July 08, 2003

Beyond Mere Chemical Enhancement


The bedroom door opens and Jake comes back followed by the two people who just showed up outside: the mop-haired quiet one from the Civic last night and another guy with a shaved head who shuffles along with terrible posture. They shiver a bit as they join us all in the crowded room, and Jake ducks in the closet to get the little pipe and baggie he’s hidden inside a drawer. Voices murmur and laugh in the low light and I can hear two people making out on the other side of the room. Jake emerges again and steps over the long, powerful legs of the two girl volleyball players and winks at them, but they just glare back at him in annoyed acknowledgement. He shrugs to himself and turns around back to his guests.

The motor-mouth from the Civic is talking to the girl next to him (his girlfriend, I think) about the other girl Hannah I saw last night on the hill. He says he was in sixth period with her when she started freaking out yesterday afternoon, and as he does so looks for validation from the mop-haired guy (who was there too), gets it, and rolls on about how it’s kind of a bummer but not all that surprising and I want to tell him it’s not like that, that she was assaulted, but then that’s exactly what he says next before getting cut off, gently but forcefully, by the girl’s friend, another chick who’s leaning heavily on Cody (who should be more uncomfortable but he’s not) and who says she doesn’t want to hear about this stuff right now and Josh can we please talk about something else?

Jake begins to pass the pipe around, first to the volleyball players, as Josh says okay and then zips off on a tangent about how he’s never masturbated before, which gets the precise reaction he thought it would and pauses while the others groan, for the moment forgetting about Hannah and wherever she is and whatever might be going on with her.

A sandy-blond guy to Josh’ right, another guy from the Civic, takes the pipe from the redheaded volleyball girl and before he takes a hit feels compelled to ask Josh, too loudly, if he feels like he should go take care of his novel inexperience right now and Josh says not until he’s stoned, Evan, so Evan passes him the burbler after taking a small hit and then Josh takes one too and passes it to a taller, skinnier guy who he calls Zach and who I recognize as the Civic’s driver, and he takes a bigger hit.

Cody’s trying to steer the conversation (which is still stuck on Josh’ jerking off) over to a party he’s planned at the Double Tree in Capo Beach and he’s double-checking that all these people will be there. I’m having trouble keeping quiet, so I decide to watch the pipe’s progress. By now it’s made its way from Zach to the slouching blond guy, whose name is Colin, and then to the mop-haired guy Derek, who apparently isn’t sure how it works and hasn’t been paying attention to the seven other people who’ve done it already.

The fool’s having trouble with the lighter and he’s holding up the line so Josh says for fuck’s sake, Derek, and lights it for him while he sucks weakly. Derek takes a small hit, but he’s coughing too much and clearly unhappy with himself, which no one fails to notice, and they laugh a little, but Josh decides to deflect that and while he’s up intentionally, and clumsily, steps over Cody and the girl that likes him (who protest) to go to the bathroom.

Jake’s room isn’t very small, but it’s rapidly filling up with smoke, so Derek, who’s closest to the window, staggers up and attempts to open it while Jake comes over my way, says Aaron just relax damn it, and starts digging around in the closet again, this time for a little fan that I can see but he hasn’t yet so I look the other way and don’t offer any clues when I feel him glace at me.

Cody’s still going on about the Double Tree shindig, saying he’d just come here from there, and that he’d been stocking it surreptitiously with liquor ever since, and looking around the circle of people, reminding them that they said they’d go tonight. I don’t know why, but for an instant Cody’s glance flicks back to where I am near the closet, but not at eye level, and I wonder if he even sees me as I notice him squint, focus, dismiss, and then move on around the circle again. Cody fails, however, to look in my direction again, so I guess I have to be content with that

He quickly seems to forget it, at any rate, once Josh returns from the can and plunks back down next to Evan, who asks him what took so long and Josh says, with a bit of volume, that he’s just finished masturbating for the first time in his life. Another round of groans sweeps over the room, punctuated this time by various sworn exclamations from everyone but the girl Alicia, who’s looking at Josh and scooting away as if he has the plague, while Jake attempts to shush everyone, saying his dad wouldn’t be happy to hear from the neighbors about any parties here. Some people quiet down and some say okay, sorry man, and I notice Derek’s eyes are like slits, even though a few of the others look a little more far gone than he is. The two volleyball players get up to go, saying they’ll go get some munchies to bring to the hotel thing, and everyone says bye and see you later.

