by Wendy C. Ortiz
I was dying to get out of my life, the one where I was a girlfriend, a really bad girlfriend, a girlfriend who cheated and got drunk a lot and threw up on her boyfriend’s floor which was really his mom and dad’s floor, and my boyfriend who was just this guy, really, a nice decent guy, the most decent of his friends but all my friends knew that we did not have fuck all in common, leaving me with this guy and his friends who I felt some weird kinship with, and why? Just why?
The boys were porn watchers, jobless dropouts of high school and occupational school who filled their 7-11 Big Gulps with Jack and Coke and often had suspended licenses and broken down cars or no cars.
I liked their scent which was a dank putrid scent of danger like house parties where the cops might burst in and we’d have to run like mice—and I liked their music, their loud punk rock, the way the guitar filled up my ears and mouth and cunt and rocked me fast and hard and all the while I dressed as a hippie.
(My uniforms: hippie-come-lately or Catholic school. Faded soft holey jeans bell-bottomed and a gauzy paisley blouse with no sleeves or those dime a dozen paisley dresses because we had so many to choose from at Aaardvark’s Odd Ark and I don’t remember what kind of underwear, underwear has never been that important to me not until the period right after the trust fund my poor grandmother set up for me opened and I went wild at Victoria’s Secret—once—
or white blouse, blue blouse, button-up short or long-sleeve, skirts of herringbone gray or thin blue cotton with careful pleats shortened to mid-thigh and anklets and penny loafers. These uniforms—no wonder people think they’re hot because they are fuck me-patterned.)
I hung out with these boy men, Anthony, John, Junky, Scott, Anthony and Mark (the twins), sometimes Demon Don and Alonzo the Satan worshipper, sometimes my boyfriend’s insane brother Matt not to be confused with the other Matt who was older, had more cred (a steady job though it had something to do with porn), an apartment, and a web of lingerie hanging up in his sleeping loft. I gave him one of my discards once, a teddie, really lame when I think about it now but I wanted him to know I liked him and the teddie was worn, I won’t even tell you about the crotch part, that dirty string, ugh, I didn’t wash things or myself well back then.
I told you I was a bad girlfriend.
Anthony was my nothing in common boyfriend who knew just how bad of a girlfriend I was. He knew I was fucking my old English teacher and whatnot and he knew it in past tense because that’s how I told him after my “friend” told his brother who told him I was a slut. Then he broke up with me.
He broke up with me while I was on my first acid trip making a stop at his house to pick up my tall black boots which were really the only punk thing about me on the outside and he made me wait outside his house and broke up with me on his parents’ yellow ratty lawn even after I told him I was on acid for the first time.
But of course we got back together, I think because there is always some part of the boyfriend who likes a slut, who likes that you have slut potential and so we were together again and meanwhile I kept fucking my ex teacher who was still teaching somewhere and another guy and another guy or two. Those years that’s how I got by.
These boys were rough and uncouth and terrible and lazy. I drove up in my mom’s new car or her old car and sometimes my bus afterschool and I’d pick their asses up and drive them places and they’d get us alcohol, our favorite stop being Phoenicia’s which we could also walk to from Anthony’s house.
God, Phoenicia’s, really? We were always in there, fake id’s, no id’s, and one time the blond guy from CHiPs was in the parking lot trying to get his car started and Anthony chatted him up, so happy to see him. Anthony told him he used to play him as a kid and his brother would play Ponch then Anthony helped him with his car because that was Anthony’s desire, to work on cars and he worked on Saabs in particular like an apprentice to some abusive weird guy only he got that job late in our relationship so I was pretty much paying for shit up until then.
I didn’t know anything else.
My other boyfriend was a man who told me he could never really be my boyfriend though when drunk he told me we would run away to Montana and get married as soon as I turned 18, this teacher who smoked pot and drank a lot so he was pretty much like my legit boyfriend only with an education of some sort, though you don’t need a teaching credential to teach in private school it turns out.
I had friends with boyfriends but either they totally didn’t appeal to me or they appealed too much. If they were too soft or hippie—no. If they were hard, skinhead—yes.
I was not just a bad girlfriend, I was a bad friend (a story for another time).
The worst memory I have of these boys is showing up to what was supposed to be band practice and everyone was in John’s mom’s house where we were never allowed, not even to pee, not even girls, always having to pee next to or behind the garage where band practice happened and all the boys were inside drinking from endless cases of beer watching a porn. In this porn was a blonde woman. And then a donkey. No one paid a lick of attention to me walking into the house finding them there just hooting and hollering and watching something I could not watch. I had to turn away. I had to get out. Which just meant I had a free Saturday night all of a sudden though all of them were free but I couldn’t see that then. I felt pulled into their orbit every free night. Free in the Valley those hot summer nights.
The happiest memory I have of life with the lost boys is the time I took them to a Dead show.
Let it be known that I was a poser going to Dead shows claiming I loved the music which really I just liked okay but what I wanted was the parking lot with the action, the random booze, the $5 nitrous balloons and free hits off a joint though nitrous was easily my favorite drug then even for its short high. I took Anthony, Junky, John and the twins and a couple of my friends in my blue bus to the show at the Forum. The boys agreed to be dropped off in the parking lot while we went inside to the show and when we came out high on whatever and found these boys we discovered they’d been given a sheet of acid and ate the whole sheet between them. Like two hours ago. And they were trippin’ hard and the Jack and beers they drank beforehand did not help matters.
They were a barrel of slobbering monkeys.
A warm maternal feeling came over me.
They were my monkeys. I rounded up these rowdy foul-smelling raving boys, my brood, the ones I hung out with every night I possibly could and I locked them in my car.
I turned the radio up.
It was Crosby Stills & Nash Suite Judy Blue Eyes. The chorus.
Normally any mention or note or stray harmony of hippie music made these boys in black jeans and Slayer and Misfits t-shirts howl and stomp in protest and once they even ruined a cassette tape I made and cherished of the Mamas and the Papas.
But when the chorus came on:
doo doo doo doo doo DOO doo doo doo doo doo
they sang. No shame. Junky the loudest. Junky who was always the drunkest who had the lazy eye whose own father even called him Junky.
I sang with them.
It brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t show them because they’d never quite get it and neither would I, not like I understood it later, much later. In that blue capsule we rocked together singing and they were brothers and countrymen, soldiers I skirmished with and monkeys who made me laugh which was all I ever really wanted in the end, that particular joy, that security, that life was funny above all.
Until the next time I wanted to kill them.
Wendy C. Ortiz is a native of Los Angeles, California. She is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, July 2014) and Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, Fall 2014). She writes a column about medical marijuana dispensary culture for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Please visit www.wendyortiz.com.
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Real, raw. No apologies. Loved it.