Brie hated smoking. She thought it was gross. Whenever she caught me smoking, she’d pluck it out of my lips and stomp it out.
Thankfully I smoked generics.
I tried and tried to convince her that smoking was trés chic. I pointed out smoking in the French films we watched together. Johnny Depp from “21 Jump Street” smoked and he was my new number one and her number two, behind George, of course.
But nothing, I mean nothing, could get that girl to smoke.
Then, at that very moment, at the other end of the club, Ethan put a cigarette in between his perfect lips and, as if on cue, the most gorgeous goth girls of them all pulled out a lighter and lit his smoke for him.
And yes, it did all happen in slow motion if you were wondering.
Here’s the math:
George Michael = G, Ethan Johnston = E, Brie = B, Smoking = S
G ≥ E, E=S ∴ B=S
Brie had a cigarette between her pouty lips quicker than I could throw away every colorful item of clothing I owned and buy a box of hair bleach.
She made her way to Ethan and asked him for a light, knowing full well that he didn’t have one, but that’s how we rolled. I don’t think I would’ve ever gotten a boyfriend if I had a lighter. Or at least pretended like I didn’t have a lighter.
So now I was alone in the club wearing pink and chain smoking. I studied the girls glaring and laughing at me knowing that next time I came here, I would look just like them and they wouldn’t recognize me as the Betty from the week before.
Then it happened. Another defining moment in my life. A moment that changed me forever.
Never Let Me Down Again by Depeche Mode blasted through the nightclub speakers.
The dance floor grew thick with kids. I knew this song and all the lyrics which made me super goth. I sang along, loudly, and smoked at them. The song was about betrayal, a subject I knew all too well.
My despair intensified with every flip of Brie’s hair. With every fake drag off her cigarette. With every word Ethan spoke to her. The pain that she wanted him and not me coursed through my blood.
My face got very serious.
I now had two things going for me:
- Serious face
I was already Goth on the inside, now my outsides just had to catch up.
The music pulsed through me. I fell in love with at least 12 men on the dance floor. I studied the dance style so I could practice once I got home.
I could do this. I could be Goth. No problem. I knew pain. I knew sadness. I looked forward to stop pretending like I was happy because I hadn’t really been happy since the horrible day we moved to Sparks and before that I was only happy for about six months.
My life before we moved to Reno was hell. My biological father was a violent alcoholic who tried to murder my mother on a nightly basis. And we lived outside a fishing village in the middle of Mexico. Now I was excited to delve into my sadness with other people who understood. I could tell they understood. That they were like me.
If these Goth kids wanted to have a sad-off, I’d wipe the dance floor clean with all I’d survived.
Then, in the middle of my smoking sad-a-thon, a ray of sunshine broke through the smoke clouds. There they were – beautiful, fantastic and trés chic.
TWO CHICKS WERE FULL-ON MAKING OUT ON THE DANCE FLOOR!!!!!!
My sad face was totally destroyed. I was grinning from ear-to-ear. Let’s go back to the blackboard:
Brie = B, Goth = G, Courtney = C, Trés Chic = T, Kissing Chicks = K
G=T, C=G, B=G, G=T, K=T ∴ B+C=K!!!
It. Was. On.
I’d even let Ethan watch if that was a stipulation.
The spring of my eighth grade year was the stuff of John Hughes movies. That is, if John Hughes movies took place in lame-ass towns with mostly unattractive people.
I spent most weekends on Brie’s father’s 80-acre ranch riding horses and falling in and out of love with her. I had to protect my Inner Core – even from myself. Was I gay? What did this desire mean? Why was I still so boy crazy?
I vowed to just be friends with Brie. I was already too weird to also be gay. I mean, I was starting my life over in less than 6-months, there would be no point in being a pariah out of the gate.
But as much as I convinced myself I didn’t like her, the more tingly I got. Downstairs. You know the kind of tingly of which I speak.
I had to distract myself. Chain smoking, soap operas and getting fucked up with Sandy only took care of a small portion of my carnal desires. I felt a kinship when I’d watch a little weirdo dog hump the shit out of her special bear.
Because I started humping my pillows. Full-on. Oh, if those pillows could talk.
I met my pillow replacement at a skate jam. Yes, a skate jam. And not just a skate jam – a skate jam ALL BY MYSELF. I overheard Scooter and my molester skaters talking about it, so I decided to go. Brie had a horse show and Sandy had weekend detention. Guess Sandy’s life really was like a John Hughes movie.
