I was never cool in high school, the way the cool kids were. Unpredictable, temperamental, rebellious, yes, but not cool.
This is why I never understood why this pretty chick named Denise had a crush on me.
I think she mistook my going to
as hip when no one else went there, or had hair as long as mine. I was in the
village so often, I often didn’t get back home in time to go to school in the
I could never figure her out, a blond chick with big boobs who always wore black, and always had every sort of cool kid sniffing after her, from the hot rod, Camel cigarette boys to the leather jacket gigolos with switch blades.
She would see me in the hall, and start after me, and generally the boys who were trailing her had some issue or two to settle with me and I had to take to cover.
Once or twice, I saw her off school grounds, near the head shop in
Paterson where Hank and I
hung out. She was always looking for some bit of jewelry or some dark shade of
lip gloss that would make her seem mysterious.
Most often, I saw her face framed in one of the school bus windows pulling away from in front of school, just after I got back from playing hooky. She always waved, wiggling her fingers at me, and I generally waved back.
A few years later, after I had gone underground to avoid being busted for stealing some money (a long story told elsewhere) I saw her again. In the
dressed in black and a kind of star along a few blocks where everybody was
something other than they were. She was trailed by a pack of wolves that were
not the usual sort, but that make believe hippie that had emerged when it
really became cool to have long hair and flash peace signs. East Village
I don’t think she saw me, although I had changed very little, wearing the same kind of jeans I always wore, my hair as long as it was in school. Maybe it was because I traveled these days with Louise, who was pregnant. We had come back from the West Coast so we could be near Hank and where we would have support when the time came for her to deliver the baby.
I never pointed her out to Louise, maybe because I still had a thing for Denise and didn’t want to admit it.
I worked uptown, and sometimes saw Denise when I came back off the subway at
strutting around the Bowery like she owned it.
Then, in mid March, Louise delivered. Hank and I spent the better part of the night trying to get in to see her – with guards, who didn’t like hippies, telling us to get the hell out. Eventually we found a guard who agreed to tell how Louise was, and whether my child was a boy or a girl. Then he threw us out, telling us to come back during visiting hours the next day.
Hank and I walked down
yelling at buildings. People thought we were drunk, and I guess we were. A cop
car pulled up to the curb and told us to shut up. We toned it down and made our
way towards East 6th Street
where I lived.
My bones ached, and so did my heart. I wanted to be with Louise and our new born, and was impatient for morning to arrive.
We ran into Denise near
Place. She seemed bewildered and still didn’t seem
to recognize me until we passed her, and then I heard her call my name. I
turned, she leaped into my arms.
She looked different, less bouncy and most assuredly stoned. She wore long sleeves, but I suspected these hid tracks. Her hair was limp and stringy, and she looked a little faded, ghostly even.
She clung to me, and cried.
Hank looked at me, frowning.
“What are you on?” I asked.
“Nothing, just a little acid,” she said, “Maybe some smack.”
Then she told me how great I looked, and suggested I come with her to a party she was headed to, lot of drugs, and where we could talk about good times. She made it clear she wanted to do more than talk, and an old tugging inside of me made me want to go along, just for old times’ sake I thought, just to see what it was I missed back when I was too stupid to pay attention to the girl wiggling her fingers at me from the bus window.
I told her I couldn’t, but didn’t explain why. She made me promise that I would look her up later, and insisted on scribbling down her address on the back of some receipt I had from work and shoved this in my front pocket where her fingers remained longer than necessary.
It felt horrible leaving her like that, but I stumbled away, yanking Hank along with me because he seemed interested in going to the party in my place.
He asked where I had met her.
I didn’t say.
I just walked and stared straight ahead, trying to remember where I was going and why, trying to think of what I had to do in the morning, and who I would meet, and how good that would make me feel.
I never did see Denise again.