Suicide & Sandy

I tried to kill myself in Woodshop class.

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I couldn’t take one more day of the pain of having plural bullies and a singular friend. I was at the drill press working on my badass coat rack when it occurred to me that I could murder myself.

Quicker than Michael Jackson could Shamone Hee Hee, I pushed the drill bit into my wrist and turned it on. There was only one problem I hadn’t anticipated – it fucking hurt.

BAD.

Faster than Cyndi Lauper could waffle iron the side of her head, I turned the drill off. There was some blood and I actually managed to drill a small hole in my wrist, but it was nothing a Band-Aid from the school nurse and a Woodshop Incident Report couldn’t remedy.

My scar ended up being shaped like a lightning bolt. Yes, I was the pre-Harry Potter of suicidal kids.

Attempting suicide ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me because I finally didn’t give a shit.

I was ready to smoke at Stoner Wall.

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Stoner Wall today. Normally covered in graffiti.

Band-Aid on wrist, this determined badass found her spot on the wall. Months of observational study paid off:

  1. Lean on wall, do not free stand.
  2. If conversation ensues, simply turn head to side or stare off into space without looking at friend. (Friend understands protocol and will not take personally.)
  3. Pull smokes out of pocket, not purse. Especially if you’re a dude. Hard pack is preferred. If new pack, flip pack upside down and beat into palm of hand. This is called “packing.” Then flip one smoke upside down. This is called a “Lucky.” If using a soft pack, be sure to flick out cigarette and put in teeth without cigarette touching fingers. This takes practice.
  4. Light up with lighter on high. Flame must be a minimum of three inches high. Do not light heavily Aqua Netted bangs on fire. Exception to rule is Zippo[1].
  5. Pretend to inhale.
  6. Extra points for smoke rings.
  7. Look very relaxed from hit, as if life is so hard that you need to smoke.
  8. Put free hand in pocket, but not same pocket as smokes.
  9. Flick cherry off with finger instead of stomping out.

I looked just like everyone else, except I was still wearing ruffled plaid shirts and cords and everyone else wore mullets and jean jackets with Iron Maiden Iron-ons.

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Sandy was one of the only other girls at Stoner Wall. She hung out with a mullet-head named Tommy whose eyes were always bright red.

She bounced up to me, far too perky for the stoner crowd.

“Can I bum a smoke?”

I pulled out my stolen soft-pack of ugly-ass brown Mores, aka, the grossest cigarettes ever invented, but when at the mercy of New Dad’s choice of smoke and being cool, they were my only option. And my only connect for Kools, Eve, had moved to Fresno.

“Tommy has Camels. Come on.”

I followed Sandy to Tommy’s spot on the wall, grateful that the lameness of my smokes was unspoken. Could this girl actually be nice? It was doubtful.

She bummed two of the shortest cigarettes I’d ever seen from Tommy. I was used to Mores, which were approximately a foot-long, but these were even shorter than my Kools. And there was no filter.

Pretending to inhale was challenge enough, but now I had the added challenge of tobacco collecting in my mouth. I took Tommy’s lead and picked the tobacco out of my teeth and flicked it.

Flicking was a big thing with the smoking-crowd.

Sandy was super animated and talked really fast. She told me that she and Tommy had been neighbors since they were four, they lived two blocks from school and she could get cigarettes from The Sev with a note from her mom, but she didn’t have any money so she was out.

I immediately offered her my leftover allowance.

She counted it and calculated that we could buy one pack of brand-name smokes, or two packs of generics. Then we’d get one each. And they made generic menthols! This was a good day indeed.

We took off for The Sev. Tommy had detention, so he stayed behind. Of course, he didn’t tell me that. Actually he didn’t speak at all. Good thing he had a friend in Sandy. She talked enough for all of us.

Forged note in hand, the two of us moseyed up to The Sev counter. I hid my trembling hands in my corduroy pockets. The thought of getting arrested was mortifying, but my fear of never having a friend was just a touch larger than my fear of the consequences I may have to endure.

There were 8th graders everywhere, in line, at the Slurpee machine, hanging out in the parking lot – I’d somehow stumbled upon the Mecca of after school cool.

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They still exist.

Now I wanted to get arrested. I fantasized about how many ranks of the badass scale I would go up with everyone watching as I was handcuffed and put into the back of a cop car. A sense of calm came over me. I pulled my hands out of my pockets.

The clerk looked over the note, looked up at Sandy, and handed over the cigarettes without question.

I knew this was when Sandy would bolt, but once we got out of eyeshot of the 7-11 clerk, she handed me my change and a pack of smokes.

“I owe you a pack when I get my allowance.”

I knew she’d never repay. I knew this was the end of our friendship. I knew she’d probably start bullying me tomorrow.

