1998: Don’t Do Drugs
Still fucked from the Carly break up, I’d moved past pondering fate, the butterfly effect, what could have been and jerking off into my tears. I’d reached the point of ‘I am angry and do not give a shit so I will experiment with all salacious pills, powders, liquids and girls.’ This was a convenient state to be in as the rest of my peers had conformed to a fuck-you-I’m-not-a-conformist group of, well, unconventional conformists. Just like everyone who has ever been seventeen, I suppose.
Including Damien “Snatch” Barnes. He had a tattoo of a sun between his shoulder blades, a trendy punk hair cut and such a huge ego it ringed around him like he was Saturn. I don’t know if anyone actually liked Snatch as much as they feared him. Not even physically, I mean, he was the asshole that when his pale brown eyes fell on you, you squirmed because he was going to say something to humiliate you, then laugh a mean, loud laugh like it was a joke. The guy had been in more inebriated fights than I can ever count, and he provoked every single one of them for no real reason at all. The only thing I can figure is he had so much pent up rage and humiliation on the account of his nickname. Back in grade school, he used to snatch up food as soon as anyone’s head turned. He’d laugh about it, but in the sixth grade, when you’ve been looking forward to your Capri Sun or Snack Pack all damned day, it just wasn’t funny. Anyway, he got labeled Snatch and donned the name proudly, until around the eighth grade when we all learned that the word Snatch had more than one definition. Still, the name stuck.
And then there was Sarah Bitters, who may have been a catalyst, but this wasn’t really about the girl at all. Sarah had long, forever knotted hair, a thick hemp necklace that never came off and a crocheted bag full of X and weed. She wore black underwear in all different, erotic-to-me styles. And the girl was utterly emotionally elusive, I think even to herself. I can’t be certain, but I think that’s why I thought I wanted her. Because she’d be hard to get. God knows I didn’t actually know a thing about the girl, just that she was hard to attain and I had shit else to do.
Sarah and I had been circling each other for the past six weeks or so, since the night she slipped some E onto my tongue and we went down on each other for like, four hours in Ryan Roberts’s parent’s bed during a party.
I didn’t much go out of my way to call her, but she stopped by my house a few times with a car full of her girlfriends. She’d leave them in the car, we’d go to my garage or my bedroom, depending on how empty my house was, and mess around. Then she’d disappear for days.
I saw her out at a Denny’s when I was with Art and Lou in the middle of one night, and we studiously ignored each other. I had no clue why, we just did. I’m not sure if there was ever any rhyme or reason to the mating habits during my youth—typically it was the old flirt and fuck—the maybe I like you but maybe I don’t even know you—the push and pull of being young.
And then, a couple of days before the incident, I was skating with Louis and Kyle and there goes Sarah Bitters with Snatch Barnes, drunk as lushes, practically screwing in a parking lot. Her black underwear was in his hand, her patch-work skirt tugged to the side.
Lou loudly pointed them out, effectively cockblocking the whole thing.
Sarah made a big show of running over to me with worried eyes, straightening her skirt and holding up a finger over her shoulder to Snatch.
“Yeah?” I asked her and she tugged on my shirt.
“Don’t be mad, dude,” she’d said.
“I’m not mad,” I said and picked up my board, swinging it so it rested behind my neck on both my shoulders. “You need anything else?”
“I like you,” she said.
“What’s up with Snatch?” I asked. He was across the way, busy giving Kyle shit about his board. Sad but true: Bitters stepping out only bugged me because it was with Snatch Barnes and sooner or later, he’d toss our shared goods in my face.
“It’s whatever. We went to see The Turgid Fold last night,” she said by way of explanation.
“Cool. Wasn’t that in Jersey?”
“Yeah. We had a shit time. Snatch got detained for disturbing the peace and I met a boy. I wished he was you the whole time.”
She stuck her forefinger in my mouth like a fish hook and smiled at me before tugging on my lip and turning to go back to Barnes.
Sarah’s particular brand of mind-fuck was a distraction from Carly, proof I’ve moved on, or so I thought at the time. What I mean is, I figured to myself, ‘at least I’m not sad.’
Saturday of the same week, shit hit the fan, because toss a little sex, drugs and rock and roll onto a bunch of seventeen year olds and it inevitably will.
Artie knew a guy from the next city who was having Ketamine Perfect play in his yard. They were a garage band comprised of a couple of guys we knew from school who’d graduated two years earlier.
