“DANGER! Do Not Go Beyond This Point,” warned the wooden, paint-chipped sign at the far end of Seaview Park. The weathered sign stood in front of grass that was as tall as stop signs. The grass provided camouflage for the various animals that in hiding. Their screams and shouts would have been enough for a lot of people who came to this part of the park to turn around. But to me, their screams and shouts were like jazz symphonies. Screaming and shouting was a second language to me; it was all I ever did after I lost my best friend Justin.
Justin Michael Anderson died from the bullet of a .45 caliber pistol on October 19, 2011. I was with him when it happened; we were in a more threatening part of Brooklyn: Brownsville. From the plethora of abandoned homes and buildings, to the homeless people doing drugs in the streets, intuition would tell even a person of the most rudimentary thought process that this was not a place to hang around. Justin’s murderer was about 6’3″, 250 lbs. He pointed a gun at us because we didn’t have money. The gun was so close to our faces, I could read its serial number. The killer decided to shoot Justin and spare me. The shot went through his head, and Justin died instantly. After he died, my life felt pointless.
I disobeyed the wooden sign and went ahead to escape from my thoughts; losing Justin was too overwhelming for me. I imagined myself as a Gold medalist in the Olympics as I hurdled over tree branches and maneuvered through those tall grasses barefoot on this rainy day. Eventually, I stepped on what seemed to be sand, but it felt like no other sand; it felt like little tiny people were kissing my feet with every step. After lifting up my head, I noticed a lake. Its waves flowed inwards and backwards leaving behind seashells and rocks. As the winds began to blow harder and the rain transitioned from drizzling to pouring, I found myself at absolute peace. I believed this was Justin’s doing; the winds were his breath and the rain was his tears. The quiet stillness of this place, along with the waves as they swayed back and forth, assured me that this hidden beach was indeed meant for me.
As I visited this clandestine beach more and more, I absorbed its ulterior wisdom. I gained a monk-like stillness of mind, while finding peace not only with myself, but peace with the loss of Justin. I dubbed this sandy beach the “Jordan River” because of the biblical story where King Naaman washed himself in the Jordan River eight times to cure his leprosy. This beach brought me to a better place mentally and cured me of my depression.
The Jordan River revealed to me an identity I didn’t know existed, an identity without Justin. It aided me in getting to know myself. My journey began in tragedy, and stagnated in a mental prison. But I emerge as the escapee who aspires to become an Aerospace Engineer and defy the odds. Where I am from, graduating high school is considered “making it” and only the brainiacs are capable of going to college and actually graduating. I want to prove to my peers that anything is possible through hard work and dedication. I want to walk across that stage on the day of my college graduation, a more strong-willed, wiser version of Jerry Toussaint. Writer Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I changed my outlook on life, and now I see a future filled with possibility and potential just within grasp.