“You wanna come over and watch Days?”

I fought the urge to look behind me for the real friend she was talking to and to ask her what the hell “watching Days” meant.

Five minutes later, I sat in Sandy’s den on my very own Lazy Boy watching Days of Our Lives and chain-smoking generic cigarettes. There was a huge overflowing crystal ashtray on the small table between us. I occasionally gasped or pretended to tear up so she’d believe that I’d been following Days for years.

Through the smoke-haze, the figure of a tall, middle-aged, redheaded woman approached. Oh my God, it was Sandy’s mom! I mashed out my cigarette immediately. We were so busted.

“God dammit Sandy open a fucking door for Christ’s sake!”

Then she pulled a smoke out of Sandy’s new pack.

“I thought you had a carton, why are you bumming mine?”

This was unlike any home I’d ever been in. I wanted to live here. Yesterday.

Sandy looked at my wrist. “What happened?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s stupid.”

And that was the beginning of my 10-year friendship with Sandy, my addiction to Days of Our Lives and my love of smoking indoors.

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[1] Zippo’s were so cool that flame length didn’t even come into play. Unfortunately, I was never rad enough to even figure out where to purchase one until I was about thirty. Zippo protocol was also very complicated. It included, but was not limited to, flipping open AND shut without using one’s fingers. One either had to open the lighter on one’s jeans, or simply with the power of a forceful flick. The opportunities for dorking-out were far too many for this new smoker, and Bic disposable lighters came in three-packs. With savings like that, Bic won out.

 

Schoolhouse Porn! The Last Channel.

If you’re behind,  click here for Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 1click here for Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 2 and click here for Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 3.  Or not. This is the part with actual porn.

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There was a bed with an ugly flowered comforter, the kind sewn with fishing line instead of thread, facing a dresser with a huge mirror on it. We sat on the bed and I noticed that we were staring at ourselves, which led immediately to bouncing. We bounced for about ten minutes, making funny faces in the mirror all the while. What a cool idea to have a mirror in front of your bed! Why hadn’t I ever thought of that before?

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Panting, we collapsed onto the bed. Perfect time to smoke! Eve pulled a Kool out of what looked like a wallet made especially just for cigarettes with a special pocket just for the lighter and then handed it to me. I decided if I ever take up smoking full-time I was going to get me one of those. We lit up. She put a big gold ashtray with a heavily patterned beanbag on the bottom of it for stability between us. We smoked and panted for a bit.

Then, as if a treasure trove, Eve showed me an entire wall of VHS tapes.

“Do you want to pick or me?” She was grinning like a mysterious motherfucker.

“You pick,” I said, not realizing that it didn’t really matter which of these fine films we watched, because they were all ended exactly the same.

She slid the black tape into the black VCR, turned the TV to Channel three, and then bounced back on the bed, spraying ashes and butts everywhere. She was really excited to share.

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The movie opened in a diner, where some truck drivers started telling the owner a mysterious story about a door. Uh, okay. Lame. How can a movie about a door be exciting? Then it flashed back to this pretty woman with brown hair being put on a stage and then being kissed and touched by a whole bunch of other women. Ummmm girls didn’t do that to each other on The Love Boat! I was intrigued and embarrassed, but Eve seemed like this was totally normal, so I pretended like it was something I watched all the time.

The girls had huge hair pies. Even far-too-young-to-be-watching-porn-me was fully aware that a razor or ten would be in order. Then the music got all crazy, kind of like the Schoolhouse Rock! music, only funkier, when this black guy came in. He took off his clothes and OH MY GOD! Conjunction junction, so that’s your function!

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So there it was, in-and-out, upside down and all around – we were watching porn. And not just porn, the best porn ever made. Eve and I smoked Kools and watched Deep Throat, Debbie Does Dallas, and The Devil in Miss Jones, to name a few. They were fascinating. I loved the stories and the sex scenes. I was fully aware I was doing something wrong, which made me want to do it even more.

When Eve’s mom and mom’s boyfriend worked swing shift, I went home after school with her. On the non-Eve days, I went to Marie’s house with similar intention. I saw little difference between watching Duran Duran and porn, after all they made me feel the same downstairs.

The only difference was I didn’t get to smoke at Marie’s house.

. . .

I made a Spotify playlist for Schoolhouse Porn! I can’t stop listening to it! Come over and have a listen.

Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 3.

Not that porn needs to be chronological, but click here for Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 1 and click here for Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 2. Or not. I have no say over how others take their porn. You could be scrolling with your toes right now for all I care. I get it. We all have our – eccentricities.

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Adam Curry appeared on the screen next, his hair more feathered than necessary even for 1983. He introduced what he referred to as a “music video” by Duran Duran.