Skater Boy (SB) was super tall and super skinny. His bangs covered half of his face. He had freckles across his nose from long hours skating half-pipes. Sometimes he wore eyeliner. I could die.
He went to the OTHER middle school, Dilworth – aka The Dill Pickle, Dildo, etc. – so he had no idea who I was at Sparks Middle and he didn’t care. When our eyes met through strands of bangs, all we had was physical attraction with no bullshit in between.
I was so stoked that I didn’t fold to Tina’s threat to hack my bangs. Short bangs would’ve ruined my destiny.
We had a good hour of eye fucking before he finally popped up his skateboard and walked my way, as Toy Doll’s Nellie the Elephant came on. Epic.
And then we were making out and dry humping. On his bed. On park benches. On my bed. Under jungle gyms.
We made out and sprayed Sun-in on each other’s bangs and then we made out some more. We made out until our lips cracked. We took Carmex breaks and made out some more. All I wanted was to be with SB, watching him Ollie, listening to T.S.O.L. and The Violent Femmes and, of course, making out.
An entire spring of endless kissing and dry humping to punk rock climaxed perfectly. He looked me deep in the eyes, as he applied more Carmex.
“Let’s go to each other’s proms.”
Bam. All my dreams came true.
I only had to endure one more week of middle school with all the assholes, bullies and frenemies – because Marie and I got variances to totally awesome Reno High. What made RHS totally awesome? It was the farthest away from Sparks Middle, that’s what.
So prom was my final FUCK YOU to Sparks Middle School and every last person there because I was about to become a Reno Husky while they were all becoming lame-ass Sparks High Railroaders. I mean, what kind of mascot is a train?
SB skated circles around the three asshole skaters from English. They knew of him from jams. SB was a legend, like Tony Hawk, only not famous or rich or as good of a skater.
I couldn’t wait to show up with him on my arm. Then they’d see. They’d see that they missed out. That I was rad. That they missed their chance to be with totally awesome badass me.
Too bad suckas.
Mom took me shopping for my dress. I picked out the tightest one she’d approve in FUCK YOU red.
I went to SB’s prom. It was fun, but the true triumph was MY prom.
We showed up late because I saw in movies that cool people did that and I was about to find out why. When we walked into the cafeteria-converted-into-dance-hall with SB on my arm, everyone I needed to take notice took notice.
I looked hot. And SB was always hot. I figured out fast the people I hung with said volumes about me.
The cafeteria still smelled like Ore-Ida crinkle cut fries and tater tots. We danced all awesome and shit under the disco ball and got busted making out by the chaperones.
We left early because that’s what cool people do to let the world know that this shit was boring.
SB was really good at being bored – a tactic that I soon mastered.
The next day, the three skaters groped me in English and I was too bored to care. Tina called me a whore in History and I yawned. My frenemies talked smack over lunch, but I was too distracted to pay attention.
Fake boredom was as powerful as vodka and much more attainable.
I made sure my bored look was the stuff of great art by the time I hit high school. The only other thing I needed to do was lose my virginity and I would officially be hot shit.
The last week went by with no fanfare; it just ended. No caps, no gowns, no ceremonies. It was just over.
Now Sandy and I had an entire summer to lose our virginities.
PS. Please don’t mistake my Skater Boy with Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8ter Boi.” My SB didn’t need numbers and misspelling to be rad.
PPS. Someone please tell Avril that she’s about as punk as a pink Gucci handbag.
I jumped out of bed with childish anticipation. Today was the day – the day I would finally become middle school royalty. Today, I was to become POPULAR. Invincible. Seen for the awesomeness I had always been, yet few seldom noticed.
My sacrificial blowjob was about to launch me to a level of existence I’d only ever fantasized about. Hell, I would’ve murdered a goat if it meant popularity. A BJ was nothing!
I threw on my backpack and faced the freezing-ass Sparks morning air. I lit up a smoke, extra careful not to ignite my extremely flammable hair. For about half the year we smokers-who-didn’t-know-how-to-inhale-yet paranoically checked our cherries to see if we were actually still lit, as the cold ass air already made our breath alone look like smoke.
The Reno/Sparks winter made everyone a smoker – kids, your grandma, my dog. All smokers.
