An Essay by Rebecca Walling
I guess when you’re 15, not a virgin, smoking pot, cigarettes, and drinking 40s on the weekend, you think you’re pretty fucking cool. You cut off all of your hair, sew your jeans so they’re a second skin, and laugh when in the middle of P.E., which you refuse to dress for, they rip right in the crotch. Now you have a valid excuse to go home early, and make that stop at In-N-Out, before returning to the AP English class you still somehow have enough brain cells left to participate in.
First your hair is fire-truck-red and always smells like cinnamon, and then it’s bleach blonde and shorter than ever. Soon your bangs are jet black and the rest of your hair is fried and bleached crispy white. Your eyeliner gets chalkier, and you steal your younger, but somehow ever cooler sister’s metal belts and wear two at a time so you jingle like a gypsy. If the hair doesn’t get you noticed, you better fucking believe all the noise you make walking down the hallways will. You purposely don’t wear your glasses, because you think the stank face caused by not being able to see anything, will scare off all of the people wanting to say something to you. It does. And they will never know you are much more afraid of them than they ever will be of you.
You mark most of the alleys in your hometown like a feral cat, pissing behind dumpsters and bushes. Who the needs to use a restroom when you can just pee behind the Starbucks full of the baristas that give you dirty looks when you don’t buy anything but smoke on their patio. They’re also probably mad because you use their restroom to throw-up in and chug pints of Popov vodka the 23-year-old that made-out with your 13-year-old sister bought you. The soothing harmonies of Fall Out Boy and the gremlin screams of Blood Brothers raging from your iPod are getting old. You pop into Pennylane, the best second hand music shop in town, to dig through their dollar bin. Who knew Minor Threat’s EP would sell for a dollar? Their minute and a half songs of rage incite a different kind of rebellion in you. You want to fight back now.
You steal a mug from aforementioned Starbucks because FUCK paying 30 bucks for a piece of plastic and FUCK the consumerist society. Also, you just really want to impress a guy that is sort of cute and plays in a metal band. You’ve never stolen anything in your life and your heart pounds through your chest, but you think up a way of returning it later when he isn’t around. You get your AP English teacher to help you ditch your geometry class because her brother is your teacher and they understand you’re much better with words, less so with numbers. But he promises if you show up more often, he’ll let you pass with a C, and you won’t have to retake it in summer school. You know you’ll keep ditching, because Wendy’s sounds really good right now, and you want to smoke pot before your parents get home from work.
You tell your neighbor she should check out this really awesome band called From First to Last. They’re playing soon at The Glass House in Pomona, and it’s your favorite place to see bands play. You like crowd surfing and getting in the pit. You want to feel blood run down your nose. You want the hardcore evidence of your bad-assery. You want everyone to know you can fucking take it, you’re not some typical girl. You’re just as cool as them. Even cooler.
You start an after-school rap group with your best friend, mostly to pass the time it takes to walk home from school. You smoke a lot of weed and drop a beat, and she raps about the pot you just smoked and how she has really big tits. You go streaking with her in front of your house, and laugh when she trips and skids across the asphalt, knocking over several dumpsters in the process.
You decide it’s probably a good idea to get shit-faced drunk, because your parents have a PTA meeting and they’ll be gone for approximately, one hour and thirty minutes. So you raid their liquor cabinet and pour a little bit of each bottle into a glass, even the cooking wine, because fuck it. You’re trying to get crunk, and it’s gonna taste like shit anyway. Now it’s summer and you’ve been using that alcohol trick for a while. Instead of putting it in a glass, you’re filling up three water bottles to take up to the abandoned house so you can go skinny dipping, drink and maybe have sex with your new boyfriend who has long curly hair and braces. God, why are braces so hot right now.
It’s your good friend’s birthday and he’s turning 16. He’s tall, blond and lanky and you make him chug an entire water bottle full of brandy, scotch, gin, vodka, rum, white and red wine. He does it, but says he doesn’t feel anything, you think it’s because he’s so tall. You have sex in the pool at the abandoned house after everyone leaves, and then fall asleep in one of the newly carpeted rooms. You wake up to braces and walk back home before your parents get up.
