Today I have organized my tape cassettes. Who still has tape cassettes? Am I so old now as to refuse to move forward with all of this new technology? Am I holding onto the past? But look! Here I’ve found my copy of the Ramones album, Brain Drain. I bought this tape at Streetside Records, probably in 1995, back when there was such a place, back when Vintage Vinyl wasn’t the only record store on Delmar, in University City. Back when there were gutter punks and squatters begging for spare change by “The Wall”, and there was a liquor store going in the direction towards Skinker, and there was an exotic pet shop with a big picture window, and there was a sad little monkey, wearing a diaper, displayed in that picture window. I seem to remember that is masturbated often.
I bought Brain Drain, as well as The Sky’s Gone Out, by Bauhaus, and London Calling, by The Clash. It was raining that night. One of the shop workers was playing a Steely Dan album, filling the shop with jazzy classic rock. I love classic rock, and the guy was mildly impressed that a silly kid in combat boots, a Cure t-shirt, and black lipstick listened to Steely Dan. I felt so cool. I was spending my first paycheck. I don’t remember where it was from now, because I have worked so many different jobs just so I could have a cool music collection, stompy boots, and comic books.
I can’t talk about Delmar without mentioning Meshuggah, that U-City staple. I remember when it was a grade C hole in the wall down that side street by Vintage Vinyl, and it was filled with gothy type kids wearing The Dead Can Dance t-shirts, and ripped fishnets, and the inevitable cloud of smoke from their clove cigarettes. Now Meshuggah resides on the main drag, it’s non-smoking, and filled with rich hipster kids in fashionably worn out name brand jeans, dicking around on their fancy phones and tablets. I don’t go there very much anymore. The coffee never tasted the same after Patrick replaced the old espresso machine. I don’t know why, but I loved that espresso machine. It was loud, and eaten away at the corners with rust, and one of the knobs was missing, so someone who worked there replaced it with a block of wood. The espresso that came out of that semi-automatic machine was heaven, and the house coffee at Meshuggah was, and still is, americano.
I don’t have The Sky’s Gone Out anymore. I left it in my ex-girlfriends car. She wrecked that car while picking up some heroin for us one icy cold night in January in 2013 or 2014. I can’t remember. I was really high for a while. I was a heroin addict for ten years, on and off, if I’m honest with myself about it. Sure, I took breaks here and there, but I always came back to it, until it happened that, one day, I found I couldn’t put it down because I was dope sick, and then I needed it.
We never think that all of the years are going to compress inside of our heads, and that the memories are going to overlap, some of them amalgamating, and then you’re not certain, but you know that it happened “something like that”. Some memories shine and shimmer if they are happy ones, until sadness touches them, and all of the light swirls away as the inky darkness of depression, and loneliness overcomes the memory of that moment, and I wonder about who I used to be.
I feel as though I’m always trying to get Her back. That Me from the past, the person I was,who now seems to be more authentic than the person I am. We clutch at one another as all of the never forever’s of life yank us apart, and I feel like a bad mother who has lost her child because she was a neglectful, and abusive parent.
The dissolution of this relationship, the dissolution of that relationship, a terrible childhood filled with rejection from my peers, parents who didn’t give two licks off of a rolling doughnut what I did, or where I was, ten years of heroin addiction, colon cancer, and now I shit in a bag that dangles from my abdomen, and I don’t have a rectum because Becky took up her unwanted residence there, so I had her evicted. Yes. I named my tumor Becky. There were actually two tumors, but I can only remember the name of one of them, and besides, Becky was a big girl; between 13, and 14 centimeters she was, and she almost killed me.
Where is square one now? Where do I begin again, because I am so very tired, tired of selfish lovers, and tired of living in my head.
But my tape cassettes! Oh look, here is The Mission UK, The Legendary Pink Dots, Morrissey, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Fall, Erasure, Berlin, Meatloaf, and that mixtape that boy made me when I was in high school. It’s mostly Depeche Mode songs. Look at all of this music. It’s my past, and it got me to the future.
The dining room in my house has been converted into a painting studio, because I am an artist, an expressionist extraordinaire. I went to art school, but I never finished. I can seldom finish anything save a really good blowjob, a book, or a passionate thought. There is a mattress on the floor of my painting studio, because sometimes I have to sleep where I’m working, it keeps me connected.
