It was time to shop for a new, rad friend. A boss. One who would propel me to new social heights. And she had to be Goth; I made up my mind that my future was going to be black.
Oh, and it was. Just wait.
I met my best friend Sandy where the smokers hung out, so I threw my badass on and moseyed over to the sidewalk across the street where we smokers got our 10 minutes of nicotine meditation on.
Christie said she was 5’ tall, but she was lying. She was 90 pounds kitty cat wet, but she rode horses so she was all muscle. She could jump horseback hurdles without the fucking horse.
And she was Goth. Openly. At school. She didn’t give a fuck.
The second I met her, I knew she was trouble. It’s what drew her to me and eventually tore us apart.
I watched her flail around as she excitedly talked to a small group about the probability of aliens. And the probability that they had probed her anus. And she was literally bouncing.
She bounded up to me and did one of the best Bill the Cat impressions I’ve seen TO DATE.
How did she know about my obsession with Bloom County? That I had all the books and read them over and over?
My drawings of Bill were as good as her impersonation. I drew Bill the Cat on everything including the notebook I was… holding.
In hindsight, it was quite fitting that the mutual love of a derelict drug addict cat was our bond.
She grabbed me by my notebook and spun me around with great force.
“Cut with me. I have cloves.”
She had me at “with me.”
We walked two miles to the cemetery. It was obvious we were cutting for the rest of the day. Christie sang some song about dead poets the whole way and I realized that I was going to have to bone up on my literature to become Goth.
Christie took me to an unlocked tomb and we crawled inside. It was empty. The sun streaming in through stained glass made it feel like a tiny church. A sense of calm pervaded my senses. When my family lived in Mexico, I used to hide from my abusive father in church. It was the only other time I felt that all over body peace without using drugs and alcohol.
We sat on the stoop and Christie handed me a clove cigarette.*
“Hold the clove between your fingers and then make a circle with that hand and cup it with your other hand. No take a huge hit and hold it as long as you can.
I’d been smoking pot long enough to come off overqualified.
The promise of distorted reality was always a carrot I would chase, even if it meant possible death.
I exhaled and I had a sweet buzz on. The cloves tasted like strawberry. It was a perfect cemetery day.
Signature Christie, right in the middle of my buzz, picked me up and spun me around and around and around. Like a record, baby.
The only predictable thing about this girl was that she was completely unpredictable. And hyper as shit.
“Now lay down, take a power hit and listen to this.”
I lay where Mary Buford made her final resting place. I imagined her 6-feet under me in a coffin. Decaying. I felt so Goth.
I was beginning to feel like a slave to her whims. But of course I would do what she said rather than face the consequences of standing up for myself. This girl was my only touchstone to the world I wanted so badly to belong to. I was no victim in this scenario; I was definitely a volunteer.
The only other person I knew in the scene was Ethan, but he made me want to puke and he wasn’t even Goth.
She put her headphones over my ears. I took the hit. She pressed play on the Walkman. It was My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult – I’d never heard them. The song was A Daisy Chain 4 Satan. Right when the song started, I was floating. I was in the music. I was the music. I felt that peace wash over me again, but this time it stayed.
I knew this was going to save me. I was going to reinvent myself. I was going to be untouchable. No one would break my heart again. No one would know about my deep shame of losing the Brie Lesbian Attempt.
I tried vulnerability. It didn’t fucking work. I suddenly understood why punkers wore those thick leather jackets. I was in need of a shell.
I felt breath on my face.
I batted my spider legs open. Christie was an inch away from my face studying me as if I was her very own science experiment.
“Stay over at my house Friday night. We’ll go to Club Underground and do some fry.”
I felt like Charlie getting the golden ticket to Goth. I had no idea what fry was, but if it was half as good as cloves, I was in.
*Clove cigarettes were illegal in Nevada, but Reno is only a 45-minute drive from the state line. It wasn’t as rad as having weed, but it still meant you drove or kicked it with people who drove, which made you badass.
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 only thing I thought of when Brie said “let’s go clubbing” was how much I loved baby harp seals and how she found the one thing I wouldn’t do to win her love.
“The Premier. Everyone’s going. It’s tres chic.”
Yes, we overused the term. We were branding trailblazers.
The Premier was a nightclub that had an underage night every Sunday. The reason she wanted to go was because Ethan was going to be there.
Ethan was a Junior at Reno High. He drove a BMW. He wore nothing but Ralph Lauren – hell, he played water polo. He wore fucking pastels.
But he had a striking resemblance to – guess who?
Yup. George Michael. My nemesis.
I was a freshman and Brie was still in eighth grade when her psycho mom took her to tour Reno High so she could get a variance just like me and there he was, leaning on his Beemer, just like Steff in Pretty in Pink.