After one of these long nights, you hear the HERO SQUAD boys skateboarding down your street from the abandoned house. They’ve been out all night bombing hills on their skateboards and smoking pot. They call you out by your new name, BOOMBOOM KITTY, because you’re fucking fly, as cool as the boys, but you have boobs and you’re not scared to moon parents, so you guess that makes you fearless and hot too.
You’re still in girl scouts, but you’re a fucking legend. You’re top shelf cool when it comes to those meetings. You run the show and come in drunk or high most of the time. At all of the community gatherings you bring your new best friend, water bottle full of parent’s booze, and chug it outside in between cigarettes and passing adults. Then you start a mosh pit with a bunch of middle schoolers at the show your troop put on with some friend’s band. You get mowed to the ground by a girl treating the mosh pit like a soccer field, and can’t get back up because the booze has your legs now, it has your legs.
On St. Patrick’s Day, you go over to this girl’s house and convince an older guy to buy you a couple pints of Popov vodka–it’s the vodka of the scene and you’re right in the middle of it. There are four of you there and you get drunk as fast as possible. At some point, the HBO soft-core porn gets put on, and before you know it, there’s a half naked girl on top of you grinding on the part where a dick is supposed to be. You have to keep reminding her that you’re not her boyfriend, but her lips feel so good on your neck and you don’t want her to stop. Then one of you is puking in the bathroom and her mom is barging in to a scene she hopes soon to forget. Some girl is getting pounded on the T.V. and there are four underage girls in their bras and panties, tanked and horny. You have to call your parents and tell them you got drunk at a friend’s house, and need a ride home because her mom is kicking you out. They’re too drunk to drive so you catch a ride with your best friend’s mom.
You see Circa Survive at the Hollywood Palladium, and this guy you go to high school with, tells you he did coke with Anthony Green after one of their shows. You scoff, but pride yourself on knowing Anthony Green is the lead singer. When they play, Anthony is so fucked up he doesn’t even know the words to his own songs. He falls down on stage, but the band keeps playing. You leave feeling disappointed in the scene. Maybe it’s dying. Maybe everyone is too fucked up.
A girl from San Francisco moves near you, and you become best friends. Her mom smokes cigarettes and buys you wine, because she knows you’re young and reckless, and wants to make sure you’re as safe as possible while exploring that part of yourselves. You spend almost every weekend there, drinking Southern Comfort–which you shorten down to SoCo, because who needs to use full words anyway? Her friends from NorCal come to visit and you all drink SoCo and fruit punch. That night you ask your best friend to sock you in the face. You want to feel something real, or maybe it’s just all the sugar running through your veins, making you crazy. But she better just fucking do it. She does it. You forget she is a cheerleader and works out everyday, and her tiny body with huge breasts actually has a lot of force behind it. She says you can hit her back, you do, but you don’t have a brother teaching you how to hit.
You listen to Crime Mob while getting ready for prom, feeling empowered by the no nonsense girl rap, wishing the older girl your best friend knows would offer you some of the champagne she has, but she doesn’t. You go completely sober and stag, staring at all of the people you hate. No one asks you to dance, and you sit there with a plate full of horrible food you’ve piled up on one side of the plastic-ware. You go home sober and alone.
It’s New Year’s Eve and you have to walk in the Rose Parade at 5am with your Girl Scout troop, but you decide that’s no reason not to head up to the Mayor’s house for a little party. You know the Mayor’s son, because he’s a fuck up like the rest of your friends and drinks and smokes, and is fucking one of the girls you watched porn with. Your older friend comes with you and she stays by your side, promising to drive you home early and not to drink. Instead, you take one of the biggest rips ever, from the bong being passed around, and then make a Wendy’s run. She drives you up to a lookout point above your house, blasting Envy on the Coast and screaming THROWING PUNCHES AT OCEAN WAVES with the windows rolled down. You get home at 1am and barely make it through the entire parade without fainting.