Cody thinks he sees an opportunity to shake off the girl that likes him, so he makes his way out as well amid various promises to see y’all in a few and I think about following him as he drives over there, and about maybe forcing him to drive his Beemer off the road in fear, but then something clicks and I know I won’t be able to curse him out like I now desperately want to and I can’t bring myself to move from my spot on the floor. I just stay put and close my eyes, listening to the garbled gossip and jokes that people are now tossing at each other lazily, and the Tricky CD in the background is steadily helping demolish any remaining coherent, constructive thoughts, which have long gone beyond mere chemical enhancement.

July 05, 2003

Ominous Thoughts on Crown Valley Parkway

I'm in Colin's car on a Saturday evening and he's driving us up PCH to Crown Valley on our way to Jake's, cause J scored some weed from a buddy of his who goes to Santa Margarita. I’d made a stupid mistake and admitted I hadn't done it yet, so the guys were unnaturally keen to see what might happen to me once I inhaled. I have no opinion on the situation yet, but maybe that's because my mind's elsewhere already; Colin told me this afternoon that Alicia Montero would be coming tonight too (maybe her regular cheap weekend laugh fix took a rain check) and she'd be bringing all her hot friends and they'd undoubtedly become sickened or giddy at the sight of me high. Stoned. Fried. Completely Wasted. Utterly, pathetically debilitated.

It's getting tougher by the second to forget images of the different ways these gorgeous girls will involuntarily twist and disfigure their own pretty faces once I attain the expected state of idiocy. I could be overreacting, but there's no way to be sure. Jake seemed to care about it a bit less than one might think (or maybe it was just residual guilt or sympathetic indifference kicking in after thirteen years of friendship) and Ben didn't mention it at all last night, so all I had to go on was Colin's unnerving enthusiasm. If I didn't know any better (and shit, maybe I don't) I'd say he seemed to be taking a perverse, virgin-deflowering approach to the whole situation. Fuck, if I'm already this paranoid, how much worse will it get? How long will this goddamn night be?

Colin cuts off my rapidly derailing thought process with a mumbled question, and since Jeff Buckley is yowling through his car stereo at an epic volume I can't hear him.

"Huh?" I respond, a little too attentively. "Uh, nothing I guess," he says, deflecting something. "Just thinking out loud, man," Colin downshifts before continuing. I notice that his Jeep is crawling along at around 25 and suddenly remember that for some reason he's a complete slug behind the wheel. The song ends and a slower one starts so he turns it down a bit. "Yeah," he says slowly. "I love this album man- this guy's a fucking genius." He begins to tell me all about his new band, the Screaming Mimes, that's been playing tiny coffee-house shows and I have to cut him off cause I really need to know what his question was, like it's gonna take the edge off my night.

"What? Oh right," he says. "I was just wondering why the guys ditched you tonight, dude. I mean, you, Ben, and Jake usually show up together, so I just thought something might be up, like you got kicked you out of bed or something." He smiles weakly, misinterpreting my stare.

"Sorry, sorry-" he continues, now chuckling a bit. "I figure I have a responsibility to find out if there's some internal bitching that might break up the Stones before the big gig, you know?" He laughed a little louder, slightly amused. We were supposed to lip-sync to "Satisfaction" for some lame school activity, and of course Jake (who was to be Jagger) roped us all in for it, including Colin (an "extra bombed-out" Brian Jones, he promised). The fact that it wouldn't be happening 'til March didn't matter- I had to listen to the song a billion times and watch old Ed Sullivan and Ready Steady Go! videos that Jake happened to have in order to become my designated Stone (Charlie Watts). Colin is the only one of us who actually plays an instrument, so he'll let Jake have his show and go along for the ride.

