I’d been nineteen and staying–living, actually–at the YMCA in St. Petersburg, Florida. My dorm-style room had a linoleum floor, metal-framed bed, dresser, and nightstand. The nightstand had three drawers. In the top one, a Bible, King James Version. In the middle, old copies of National Geographic. In the bottom, nothing. Nothing at all.
The walls, bare but for a single picture of Jesus, were a blank canvas on which to dream, but when dreams ran out, they closed in tight. There was a radiator, a window, and a bare light bulb hung like an exclamation point, as if to say, “If you are here, you’re screwed!”
It was an old building with old rules posted on the door: No smoking. No alcohol. No drugs. No women.
Another rule, not posted, barred the restless bouncing of a tennis ball. “No playing catch with yourself.” I learned about that one a mere hour into my first night.
The Y was basically for sleeping and, when that became tiresome, dying. A place for old men and down-and-outers at the end of the line. At night, the geezers got up to pee and us young ones heard them trekking down corridors painted in cheap yellow light, heard them coughing, farting, flushing–paper rattling off the rolls, the bathroom door propped wide with a trash can–heard cheap rubber sandals flip-flopping back to bed, then heard them hacking up phlegm, moaning vague echoes, calling out from dreams–names, a wife, a daughter, a son. Noises you’d think the rules would not allow.
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— Tm Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill