By some insane comedic twist of the universe, I actually dated a girl I met at one of the yuppie stockyards my straight friends always went to. We went out four times, then simply stopped returning each other's calls: that made sense, as we had absolutely nothing to say to each other. We were at one of the T.J. O'Mulligan-style bars, and I was sitting at the bar, drinking diet Cokes and feeling bored: it was 1998, and my friends, being in tech, were discussing the revolutionary possibilities of the World Wide Web. (By 2002, many would be assistant managers at their local Starbucks, and happy for the work. Their cars and furniture had already been repossessed, and now they were just happy to make rent.) For now, their conversation both bored and irritated me --- I admit it, I was a militant Luddite when it came to personal computers, the Internet, or "any of that other digital bullshit.". A good kitchen fire would have improved my mood, but no matter how hard you focus your mind....
The girl approached me. I got the impression it was 50% genuine curiosity (like I said, the locals there and I had very different views on what "casual attire" is, and I stuck out like a cockroach on a wedding cake: black denims, a band t-shirt, and engineers, plus the bleached hair) and 50% dare from her friends. ("I wonder why he's here?" "He showed up with a few other guys, why's he sitting alone at the bar?" "Why don't you go ask him?" "Me? No way!" ".... I'll do it." "Ohmigod, Becky!")
So Becky comes over and we start a conversation of sorts. She was about half-drunk: hardly smashed, but beyond just a buzz. She tells me how she was "into punk rock" back in high school; I translated this to mean, "I owned one Minor Threat album and one Dead Kennedys album." She asked why I was there, so I explained I was going to hang out with old friends, but their current conversation was just so much lame gibberish to me.
"Really? What are they talking about?"
"Some project at their job. Some website bullshit. I won't own a computer, so I couldn't give a toss."
"Did you say you don't, or won't, own a computer?"
"Won't. I don't need one."
"Really? You should get one."
I stared at her just long enough to make her a bit uncomfortable, then said, "Why?"
Her buzz was strong enough that she hemmed and hawed for a minute, and came back with,"Well....They're the future of communication!"
"I dunno, talking to people has always filled my needs. Besides, the telegraph met the same definition when it was new. So what ends up replacing the World Wide Web further down the line?"
She frowned. I was pouring two gallons of concept into a three quart brain.
"Well.... Why do you think the Web will end up being replaced with something? It could be around forever!"
"No. Impossible. All technology stagnates, then becomes obsolete. I'll take a guess and say you work with a computer at work. Right? Is your computer the size of a Winnebago and full of vacuum tubes?"
"If this was 1950 it would be, and would have cost millions of dollars. And it would have had the 'brains' of some dork's wristwatch calculator. And at the rate things are going, your work computer will be a fuckin' antique in ten years. Technology keeps moving forward, so logic dictates the Web will be obsolete sooner or later. Not like it matters to me. Fuck technology, and double-fuck computers."
She was giving me a rather worried and slightly frightened look. "But you.... Think of the good things technology has done!"
"Like what? Vending machines? VH-1? Neutron bombs? All technology ends up eventually being re-engineered to either kill people or take their money. All those website services, like the ones my friends are talking about, you think they've got the greater interests of humanity in mind? Puh-leeze. They're looking to clock a dollar, and that's it."
She'd changed to a "I've got him now!" expression. "I guarantee you use technology every day. So how can you say you hate it?"
"I never said I hate technology. Some of it is really good, like the engineering that went into my Honda. I just don't trust it."
"Okay, so what do you trust? What do you like, besides your Honda?"
I thought about it for a minute. I responded, "The answer to both would be the band Big Black, and fucking."
"I like and trust Big Black, and I like and trust fucking. For me, both are reliable sources of pleasure. Speaking of, you wanna go back to your place and fool around?"
I had already mentally braced myself for a slap.... That never came. Her eyes grew as big as hubcaps, then narrowed. She grew a crafty-looking half-smile. "Think you can handle me?"
Oh, dearie. I've dated girls who consider handcuffs and hot candle wax mild foreplay. "So long as you're not into knife play or coprophilia, I think I can."
"Um, what's corpro--- what you just said?"
"If you don't know what the word means, then we're safe. You don't wanna know what it is."