Ecstasy becomes a big secret between friends. You want to try it, so you chew a couple pills, and down a bottle of orange juice with a new model-esque blonde girl that has a giant crush on you. You let her kiss you, and hold her hand. When your sandal breaks in the juice aisle of your local grocery store, you let her carry it back to the clerk to ask for tape or glue or anything that will fix it, because you have a lot of walking to do. Your eyes are wide, pupils dilated, and you want to rub your face against her soft hair. You hold sweaty hands and promise to be friends forever. You go to a party and feel weird, awkward in your own skin. She stays near. Then a week later you both walk down to your boyfriend’s house and he grabs you, kisses you, and she never talks to you again. You don’t understand why, because you kiss girls all the time without really caring about them, just like you don’t really care about the boys you kiss either.
Later that year, your friend asks you to take a road trip up to San Francisco. You say yes and save all of your money for drugs, alcohol and gas. Fuck food. Who needs food when you can drink and do drugs that make eating not really important? On the drive up, you smoke cigarettes and joints–the only window down is the sunroof, the sweet and bitter smells stay in your clothes the whole weekend. No one speaks to each other the entire drive. The music blasts and for the first time, you hear Lady Gaga. It’s alluring and different, and you’ve never heard this new sort of dance music, but your good friend, sitting shotgun, made four mixed CD’s for the ride of all the horrible club music she has been listening to. She thinks she’s fat, spending a lot of time in the clubs, dancing, doing coke and ecstasy and fucking random club guys. She says it’s a lot of fun. Huffing is cool too, if you ever want to try it, but you don’t.
The music stays loud, and as the sun goes down you finally make it to the party house. You walk in and the lights are out, there’s only a string of blue along the hallways and a small lamp here and there. The house is packed full of your favorite NorCal boys, the ones you drank SoCo with, and a slew of other faces. You wander around and chew up your three pills, chugging a bottle of orange juice. It’s silent and everyone is whispering to each other. Somehow a massage train starts up from the back of the house, to the front door–a line of twenty or so people massaging shoulders and laughing awkwardly. You have a sometimes boyfriend that isn’t so honest about the way he feels about you, and when a boy that resembles a vampire tells you he thinks you’re beautiful and wants to hold your hand, you let him. You feel a little guilty, but who cares. You enjoy the freedom of emotion from the drugs and the strangeness surrounding you. You embrace it, live it, and you’re old enough to understand what all of this means.
The night comes close to the end and you all sit in a circle in the living room. Someone mentions singing Afro Man’s “Crazy Rap” and the entire room starts up in unison. The energy is swaying and the feelings are connected like a tent in the center of the ceiling. You can taste the happiness from everyone. You all lie down as the drug crushes you like bugs and you pop your iPod in. Air’s album about playground lovers soothes you to sleep and you feel better.
You find out your sometimes boyfriend cheated on you, so you throw an ABC party to celebrate freedom and fuck you’s. You make a dress out of duct tape and use cupcake holders to cover your nipples, just incase the tape doesn’t stay placed. You get so drunk that when you walk into your bathroom and find three guys snorting coke off your sink, you scream WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN HERE, but when the cute, popular guy that never talks to you, takes some out of the baggie with his house key and motions it toward you, you say Fuck It. And snort. The sun is up and you all pile into a car with the left over 24-pack of Keystone, and drive up the mountain near your house. All four of you look out into the smog when you pull off to the side and open a couple beers. It’s 6 in the morning and you’re passing cigarettes and coke around in the growing heat. When you drive down the mountain, the tire gets stuck on a piece of loose gravel, and your friend swerves, almost driving off of the cliff. You sit ready, welcoming. Not even death is daunting to you anymore.
You revisit the mountainside after you decide the leftover mushrooms you’ve been keeping around, would better serve their purpose if you ate them. Your friends pick you up, and as you sit in the backseat with a cigarette and the wind in your face, you feel infinite, at peace, secure in the world. They pull into one of the turnoffs, and Queen’s “Killer Queen” is blasting from the car stereo. You watch your two friends stand in front of you, seeing them age until their skin is nonexistent and they stand before you as skeletons. Instead of fear, you feel elation, and comfort. They are beautiful in their state, bare as bones. No skin, just soul. On your drive down the mountain “Bohemian Rhapsody” takes you through every twist and turn as if that song was written specifically for that ride. You scream out, GUYS I’M SO FUCKED UP RIGHT NOW. And then whisper, i’m fuckin’ trippin’ balls.