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The images that appeared on the TV screen were in a completely different league than The Love Boat and Three’s Company. My entire body tingled. I probably blushed. The five guys on the bough of a sailboat singing about some girl named Rio were by far more tantalizing than Mr. Furley. I needed more, immediately. I needed to come over every day after school until the end of time and maybe, just maybe, my desire for men wearing more make-up than most women would be satiated.

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Back when she was chubby.

 

Five hours of Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Duran Duran later, Marie’s mom drove me home.

I don’t know how I even slept that night as my world had been changed forever.

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And he was black.

I went over to Marie’s house every single day from that day on well into 1984. Marie and I were official Duranies. My guy was Nick Rhodes, the keyboardist, and Marie was a Simon Le Bon fan. We would sit two inches from the screen when our boys came on the screen. We spent our allowances on Tiger Beat Magazines and pinned up pictures of our guys all over our rooms. We lived, ate, and breathed Nick and Simon.

That is, until Eve invited me over.

In 1984, only rich people had VCR’s. They were, like, a thousand dollars. Ironically, that’s how Eve seduced me to her apartment after school. She was the poorest kid I knew, so go figure that she was the only person I knew who had a VCR. I’d never even seen one before.

The school bell rang and we ran across the street to her Section 8 apartments. She pulled a shoestring that at one time in its life was white, although hard to believe, with two keys dangling from it from out of her sweatshirt mono-pocket.

“I’m supposed to wear it around my neck, but I don’t,” Eve claimed, with rebel chic. She was a true latchkey kid.

She unlocked the top and bottom locks and we entered her mostly-gray apartment. The smell of Kool cigarettes intermingled with sex filled my senses. Of course, at that time in my life, I only actually recognized the smell of Kools.

“My parent’s work swing-shift so they won’t be home ‘til two-thirty,” Eve said as she jimmied the lock on their bedroom door.

Her mom and mom’s boyfriend were dealers, and by dealer I mean card dealer, not drug dealer, although it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if they were the latter as well. After all, how the hell did they afford a VCR? The kids with casino worker parents were usually left unsupervised due to the largely nighttime schedules, and therefore made really good friends to have.

The gold Master lock popped open. I wondered why anyone’s parents would lock their bedroom door, but that question was quickly answered. The gray door slid across the carpet-is-too-high-or-the-door-is-too-low tracks from obvious well-thought out craftsmanship that goes into section 8 housing. It made a thick swooshing sound.

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Tune in on Monday to see what’s behind the poorly manufactured door! What could it be? Why on earth did Eve’s parents lock their bedroom door? All of these questions AND MORE will be answered! Will you dare to read on?

 

 

Seeing Sparks, Fin

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Want to binge read the whole series? No problem. For Part 1, click here. For Part Deux, click here. For Part Trois, click here.

“Where are you going?” Eve yelled as I ran. She was brave. She was also left alone by bullies, probably due to the fact that they’d have to get within smelling range to appropriately intimidate her.

“I, uh, I forgot I told my mom I’d be home right after school today!” I lied as I sprinted toward the crosswalk.

Once I reached the street corner, I pressed the crosswalk button about 400 times in a matter of five seconds. Unfortunately, my fixed attention on said crosswalk button distracted me so I completely failed to notice who was on the other side of the street and about to head my way. Yep. Not one, not two, but all three of my new bullies. And they had not only already spotted me in their territory, but they were already laughing at me.

“Hey Egghead! Did you get lost? Are you running home to Mommy?” They intermittently barked at me between peals of laughter.

Then in perfect fashion, the glowing white walking man suddenly and almost mockingly appeared in the crosswalk box. This was markedly the first of many times that the man I’d longed for so desperately finally showed up – at the entirely wrong time. I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen. Just then, Eve caught up with me and grabbed my arm.

“Just walk. Don’t look at them.” She coached me under her breath.

“Oh look at the lesbian lovers! Eve and Courtney sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G…” They continued taunting us as we met in the middle of the crosswalk. At least I knew we couldn’t be there forever. Eventually the light would turn green, right? Or maybe a semi would magically run the red light and tragically (and hopefully quickly) squash me like a bug? Should I be so lucky.

Because of all of the excitement of the day, my guard was down, so much so that the fancy dodging-bullies footwork I’d honed over the past few hellish months was thrown out the window. Tammy pulled her signature move and stuck one hefty freckled leg out in my direct line of travel, sending me crashing to the ground. One knee, then both, met with the black asphalt, tearing my corduroys and leaving small black granules in my bloodied skin. Next to hit was my chin, which caused a domino reaction, slamming my jaw shut which in turn clamped right down onto my tongue.

I don’t know why and I wish it wasn’t so, but these moments are always in slow motion. It’s like the moments that suck so bad you wish they’d go by super fast tend to go at the pace of molasses. A minute becomes like 800 years. That’s just an estimate, but I think I’m pretty close.

