental. Physical. Sexual. It was permanent fear. Whenever my father was home, I just locked myself in my room and tried to be as quiet as possible. My mother and I finally escaped when I was six, but the abuse stayed with me. I didn’t make any friends at school. I couldn’t trust anyone. It was an open wound. But when I was fourteen, my mom told me that we could do something about it. She asked me if I’d be willing to testify. And I agreed. The trial happened two years later at my father’s military base. I hadn’t seen him in ten years. The lawyers told me I didn’t have to be in the courtroom when I testified, but I felt like I needed to face him. Just to show that I wasn’t afraid anymore. He was already seated when I walked in the room. I put my hand on the Bible and looked right at him. For a moment, I felt a stroke of fear wash over me. Like I was a kid again. But I set it aside and gave my testimony. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. I’ve moved on with my life. I don’t think about him. I’ve grown to look like him, but I’m not him. Even if someone tells me I’m him-- I’m not him. I’m me. I’ve lived my entire life to not be him.”


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