I got a glimpse of how life can be, and I like it. I got to see what it was to be content, and with a front door that closes and locks. I got to see what it was like to have a bed and a kitchen and a shower that was all my own. I got to know what it was like to mostly not have to talk to people if I didn’t want to. I got to know what it was to not have to live in fear of being beaten up. This is as settled, safe and sweet as life has ever been. I am tired. I need to rest. I live life, pedal to the metal, hundred miles an hour. I live life on beast mode. If it is hard for you, for me, in my position, in my situation, it is a million times harder. But I am human, I am fully fucking human. I love and I grieve and I live and I lose and I feel immense sadness and quiet joy. It was not always that way. I was a disgrace. I was a teenage dirtbag.
I took a walk around my childhood neighborhood on google maps. I took the trip from my childhood home, left to the field turnaround that I sat in with my biological father begging him to take me away and help me, save me from my adoptive family. He didn’t. He took me ‘home’ and drove away. Fuck him, they certainly fucked me enough.
I took the route I took out of there, down the hill, left to the alleyway that led to the park, round to the little row of shops with the bus stop and down to the big bus station. I stood outside, 17 years old, with barely a penny to my name, my bank card and cheque book, and walked inside. I got on that bus into the big city, and never looked back. Until now. With my black eye and my pulled hair, with the weight of his body on mine unwanted, with the hands round my neck and my hand in my pocket. With my drugs and my booze and my uncertain disease that made my blood boil black in my veins. With my Velvet Underground records and my Ramones tee shirt. With my combat boots and my purple hair I got on the ride out of there. He would never touch me again. He would never see me again.
I went to the squat in that courtyard, up on the 13th floor, travelling by computer screen. It pleased me. I went from non-person to half a girl. I went from not going to live to living, even if it was the kind of living that others sought to drag me out of, it was mine. I was my own girl with my short bobbed hair and my winged eyeshadow, my black lipstick and my dog collar and bike chain bracelets. I was restless, I never stopped. I never found a reason to. I moved here and there, from squat to a commune of young people. From the commune to halls of residence in a university that I was way too overqualified for. I might have been a mess, but I was an academically successful mess.
I turned down places at the best of it all, looking at the others who populated the halls and realizing I had already gone too far away from them. How could I go there when they were fresh faced and I had stared down the barrel of a U100? How could I go from the street to the equivalent of ivy league? I couldn’t, so I told them to fuck it and shuffled off to somewhere I could at least rage on the scene and be free. It was a joke. A con. I didn’t plan on surviving to be somebody’s mother. I fucked up there too. I lived. I was never meant to.
I tried to be normal. My ‘parents’ who were helping me out a little, just happy I had got in contact and was not getting them in any trouble for their treatment of me, made me dye my hair brown again, and bought me ugly preppy clothes, that were everything they hoped for me. They dressed me in sensible tweed skirts and horrible suits, they put me in a wrap with a grandma brooch holding it together. I needed a coat. It got cold in winter. I felt like a clown. They burnt my beloved lace up the sides leatherette mini skirt and my little short cut biker’s jacket with the patches on the sleeves and back and the bright red lining. I cried to see it go. I was not me. I was not free. I paid the price.
They put me on prozac and pushed me into the lecture hall. I hated everyone around me, at least until I found my best friend, a gay young man, the same age as me – a year or so older than the rest, with a look on his face that said ‘fuck all this’, and a leather jacket on his back. His hair hung in ringlets and he overdosed close to his 21st birthday a couple of years later. I said goodbye to him wretchedly. We were the terrible twins. He did his first shot sitting next to me. I helped him. He was never going to make it into a vein by himself. He was going to do it anyway, or so he said. He lived another two years. I was in the house, but not the room when he died with a needle in his arm. My best friend, gone.
He had been abused as a child and I had spent hours talking him down off a cliff just after we first met. He saw a kindred spirit in me too. He was standing there telling me he was going to jump. I told him I knew what would make it better and not to do it. There were no cell phones back then. It was me and him and a desperate desire to see him live. It would have been better if it had been me in that morgue. I have been useless to everyone who’s life I have touched.
The kid went on methadone, carried on with the smack too and bought the farm. I didn’t trust the shit, no one was tying me to the clinic and the liquid handcuffs. Oh the pain of being right. I knew he couldn’t stay just on the ‘done. He would be my age now. I wonder what kind of life he would have led? When I saw the dead boy on the streets of San Francisco, overdosed I saw Steve’s face superimposed upon his. I failed then too. No narcan. No use, and me clean and sober and gladly comfortably living. What a disgrace I am.
And now I sit here, wondering what he died for. What all of them died for and how the fuck I survived it all. I wonder how I made it to working in an office and spending weekends tearing it up. I wonder how I ended up where I did, alive. I suppose I was a shitty junkie. All the good ones are dead. Either that, or I am a cockroach that finds it too hard to die. I always woke up choking on my own vomit, but at least awake and able to save myself. I woke up fucked up and hurt but not dead. I woke up higher than Keef Richards in 1970, but still awake. I woke up tasting the drugs in the back of my throat and making me gag. You can always taste a good shot. Vinegar and desperation. Candy toxic sweet pills and bitter medicine and dank heavy weed. Rum and desperation ground up and put in a spoon, or cut into lines on wax paper on a table. Take the crumbs and rub em on your gums. Anything to not think about the lack of anything interesting, anything fun, anything bearable, anything worth breathing for. Anything not to think of that unbearable weight. Anything not to think of the violation, the fear and the threats. Anything.
People ask me how I survived my husband. I survived him because I survived the man I called daddy. I survived a girlhood that was torture, criminal torture and I learned survival like I learned to walk. And the only time any of it made sense was when the music was raging, and the drugs were coursing through my veins and the speed was shooting me to the stars and the booze was throwing me around like a letter in the wind, that read “To thine own self be true”….
Somewhere after I became a mother I took myself to a psychiatrist. They gave me valium and told me they couldn’t believe I had been abused as a child until I made a formal complaint to the police. I jumped out of a window and ran back to my baby once again grabbing her out of the arms of the babysitter. No more asking for help. No more trust.
I never stood a chance. None of us did. Not me. Not the children. Not any of us sad punk grrrls who carried our pasts with us, not weighing us down, but making us so see-through and light that we would float off in the wind if we weren’t pinned and sedated, ramones and dead boys validated, and set off on a crash course to our fates.
I grew up. I sit here with my failures and my houseplants and my past behind me, and the future staring me in the face. It has taken me an awfully long time to reach that final fatal brick wall slam.
I am an anarchist. I am an antichrist. I am a disgrace.