b r e a t h i n g
r o o m
9 Jan 98
"That shit don't flush," he said pointing a finger like a gun at his own ear or temple. Michael Lennon was Karen Lennon's uncle, even though he was only a year or two older than she was. Karen's mom had married young and had had Karen and Jimmy (my classmate) years before her older sister had Michael. The three had sort of grown up together, although Michael's family had moved around a lot over the years. He talked really tough and I felt like I was walking on this ice, social classwise. They thought of Jimmy as the brain of the family, partly because he went to my school, where he was considered an unusually dorky dayboy.
Karen was almost my girlfriend, except she wasn't she told me, and we didn't even kiss, and I had nothing better going on. I was starving for attention. And I was the perfect gentlemen, not like the guys she went to school with, in Trenton.
Karen had left her Catholic high school partway through her sophomore year (she was a junior now and I was a senior, or what my peculiar school called a fifth former) because of (whispered) drugs, which she didn't touch now (except drinking of course). The Catholic school was too much temptation for her, all her old friends still smoking pot, since that was the main drug, but she also talked about taking acid and going to class - I was so naive at the time I still thought of acid as an addictive drug so this really shocked me - in fact, she read to me from her journal about how she had seen giraffes on her mother's shoulder and realized she was in too deep.
But now Mikey, who had me in the corner and was chewing my ear off, was getting more and more confiding, really opening up to me, the way people always do, and he was singing the song of the reformed user, one I'd heard so many times before from childhood through now. And as I continued to mime empathy, he mentioned, bragging really, that he'd been shooting heroin, but he'd stopped because man, you know, "that shit don't flush." He went on and on.
Karen and I mostly wrote letters to one another. I was like the damsel in the convent school. She was free to roam. In my next letter I praised Mikey and his reformed ways, told her I was shocked by his heroin use but impressed that he'd kicked it. Thing is, he'd never mentioned anything about junk to her. This was news to Karen and she got really upset. Clammed up for a while. It definitely made me hold back a little.
Months later, at the prom (she consented to go with me), we danced with abandon to a cover band's version of Rosalita and swayed close and slow for the Stairway-to-Heavenesque closer but even then she refused a kiss and made a face at me like "don't you remember?" The next morning bunches of us drove to the beach, smoked cigarettes, drank open beers in the car and ordered Egg McFuckin' Muffins at the drive through on the way. The day passed in a blur, my memory smudged and bleared by the sight of Karen making out with Ron White, the tall prematurely balding gawky sensitive scholar from a long family of crunchy granola downtown banking do gooders. They were rolling around on the blanket when I came back. Later, we had to all three sit in the backseat of the same car, stuck with sand, on the way back. Like a four-year old I sat there with my faced turned rigidly to the window, not willing to let her see me hurt and not willing not to let her see.
Names changed to protect the perps.
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