I'm about to tell him I'm saving to get a bass guitar, but then I think he might not be too impressed (since I can't read music) or, worse, ask me what kind (I have no idea, but it's the one Sting has so I know it's uncool), so I revert back to my peremptory abandonment by the erstwhile Biggest Band in the World. "I don't know what's up with those guys sometimes," I say. "These days I don't know if I'm in or out- not like I worry about it or anything- but Jake is on his whole Homecoming King trip and Ben seems to be in on that too- did you know they smuggled in a dozen beachballs to the game last week that all said "Jake for King" on them?- and aside from the generally cool feel of fuckupedness that we always whip up I'm kinda not into this whole student-council-crashing super-coup they're trying to pull off." I stop, thinking maybe I said too much. Oh well.

"Yeah, man," says Colin, distractedly. Guess he wasn't listening. Cool. "Hey," he suddenly starts up as we finally roll into the Crown Valley stoplight (after what seemed an eternity). "Hear about next week's game?" he asks. Colin on football? "No, don't think so," I offer.

"This intersection just reminded me of it," he explains, and before I can give him a well-placed come again? face he goes on, "Nicole Brown Simpson's old place is in Monarch Bay that way." He points to the left. "O.J. bought it for her, I think." His lip curls. "Wonder if she used it for the love shack," he says before making a right turn. "What's that got to do with the game?" I ask. Might as well fill up the slow drive with something, even if it is about this shit. I can't stand hearing about it all day, every day but apparently someone does. Then I remember that Nicole went to our high school.

"She was a, uh..." Colin drawls, "Homecoming princess, I think. Not even the queen, but since next weekend's Homecoming the media's making a thing out of it and so Hard Copy is coming to the game and the school's shooting off fireworks above the floats at halftime and the whole thing's shaping up to be a fucking circus, man, so security's gonna be tighter than your asshole." He winks. "Maybe we oughtta tell Jake about it."

"Oh, I'm sure he's thought of, like, a ton of non-lethal acts of domestic terror," I say. "I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to tell us about them all in the presence of many impressionable women that are all hotter than the sun."

"Totally," he agrees, laughing again. "I guess I should be sober enough to scoop them up when he loses them!"

"Yeah, man," I reply. "I just hope my sorry baked ass won't hold all your attention tonight. You gotta be up on this if you want to snag someone like Alicia. You know that I asked her out and got denied?" Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing, you fool? Admitting every crash and burn was not on the agenda for this evening!

"What?" he asks, coming back from somewhere else a little too obliviously. Oh shit, I realize, he's driving stoned. No wonder we've already aged three years in this damn Jeep.

"Ah, forget it, Derek" he says. "I know for a fact she's into Jake. No clue why, though," he sniffs. "Dude's passing off his whole routine as himself when it's just recycled Carlin lines. Nice guy though, I guess."

Gee, Colin's such a charming insightful person, I think. Too bad his new band sucks in spite of his fantastic ability and he knows it. Triple- A radio covers of Counting Crows are not stepping stones to king-hell fame and fortune (but then, neither is Sting, dumbass). Still, he eventually catches up with my previous gripes and turns off Buckley to say something else, but the radio immediately blares Cracker's song about pot, and Colin, startled, laughs knowingly, subsequently yelling the rest of the song (emphasizing the chorus with wild glances at me- "Hey! Hey, hey like being STONED!") as the Jeep begins its long climb up Pacific Island toward my date with an assuredly asymmetrical immediate future.

July 03, 2003

A Slow Climb to Dangerous Altitudes

The view is glorious up here, but I can’t really focus on that too well right now. I pass Cody the joint, saying “we’re probably gonna get busted for even being here, dude,” but he just shrugs.

“Better trespassing than a possession rap, Aaron.” I laugh at this and shoot back “That’s your problem,” but Cody’s just as quick. He’s all “Oh, it’s your problem now too, dumbass,” waving what used to be my sixty bucks in front of my face, before taking another toke. He grimaces. “Hmmm, maybe I ripped you off, man. This stuff isn’t that great after all.” I smirk and say “How about I take my money back then, asshole?”

