Doahs, Hangovers, and Balls of Fluff (first two pages of Chapter 8)

During high school (and after) I used to party a lot. One time, that parting led to me bringing home a dog.

When I was about 3-years-old, my parents informed me they were getting me a puppy.

The only thing I cared about was naming it Lassie. Male or female, Chihuahua or Great Dane, bald or fluffy: I was naming it Lassie.

(From what I’m told, Lassie was my favorite show, my favorite dog, my favorite living thing in the entire world. My grandfather often used to tease me and say, “Lassie is a boy!” to which I would get deeply offended and respond, “Lassie is a doah!” — pronounced ‘doe-uh’; for some reason that is how my toddler mouth spat out the word ‘girl’.)

My parents brought home an adorable brown and cream-colored German Shepherd/Lab mix. She was hyper and clumsy. I wrapped her up in my 101 Dalmatians sleeping bag and cuddled her on the living room floor. We played and wrestled; she pounced and nipped and I hugged and giggled.

And then my parents said, “This is Lady.”

Lady?! She wasn’t a “Lassie dog” so they couldn’t name her Lassie. (I think my parents need to go back to elementary school and learn the difference between couldn’t and wouldn’t.) They were breed-discriminating.

I made a big fuss and eventually got over it. Kind of. I’m still a bit bitter, but I loved Lady nonetheless. We began the tumultuous process of growing up together.

And then, slowly, Lady started spending more time in “her room” (the laundry room), and less time in the house with us. She was my dog, but I was still too young to really contribute to taking care of her. I couldn’t be tasked with remembering to give her food or water; I couldn’t walk her; I couldn’t make sure she had no accidents or clean them up if she did. And I wasn’t the one who vacuumed up her shedding hair, mopped her tracked-in dirt, or cut her dagger-like nails.

And then my dad bought a big pen for outside, put a doghouse in it, and she spent most of her days out there. And still, I wasn’t the one who cleaned up her pile of waste in the corner. Her baths became less frequent.

And then she spent all of her days in the pen, and all of her nights in her room. I always went to the door to pet her or give her treats — to assure her she was still loved — but we drifted apart as I made friends and discovered the phone and internet and cable.

And then, when I was 16, Lady died.

If you haven’t figured it out, Lady was not my love at first sight story. Although I did love her dearly, and looking back I wish either I had the sense to take better care of her, or my parents had the sense to teach me. (I think it’s safe to say we can share the blame.)

After my one and only dog’s death, I used every aspect of the devastation to my advantage. I had moved to my mother’s about 2 years earlier, so my involvement was simply a phone call from my dad telling me the news (knowing him, it was probably weeks later — he didn’t tell me about my grandfather’s funeral until I had already missed it). But it did hit me pretty hard, and I played the part well. I had already convinced myself I was going to get another dog, I just had to convince my parents.


Not all Prisoners are the Criminals in your Imagination

[Throwback Thursday — Originally published April 2014. Also part of a chapter in my memoir.]

Obviously, there are many ways to avoid getting arrested. But in reality, anything can happen. And to attack these people when you are utterly unaware of their side of the story, or the unbiased truth; to attack the people they love and who love them back, well, that’s not very humane at all. These people are hurting. They don’t need judgmental glances and gossip talked behind their backs; they need support and under-standing. Why have we become so incapable of that?

Photo Credit: Article Author: Arturo Castellanos

Photo Credit:

I love someone who is incarcerated. Actually, I love several people who are incarcerated — three, to be exact, and I’m sure I care about even more on a personal level, and probably more than half on a human level.

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Drugs, Drugs, and Drugs (first two pages of Chapter 7)

I first smoked weed (the wrong way) when I was fourteen. But then a few months after that I did it the right way.

Even the first time I must have gotten at least a little high, because I remember banging on the wax drums at the candle shop and giggling at everything.

Getting stoned wasn’t really that great of a thing to me. I went through a brief phase when I was around fifteen or sixteen when I smoked a lot, but I never really liked it. I got paranoid, sure, but more paranoid that I wet myself than anything else. I don’t know why but I continuously had this feeling of peeing myself. I never did, but it always felt like I did. That’s not fun, let me tell you. I had to run to the bathroom every few minutes just to make sure nothing had leaked out.