I curl up in a fetal position on this mattress, and I want to cry, but I don’t cry. I can nevercry when I want to, when I feel I have to, but then I’ll cry in the strangest places, and in the most inappropriate situations, and my friends will back away slowly into the shadows, like they did when I had cancer, because no one wants to be that close to death, or reminded of how fragile they are.
I want someone to hold me now. In the last relationship I was in, I seldom wanted this with him, Gabriel. It was never about just holding me, it was about dominating me, making me uncomfortable, and groping me in ways I had asked him time and time again not to do because he would do things that would trigger me. Besides, seldom do I want to cuddle anyway. Men always have to make it about sex, when sometimes all I want is to feel safe from the cacophony of monsters within my mind. But then again, if I like you well enough that I allow you to hold me whilst in a horizontal position, your chances that I will want to have sex with you are pretty good, just not all of the time. And if I do happen to have sex with you, expect to be made to leave soon after. I like making my sex partners leave when I’m done, because sometimes it’s the only power I have after something that leaves me feeling unfulfilled and empty, and besides, it’s my bed, and it’s my house, so I make the rules.
I just want to be held in this moment. Held, and kissed. I’m not as much of a hard ass as I pretend to be. It’s just that I have seldom gotten what I wanted, perhaps because I don’t work hard enough, or maybe I’m just not a very lucky person. Or maybe I don’t get what I want because I want it too much, and desperation is always ugly, especially if you’re plain looking, and weird on top of it all.
So now I try to act as if I don’t care. I’ve been doing this for a while, so long in fact that it has sometimes been a reality. It is a labyrinth through briar, and bramble that leads to the interiors of my thistle heart, and my heart is sometimes a dangerous place to be. It’s an ugly festering wound I tell you; my life has not gone well, and I feel as though I have lost more than I have gained.
My collection of ancient, and mostly warped, cassette tapes, with their crinkled, water damaged, and sun faded sleeve inserts, and cracked jewel cases, (if I still have those) are organized alphabetically on an old wooden shelf beside the mattress where I am curled up, a rumpled lump of gothy black attire. I am almost always dressed this way; long swishy swirly skirts that kiss the floor, with tops that are either very tight, or flouncy. I’m all gypsy style, like Stevie Nicks, but with a head of wavy umber tresses that are almost always messy. My skin is pale, and my eyes are that grey colour that reflects surrounding light, and people always ask me, “What colour are your eyes?” and I answer, “Kaleidoscope”. I like to think that I’m pretty, but I’m never the first person anyone ever notices, unless I’m misbehaving, so I have misbehaved an awful lot, and I’m thinking about this as I reach up, and pull my shelf of cassettes tapes down on top of me, and all of this music comes crashing down around my head.
Why is my past still here? Everywhere I go, is everywhere that I have been, and all has changed. All is changing always, but I remember what was there, and those memories are ghosts that walk before, and behind me, and I can’t get away from them, like when I got gang raped behind an abandoned building near the newly rehabbed Tivoli Theater, sometime in the mid 90’s. I was 17, so it must have been 1996, and it was springtime, so I had just turned 17, and I was still in high school.
It was four of those spare changing, squatters. Those crusty gutter punks who actually do have homes, the ones who are just knocking around for the fun of it, sporting dirty Crass t-shirts. I knew them from “The Wall”, which is what it sounds like, just this wall by a pathway leading to a parking lot that was situated between Fitz’s, and Brandt’s. Brandt’s is gone, The Wall is gone, but Fitz’s remains. All the kids hung out there, playing guitar, tripping on acid, smoking weed, and drinking underage, and I was right in the middle of it all, usually with sidewalk chalk, drawing hopscotches, and actually playing the game like a child in a school yard, accept I was usually tipsy, or stoned at the very least, or, if I was lucky, tripping balls on acid.
I knew who these guys were, the boys who raped me, and I remember that at some point, we were joined by another girl. I remember she was very thin, and sallow in the face, she had a full Chelsea, that silly haircut skinhead girls like to have, and she had a tattoo of flames around one of her wrists. I don’t remember her name, I don’t remember any of their names, but they didn’t have names, they had nick names, like Sperm, Hipster, Corpse…names like that. If I knew their actual names, I would name them all now, but I don’t. I don’t even remember their faces that well, it was so long ago.