I stomped out my smoke and entered the grounds of Sparks Middle. As I got closer, Dana and Jan came into focus. They were looking in a brown paper bag and laughing hysterically. Sandy was standing awkwardly by them.
Once I reached the concrete stoop covered in bird shit, Jan and Dana started singing one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs, Somebody. Only they’d rewritten the lyrics. And memorized them.
But when I’m asleep/I want Bones Brighton/To put his legs around me/And fuck me tenderly
Then they bequeathed me their offering – a brown paper bag. Sandy shook her head and stared at her feet.
“Look inside! Look inside!” my lead bully and (now newest) frenemy pleaded.
If I had a do over, I would’ve thrown the bag in their ugly faces and walked off with drag queen confidence. I simply gave them more power by looking in the bag.
But I looked. Oh, I looked.
My first thought was simple; paint and bananas don’t mix.
This small fact didn’t stop these two assholes from taking the time to smother a perfectly innocent banana with bright blue paint, place said banana in a brown lunch bag, and gift it to me the morning after I gave Bones a blowjob.
In hindsight, they should’ve painted two oranges blue rather than one banana, but I don’t think they understood the notion of blue balls yet either.
The baffling thing was not their cruelty and betrayal, as I’d grown accustomed to that, but that none of them were even at Misty’s house the night before and the dirty oral deed happened at approximately 9pm.
This means they had to:
- Learn news of blowjob before the existence of cell phones and the internet.
- Attain banana.
- Attain blue paint.
- Attain brown paper sack.
- Rewrite song and rehearse.
- Paint banana and allow ample drying time.
- Place banana in brown paper sack.
All of these events had to take place after 9pm on a school night, which took quite a bit of planning and effort. The level of sacrifice that these two evil girls endured to properly and efficiently humiliate my efforts of social evolution before the first bell rang was nothing short of impressive.
I expected this shit from Dana, since she was the underdeveloped spawn of Satan, but this was the first time Jan showed her true colors. That’s what made my blood drain down to the bottom of my feet and fight a sudden urge to ugly girl cry. I mean, I’d slept over at her house and our common love of Depeche Mode was cementing our friendship.
Or so I thought.
Now she was just another one of them. Another frenemy bully. I thought I’d seen the last of those. I thought I was starting over in the 8th grade. The problem was that I was still at Sparks Middle.
The only thing worse than fucking your way to the top is failing at fucking your way to the top. I ended up not only a slut, but a slut who wasn’t very good at being a slut.
Sandy grabbed my arm and we walked into the school. She had nothing to do with it and she thought it was awesome that I gave Bones a hummer – even if it sucked.
I made two very important life decisions on this day.
- I would get really, really good at blowjobs and sex before I ever attempted it again. I would have to study. It would take sacrifice, but I could do it. To be a true badass, you had to rule in bed.
- I was going to rule at school this year. If I got above a 3.0, I could get a variance to ANY high school in Washoe County and never see any of these dicks again.
And here’s the take away: if you want your kids to get good grades, suggest they attempt oral sex with a fellow schoolmate. Worked for me!
The summer between 7th and 8th grade was my best summer yet. Sandy and I were inseparable, when we weren’t scoring beer from skeezy 21-year-olds, we were hunting for boys. It was a haze of beer, pot, boys, generic cigarettes and Days.
Sandy’s big sister was a super tan high school Cheerleader and therefore the coolest person I’d ever met. I mean, Rah-Rah wore a toe ring, had bleached blonde hair, and went through boyfriends faster than Marty McFly’s DeLorean ripped through dimensions. She sported cool accessories like a huge personalized bottle-opener keychain and a pullout car stereo. The only time she ever spoke to me was when she ran out of smokes, which was why I totally spazzed out when she invited Sandy and me to the Lake with her.
It was the middle of August the summer between seventh and eighth grade. It was going to be one of the hottest days that summer and Rah-Rah only had two more weeks to work on her tan before school started again. She had the day off and since all of her friends were either working, smoking Meth, or fucking someone that day, Sandy and I lying around the house chain-smoking were two easy hostages.
As tan as Rah-Rah was, her little sister Sandy was equally white. I had olive skin because Bio Dad said that once and so I believed it to be true. In reality, I was fairly white as well, but not quite as white as Sandy.
She tossed Sandy, me, and a cooler full of beer into the back of her Chevy Citation and pushed her car stereo into its hole. The radar detector on the dash lit up and beeped. Just when it couldn’t get any better, the brand new tape “Look What the Cat Dragged In” came on full-blast.