We went to her table first to let her friends know she was leaving.... With me. (So remember his face for the police lineup.) Her friends' reaction was, "Oh my god... You guys are.... Omigawd!" followed by that shrieking laughter that makes me want to chloroform the person emitting it. Then, with a you're-so-naughty gleam, "So, what are you guys gonna do?"
I looked at Becky, then back at her friends. "Engage in various sexual activities, of varying intensity. I don't know if we'll be fucking each other or not. I am a gentleman, and we've known each other for less than an hour, so that is entirely up to her, and her decision will be honored: no pleading or head games. Her wishes will be respected. Well, unless she gets off on pissing on guys, that's right out." Squeals of laughter --- pass the fucking chloroform, please --- erupted from the table.
My friend's table next. There was a collective thud as their jaws hit the table top as they looked at me, then Becky. My friend Brian asked, "Dude, where'd you go?"
"I've been sitting at the bar, just like I said I would, waiting for you muggs to quit talking tech. Have you finished?"
"I gathered as much. Look, I'm going to be going home with this beautiful lady, where we'll have some fun."
"Uhh.... Fun, huh?"
Becky piped up: "We're going to my apartment, where we may or may not fuck. We haven't decided yet."
I said, "Exactly. Personally, I'm going to find out if it's possible to make someone come so hard that they hallucinate. I'm not sure what her plans are. Hopefully, some hallucinations."
Becky stood there smirking at the guys, then said, "I'm gonna try to make him hallucinate too." (Ah ha, a flash of wit. Borrowed, but good timing. Maybe I've underestimated her.)
They were still scraping their jaws off the floor as we left. All four of them were leaning in close to each other, and I could imagine the conversation: "Dude, how did he do that?" "What the hell, I thought he didn't like this place--- " "Your crazy-ass friend scores just like that?" "He always makes fun of the people here--- " "Maybe she's got a thing for punk rockers...."
Being the one with a 0.0 BAC, I drove, with the agreement I'd drive her back for her own car in the morning. She wasn't pleased with the seating arrangements: I had removed my front passenger seat, for business reasons. No passenger seat made a lot more room for carrying the random stuff I delivered at my day job, and made pizza delivery simpler too. She had to climb into the back (my Civic DX was a two-door) and ride in the back seat. Either that or sit on the floor. I explained this to her on the drive to her apartment complex, but she still wasn't happy.
We got to her place and were barely in the door when I had her tongue down my throat. Let's just say things progressed quickly: in the morning, I ended up tracking down my pants in the kitchen.
I must confess, we were not "safe." Nudity had been achieved, when Becky asks, "You're not queer, right?"
I looked up from between her thighs and said, "Um, if I was, would I be down here doing this?"
Her reply astounded me with its naivety. "Oh cool, no need for condoms!"
"I'm on the pill, so you can't knock me up, and since you're not gay, you can't give me AIDS."
"Ooohh-kay then...." I wasn't in the mood for giving a dissertation on HIV/AIDS and the methods of transmission, so.... I threw caution to the wind and we spent the night and morning sucking and fucking sans protection. Going without a jimmy hat was nice, and it was stupid: no, nothing contracted, but it's a risk in that situation. With every girl I'd dated since 1986, a trip to the clinic for blood tests was a basic part of the courting ritual: if she was on the pill, and our blood tests were clean, then we'd forego the condoms. Until those lab results came back, though, strappin' on a jimmy hat was second nature.
We saw each other three more times: two of them I went to Santa Clara (or was it Sunnyvale, or Mountain View, or Cupertino....?). We'd have dinner, go someplace for drinks for her, then back to her place for sex. Really, it was the only thing we had in common, and even then, well, let's just say she talked a good game. There were some practical issues, like me having to explain that in the short phrase "sucking cock," "sucking" is the operative word. Not just putting it in your mouth and bobbing your head up and down, like one of those plastic birds you set on the edge of a water glass.
Then it was decided she'd come up to East Bay.
We (or I) thought it would be a break in routine. South Bay has some good restaurants, which was nice, but we always ended up in one of her dingbat overpriced yuppie bars and surrounded by her friends: silly gabbling objects whose hobbies were emitting the non-word "WOOOOO!", screeching laughter, and gossiping. I forget where I stole this line from, but these were the sort of women who would catheterize themselves, so they wouldn't have to leave the table lest they become the topic of gossip. Intellectually, these women hadn't progressed beyond ninth grade.