“No, that’s your problem now too, okay? Get rid of it if you hate it so much. Toss it in what’s left of burned-out Laguna Beach, you chickenshit fag.” I tell Cody to fuck off but he just laughs like he’s in on some massive inside joke and I’m not, and then he takes himself and my money back to his Beemer and speeds down Talavera. I wait a while before moving. The sun beats down and I try to go carefully, watching out for poison oak. Dealing with that shit would just add another vicious insult to an already injury-prone year.

It began this summer, when my sister and I were at my dad’s place in San Gabriel. We’d met his new girlfriend and I thought she was okay at the time, I guess, but I don’t remember much else about her because there seemed to be so much more going on. There was an earthquake out in the desert, and though it didn’t level everything in L.A., it was still pretty bad.

It had happened at around four in the morning, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Not out of fear, but because the damn futon had what felt like only a half-inch of cushion, and it was so painful to sleep on that I took my pillow to the only spot of open floor in the tiny living room. I put on my headphones but the radio sucked, and the only tape I had was Zooropa so I played it over and over until I fell asleep again.

I didn’t wake up until eleven-thirty the next morning, jolted into consciousness by the sound of the blender my dad was using to make another weird fruit-veggie-health-whatever smoothie. He asked if I wanted one but I said no, and went over to play Shufflepuck on the Mac Classic. Dad turned on KLOS, but Breakfast with the Beatles was already over, so there was nothing to distract him from asking me about my girlfriend, Alison, and when he’d get to meet her.

I said I wasn’t sure, cause she’s at cheer camp all this summer in Santa Barbara, but she hates it and might quit, so maybe I could tell her to stop by on her way home. He said “Well, let’s hope so son.” I hated it when he called me “son” and not “Aaron.” Did I ever call him “Mr. Haynes?” Fuck no, because that’s what his students and everyone else at school called him, even that asshole superintendent who thought being cool equaled wearing three shades of brown.

Later I helped Dad wash the Explorer, and I got kinda bent when he said that Mom didn’t make Amy and me do enough chores, but I got over that a few hours later when he let me practice driving it. It was kind of fun freaking him out by almost tearing through a picket fence off Foothill and then making like I was gonna clip his mailbox. I could tell he was really worried, but he just said “No wonder you didn’t get your license on the second try.”

I did get it eventually, though, later in August when I came back home, and that was handy cause I wouldn’t need Ali to drive me everywhere. Even better, I wouldn’t have to walk down the hill to work and then need Mom to pick me up afterwards. She was never too keen on us being out late at night, and sometimes I’d have to work after hours to earn some extra scratch for Prom or whatever.

I was almost eighteen and tired of Mom’s leash, though, so sometimes I would lie about working late and then go pick up Ali with my mom’s car. We’d drive up the Pacific Island hill behind her house and walk the trail after dark, and our parents never found out.

It was always so quiet up there, and no one else seemed to know about it—both plusses when seeking a prime make-out location. We were lucky to get to it when it was still routinely deserted, though, because after the fire everyone was paranoid about arson, and the cops stepped up their patrols, making a point to check the hilltop twice a night.

Admittedly that made sense, especially when I went up there a few days after the fire and slipped by a roadblock on Talavera to get a close-up view of the destruction. The air smelled like death, and when I got to the hill’s edge and looked out over Aliso Canyon, I could barely see the lights from Laguna Beach on the other side; most residents had temporarily fled the area until the blaze was subdued.

On my way back to the to the car that day, I’d run right into two cops and a fire crew as they were showing up to catalogue the debris. I was threatened with arrest if I didn’t leave immediately, and they didn’t seem to like my half-true reason to be there—my girlfriend lived off Pacific Island—so I bailed and didn’t come back until tonight. I’d told Cody that I didn’t think it was such a good idea to meet up here, no matter how good his weed was. He’d said it would be too risky anywhere else, and besides, anyone would be able to smell it on us unless we stayed outside for a while.

Cody was gone now, though, and most of my paranoia had left with him. There’s still some daylight left, so I decide to stay up here on the peak and use up my fair share of it.

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