You’re 24 going on 30 and after work and school, you come home and open a beer, trying to read the 500 pages you need to have done by next week. You take three drinks and wake up three hours later to a warm beer and drool on the side of your face. You must have been snoring because your throat is dry and you think you were dreaming about taking Starbucks orders in French. Your boyfriend comes over with a bottle of wine and you barely get through half of it before you’re exhausted and a little drunk. But you don’t work tomorrow and you should probably finish the bottle. You fall asleep with a full glass of wine sitting on your bedside table.
You ask your 20-year-old younger sister about what’s cool to listen to, because your Sonic Youth and Pixie’s albums are getting over played. She tells you she only listens to records and cassette tapes now, no CDs or MP3s because the music she’s into isn’t sold on iTunes. She can’t burn you any CDs because she doesn’t have any. But here’s a list of websites, and maybe you can find them on Spotify. But really, you’ll just have to order cassette tapes online from the label website. You laugh, because when you had your cassette player, she didn’t even understand what music was. But you thank her, accepting the fact that you’ll never be the cool older sister.
In a last attempt to regain your former badassery, you let her take you to her boyfriend’s show. He’s playing at a small venue in Santa Monica where they don’t sell alcohol, but there’s a liquor store down the street. Everyone drinks outside and some kid runs around with clown makeup, giving everyone high fives. You feel like the oldest person there. Naturally, you buy a big bottle of Hop Stoopid and pee in an alley–you do this because you can’t find the real restroom. Your old friend puts his arm around you and says, “Man, where have you been. We fuckin’ miss you around here.” But you don’t miss them.
You go to Pitchfork and are excited to show your friend, who has never been to a music festival, what it’s all about. But you look around at the girls in floral print dresses and short haircuts, and the guys in circle glasses and button down shirts, realizing you have no idea when you became uncool, but you are officially, and embarrassingly uncool. You take mushrooms anyway, and want to sit in the same spot all day. You only bought a ticket so you could see Neutral Milk Hotel, and they’re the headliner. So you wait all day and when St. Vincent comes on, you say you still don’t understand why people think she’s so awesome, you know she’s talented, but c’mon, isn’t it just a bunch of noise?
You stand in the very back when Neutral Milk Hotel starts, and everything around you turns into mush. You feel love, know the love and know you’re old because the assholes behind you yelling and screaming are really fucking annoying. But you also see yourself in them, at least a part of yourself. You don’t even stay to see the whole set, because they played “The Fool” half way in, and that’s all you really wanted to hear anyway. So you leave before 10pm because you’re tired, and you really just want to go home and take a shower and crawl into bed with your cat, and your boyfriend that plays in a jazz band, and a funk band, and a lounge music band. And the fucked up part, is that you actually enjoy listening to his lounge music, and maybe you actually sort of love him–even though the part of you that wants to run wild and naked in the streets, dies a little each time you wake up to him kissing the back of your neck.
You have fun ways to describe your job at Starbucks. Like, “slaving away for the siren,” “Frappuccino fuck me hour,” “basic bitch heaven,” but really, you know you deserve every drunk asshole and white girl that comes in to pester you. You work on your days off and work later than you’re supposed to. Sometimes you even work for free. A part of you does it because you love the idea of helping when no one else will, but a bigger part of you does it so you can take pride in locking the bathrooms after 10pm on game days, so no drunk prick will come in and trash what you just cleaned. One of your favorite things to do is telling the kids smoking on the patio that Starbucks is a smoke free area now, and they gotta put it out or smoke elsewhere. You enjoy your job more than you would like to admit. The routine and warfare of it all keeps you sane. Keeps the side of you wanting to drink bloody Mary’s at 8am and snort lines of coke off of sketchy San Francisco strippers, in check. And yes, you’ve been to those places, but it’s probably better that you don’t go back. You’ll still take mushrooms now and then, but only to better understand the world when everything feels out of place. It’s more of a want to grow, than to lose yourself. You’ve accepted you’ll always be a fighter, and more than that, a runner. But you’re also well aware you’ve fought for too long, and maybe there’s more to life than drinking 40s and throwing-up out of a moving car’s window on a Tuesday night.