I think he was the only other human on the planet who really saw her. Who undressed her layers of baby fat and insecurities and saw her true beauty underneath. Not enough to actually date her, but definitely enough to lead her on for the next, oh, four years or so.
“Were you at Premier last week?” he asked her as she walked by without actually looking at her, which I know from experience is a cool technique.
She stopped, dead in her tracks. The color drained from her perfect face. Was that George Michael leaning on a Beemer?
“Yeah, you. With the brown hair.”
I already hated him.
Somehow we managed to talk Brie’s mom into letting us go to Premier on a school night. The mind still boggles.
The only fact we knew about the club was that Ethan went there. He was a prep, so we assumed the other kids would look like him. After hours of wardrobe changes, Aqua Net and important lip gloss decisions, we finally deemed ourselves club worthy.
We were nothing short of an epic fail before we even got through the front door. Brie’s mom decided to wait for us in her car PARKED IN FRONT and read a book.
We pulled open the front doors and smoke billowed out. Lame, party of two, nervously stood by the door front door to find a subculture we never even knew existed. Once we adjusted our eyes, it was obvious that no shade of lip gloss was going to save us.
Everyone was goth.
The protocol was black clothing, powdered white faces, black eyeliner, black or dark red lipstick, and smoking. Everyone smoked. At least I had that going for me.
The only color allowed was saved for hair. If it wasn’t dyed black or bleached white (not blonde, white), it was purple, blue or fire engine red. There were a few Oranges, greens and yellows (again, not blonde, Martin Gore yellow).
We weren’t the only non-Goth kids. There were other kids that mixed in:
- SHARP’s (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice).
- Nazi’s (Skinheads for racial prejudice).
- Straightedge (Skinheads who were violently anti-drug).
- Rich kids with money to blow on, you guessed it, blow.
Ethan had a full head of hair. Do the math.
Nitzer Ebb’s Join in the Chant came on. I’d never heard anything like it. It sounded nothing like Madonna or 2 Live Crew. The closest I’d come to this sound was Depeche Mode, but after The Blue Banana Incident, I no longer went over to Jan’s house and listened to Depeche with her. Backstabbing bitch.
The longer I listened, the longer I realized Nitzer Ebb would’ve eaten Depeche Mode for breakfast.
The song pulsated through my body. It made me want to fuck someone dirty, even though I’d yet to actually fuck someone, I’d only been fucked. I wanted to do drugs. Hard drugs. I wanted to dance. I wanted to hurt people. And myself.
I got on the dance floor and started moving to the music. I didn’t care that I didn’t look like everyone else. I didn’t care about the past. I didn’t care.
I just didn’t care which was the one thing I had been searching for all these years. The ability to NOT CARE.
I felt powerful. I pulled up my rage and showed it. I pulled up my shame and told it to fuck off. I pulled up my tiny khaki skirt because my ass was just about to make an unwelcome appearance. Not again.
I’d wasted years trying to fit in when the real way was to not fit in at all. Brie’s stupid crush led me to the Holy Grail. For a second, I was almost grateful for Ethan Johnston.
Ends up there was another subculture of kid that hit the club, very rarely and usually only
- Betty (A girl who tries to fit in with the goth subculture without wearing black or listening to The Cure and smiles when she should be frowning. A poser. The most disliked person in the club.)
And this was going to be the last time I ever looked like a Betty again.
I was single. Sex was awful and my last hope for a boyfriend almost ate my face off. There were no prospects on the horizon, until…
Brie was in 8th grade at Sparks Middle, but we still spent every weekend together on her dad’s 80-acre horse ranch.
I originally took Brie under my wing to save her from bullies, but our roles reversed as she grew more and more confident. She introduced me to worlds previously unexplored by yours truly.
Her goal in life was to be chic – tres chic. We decided to move to Paris and start a clothing line the second we got out of Sparks called – you guessed it – Tres Chic. We had pages and pages of designs. I invented the sideways zipper ankle boot and let me tell you – it was a fucking fashion revolution.
One particularly magical Fall day, Brie and I were prepping our horses for our longest horseback ride to date. As she put the saddle on her horse, she turned around, her perfect brown hair swishing as she grinned at me and said, “Are you sure you’re ready for this? You won’t be able to walk for days.”
And then she winked at me.
A lightning bolt tingle shot my downstairs taco like nobody’s business. I longed to squeeze my legs together to orgasm immediately. It was over. There was no way I could continue denying that I wanted to be so much more than friends.
She had opened a window and I was not going to let it shut until those lips were on mine.
