Friday, July 08, 2011

My Sixteenth Summer - Part 1 of Sorts. The Basic Set-Up

It was twenty-one years ago now, the summer I was sixteen which is now gone forever. When you're sixteen you never think about how you will never be sixteen again and that you will never have a sixteenth summer ever again. At least I didn't, because when you're sixteen you live only in that moment and that moment is made up of many little moments and you are living in all of them at once. You are kissing your boyfriend in a room dimly lit with a green light bulb. You are finding a pregnant cat and it is having kittens in your closet. You are turning in cans for change and stealing from your parents' penny jar to get money for a hot dog at 7-11. You have found a way to climb onto the roof of your house to watch orange clouds float across a black sky. Sitting on top of a slide you are too big for, but which still seems very high, you paste a tiny square of paper on the tip of your tongue and you are terrified, but this may be where it all begins.

It had been Aunt Kiki's house and she had lived there, in the flat, hot neighborhood near where they housed the Goodyear Blimp, for two years with her much younger boyfriend. Aunt Kiki had left her husband for the boy, who had been 18 to her 26 when they met in Millpond and ran off together to Florida. She had left her children for him, then worked as a cocktail waitress on a riverboat cruise. He tried to go to community college. First he wanted to be a fireman and then it was airplane mechanics before they got into a fight where he gave her a black eye and drove the pick-up back to Millpond in the middle of the night. Aunt Kiki sublet us her house, without her landlord, a 70 year old Cuban man, knowing. She hadn't wanted to break her lease. I have no idea where she went or what she did, but she didn't go too far because she came back a few times to get high with us and she must have found another place because after a month or so she reappeared and took back her two cats.

The lease ended in September. Aunt Kiki's breakup happened around Mid-May. This was the same time my parents broke their own lease on a stylishly furnished mauve and grey ranch house in a posh suburb with A+ schools and moved to a pink beach cottage on the water. It had wood plank ceilings, room for a monkey cage on the side and a galley kitchen. Since I'd dropped out of high school in the winter anyway, the great school district no longer mattered and my parents were way more beach than planned community on drained swamp anyway.


My parents were not happy with me. Since dropping out of school I had proceeded to do next to nothing except fly to New York a few times for extended visits with the boyfriend I had tragically left behind when we moved. In between those visits, he flew down to see me, on his parents' dime, whenever he could get off from school, as he was finishing his senior year. When we weren't together I spent my time running up a long distance bill and playing Super Mario 2. I had no job, no drivers license and no GED. That same winter, that same boyfriend had also, in the snowy parking lot of a Grand Union on Christmas Eve, introduced me to smoking pot, as if I needed any greater lack of motivation.

We were going to spend the summer together. It was going to happen. We wouldn't be apart again.


"You can't live in my new house with your boyfriend all summer long," my mother said, "It's not happening."

"Move in with him. Get your own place together," Aunt Kiki advised when I called her in tears, "Take my place so I don't have to break the lease."


"She'll never let me, " I said.

"Yes she will. She doesn't care about you being with your boyfriend. She just doesn't want you two laying up in her new house getting in her shit all summer."


Aunt Kiki knew her older sister well.

But there was no way we could afford the rent on the place.We had to figure something out.


That something was my boyfriend's band. They called themselves The Acid Farmers and had never played outside of his garage, but they were a band nonetheless, at least to themselves. The Acid Farmers consisted of my boyfriend David, his surly friend Scott whose father had his fifteen minutes of fame when he helped arrest Son of Sam, a guy named Dave who looked like an eighteen year old George Washington and Jim. Jim wasn't exactly part of the band, but he liked to jam, so whenever they "practiced" Jim would come over and "jam" with them on whatever he could find (a plastic recorder, bongos, impossible to play Pan flute, garbage cans).

Jim was already in his mid-20s, so he was much older than the rest of us. He lived with his parents who were never home, so his house was a great pot smoking destination that previous winter. We all thought Jim was really cool. Jim thought he was really cool too. He told everyone he was an elf. He regularly attended Rainbow Gatherings and drum circles and wore tattered, tie-dyed clothes made from hemp with jagged crystals hanging from twine around his neck. He had turned himself into every possible hippie stereotype in existence. He had an irritating habit of announcing to strangers that "we're all part of one big world!" Servers, the people who worked in drive-thrus, toll booth operators and really anyone with whom Jim came in contact would be treated to this.


The plan was for the band to come down to Florida for the summer and to stay out the rest of Aunt Kiki's lease before heading back to New York for the winter. My boyfriend and Scott were starting community college back home in September. Jim was just going back to his parents' house and Dave, being the oddly responsible one in the group was going to Columbia. Dave's parents wouldn't let him come to live in Florida for the summer because they actually required their son to have a job, so Dave only came down to visit for a couple weeks. I didn't know what the hell I was going to do after this was all over, but back then my brain was physically incapable of perceiving anything in the future tense.


We crammed into Aunt Kiki's former rental. It was in a bad neighborhood and in squalid disrepair, but we didn't care. We had our own place for the summer. I was sixteen and living on my own. I shared a bedroom with David and it was nothing but a mattress on a floor, an African drum he'd brought down from home and a tape player on which we listened repeatedly to poorly copied Butthole Surfers albums while we got high and had sex. Within hours of taking up residence (our additional roomies being a thriving colony of palmetto bugs and wolf spiders) we replaced every clear light bulb in the house with a colored one, leaving the coveted black light for the common area of the living room for maximum trippiness. We loved anything glow in the dark. 


The plan was to expand our consciousness, which was a euphemism for do drugs. That was their plan though, not mine. My plan was to be with my boyfriend all summer. I didn't even like smoking pot and I only did it because if I didn't, David and his friends would call me uptight and a goody goody. Drugs scared me, but being dumped and left alone without any friends scared me worse because I had no other prospects. I had no income, no school, no transportation and my parents didn't even want me living with them and when you find yourself with nothing but a boy, you cling to the boy like he's a branch in a flood because you think it will help you stay afloat, that it will keep you from drowning. You don't realize the currents are pulling the branch too and that it's going under, that the branch isn't saving your life. It's pulling you down.

4 comments:

rosie-b said...

Can't wait to hear more . . .

Darcie said...

I have an beautiful, smart, employed 18 year old starting at ASU in the fall on a scholarship and living at home. She was just dumped by her looser, unemployed, high school drop out boyfriend because she kissed another guy. Her dad and I couldn't be happier. (Hope he enjoys Phoenix for the summer without her air conditioned Camry!) We would have had a stroke if she had taken your path, but you wouldn't be who you are without these choices. It's so hard to watch your kids make choices that you know are going to hurt so much. Finish the memory, I'm on pins and needles.

Miss Kitty said...

God bless you, WL.

(((hugs)))

That was amazing. Just amazing. The candor, the emotion, the looking back older & wiser at a lost young woman...wow.

JoeinVegas said...

Oh no, at 'to be continued'

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