In January 1997, I hosted a housewarming at my new place in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood. It was a particularly debaucherous weekend. The house filled with glamorous and skanky people, skateboards lining the long Victorian hall downstairs. One roommate asked me if I would tell my friends to move their boards, and I reported that only one friend had his skateboard there (my semi-boyfriend, John, visiting from Seattle). My roomies and I had a shared moment of realizing the house was full of people we didn’t know. Shortly afterward, someone started smoking crack in the kitchen.
All my raver friends were in attendance of course, including a guy named Rick who was a friend of a friend. He brought his turntables in a big fancy coffin (for the uninitiated, that’s what portable turntables are stored in: a coffin), and was playing jungle in the living room.
Eventually we decided that we had to kick everyone out, and the easiest way to do that was to GO out, so I went into the late night with my pack of motley ravers, headed to some party that had the word “heart” in the title. We were on raver time, though, and showed up at 6am just as the party was shutting down. No matter: to the after-party!
Rick rode in my tiny car with John and me, and before we got out he informed us that he had his tackle box of drugs with him and offered us some. John, who had a whole tackle box of his own back in Seattle, was impressed by Rick’s collection and generosity, and so we took Rick up on his offer before heading into the after-party.
At this point, two sheets to the wind would probably be a pleasant euphemism for the state I was in. I was like laundry out on the line, flapping around the dance floor and talking to some nice girl I met about how she’d just moved to San Francisco (“ME TOO!” I squealed through my clenched jaw). We held hands and sat down leaning against a wall, and she told me about how she’d just started stripping (“Oh — I work at a law firm,” I apologized.)
The morning wore on, and things only got bleaker. The only people left on a dance floor at 11am on a Sunday are pretty much wrong in every sense of the word, and there I was: totally wrong with the rest of them.
I left around noon with John and Rick, and we went back to my house to retrieve Rick’s turntables. I was starting to crash pretty hard, hours of sleep dep and chemical abuse catching up with me, but out came the tackle box and then John and Rick and I were up for another round.
It was at this point that even in my dulled, confused, heading up and down simultaneously state I started to realize that these two tackle box boys were sparring over me. John and I were casual (he lived out of town, we both saw other people), but he was always looking out for me, and Rick picked up on it. The two of them were subtley testing each other and prodding one-another to see what the deal was and who got what piece of the sorry-ass cracked-out 21-year-old raver girl with inverted bob and the glazed over eyes. What a sorry prize.
The two tackle box boys compared tackle box contents. Who had the windowpane? Who had the glass? Who had the orange microdots and who had the darker dank? Who had the benzos and who had the liquid? The two tackle box boys compared musical tastes and petty crime records. They laughed at each other’s jokes in that hard way that people do when they’re trying to size each other up.
At some point, I snuck downstairs and called my best friend in Seattle sobbing. My head was caving in, the boys were sparring, I’m so tired, but my heart’s pounding really hard, but I haven’t slept since Friday and I’m supposed to go to work in 16 hours and god knows what else I said. For years my friend wouldn’t tell me, and then she finally admitted that I hadn’t really said anything: I was mostly just crying and rambling and she couldn’t really understand much of it.
I couldn’t have known it then, but maybe I was crying over the fact that in eight years, one of the tackle box boys would be dead from drug-induced heart failure, and the other would be dying of AIDS somewhere after several stints in jail and years of IV drug use. Maybe I was crying over the fact that I knew that this lifestyle was only temporary for me, but some of us would never find our way back out. Maybe I was crying because I realized that I wouldn’t always be 21, and at a certain point time would catch up to me and my futuristic, synthetic-loving friends and we’d all be hitting 30 and suddenly the party girls who passed out on the toilet are in jail for breaking probation, and the younger brothers who always seemed so wacky and wild would be on major rehabilitative medication after long stints in treatment, and all those little bad habits, too, those would catch up with you: the bad eating, the bitchy attitudes, the fake tanning, the cigarettes, the running of red lights. The first decade of adulthood comes to a close and things get reckoned with and some of us just don’t make it. The tackle box boys didn’t make it.
And they should have.