These boys were not strangers, as we had loitered about together before, and they all called me Nancy because of my punky goth look, and green lipstick. On this warm spring afternoon, I was on a mission to continue improving my record collection, so I bought a vinyl copy of Some Girls Wander By Mistake by The Sisters of Mercy. It strikes me as funny that I can’t remember the names of those boys, but I remember that it was warm, and that I was wearing a Sisters of Mercy t-shirt, paired with fringed jean shorts, torn fishnets, and combat boots, as well as obscene amounts of black eyeliner, and green lipstick. It’s odd what we remember as time passes, and memory is progressively obscured by time.
I don’t remember how it all happened, but I was the one with most of the money, as I had just gotten paid, so we tromped up Delmar to the liquor store that isn’t there any more, loitered around until this bum named Uncle Ronnie agreed to buy us some booze, and off we went to the back yard of this abandoned building where we commenced to chasing cheap whiskey with Colt 45, and I was cross eyed wasted in no time.
Then it happened, and I don’t know why. We were laughing, and talking, and telling crude jokes as the sun dipped in the horizon, when all of a sudden I became the subject of everyone’s scorn because of my Sisters of Mercy t-shirt, and record, and that other girl was leading it all, when up to that point, she’d be silent. The shift was palpable, and suddenly I was terrified. I clutched my precious record to my chest, and swaying to my feet, I stumbled toward the alleyway behind the building, because it was just a turn, and I’d be on Delmar again, but I was stopped before I could wade out of the knee high weeds, and it’s all so blurry now, but there are things that I remember that are bright, and real, and I’m there again.
It was one of those lovely sunsets that turns the world to fire, and the sky was clear of any clouds, I know this because this is where I turned my focus. The record was snatched from me, and they played Frisbee with it for a moment, before smashing it on the cobbles of the alleyway. There was a dumpster, and beside the dumpster was a mattress amid more weeds. This is where they took me. I remember them saying that they were going to have a circle jerk, and cum all over my hair, and that other girl, she was laughing. They were all laughing, like this was some sort of a game, like this was funny, and all the while, my head was spinning, I was seeing double images of the sky and the trees above me, and I couldn’t fight because I was far too gone with the alcohol by this point, and I knew what was going to happen, and I knew I couldn’t stop it, and I felt very sick.
Then they stripped me from the waist down, and fucked me, and jacked off on my face, and into my hair, the whole time laughing as though they were at a carnival, and that girl, she just watched, and flung insults, and laughed with them. I was not silent mind you, I was sobbing those deep loud hoarse cries that come up from your belly, the kind that hurt after a while, but you can’t stop, you want to, but you can’t. They made fun of the fact that I was crying, as they tucked themselves in, and tossed my cloths to me. It was almost as if they were proud of themselves.
Everyone then collapsed together on that dirty mattress in the weeds, and passed out. I awoke sometime later, and my stomach let loose. One of those boys woke up with me. When I was done being sick, he grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me over to a fire escape, which he forced me up, mostly dragging me, because I was still inebriated, and plagued with double vision, until we reached the roof of a building.
It was dark, the street lights were on, and the Tivoli Theater sign cast an eerie neon orange glow on his face. He had a beard, and pimples. All the shops were closed, and the street was quiet save for that sporadic after midnight traffic. Everything sounded muted for some reason, and my head was pounding, and ringing, as he grabbed me by my hair, and forced his penis down my throat, and I gagged, and got sick again. He thought that this was hilarious, and he called me a gross bitch. Suddenly I felt very sober, and I bolted up right, but he was bigger, and stronger than me, and he pinned me down. This time I found my voice, and I said no. I said stop. I said don’t do this to me. I said let me go, and all the while he was fucking me, and mimicking what I said in a high pitched voice, and laughing. Then came the sobs again, and as before, I was mocked for my tears, and begging.
