After Andy

I managed to convince my dad I was sick on Tuesday and Wednesday and stay home from school. He was being kind of extra nice to me since my mom went into a special hospital upstate to get better. It was a really nice place where we got to visit one time and she told me that she liked it there and that all the nurses were vegetarians and had the most beautiful skin.

The first day I lay in bed making the cooty-catcher. It was the perfect project for someone who, at that moment, hated the whole world. I put in stuff about Michelle Taylor and a weird embarrassing thing about Steve I had overheard, and the thing about Denise’s parents. It was all pretty evil. Then I realized I had one panel left. I guess, it turns out, I was most mad at Sam. He was supposed to be my friend and if not for him I would never have been at that party. Sure he had apologized, but somehow it wasn’t enough. I guess I just felt so hurt. I don’t know why I did it. It was like another person had taken me over; this ultra mean, angry person who was diabolical and cruel. The theme of the cooty-catcher was Which of these people would it be the worst to be? I made it the worst to be Sam. I made him the thing that everyone had been saying for years. The names they had called him both behind his back and to his face since the fifth grade. It’s not that I even thought it was bad, or even fully understood what it meant to be gay. I just knew that it was viewed as bad, as just about the worst thing ever, by the people that seemed to matter.

On the outside panel was a question mark; the next panel in had the words “Is he or, isn’t he?” and on the final panel, underneath that, was a picture of Sam holding hands with a muscle man in little bikini briefs with little hearts over their heads and said “You be the judge.” I didn’t even draw Sam; I cut his head from a photo of us and glued it into the cooty-catcher, so there would be no mistake about whom it referred to.

*****

On Tuesday I could no longer stay in bed, so I took the bus to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to do some Christmas shopping where they have all the little tables set up on the sidewalk with the vendors selling silver and cloisonné jewelry, crystals, wind chimes, incense and puzzle boxes made of wood. I don’t know who I was going to buy Christmas presents for since I no longer had any friends and the stuff they sold here wasn’t exactly my parents’ style, but Judy had taken a job at Rasputin Records and I wanted to visit her.

 

Judy was holding a record called The Velvet Underground & Nico. It had a drawing of a banana on it with the signature of Andy Warhol underneath.

“You should buy this one for Sam,” she said, “He would love this album and it’s only three bucks! It’s used, but not a scratch on it!”

She seemed so excited, it was hard to tell her that Sam and I wouldn’t be exchanging gifts this year, or probably ever again. For sure ever again, once I put the cooty-catcher out into the world. I bought the album. Something told me not to tell her about the cooty-catcher, I guess I knew it was wrong and horrible, but I didn’t want anyone to stop me. I was on a path to self-destruction and the part of me that wanted that wasn’t about to let anyone interfere.

On her break, Judy and I walked over to Tea and Empathy, a little café down the street that served tea in delicate china tea cups like your grandmother might have, and I had a raspberry tea and Judy had Birch tea. She tried to talk me into Chamomile because she said I looked like I needed calming, but I don’t like the taste of it. Birch sounded even worse, but Judy said she was getting headaches lately and that the birch bark it was made from helped them. She looked good and she seemed to like having a little money to spend. She even treated me. I was glad she was working, but not because she paid for my tea, more because of what it seemed to do for her. She seemed so calm and happy, the opposite of me that day. I wasn’t listening then, but now I remember something she said.

“It’s all about relationships and perception, I find. How we treat each other under the worst of circumstances and how we choose to see the world. If you don’t like things the way they are, just look at them differently and they will be different.”

She said this as she was looking out the window of the café. She was talking about herself, not about me, but she meant everybody, which included me. Unfortunately the me of that particular day, the one on a path to self-destruction, was not about to hear it.  Later on I found out that raspberry tea helps purge toxins from the body. I had a lot of toxins in me that day.

later on I found out that Raspberry tea purges toxins from the body

I remember something else about that day. On the way home on the bus I was looking out the window and the reflection of the window behind me was reflected in the window in front of me and, beyond that, a really cute little house with a pretty little yard, like a house in a story book all perfect and cute with a sloping roof and an arched front door… and the reflection put me into the yard in front of the house through the reflection of the window that was reflected in the window I was looking out of. It was a weird momentary triple effect. It seemed like if I just went through some window in the air, right in front of me, I could live in that perfect little story-book-house and be happy. Like a whole different life was just a hairs’ breath away and I could see it, but I didn’t know how to get there.

When I got home I put on the Velvet Underground album and listened to Nico sing All Tomorrow’s Parties over and over again. The album would never become Sam’s; it turns out it was for me.

The lyrics go like this –

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow’s parties

A hand-me-down dress from who knows where

To all tomorrow’s parties


 

And where will she go and what shall she do

When midnight comes around

She’ll turn once more to Sunday’s clown

And cry behind the door


 

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow’s parties

Why silks and linens of yesterday’s gowns

To all tomorrow’s parties


 

And what will she do with Thursday’s rags

When Monday comes around

She’ll turn once more to Sunday’s clown

And cry behind the door


 

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow’s parties

For Thursday’s child is Sunday’s clown

For whom none will go mourning


 

A blackened shroud, a hand-me-down gown

Of rags and silks, a costume

Fit for one who sits and cries

For all tomorrow’s parties

_ All Tomorrow’s Parties by The Velvet Underground

me in a different reality


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