My khakis sagged low, lashed at a downward angle from above my crotch to beneath my butt with a woven leather belt. Grey Timberland sweatshirt over a blue Oxford shirt. Red cup clutched to my chest. A Milwaukee Brewers hat perched precariously on top of my head. Jerry Spinelli had bought the hat thinking it was a retro Mariners hat. When I’d informed him otherwise, he no longer wanted it and had sold it to me for only five bucks. I was quite proud of it. Older boys kept trying to steal it from me at the party, playing keep-away with me. ‘Mal was the worst of them. He had come to the party with a very pretty girl. Brunette hair tinted red. Tan Skin. A necklace of light up plastic chili pepper beads flashing on and off around her neck. We kept making eye contact throughout the evening but I thought nothing of it. I was terrified of Mal, but at the same time I wanted to be like him, albeit less of a douchebag. When I say I wanted to be like him, I mean that I wanted to command respect like he did. I guess I confused fear with respect at the time, but it was a moot point. Whatever “it” was, it afforded him the ability to get what he wanted, when he wanted it. I craved that more than anything ; to walk through my life without fear of being picked on. Not that I was picked on in the classical sense. People just didn’t respect me the way I wanted to be respected. I wanted desperately to prove them wrong.
Mal pulled a blank CD from the vertical chest pocket of his puffy, black down jacket. “Tupac” was scrawled on the CD face in black Sharpie. The music stopped abruptly as he hit the eject button on the CD player. He removed the CD and set it on top of the stereo sans case before replacing it with his Tupac CD. The opening notes of “How Do You Want It” blared from the speakers. Mal screwed up his face in a goofy manner, biting his lip and said,
“Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!”
Mal proceeded to mouth along to the lyrics of the song before sitting down on the couch and carefully splitting open a Swisher Sweet cigar with his bare thumbs. A friend of his had already broken down sticky clumps of marijuana into a heaping, crumbled pile on top of a magazine on the coffee table.
I was very drunk, and I careened from group to group, though I was trying very hard to maintain my composure. The whole point of getting drunk was to get drunk and stay as composed as possible; at least that was what I thought at the time. That was being savage, wasn’t it? In addition to the beer, I had been taking swigs of Bacardi Limon, which from our perspective was the height of a classy drink. I had tunnel vision, but I was nowhere near the puking stage. I could avoid that if I made the switch back to drinking only beer, which I did.
It seemed that none of the girls my age were interested in any of the boys my age. They all were interested in the ‘03 boys. Except for Veronica, who blew Allan Lee in the shower, but that happened at every house party so it didn’t count. Plus Veronica blew everybody at one point or another; my own encounters with her were still a distant two summers away. This just seemed to be the way the cookie crumbled for me at this stage in my life, and I did not let myself become resentful in the way that I would deal with rejection whilst inebriated in the future.
Fag Brandon, who everyone called FB even though he was not gay, sat behind a flat of Natural Ice 16 oz tall cans, grinning and drinking from a can of beer. He’d inherited his nickname from Fag Andy, his older brother, who also was not gay (I think), just unfortunate enough to have that nickname bestowed on him. He nodded his head to the music. He had his arm around a girl from my class. Her body was pressed against his side and she looked up at him with wide eyes. Fag Brandon indeed.
Rob Lutz had an older brother named Trevor Lutz, nicknamed T-Bone. Unlike Rob, T-Bone had not been fortunate enough to receive the benefit of Seattle public schooling. Compared to us he was quite country, although to someone actually from the country, he would’ve surely seemed quite urban having grown up in a large suburb north of Seattle. T-Bone wore lots of Fox Racing clothes, and if he did not have any tribal tattoos at this point, he would be sure to have some in the near future. Bad ones. The fact that he was a Golden Glove boxer kept coming up in conversations throughout the night. I think this started with Rob bragging about his brother and progressed to people asking one another in hushed tones “Did you hear about Rob’s brother? He’s a Golden Glove boxer.” I did not know what a Golden Glove boxer was at the time; in fact I’m not sure what it means to this day. I thought it to mean he was a champion of some sort. Cody was 19 and seemed infinitely older than anyone else at the party, at least to me. He had a small entourage of friends his age at the party, and they held court with him and his mother by the keg in the kitchen, occasionally escaping to the porch to smoke marijuana.
