Tom M

Tom M
Springfield,Virginia Straight
April 4,1989 to March 31,1990

I don’t remember many specifics from my intake. It was a formality, long. I treated my day one intake like I was sent to some rehab place, and I was just gonna win everyone over, convince all there was no chance I belonged there. I’d play ball, and therefore prove myself. So, I was calm. I thought some questions were laughable, but the intake was basically uneventful. I had no idea what I was up against.

Day 47. I still hadn’t admitted to using drugs while in Straight Inc., and only had alcohol when my Dad made it available to me. I was not believed. I was also considered low risk, so on this Friday night, my new oldcomer Calvin made second phase. He yelled “Coming Home!” to his parents at the Friday night open meeting, and I was his one and only newcomer. To be sure, staff sent another oldcomer (Mike)with him, so I was in a rare situation of being the only newcomer with 2 oldcomers. Calvin’s parents had rented an apartment in Springfield, being that they were from out of town as a host home. We had a pleasant evening, boiled hot dogs for dinner. When it came time to be alarmed into the room, I asked to wear a pair of boxer shorts over top of my underwear, which were light blue with a white boarder trim. I thought they looked more like normal shorts than my tighty whiteys. The room was bare, except for a bunk bed and 2 cots. It was May 19th, 1989, and was a very hot and muggy night in metro Washington DC. Mike and Calvin debated leaving the window open for air, and decided that being a 3 story drop, and me being low risk, it would be OK to leave the window open. Just to be sure, though, they slid Calvin’s cot right in front of the window. With my heart racing and adrenaline pumping, I waited for my oldcomers to fall asleep and climbed down from the top bunk where I was sleaping. I acted like I was meditating, right in the middle of the floor, in full lotus position, in case they weren’t asleep to justify why I wasn’t in bed if they woke. They didn’t. I took the sheets off of both bunk beds and made a rope, which I tied to Calvin’s bunk, right by his head. I carefully climbed over him and out the window, making my descent. I didn’t make it far before my sheet-rope started to rip, and made it maybe half way down the three stories before I had to jump the rest of the way. I remember my ribs and chest got scraped pretty good on the brick wall of the apartment building. Hitting ground, I looked up at the window, partially amazed that I didn’t wake anyone up. I was in the middle of an apartment complex, and to my left was a pool. I turned towards it and ran, hopping the chain-link fence, diving into the pool and swam across to the other side. Man that felt good! I jumped the fence then on the other side and kept going, in a bee line to wherever I was headed. I found a back porch with a lounge chair I slept on, shivering as it had gotten much colder.

At daybreak I kept walking, and found a nearby park. I watched the sunrise sitting in the middle of a tennis court, shivering, and being grateful to be free. There was 1 car in the parking lot, a black VW beetle. Looking in the window, I saw a Metalica tape “…And Justice For All” on the seat, which made me smile! I wandered around this park for two days, in boxer shorts.The first day I wandered around, there was a cabin/center in the middle of it. It had educational information, a pay phone outside, and an attendant at times. School kids came there… Around the cabin, at night, talking on the phone the cockroaches were the biggest I had ever seen! The first day was foggy, I explored the neighborhood around it a little, but didn’t want to be seen. I met a few kids at one point, and battled with my self as to whether I should tell them what happened and ask for clothes. That night I found/stole the beach towels off of someones nearby clothes line and found a bush to sleep under, to keep warmer and out of sight. Before I fell asleep, though, several guys came and hung around the cabin, smoking cigars. I went up to them and they shared a “Swisher Sweet” with me. I also had used the pay phone to call my friend in PA, so I continued to talk to him the second day. I started getting paranoid about how folks coming and going were looking at me, in my boxer shorts, hanging around for no apparent reason.

I used the pay phone there to call my friend Jeremy Miles from high school in PA. He did the research to find a halfway house that would come and get me, and they sent a cab out to pick me up. In those 2 days, I had stolen some beach towels off of someones clothes line, and slept in some bushes. It was cold at night, and very hot during the day. While I was there they gave me a bad cup of yogurt. I was up in bed talking to the other kids, telling them about Straight, an adult overheard and misunderstood, came in and told me “we don’t glorify drug use here”… to which I was like, OMG, that is so not what I’m doing.” The halfway house could only keep me for 24 hours without informing the authorities, as I was a runaway. They gave me clothing, which was a white pair of corduroy bell bottoms, a t-shirt that said “A shirt for a shirt, Uselstead El Salvador Humanitarian aid”, socks, a pair of green and white flip flops, and a brown corduroy jacket I later figured out was a woman’s jacket. Sam El Sayed gave me his back pack, a man from the halfway house (his name was on the back pack) and $20.

I walked until I found a subway that would take me downtown, so I could find a bus station to get me back home to PA. I got off at Farragut West, asked directions and walked a long way to the bus station, past obvious crack houses and many shady alleys. I don’t remember the station in DC so well, but I remember the Greyhound station in Philly very well. My destination was Bethlehem PA, and having arrived in Philly, I was ten cents short for the ticket, for which a cop who was standing next to me at the ticket counter reached into his pocket and gave me. I had a long wait, and made friends with some black guy. We went into the back alley, where he shared his King Cobra malt liquor beer with me.

I made it back to Bethlehem, and as I walked to Hellertown, every siren or cop I saw I was convinced was after me. I met up with friends, and slept on a porch, an attic to a garage, and anywhere else I could find, since I was a runaway and could sleep inside anywhere alerting my friends parents. On may 29th, I went to Allentown with a friend, and spent some time at a McDonalds. I put an application for work in there, and while waiting, a man came up to me and said “Tom Marshall?” I stood up promptly, extending my hand, thinking this was a manager seeing about my application. My friend was at school down the street, and was the only one who knew I was there, so I can only assume that he told his teachers of my situation and that they called the police. The cops fought me for a while, cuffed me and slammed my chin against the back of the cop car. While in the holding cell, I was claiming my name was Sam El Sayed, the name on my back pack. Eventually a cop came to the holding cell with a little baggie, asking me what they should do with “this”. I didn’t know what “this” was, but it turned out to be a baggie with roaches in it. My Dad came and got me, along with his employee, Mike, and they took me in handcuffs and leg shackles back to Straight inc. in DC. My pleas, telling them what it was like in there, were falling on deaf ears. My Dad pressed the pot charge against me, seeking a judgement to officially keep me in straight, which when I finally got out the following year, was used to keep me on probation. The pot was never mine, I said if I could have had it, I would have, but I didn’t. The cops planted it.

First day back at straight… I remember the car ride down vividly, but very little of my re-intake. I think Jason Silvera did it. He certainly blasted me in group, called me “Jumpin’ Man.” The name stuck for a little while, because I had jumped out a 3 story window. They sent me home with Mark Glover, and he made it his personal mission to give me hell. He personally marathoned me, making me stand on a 1 foot square tile and not move while he confronted me all night. He’d yell things like, grabbing my ear and yelling “do I see any coke in there!!??””

I was in Straight from 4/4/89 to 3/31/90, 4 days short of a year.