At least our time there was limited. No more than a couple hours. I'd explained to her, in no uncertain terms, that if she got drunk she'd be sleeping alone. I would not have sex with a drunk girl, period. Buzzed or tipsy, fine, but just plain drunk was a deal-killer. I'd sleep on the sofa, I'd sleep in my car, I'd even drive home and she could call a fucking cab to go get her car.... But if she got smashed, she would get no play, and it wasn't up for debate. She decided fucking was more fun than booze, and moderated the alcohol when I was around.
I'd saved up some bread to take her to this snazzy fish and steak house at the Berkeley Marina, which was nice, but I also needed to swing by my place for a few, and for us to figure out what to do with the rest of the evening. Something besides me going down on her for long periods of time, which she had bellowing appreciation for, but as I mentioned, her reciprocation left a lot to be desired, even with coaching and instructions and diagrams and little playlets acted out with finger puppets. Oh, let's be blunt: the girl couldn't suck a dick to save her life. (At least I'd straightened her out so far as HIV/AIDS transmission happened, that it could be anyone. The night I explained it to her, I almost had to physically restrain her from applying four or five condoms on me, one right on top of the other.)
I'd tried to explain The Silo, the house I was living in, to her.... But I believe she thought I was exaggerating. The Silo was a classic punk house: strange-looking cars out front, no lawn, Barbie doll heads suspended by mono-filament all along the porch overhang, a mannequin torso nailed to the front door.... Plus no two walls the same color, bizarre art everywhere, and hardcore blasting from the community boom box in the living room.
And she also got to meet my friends and roommates. What a joy for her! Let's see, there was Chuckles, whose MDMA habit was the stuff of legends, Mookie, who worked as a dominatrix (and often wouldn't change after work), Jim Nastic, resident drummer and sex god --- it was an old place, and Jim and his girlfriend Isha could literally make the house rock during one of their many, many daily fuck sessions... Um, who am I forgetting. Oh yes, there was Rook, The Girl Under The Stairs. She was a fourteen year old throwaway kid who didn't pay rent in exchange for housework; besides, she was living is a closet space under the stairs. Plus Little Steve and his girlfriend Glare, Even Littler Steve and his girlfriend Mimi, Rory The Mick... It was a full house. There was Hawk the gun freak.... But that's not accurate: he was a shooting freak. Yes, he owned about eight rifles and shotguns, but also had shelves full of trophies for marksmanship competitions. His goal was to get sponsored by a manufacturer and live on that money, not to mention having more time to devote to shooting. Hawk didn't view his firearms as "weapons" at all. He'd frown in confusion if you mentioned human-sized targets for his rifles, and the only things he killed with his shotguns were flying clay discs. In the fall, he and his dad would disappear for a week or so and bring down their bucks ("Shooting a buck is easy. It's getting the damn thing back to your vehicle that's hard.") He'd hit the range at least three times a week to work out with three to six of his firearms. And once you use 'em, especially pricey ones like he had, you gotta clean 'em....
.... Which is what he was in the process of doing when Becky and I walked in. I was used to it, simply greeting, "Oh, hey Hawk, this is my friend Becky." Hawk looked up --- he was still wearing his yellow range glasses --- and said hello, a 22 year old punk with an array of long guns in front of him. Mookie was in a chair in the corner reading a pornographic paperback, which we had about seventy of. Those, and sixty or so bad wannabe Harlequin romance novels. We had a game going: there was a huge whiteboard on the wall with a line drawn down the middle. The words 'Porn' and 'Romance' was written at the top of each section. Every time you found a new euphemism for "erection" in either type of book, you wrote it on the whiteboard.
Mookie exclaimed, "Hah! Got one!" and jumped up, went to the whiteboard, and wrote "pulsing meat-pole" on the 'Porn' side. Then she introduced herself to Becky. "Hey, I'm Mookie, don't mind me, I'm still in my work clothes." Today's fashion was a patent leather bustier, fishnets, a leather miniskirt so short it may as well have been a belt, and 5" spike-heel boots.