At a slug’s speed, not one, but both packs of cigarettes flew out of my little purse onto the street. This was the defining moment. It would all be worthwhile – the blood, the bruises, the years of therapy to come – if these smokes would’ve incited a fear in my bullies like no other. A trembling. An understanding of how truly psycho the little girl they tormented every day was and the lengths she would go to prove as much.

Tammy, Lisa, and Gina, who were already laughing hysterically, started howling at a decibel which only rivaled Def Leppard.

“Oh my name’s Egghead, I’m a smoker now. I’m so retarded!” The choir of doom sang through their laughter.

“You think you’re tough now? We’ll show you tough tomorrow when we kick your ass!” They bellowed. Perfect, now I had something to look forward to at least.

The light turned green as we piled the intestines of my purse back in its little body. When it couldn’t get any more humiliating, the honking began. Sparks was a cruel city. No pausing for downed weirdos. I prayed they would just put me out of my misery and run me over. Just make it fast. Knowing my luck that would be in slow fucking motion too.

Eve picked up the pieces and got me safely across the street. My knees, chin, and tongue were bleeding, snot was dripping out of my nose and I was sobbing. A car of teenage boys slowed down to stare as they drove by. Through my tears a blurry bumper sticker came into focus which read, “Reno is so close to hell you can see Sparks.”

Seeing Sparks, Part Deux

One month later, we moved to Sparks. The subtitle of this blog should be “Sparks Is a Gateway Drug” but no one would even know what the fuck Sparks was so it wouldn’t be funny. Sparks sucks so much that it would fuck up my entire blog subtitle. Yeah, that’s how much Sparks sucks.

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I really needed a cigarette.

The only thing that didn’t totally suck was the house. I actually liked it. New Dad ripped out the Astroturf immediately and built us a beautiful wooden deck. It felt like a rich person’s house to me because it was so big. I’d only lived in rentals and motels my whole life, so a house was kind of a foreign concept. And Mom had her own studio for her artwork so there were no longer paint cans on the dining room table. Now that I lived in a real house that we owned, I thought I was rich.

The true suckiness began when I was tossed into Agnes Risley right in the middle of the school year. Oh, and I was now the rich kid after I’d always been the poor kid. Talk about confusing. Ends up that hill we lived on was the only middle class area for which the Risley Bears were zoned and the poor asshole kids were none too pleased with the few kids who lived on the hill. Especially new kids who lived on that hill.

No sooner than Mrs. Barnes introduced me to the class did I have the pleasure of meeting three of my future bullies. Tammy was an ugly fat red head with a skin problem. The skin on her nose would slough off in chunks. Probably didn’t help that in between bullying me and babysitting her Ritalin infused younger brother, she obsessively picked at her ugly fat face.

Lisa and Gina were the same age as me, but somehow managed to develop full-on boobs and had BOTH started their periods already. Oh, and they wore make-up. I was still playing with Smurfs and collecting animal figurines. Boobs, periods, and make-up were only things I’d seen on TV.

It’s shocking that I even managed to make two friends. Marie was an equally awkward girl who shared with me her passion for Duran Duran and TV, and Eve was a girl who lived in the Section 8 apartments across the street from the school who had a strong aversion to bathing.

Most days were hell. Due to the overall lack of appropriate supervision, recesses were spent dodging Tammy, Lisa, and Gina. It was exhausting. I still have a negative Pavlovian reaction to recess bells. But this is when I noticed THEM. At the furthest most point from the elementary and middle schools were two sun cracked tennis courts with a large graffiti-covered back wall. This is where the smokers hung out.

They wore denim jackets with Iron Maiden or Pantera album covers painted on the back. They sported mullets back when they were cool. Some of them had dyed hair or tails. For those of you sad enough not to be alive during the 1980’s, a tail was one thin piece of hair that was much longer than the rest of your hair that was frequently braided or dyed.

One plus one was start smoking NOW. I envisioned Tammy approaching me from behind. I would turn around, in slow motion of course, cigarette blazing between my awesome lips.

“Oh hey Courtney,” she’d say as she picked at her ugly face.

“Hey,” I’d say, all gruff and rad.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” she’d say, kind of cowering.

“Been smokin’ my whole life,” I’d say, like Johnny Cash, only cooler.

“Can I try one?” she’d beg.

“Nah. You don’t want to start this nasty habit. It’ll kill you.”

She’d walk away, totally in awe of my coolness. Then, she’d warn Lisa and Gina never to mess with me again lest I go crazy on them with my sheer unpredictable badassedness.

The only thing left to do was actually figure out how to smoke and then be seen doing it. That, and remember my dialogue.

 

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