Lou and I showed up with every other slacker kid in the tri-state area, found the crowd we knew and shoved ourselves and everyone around us to what can only be described as Ska meets Metal with a Pop-Punk Edge. The trombone player in Ketamine Perfect was this kid Danny Joseph, who actually used to be just a band nerd from our school, but word on the street was they were going to Los Angeles next month to film a video. This made Lou, me and all of us very cool by proxy…we knew all the songs already. We knew these punks and their girls and pissed in their bathrooms and shared a bowl with them way back when.
The keg was in the back of the yard, Lou and I were standing there in a loose circle of friends, passing around a joint and filling up red Solo cups for girls, holding up the legs of the stumblers who approached with their arms in the air, declaring keg stand ability.
“If you can do it until I count to sixty,” Lou was telling some chick, “I’ll give it to you for free.”
“Cups are free anyway,” she said, but she smiled and shoved him.
“I didn’t mean the beer,” Lou said and for whatever reason, this made this girl laugh and agree. Girls thought Louis was cute and hilarious, which may denote a clumsy puppy or something, but for whatever reason, girls loved Louis.
She did the sixty and jumped on Lou’s back, her face wet with beer and he carried her off, making her laugh the entire way.
The band started to tune up and Artie wandered on over with no shirt, his back pack and Sarah Bitters under his arm.
“This girl wanted to see about you,” he said and Sarah started tugging on my hand.
“I was looking for your face all night,” she said, which wasn’t true because we saw and ignored each other like, forty five minutes ago when she strolled up with her girls to get a drink. But I didn’t much care to call her out on it.
“What for?” I grinned down at her, my hand on top of her head.
“Come on,” she said and pulled me and pulled me until we were out of that back yard and in the front, where cars were lined up and down the street and parked on the lawn. A few stragglers were hanging around, some guy passed out, face down on the sidewalk.
Sarah leaned over the hood of a maroon Camry and reached into her black bra. What followed were four white lines on the hood of someone’s piece of crap car and a rolled up five dollar bill.
By the time she leaned back up, there were only two lines. She pinched her nostrils together briefly and handed me the green little straw.
I never had done it, never had the curiosity, but then, I’d never been opposed, either. Art had done it a few times here and there and while it was nothing I purposely sought, I knew I’d try it when it happened to mosey on up under my nose. At that point, I’d do just about anything that wasn’t associated with Carly. Including Sarah Bitters and her cocaine.
My logic seemingly worked because lo and behold, I turned into Superman and my nose was the gateway to super hero heaven.
Me, Sarah and our little white friend in a bag stomped back into that party and I felt like I could’ve jumped on the roof, beyond it and to the twinkling stars above. I had all of my wits about me and some I didn’t even know I had. I’d thought that shit would make me trip out and be a mess, but it made me better, stronger and basically the best person at that party and everywhere. I was sure of it.
We went into the crowd and Sarah danced like a wild woman, climbing up me like I was a jungle gym made of chrome and fuck it, I was. I could do anything, be anything and handle it all euphorically, like it was the time of my life.
And then Damien “Snatch” Barnes was behind us in the crowd, calling someone a tool, then he was talking to Sarah who kissed his neck with her wide open mouth and said to him, “You know Adam?”
It should be noted our fingers were linked and tangled together when she kissed Snatch. I think that Barnes staring at me and me staring at Barnes got Sarah Bitters even higher than her cocaine.
“Yeah, his pussy is tighter than yours,” Snatch laughed and shoved my shoulder. It would’ve been one of those shoves that looks like a friendly deal for the sake of witnesses, but it was really a fuck-you-let’s-go-shove in disguise.
“Shut up,” Sarah laughed a loud squeal and tugged on his shirt, but he was looking over her head at me. He was wearing his old familiar Snatch is bored and looking for a fight gaze, which meant narrowed eyes and a wide smile.
“What’s up, Adam? I taste alright down there?” he asked.
Sarah pressed her back against my chest.
“He’s cool, Snatch. Leave it,” she said, but it was with a smile I could hear.
I smiled back at him.
He spit just over my shoulder, got so close his own shoulder hit mine, hard enough to make me take a step back. Sarah put her arms around his neck, whether it was an attempt to push him back or if it was some kind of lusty affection, I had no idea.
“Where’s old Louie anyway? Doesn’t he usually suck your dick on Saturday nights?” Snatch asked.
Bitters laughed. Bitters would always, always side with the bigger dickhead. I just hadn’t realized this yet.