When he was done with me, he got up, and left. I sat there on the chilly cement for a moment before waves of nausea hit my stomach, and I was vomiting yet again, but this is what comes of chasing whiskey with Colt 45. It was too late to catch the train home, so I clambered to my feet, and stepped, unsteadily, down the fire escape, and went back to the smelly mattress by the dumpster in the weeds. The one with the beard was gone, being now replaced by a pregnant black woman perched on the edge of the mattress, smoking a crack pipe. I sat down next to her. She offered me a hit, but I declined. The skinhead girl had a knapsack with her, which the crackhead commenced to pilfering, but all she found was a pair of cutoff jean shorts stained with menstrual blood. The crackhead left. I leaned up against the dumpster, and looked at the sky, and the trees all covered in light green leaf buds, and soft fluffy white flowers that emitted the sweetest smell, and I closed my eyes, but I did not sleep. I was still so sick and dizzy, and everything felt like a dream in that moment, like it wasn’t even me that this had happened too.
I could hear the traffic picking up, and I opened my eyes. The streetlights were winking off, and the sky was periwinkle. The train would be running, and I wasn’t so intoxicated that I couldn’t walk, and that’s just what I did. I walked away, and I never said a word about what really happened to me that day when I was 17 until now, and I will be 37 on the 25th of February, this year, 2016.
For twenty years this story has been sitting inside of me, begging for me to set it free, but I have never talked about it, not really. I have alluded to it, but I have never said all of it, because it’s so hard to talk about being violated in this way. I honestly thought for so many years that what happened to me was my fault. I remember my mother telling me that if you ever get drunk with men you don’t know, don’t be surprised if you get raped. If you ever pass out drunk next to a man, don’t be surprised if you wake up with him on top of you. So you see how I would have thought that it was my fault? If this is what my mother, and maybe a lot of mothers, have told their daughters, can you imagine what boys have been told? It’s utter fucking garbage.
I was gang raped, and it was not my fault, and what they did was wrong. A victim of a violent act is not accountable for anything perpetrated upon them. Yes, I was a bad girl, and I hung with a sketchy crew, but that doesn’t matter, because rape is never justifiable. I own my body, and never, under any circumstances, does anyone have the right to touch me anywhere without my consent.
When I got home that morning after I was raped, the first thing I did was take a shower. I remember that there was dried up semen in my hair. Despite what has happened to me, I am a very sensual person, I love sex, I am bisexual, I do role sexual role play, and I have some interesting kinks, however, if a man ejaculates on my hair, I get pissed. I get angry, I will yell and scream, and destroy any afterglow he might have been hoping for, and this is why; the crunchy semen I had to scrub out of my hair after I was gang raped. A few weeks later, I had crab lice, and I decided to do the most responsible thing I could think of, and I got myself tested for any STD’s. I was clean, except for the crab lice, and that was easy enough to fix.
In 2005 I was at the Jade Room with my boyfriend at the time. His name was Scott. Scott is dead, because that’s what happens when you’re a heroin addict who refuses to quit; you die. I had just slammed my fifth, or sixth Screaming Nazi, because nothing tastes better than Jagger and Rumplemintz mixed together in your mouth, (the next best thing being an Irish Car Bomb, which is half a pint of Guinness with a shot glass of Baileys at the bottom, the goal being to chug it before the Baileys curdles, and it is delicious indeed). And through my blurred and double vision, I saw a wrist, with a flame tattooed on it, peeking out from under the sleeve of a dark grey pea coat. My eyes traveled slowly then, up to a thin sallow face, bearing a pinched, and bored expression, and a shaved head. My mind was racing, and my face was numb from the quarter gram of coke I’d just inhaled through a dollar bill in the ladies room, and suddenly, I was spoiling for a fight. Our eyes met, and held, and wouldn’t you know, I was wearing green lipstick that night, having channeled Nina Hagen for the evening. She recognized me, and I her. Slowly, I leaned forward, and spit in her drink, her drink then met with my face, and Scott was dragging me out the door. I think that Scott and I got into a fist fight that night, we were passionate like that, and I bet a lot of people who knew him would be surprised to hear that he had no qualms about slapping the fuck out of me from time to time, but I dished it out too, and I don’t hold any grudges about that. Besides, cocaine mixed with heroin in a syringe does really crazy things to your brain, and all of them are bad.
These are the things I am thinking about in 2016, as I gather my tape cassettes into my arms, and pull them to me. I know where I bought them all, and we have a very close relationship, and think that some of them are actually dead, but I keep them all the same, I love them so. I have no one to snuggle with, so I will snuggle with my tape collection.
The future is happening all around me, but I don’t feel as though I have one, so I will hold on to my torrid past.