"Umm.... What do you do?" asked Becky, shifting her eyes between Mookie and the guns.
"Oh, I beat the shit out of guys and tell them they're scum. Every now and then I shit on them, but that costs a lot more. I don't like doing it much, either."
Mookie may as well have told Becky that she feasted on the souls of the living. Becky stammered out, "O--oh?"
"Yeah. I mean, do you know how hard it is to time taking a dump? My boss tells me the day before I do scat, so I don't, y'know, go that morning --- so I'm having to hold back taking a crap half the day --- plus if the guy disobeys me and moves around, it can get messy. Like, yuck. So, what do you do?"
We were mercifully interrupted by the clomping of boots on the stairs. The boots were attached to Rook, who was also wearing a fresh hot-pink dye job, a bath towel, and nothing else. Hawk and Mookie both looked at her and said, "Hey, it looks great!"
Rook smiled and said, "Thanks! Mimi [Even Littler Steve's girlfriend] helped me with it! Um, can anyone spare a cigarette?" Hawk threw his pack to her. Rook extracted one and lit it with a random lighter on the coffee table. Becky wrinkled her nose. (I'd made it clear the first night we met that yes, I smoked, and no, I wasn't about to change that for you.) Fortunately, no one was standing behind her when she grabbed the lighter; they'd have received quite a view....
.... One which Mimi had probably already received, plus other views, and was almost certainly overjoyed about. Mimi's sexual enthusiasm wasn't limited by gender, and Rook --- Hoo boy. Yes, she was fourteen, but if porn stars were constructed in a factory, Rook would have been the template upon which all others were based upon. Her walking past wearing flip-flops, cut-off jean shorts, and a t-shirt with no bloody bra would have me and every other guy silently reciting a mantra in our heads: "It's only fourteen, it's still a kid, it's only fourteen, it's still a kid, ignore how large and perfect those things are..." Poor Even Littler Steve was probably going to be attacked by Mimi when he got home. "Shut up and start licking it, baby!"
Rook takes a bit of explaining. As I mentioned, she was a throwaway kid. Her mom was a bible-thumper in Redding, and dad lived locally, in Albany.... But he had decided Rook's presence was jamming up his Swinging Single lifestyle, and he preferred his pattern of two week relationships and straight-up fucking barflies he'd met that night to raising a daughter.
His strategy was effective. When not at work (or the bars) Rook's dad would be having sex with some woman in any room of the house except his own. Rook would come home from Gilman St. to the sight of her dad fucking that night's conquest on the sofa. The woman would understandably be startled; Rook's dad would say, "It's just my daughter," and keep going.
Really, he was sexually abusing his daughter by proxy. On evenings where the sonofabitch didn't have a woman there, he'd park himself on the couch and jerk off to porn. With full knowledge that Rook would have to walk in front of him to get to the kitchen or her own room. "Every guy does this, you'd better get used to seeing it from any guy you date!" he'd tell her. Yeah, yeah, it's normal healthy behavior. But not when it's in front of your daughter, you scumbag piece of shit.
The whole story came out in pieces. We knew she'd left home with what could be stuffed into a backpack, and she still had the key to the back door of her dad's house, so she could retrieve stuff when she got the chance and a place to put it. She was friends with a few of us at the Silo via Gilman St., someone had a brain wave, and voila, one less teenage kid stuck on the streets of Berkeley. We explained to her that she wasn't getting much in the way of room, but we weren't asking much in the way of labor: sweep the kitchen, hallways, stairs, and living room a couple times a week, generally keep the living room tidy (put books back on shelves and throw away trash), and sweep the front porch once a week. We're all pretty broke, so if you can figure out your own source of food and cigarettes, that's optimal, but nobody's gonna let you starve, either.
She went above and beyond. Mail was slid under the correct doors, she kept the kitchen clean, she dusted, she even kept the bathroom looking nice.
When we'd heard her circumstances for leaving home, every guy in the house (plus Mookie) wanted to ambush him and throw a boot party: like, seriously hospitalize the bastard. Rook begged us not to. We'd be too easy to identify (fair enough) and besides, Rook felt that karma would take care of the problem. "All those trashy bitches he brings home, he'll end up with the clap, or even siff. Let him dig his own grave, and I hope his penis rots off."