The horse ride helped. We rode English, which involves basically dry humping the saddle the entire trip. We rode for hours and fantasized about our lives in Paris. How chic we would be. How we would leave this horrible place behind us.
We returned 4 hours later, sweaty and exhausted. Her dad and stepmom had gone into town for the day. Once we got the horses untacked, we went swimming in their above ground pool. We always swam after a ride.
“I like to swim naked when no one’s home.”
Yes, she said that to me. Yes, I decided I was a lesbian after all. Yes, I was naked in 30 seconds.
She wore a “D” cup. She was 12 and I was 13. Her breasts floated in the water. I couldn’t turn my eyes away. I wanted to touch them. I wanted to lick them. It felt so natural I didn’t understand why people made such a big deal out two girls together.
She swam and floated and I stared and squeezed my legs together for over an hour, and then she said, “I want to show you something in my bedroom, a secret.”
My heart beat so hard I don’t know how she didn’t hear it. We wrapped towels around our naked bodies and ran into her bedroom. She closed the door.
And she turned on the TV.
And there he was – George Michael.
George Michael was her dream man. The only thing she talked about more than Paris, was George. As her boyfriend. I hated him.
“Get in bed.”
This still wasn’t weird. We watched Wham videos in bed all the time. We fashion designed in bed while watching Wham videos. We kind of did everything in bed watching Wham videos.
My heart sank. At least I had skinny dipping to hold onto for classroom fantasy.
“Grab that pillow and put it between your legs.”
“Pull up on it and grind yourself into it, like this.”
And then she showed me what I’d been doing to pillows for a year now. Only now I was doing it with a friend. Okay.
And we both climaxed while watching George Michael dance around on stage. How we didn’t know he was gay is a complete mystery to me in hindsight.
There was no kissing, no nipple licking, no fingerbanging. But there was an open window and there would be more. It was time to strategize my way into her pants.
Just like Lady Gaga, I had my very own Alejandro.
There was no virginity checkpoint at the front door on my first day of high school. And better yet, a week later, I bumped into Rob – after some light stalking – and he pretended like he didn’t know me at all.
So much for my senior boyfriend. I was heartbroken… that he wouldn’t pave my road to popularity.
I was invisible, which was a step up from being bullied. I didn’t realize I’d be the new kid for the 12th time in my life and that most of these kids went to school together since Kindergarten.
At first, I was annoyed that Marie got a variance to Reno High because I thought she’d cramp my style, but now I was relieved to at least have one friend. And then we made two friends in Math class – Asian sisters who were as sweet as could be – so now I had three friends.
Three very nerdy friends.
We ate lunch in the cafeteria everyday, even though we were allowed to go off campus.
After about a month of whining, I finally coerced Marie to go off-campus for lunch. As we rounded the corner of Great Western Bank, I spied a cute Filipino guy wearing crazy pants, a red bandana and Oakley’s sitting all alone on what most definitely was the largest boombox in the great state of Nevada.
And it was playing It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, which I must admit, was a pretty dope ass song.
I was wearing the tightest mini skirt I owned. I glanced back to confirm what I already knew – Alejandro was totally checking out my butt. I didn’t know his name yet, but I could tell that he wanted to scam with me and that’s all that mattered.
On our way back to school, we walked past the bank again and he was still there, in the same position and playing the same exact song.
I assumed it was a particularly long song.
I devoted the rest of that week to stalking. I had to find out more about my soon-to-be-new-man.
This guy was methodical:
- Everyday before and after school, and at lunch, he’d perch himself atop his ginormous ghetto blaster and play It Takes Two. It was never a different song. Once it ended, he rewound the tape and played it again.
- At 4pm, he’d lift his boombox up onto his shoulder, which was a feat in itself since it was so high that his arm had to be totally straight to reach the top without dropping it.
- He’d walk to the Burger King on by the railroad tracks, tagging various walls and street signs along the way.
- He’d order two Whoppers with no onions and extra ketchup and an extra large coke. He always took it “to go” and didn’t eat it until he got home, however, he did sip on the drink.
- He’d walk along the railroad tracks from the Burger King all the way to the trailer park where he lived.
He was always alone. Maybe it was because he only played one song on his boombox.
After a week of stalking and eye-fucking, he still hadn’t even said “hi.” I began to realize he probably didn’t have any friends because he was horribly shy.
It was my duty to save him from his loneliness. His fortress of solitude. I would be the light in his dark life. He’d tell me things he never told anyone, like how his parents died in a mining accident just after he was born and that his mother’s health was failing.
Now I just had to work up enough nerve to speak to him.
The lunch bell rang on Monday and my heart leapt into my throat. I did what every nervous teenage girl did to calm the fuck down in 1987 – I pulled out my tin of strawberry Lip Lickers and clicked it open and closed approximately 28,000 times.
