“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson
After months of skipping school, getting drunk on street corners, cutting my hands with a razor and pulling down my pants in alleyways, I was grounded. It was 1988 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was to come home directly after school. My parents hadn’t expected the range and depth of my rebellion. They tried their best, but I wasn’t happy. A feeling of self-hatred had crept in; maybe it was always there. On the way home, I walked past the highway and down Seventh Avenue with its brick row-homes. There were no stores except for one bodega. The sight of it always depressed me. I hardly ever bought candy there. When I arrived home, I went to my room and blasted Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” from the radio I got for Christmas. How did MJ do it? From the moment his voice trembled in my ears, I felt different. Like maybe life might be worth something. Maybe I was good. I turned up the collar on my favorite winter coat. Someday soon, I would make that change.
Leila Ortiz is a poet and social worker from Park Slope, Brooklyn. She currently resides in Bay Ridge. Leila works in NYC public schools as an advocate and counselor to youth and families. Her poems have been published in Apogee, The Grief Diaries, No, Dear Magazine, The Ledge, and Stone Canoe.
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