I introduced Rook and Becky (who was still nervously eyeballing Hawk's pile of guns). "Hi, call me Rook--- Whoop!" Aaand her towel hit the floor. She wrapped it around herself again, saying, "Sorry about that, guess I didn't tuck it right." When she dropped her towel, I had noticed something, and asked, "Uh, Rook.... Landing strip?"
She blushed and laughed. "Yeah. Mimi helped me do it---" and was in seventh heaven the whole time "--- so it'd come out straight."
More blushing. "Oooh! I met this really cute boy on the Ave a few days ago. We've been hanging around a lot, today we ended up making out behind the stage at People's Park for, like, forty minutes, and.... Well.... I'm thinking I want to bring him home." Yet further blushing; if she continued she'd be tomato red. "I just figured that if things get that far, I wanna look good, you know?"
Becky spoke up. "Um, landing strip? What are you guys talking about?"
Rook and I looked at each other. Rook took a breath and said, "You've never seen one? Not even in porn?"
Becky responded icily, "I don't watch porn."
"Oh! Um, a landing strip is when you shave your pubes down to a single vertical strip in the center. It looks best if you shave your labes, too. Any guy who's into sucking pussy will go wild for it."
Mookie piped up from the corner. "Yeah, or you can go all-out and do a baby doll, just shave completely bald. 'S what I did: the clients love it, my boyfriend loves it, and you don't have to worry about shaving a perfect straight line."
Trying to relax Becky, I volunteered, "I tried shaving, once. I ended up with the worst rash; I was miserable for over a week. Shaving isn't for everyone."
Mookie said, "You just gotta go get waxed. You won't get a rash that way, and you stay smoother for a lot longer. Hah! Maybe you two can get a couple's discount!"
"Um, thanks Mookie, I'll keep it in mind."
All this casual talk about pubic shaving, plus the inadvertent nudity of a young teenage girl with the body of a Vargas model, plus Hawk's pile of guns, was doing nothing to relax my date. I said to Rook, "Hey, why don't you get some duds on, girl."
Rook seemed to have forgotten she was still in nothing but a towel and boots. "Oh yeah--- oh shit! Lenny, hold on!" She dove into her cubby hole (the door was maybe four feet high and three feet wide) and came back out bearing an envelope. "Here. I guess this is what you and Chuckles have been waiting on."
I looked at the envelope. It had a return address for the Berkeley Unified School District. Yeah, me and Chuckles had been waiting on that letter, so that one of us could commit a felony: Rook had kept her father apprised of her location, but it's not like he cared. He also didn't care that Rook was in a different school district, and she was eager to start her freshman year of high school. He refused to bother with any of the necessary paperwork needed to get her into Berkeley H.S. So.... Chuckles and I, being the wizened old men of the house (we were thirty) agreed that one of us would commit perjury, a felony, by claiming to be Rook's uncle and she lived at our house.
Mookie and I gave Becky the outline of this while Rook was in her cubby hole putting on clothes. She was properly outraged.... About Rook's dad's behavior, but her idea of a solution pissed off Hawk, Mookie, and me. Badly. In fact, it was probably the marker for when I said to myself, "You know, the admittedly decent restaurants, completely mediocre sex, and bars full of assholes aren't worth it. This girl isn't just a little slow on the uptake, she's also an inherently self-centered bitch. We have nothing in common despite her claims otherwise, it costs me a fortune in gas to go see her, and, well, she still can't suck a dick. I'd need to hire a prostitute to give her live training, because verbal instructions don't work."
And what she said was this:
"Why don't you guys just, you know, get rid of her?"
There was a brief silence. Then, "Whaaaat!?" the three of us chorused.
"Well.... I mean, you all would be in big trouble just for letting her live here. You said she's fourteen, right?"
"So that's, like, harboring a minor or something. Plus, now you're talking about filing false paperwork for her. Why take all these risks for her? Why not just tell her that it's time to go? She sounds like more trouble than she's worth, like, a total headache. Why not just have CPS do their job?"