But I did get the munchies and the giggles, so I guess that was worth it. No, no it wasn’t. Being high really wasn’t much fun. Kids, take note.

Then one night I realized I must be allergic to it or something.

I never took more than a few hits, because that was all I needed. But one night I smoked more than that and got really sick. I turned white as a ghost and started throwing up and got the chills. I was supposed to go out that night, undoubtedly to party, but I was instead stuck in bed for the rest of the night while my friend watched over me. It sucked.

After that night I’d like to say that I never smoked again, but that would be a lie. I still went through phases and more would come during which I would smoke every day. But all I did was eat and giggle and feel like I peed myself, and I didn’t see much fun in that so the phases never lasted long.

I sold weed for a while, though, and that was much more fun.

The first time I did coke I was sixteen. I don’t remember my first time or how I felt, which is weird for an addict because we’re supposed to always be chasing our first high, but I simply don’t. I remember other times, and how it made me feel on top of the world. This chapter is probably going to be rife with clichés because that’s what drugs do to you. And that’s how they feel – like clichés. Everything is wonderful until somebody get smashed in the head with a large rock.

I don’t know the whole story. I wasn’t there. But supposedly my friend Duble had stolen a lot of cocaine from our dealer-friend, who turned straight dealer on  us when that happened. Duble, another friend and I were walking down an alley in Ocean City on our way to WaWa one day when Kyle, the dealer, ran up behind Duble and starting smashing his head in with a giant rock. I stood there shocked. It’s not like there was anything I could do anyway, but I still feel bad for not doing it.

Don’t steal drugs, kids. It gets you, at least, a trip to the emergency room. And probably stitches, if you stick around long enough for them to tell you what’s actually wrong with the gash on your head, which Duble didn’t do.

My coke days were glorious, though. I had energy and did stuff and loved everyone. Coming down was a bitch and a half, however, and I fell into an incredibly deep depression every time I ran out.

I started cutting myself to numb the pain of being drugless. Which became a whole other addiction in itself.

Cutting yourself becomes a high. How deep can you go, how many times can you do it, every time seeking that first time feeling of release.

Lesbians, Cocaine, and Dropouts (first two pages of Chapter Six)

During my high school career, I went to three different schools. The first one was ChARTer-tech in Somers Point (one town over from Ocean City), a school for the performing arts (yes, they really emphasized the ART in charter).

You see, I used to be so disillusioned that I thought I was a really good singer. So, for a short period, I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer and decided instead that I would be a rock star.

To get into ChARTer-tech, you needed to audition. There was only enough room for 200 kids in the whole school and there were four different majors (vocal, dance, instrumental, and theater) so they had to make sure you were serious about going there. Sadly, a lot of kids were not serious about going there, they had just gotten kicked out of their home schools and had nowhere else to go. I guess that’s what the audition was supposed to eliminate, but anyone who auditioned got in. You didn’t actually have to be good, as noted by my acceptance.

I was so shy I actually did my audition in the closet of the classroom in which I was supposed to sing. I don’t remember what I sang, but we also had to perform a song every Friday and one time I performed I Love Rock ‘N Roll, but not the good one. The one by Britney Spears when she goes “OW!” after the chorus. I did the “OW!” and all.

I loved ChARTer-tech. I loved my friends there and the teachers and the fact that gym was pretty much just walking around town.

One of my teachers was very supportive of my crazy side and used to let me attend every class hiding under the table. He was my English teacher and we would make fun of how badly the other kids Englished.

ChARTer-tech is also where I met Kim, my first girl love.

Kim was short with light skin and dark hair and was fucking gorgeous. She was there for the instrumental option, and played bass in a band. I immediately developed a crush on her, around the same time I knew for sure I liked women as well as men. When I came out to my mom she told me she had known since I was nine.