I totally loved Poison. I saw their album cover for the first time at Wherehouse Tapes & Records when my mom pointed it out.
“I didn’t know The Bangles had a new album out!”
“Mom, those are boys.”
She picked up the album and held it out to look at it closer. For some reason, the older my mom got, the farther away she had to look at things to see them up close. It took me almost five minutes to prove to her that the four guys in Poison were not, indeed, The Bangles.
Sandy started to whine about having to sit in the backseat.
“I get carsick. Come on.”
And so on and so forth the sibling issues went on. I didn’t care. I was in heaven in the backseat, thoughts of radness swirling through my head.
So this is what a cheerleader’s car looks like. I bet she’s had sex back here. With boys. High school boys.
Maybe someone would see me on my way to the Lake with a high school cheerleader. I was tempted to sniff the cloth seats, but adjusted my fake Ray Bans instead.
Sandy started to turn green.
Three tape flips, four rewound extra plays of Talk Dirty to Me, and two Sandy puke stops later, the little Chevy sporting a FORD = FOUND ON ROAD DEAD bumper sticker rounded its last bend to Pyramid Lake.
At first look Pyramid Lake looked fake because it was literally in the middle of the desert and had big pyramid-shaped rock formations jutting out of it. The Lake was on a Native American Reservation and had tons of urban legend (if anyone ever considered Reno/Sparks urban) surrounding it.
My skin broke out in goose bumps with excitement, or perhaps foreboding. I was already practicing telling everyone at school about my bitchin’ summer as they all admired my deep, dark tan. I knew this was going to be the best day of my life so far.
Rah-Rah parked the car right in front of where the water started and the dirt stopped. Frequenters of the Lake called this a beach, although it resembled a real beach very little. She killed the engine, along with Brett Michael’s voice, and breathed in the atmosphere.
“There’s nowhere in the world you get a tan like at Pyramid.”
I started to understand. A tan wasn’t just a good look, it was a way-of-life, a religion. And I was about to become a card-carrying member.
Ten minutes later, the three of us were already a beer in each and sprawled out on oversized Budweiser beach towels. Our nubile bodies were slathered with Ban de Soliel Tanning Accelerator and Baby Oil. Rah-Rah told us which to put on first and why and how often to turn over. When we got too hot, we’d spritz our bodies with spray tanning enhancer and drink more beer.
She was mentoring us in the ways of the tan. These were her secrets, her traditions. Tanning was a sacred act. Unfortunately, she neglected to educate us on the importance or even the existence of a “base tan.”
Not for a moment did I think I might possibly be putting my life in danger, nor did Sandy. I truly thought I’d come home looking just like Rah-Rah and boys would immediately flock to me and I’d be instantly popular.
Three hours, all the beer, and two packs of generic cigarettes later, we piled back into the Citation and headed back to Sandy’s. I passed out the second the car started moving.
The next thing I remember is waking up and we were back. Then I did something really stupid; I tried to move. I could feel every crease in my cotton shorts and my bathing suit felt like it suddenly became three sizes too small because every strap was digging into my flesh with avengeance.
I probably looked like a gingerbread man walking up to the house, as I couldn’t bend any of my appendages without screaming in pain. It kind of felt like that time I burned the side of my neck with the curling iron, only that spot on my neck was all over every inch of my body. And somehow even on my scalp.
The second Sandy’s Mom saw us she started icing us down. That is, Sandy and I. Rah-Rah looked perfect, just even browner and prettier. I suddenly hated her.
Sandy’s mom ran an ice bath and put Sandy in first, while I lay on Sandy’s bed with frozen peas on my back. Her rare maternal reaction made us realize that we were really in bad shape. I started to cry. The hot tears stung running down my cheeks.
My bath was next. It was filled with cold water and ice cubes. I shuddered to think I could do it, but pain was an amazing motivator. Within minutes of my plunge, all the ice returned to its original liquid form. It was official; my skin had been replaced by molten lava.
Covered in aloe vera and the loosest clothing possible, Sandy and I passed out on a sheet in front of the TV just as the weatherman announced the highs of the day.
It was 102 degrees at Pyramid Lake.
By the time school started, the only proof I had left from that day was the sloughing chunks of my scalp that happened to look just like dandruff. This did not aid in my popularity.