I approached the bank, alone this time.
There he was, in his same exact spot, playing the same exact song.
I walked toward him, but my knees betrayed me. They were shaking so hard that I was sure an astronaut could see them from space, so I made a beeline for the curb and ended up sitting awkwardly about 15 feet away from him.
He looked over at me and nodded. I smiled at him. It was now or never.
“I like that song,” I shouted.
He nodded in agreement. He was a man of few words. Mysterious. Damn, I had to have him.
“You a freshman?”
How the fuck did he know that? Was it that obvious?
“Yes,” I said without shame.
“I’m a junior.”
Then I heard the lyric: “Take it off the rack, if it’s wack put it back / I like the Whopper, fuck the Big Mac”
Oh. My. God. This guy didn’t just like this song, he lived it!
Then he picked up his boombox, put it on his shoulder and started singing along, but it was rap, so I guess he was rapping along as he walked toward me. It may have been one if the most awkward moments in my short life, I mean, what do you do when someone stands in front of you rapping along to It Takes Two?
Then, when it couldn’t get any weirder, he held out his hand to me as the chorus played.
“It takes two to make a thing go right / It takes two to make it outta sight / Hit it!”
We held hands all the way back to school, neither of us saying a word. Once we got to the front door, he lowered his boombox and hit stop on the tape player.
“I be chillin’ at BK by the tracks 4:30 if you wanna.”
And with that, he was gone. If I wanna…what? Make out? Get married? Exchange pot brownie recipes?
Nevertheless, I was filled with excitement. He liked me. We held hands. I was going to keep our love a secret until we were officially “going with” each other because I wasn’t quite sure if he was the coolest guy on earth or a major dork.
I got to Burger King way too early, so I got a Whopper with no onions and extra ketchup and an extra large coke so my body would be nourished with the same stuff of his.
I finished the rest of my meal just as he walked in. He ordered his usual and then noticed me sitting there.
And with that, he grabbed his Whoppers and we walked up the railroad tracks toward his trailer park, It Takes Two blasting all the while.
“Aren’t you going to eat your food?” This was a tactic I frequently utilized – pretending like I didn’t already know every last detail about the Neanderthal I was desperately needing to validate my worthiness.
“I hate BK. It’s for my mom.”
Hmmm. Curve ball. Perhaps the song was not, indeed, his creed.
“I have to be home by 7,” I lied because I really wanted to get to the good part before walking a fucking mile to his trailer. He put the boombox down and it automatically turned into a loveseat. The song was now drilling into my cortex, especially the “yeah/woo” part that repeated over and over and over the entire duration of the song, like hey Rob Base, not even a bridge reprieve? Come on.
He then turned down the music enough to still be annoying, but able to speak to and hear each other.
“I spin records.”
“Cool. Can I watch you sometime?”
“Yeah, I don’t got any gigs yet.”
Uh-oh. I could tolerate a lot of male stupidness, but bad grammar was a deal breaker. I started to reevaluate our wedding colors.
“I got two turntables.”
Again with the improper usage of “got.” I was done. Just as I started to plan my escape, he leaned in like he was going to devour me. His huge lips parted and his ginormous mouth opened wider and wider as it moved in for the kill.
I’d made out enough to know that that kissing shouldn’t involve the nose, and especially not the cheek or lower eye area. All of these facial regions were slurped upon in a most upsetting way. For a moment I actually couldn’t breathe and feared my destiny was to die at the lips of a Filipino man with bad grammar.
I couldn’t figure out a way to leave gracefully, so we made out for another two excruciating hours. At the end of the ordeal, I literally ran away, telling him I had to catch a bus. A few seconds into my stride, he yelled to me.
“Hey freshman! What’s your name?”
I turned around, still jogging, feeling safer the further I got away from those big ass lips.
Yes, I’m white and yes, Maria was the only name that popped in my head.
“Alejandro’s my name, scratching records are my game!”
I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was one thing to have my face sucked, but I just couldn’t withstand his horrible grammar.
“Alejandro, scratching is singular therefore the correct verb is ‘is,’ not ‘are.’”
And then I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day.
And the only things chapped longer than my ass were my lips and nose. For weeks my face bore the reminder of Alejandro. Alejandro.
Now that I think about it, perhaps Lady Gaga and I did have the same Alejandro…
“Don’t call my name / Alejandro”
(because you think my name’s Maria)
“I’m not your babe / Ale-Alejandro”
(because you tried to eat my face)
“Don’t wanna kiss / Alejandro”
(because my face will probably be scarred for life now, you douche)
“Just smoke my cigarette and hush”
“Don’t call my name / Ale-Alejandro”
(please, please, please)