Kim used to walk around the halls in these giant goth boots wearing all black with too much makeup. She fit into my attraction to “freaks” perfectly. During this phase of my life, everyone got nicknames. There was Hair Boy (because he had a lot of magnificent hair), Grey Kid (because he only ever wore grey clothes), and Crackrabbit (because the girl acted like a rabbit on crack), among others. But my favorite was Death Girl. Death Girl was Kim. Once we started talking she said she didn’t mean it, but if you passed her in the hall she would give you the scariest looking death glare I’ve ever seen, right through your soul.

She used to pull me off to the side of the hallway and kiss me passionately. We would write notes to each other during biology and share song lyrics and other random nonsense. I was totally smitten.

I met Kim the same time I was dating Jason, Nate’s best friend, but he didn’t mind sharing me with her. So we went on one date.

We went to the movies with her brother and a few of their friends, and a bunch of booze. I took my shoes off and ran around the theater like a maniac. Then Kim and I went into the bathroom and beat up the stalls, just because. Then we got kicked out and went back to her place, where I proceeded to throw up for the rest of the night. When she took me home (she was a year or two older than me), she kissed my forehead, which I found to be the most adorable thing in the world because she was so short.

Almost-Sex, First Kisses, and Real Sex (first two pages of Chapter Five)

I met Nate and Xavier around the same time. Only I don’t remember the first night I ever met Xavier – I only remember the first night we almost had sex.

We all used to hang out at a place called The Pavilion on the boardwalk. It’s where the freaks gathered – the outcasts and lonely and forgotten and stoners and druggies and musicians and anyone else who didn’t fit in to the nice, rich, surfer theme of Ocean City. We scared kids and were the people your parents warned you about. We had blue and purple and green and pink hair and wore trench coats and had piercings we had done ourselves. I met Xavier there.

We had an instant connection. I remember being completely smitten with him, so when he invited me over one night I jumped at the chance to sneak out. Of course, he only wanted sex, but I was so obsessed I was willing to give it to him. So I snuck out and walked the approximately ten blocks to his house in the middle of the night, and met him at his front door. His parents were heavy sleepers, I guess, because he always had people in and out in the middle of the night. I was fourteen and he was sixteen, and had spiky red hair. Come to think of it, I don’t think he wore any colors but red and black for the first few months I knew him.

He invited me in and we started making out on the couch. One of his friends, Mikey, was I believe staying there that night, too, so he asked him for a condom and kicked him out. And I would have lost my virginity that night, hairy vagina and all, only it wouldn’t go in. Eventually we gave up, which was for the best because my actual losing-my-virginity story is much better.

And that’s the story of the beginning of one of my first loves. The other is much more complicated.

I met Nate at that party Chris Gillen and I both attended. A friend named Sarah was having a small get-together before freshman year started and Nate and I were both invited. He was wearing a bowler hat and eating a box of munchkins, which are really just donut holes. He didn’t say a word the entire night, which I later found out was because he was stoned, but we both noticed each other. I was wearing a tight orange shirt and baggy blue pants. It’s funny how I can remember small details like that but not much of the next time we met.

The night of the party I ended up hooking up with someone else – Mike. Mike has a part in this story later on. But for that night Mike and I hooked up and he thought we were dating and it took me a week or so to finally get rid of him. A few weeks after that I was walking or riding my bike down past the Tabernacle, the local church where, for some unknown reason, a bunch of us used to hang out. Nate was also walking or riding his bike (I don’t remember which of us was doing what). One of us was with Gillen. I also don’t remember what we said to each other, but somehow after that we started hanging out. Every. Damn. Day.

Nate fell in love fast, and hard. I wasn’t quite as willing. It took six months for me to finally agree to date him exclusively, after I dated his best friend and he dated mine. But I do remember our first kiss.

We were on the middle bench in the left row, closest to the outside edge. My head rested in his lap as his hand caressed my stomach; he were facing the ocean and I was facing him; his eyes focused on me while I studied a gray button on his shirt.

He bent his body down towards mine. His vampiric teeth bit through the black jelly bracelet on my wrist, which he lifted in your mouth as he straightened his back, slithering the broken strand of soft plastic off my skin and dangling it inches above my lips. Taunting was always his strong suit.