The majority of the partygoers were Roosevelt High School students who were only there because it was a place to drink on New Year’s Eve. They were arranged on a spectrum that ranged from preppy future collegiate types to full-blown wiggers; a spectrum on which I rested somewhere in the middle. Even the more straight-laced kids affected African American slang and mannerisms as they became more intoxicated, which in retrospect is pretty offensive. Mal held court over the wigger faction, singing along to the rap lyrics booming from the stereo. T-Bone walked over to change the CD on the stereo.
“Don’t touch the fucking stereo!” Mal barked.
“It’s my fucking house, fuck-o, I’m sick of this crap!” Said T-Bone
“Well that’s my disc, and if you touch it you’re going to have problems.”
Mal stood up. The partygoers froze in anticipation.
T-Bone ignored Mal, took out the disc, dropped it on the ground and crushed it beneath his foot.
“What the fuck, fag?”
Mal said, as he made a move towards T-Bone. He didn’t make it far. T-Bone and Rob’s mom ran screaming from the kitchen “NO FIGHTING!”. Too late, T-Bone was a whirl of punches. Before I could tell what was happening, Mal had fallen butt-first into the plate glass coffee table, shattering it. He sat on a pile of a broken glass with his legs sticking awkwardly out the top of the metal frame. He looked confused, his hat had fallen off and his hair was sticking up in places. T-Bone stood over him and said,
“Now get the fuck out of my house.”
“Alright, dog, give me a second.”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF OUR HOUSE!” yelled Rob’s mom.
Mal gingerly picked himself up off the broken coffee table. He brushed away any stray shards of glass that may have been clinging to his clothing. None of the glass had injured him. He picked up his hat from the floor and slouched angrily towards the stairwell to the door, he shouted at the beautiful red head girl,
“YO, RACHEL, LET’S GO!”
She stood with a group of her girlfriends, red chili pepper beads flashing on and off, and said,
“No, I’m gonna stay, I’ll get a ride home with one of my friends.”
“Rachel! I said LET’S GO!”
“I’m not the one who got kicked out of the party.” she said, pointing an accusatory finger at Mal. They stared each other down. She cocked her head as if to say “Now what?”. Mal shook his head before pointing from the bottom of the stairs at T-Bone and saying,
“This ain’t over, Dog.”, before walking out the door and slamming it behind him.
T-Bone and his friends cracked up laughing, mimicking Mal.
“THIS AIN’T OVER, DOG!”
I thought the whole thing was hilarious myself and spent the last few hours of 2002 explaining drunkenly to anyone who would listen about the irony of a kid from the city named Mal getting beat up by a kid from the country named T-Bone. Lynwood constituted “country” for me at the time.
“Don’t you see the irony, dude, it’s like two clichés colliding with each other.” I would finish up, laughing.
Fag Brandon started the countdown to the New Year, rising from his seat at the table, now littered with empty beer cans, girl still entwined in his arms. The party shouted back with him.
I was standing in the kitchen. Rachel, the girl Mal had brought with him, was standing directly in front of me, her red chili pepper beads flashing. We made eye contact.
She looked very pretty, even sensual with her midriff exposed. Her dyed red hair was pulled back at an angle in a pony-tail. I couldn’t read the expression on her face, but she was still staring me dead in the eyes.
I smiled at her. The corners of her lips twitched slightly upwards into a barely perceptible smile.
I didn’t know what to do so I smiled broader and stepped towards her.
I now stood directly in front of her. She was a private school girl a year or two older than me. Fear flashed through my brain. Fear of the ribbing I would get if I were to have misread Rachel’s body language and were to be coldly rejected in front of everyone. Fear of repercussions from Mal in regards to kissing (or trying to kiss) his date for the night, even though he was long gone.
I moved closer and took a sip of my beer.
I put my hand on her hip. She did not brush it away, or recoil in disgust.
In fact, she moved closer.
“1…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”
I leaned in and kissed her, and she kissed me back passionately. Then it was over. She gently wiped her lips off, smiled, and walked away.
I stood there, elated. I felt like a king. It didn’t even occur to me pursue it any farther. It did eventually, but not then. It was a perfectly formed moment in time. I looked over at Fag Brandon sloppily making out with the girl from my class. Rachel was back with her friends already. I cocked my head at her, and she made eye contact with me again briefly before looking away. I didn’t know what to do, so I walked up to the keg, and filled my cup.