(Child Protective Services, or CPS, is the agency in charge of placing kids in foster homes. I've met too many teenage street kids who did the CPS Shuffle to trust them: half the foster families are Bible-whackin' psychos, who home-school so the children aren't exposed to "Satan's lies" like biological evolution or sex ed, and also prohibited from developing any friendships outside the house. The other half were.... Well, the descriptions of the homes were like something out of Dickens, only with lots more sexual molestation. (And plenty of the time, the Bible-whackers also do their share of molesting, or out-and-out rape of girls. One girl explained the father in the household would rape her for "sinful provocative appearance;" i.e. foster dad got turned on by foster child, so foster child must be raped as punishment for causing foster dad to get turned on. And anyone asking, "Well, what was she wearing?" gets three kicks in the balls.... Then I start to hurt you, you stupid fucking asshole. Her repeated calls to CPS would be concluded with, "We'll look into the matter." Yeah, after she turns eighteen and out of their system.) A lot of older teens caught up in the CPS zoo would be better served by having them legally emancipated so they could get jobs and start their own damn lives. Fuck CPS.)
Hawk set the rifle he was cleaning aside and stared at Becky. It was the sort of emotionless stare made when someone is trying to estimate the amount of quick-lime needed to dispose of what would soon be a corpse. Mookie was out of her chair and in Becky's face much faster than I thought a person could move in domme boots. "Because she's our fucking friend, bitch! And you don't do that shit to friends!" I was seriously expecting Mookie to grab Becky by the hair and start punching. (And Mookie told me later that was precisely her plan.)
"Mookie!" I yelled, and got a shoulder between them. Mookie backed off.... About six inches.
I turned Becky towards me --- I was as pissed off as anyone else --- and told her through gritted teeth, "Look, darling, Mookie nailed it on the head: Rook is our friend. Who gives a shit how old she is? She's a friend, she needs help, and we're in a position to help her. You're worried about the legal risks? Fuck that shit. Her fuckin' dad knows where she is: she told him and he doesn't care. Any law started makin' noise about her living here, I'd point 'em at her asshole father who kicked her out in the first place. And so far as me or Chuckles pretending to be her uncle, Jesus Christ, we're trying to get her enrolled in goddamn school, not get her a fake I.D. or pull a swindle. And I'd give the same answer to any judge: her father is a dick, she didn't want to be a dropout, so we did what we needed to do. Go ahead, jail us for making sure a kid stays in school.
"Do you get it? Fuck the law. Far as I'm concerned, this is her home as much as mine. And she wants to go to school and not be unemployable and ignorant, so I'm gonna make sure we can wade through the bullshit and make that happen. Hell, we talked it over one day when she wasn't around: when she starts school, everybody who can afford to --- particularly me, Mookie, and Chuckles, 'cos we got the best jobs, but everybody will kick in a little --- we're gonna do a weekly gig of taking her grocery shopping, buying her a carton of smokes, and giving her an allowance, plus a bus pass. That way all she's gotta worry about is being a good student. Does it sound like we're treating her like a kid? Damn right! Yeah, she's 'just a kid'. And she's also our friend, and we love her, so we kinda try to protect her, you know? Why the hell do you think we care about her so much? Why do you think we try to take care of her?"
I moved my eyes to the right. Hawk hadn't moved a muscle.... But was slowly nodding his head. Then he said, "Damn right. That's what's up, lady," and returned to cleaning his rifle. Mookie gave Becky a dead-eyed frown for a second, then returned to her porn novel.
Becky scowled at the floor for a moment and muttered, "I have to use the restroom. Which door is it?"
"Follow me. It's upstairs, and it's next door to my room. I'll open up my room --- wait for me there, I've gotta go talk to Chuckles. I'll only be a couple minutes." On the way up, she just had to say, "I can't believe you're all going to buy a fourteen year old girl cigarettes."
I stopped on the stairs, blocking her. I gave her a big smile and asked, "Really? What's the matter with that? Makes perfect sense to me; they're cheaper by the carton."
Becky rolled her eyes and huffed, "Hel-lo! She's not even old enough to smoke yet! Plus how bad it is for you!"
"But she does smoke, and has smoked for as long as I've known her. Given all the shit in her life, I'd say smoking is one of the least of her worries. Personally, I'd rather have Rook keep her mind on the heavy important shit in her life, instead of jonesing for nicotine. 'Sides, most of us smoke here. We can't be hypocrites about it."