“Stop, you’re mean!” she crowed and he smiled down at her.
“Only Tuesdays,” I said to him. “On Saturdays I decided I’ll let you suck it.”
“Everyone hear this?” he shouted. “Adam just asked me for a blow job!”
No one even paid attention to him. I turned around and Sarah threw her arms around my neck. The whole thing was done for about five minutes while she whispered in my ear about more coke and how wet she was and then Barnes threw his red cup, full of beer, at my back.
I’d be lying if I said I’d lost control—the truth was even before I turned, I knew I’d hit him. I calculated it. I shrugged my back pack off and let it hit the ground. I wanted this simply because I knew I could really, really hurt him and he’d had it coming since the eighth grade.
Snatch was on the ground before I was and it was way too easy. The crowd parted and circled around, a soundtrack of hollering and yelling and cheering. I know I pounded his ribs too hard and he managed to get a hand under my chin, trying to kick my head back but all he did was land a four finger scratch down my neck and enrage me further. I straddled his ribs and lifted him by the shirt, only to drop him back down hard and with force. I hit him in the face too many times, far too many times and I only stopped when Lou and Kyle were there, pulling on me. I spit on Barnes’s face and Lou swore at me, a couple of guys and a girl came to pull him out from under me but I landed one last blow. That last one sounded like the Devil’s nights of my youth when I’d crack a glow stick and then keep it by window until it faded.
Later I’d find out his jaw had been broken, then re-broken by a surgical team and he ate a liquid diet for four months out of a straw.
“Run!” Louis had shouted, pulling on me.
People were screaming that the cops were coming, millers turned to runners, Barnes’s buddies screamed some bullshit at me but stayed to help the guy out.
Lou, Kyle and I ended up in Sarah’s car—not a Camry—and no one said much of anything, all busy catching our breath and avoiding the sirens.
Weirdly, and I don’t even recall how, I ended up in Sarah Bitters two bedroom apartment she lived in with her mother, who was not home, and even weirder, I was in her bathtub.
She had her hair pulled over her shoulder, her one tit was hanging out in the cold air, our legs were tangled as I leaned back and stared at the pink, mildewing tile. It was with stark alarm that I realized how exhausted and jaded I felt, I mean, the sight of her tit, the fact that we were naked in the tub together didn’t excite me at all.
“I lost my back pack,” I said, it came out in a mumble.
“Anything important in it?” she asked.
Only c.d.’s that I would never see again.
“That was so wild,” she said, and flicked her half burnt cigarette into the plastic ashtray she had sitting on the edge of the tub. I stubbed mine out and watched the smoke mix with the steam from the hot water. “You’re crazed. God that was sexy. You know how sexy you can be?”
Her eyes were still wide and thrilled, but mine felt heavy and grainy.
“No,” I said and that was the truth. She tossed her head back and laughed, making the water splash and her wet, pale knees poke out of the cloudy water.
She leaned forward and touched the red, fresh scratches down my throat and I gently grabbed her wrist and put her hand back under the water. That was the first and only time the thought of a naked girl touching me made me want to throw up. I had the sudden revelation that I didn’t like this girl and I didn’t much like the guy she fancied me to be, either. It felt dark and dangerous in that bathtub, uncomfortable like the first five minutes you’ve woken after a nightmare.
I left shortly after that revelation, we talked for a few more minutes and it ended with me pulling my jeans on over my wet legs and saying, “Hey. Don’t come by anymore, okay?”
I walked all the way home, with my hair wet and my body starting to hurt from the fight of it all. I rolled past side streets, trying to remember when I was a kid and rode my bike through the same areas. I was looking for a semblance of me, I suppose. I also cried the whole time, maybe because of the fight, maybe because of the comedown from the coke, maybe because me on a BMX bike at twelve years old would think I’m a total asshole.
Snatch put it out on the street that the only reason I kicked his ass was because I was a coke-rage monster and if I’d been straight, I’d have been worse off. I didn’t argue, it was true and that truth was a relief.
I never messed with Sarah Bitters again.
I never messed with cocaine again.
I never had another fist fight again.
If Carly Grant had me wondering what the hell kind of person I am, Sarah Bitters showed me who I never wanted to be.
Those last minutes of conversation in the tub, Sarah had said to me, “God. I wish you could have seen yourself. You were an animal.”
I’m glad I couldn’t have seen myself, glad I don’t have to have the full visual of that memory for forever; I would have hated me.