By our best estimations it had been nearly 34 years since we had last spoken. That would place the year at 1986 and our ages at approximately 15. We had been the best of friends for one summer, as if often the case in high school. I believe that we met at our summer jobs in the mall. Although it may have been more of a full-time gig for me as I was enrolled in the fucked-up kids, distance learning program and spent my school days working. Nonetheless, our paths crossed and we became unlikely friends. I say that because I do believe that we shared a boyfriend at one point.
If I am not mistaken, we were coworkers and after a weekend of partying, I returned to work to find out that the guy I had hooked up with had a girlfriend, who was, you guessed it, my new coworker. I can say with assurance that it was not intentional on my part. As I type this, I am vaguely recalling an incident between us at a party where she confronted me about the overlap. It was short lived because she was very intoxicated and I was very prone to well-documented, violent outbursts back then. She had requested to punch me, which I had agreed to, but warned that I would fuck her up after she took that first swing. As all of this was taking place during a toga party, several girls wrapped in sheets drunkenly encouraged her to back down, pulling her away, disappearing back into the depths of the merriment from whence they’d come.
Probably because we were coworkers, or perhaps because we shared the circumstance of being sequestered to the vast desert, we became pals, for a while. From what I recall, there was much carousing and all sorts of trouble. I would guesstimate that our friendship lasted only that summer, and from what we discussed today, I am probably correct. Lots of hours spent roaming the dark, and oftentimes dangerous, streets of downtown Palm Springs.
In this day and age of constant connectivity and hanging out in the high school lunchroom again, I mean Facebook, I must admit to not being super excited at the thought of reconnecting with old classmates. The novelty of that wore off by about 2008. I have tried to connect via social media, but I have found the performative nature of the medium itself to be less than satisfying. Sharing constant, but not connected updates with people I did not naturally stay in contact with (e.g. there was a reason we drifted apart) is an annoyance to which I no longer allot any bandwidth.
Oddly, ‘twas The Socials that connected me with this old chum. We were eventually able to hook up for a proper phone chat and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by the interaction. As we filled each other in on the basic rundowns of our current situations, the 30,000 foot overview of our histories, we eventually got to the topic as to why and when we had lost contact. Funny how time works, things that must have been such a big deal at the time have a way of becoming topics you can barely recall when pressed.
While the exact timeline is fuzzy, I did recall the specific incident of which she spoke, and it suddenly made perfect sense as to why we had lost contact. She started by bringing up a boyfriend whose name she could not recall. As we spoke, it was like pieces of a puzzle coming together as I was able to help her fill in the blanks with random memories that fit the narrative. There are a lot of events that can cause a lasting injury for some, but be only a vague memory for others. With the simple utterance of the ex-boyfriend’s name, down the rabbithole we went.
She spoke of an event that had taken place. A very nasty display of human behavior that had transpired involving some of our fellow high schoolers. As we spoke, I continued to remember the story from several different sources, and could not determine why I had never known how it was resolved; however, these nasty events were not something “polite” society talked about much back then. Somehow the story had been swept under the rug to protect the reputations of the institution and the individuals involved. As is the norm, the victim was silenced and left in the lurch. The entire event eventually being lost to the passage of time.
The ex-boyfriend of hers had been a good friend of mine, but not necessarily a good guy. He was inappropriately older than us, but to me he had always been more like an older brother. He was old enough to buy beer, and I was old enough to drive him around when he was drunk. But that is a story for another time. Having forgotten they had dated, I was somewhat surprised when she informed me that after the incident, he had immediately broken up with her over the phone, stating his inability to “deal” with it as the impetus.
We shared our various traumas and dramas and how it feels to be quickly approaching the much-dreaded age of FIVE OH! She is a grandmother to a six-year-old girl from her 30-year-old son and I am the proud parent of a teenage boy. Summarizing the late-80s and 90s was a very engaging and enlightening conversation. She was refreshingly honest and wove a tale that included teenage parenthood, following one’s own path, facing one’s demons, and recovery. We giggled over how prevalent sex work had been in the early- to mid-90s. Sort of a renaissance period where it had been seen as mainstream to work in the adult entertainment and fetish industries. Both acknowledging that the roads that lead to there were oftentimes less than pleasant travels, but survive them we had.
This desert is a weird place. Always has been, always will be. They can build a plethora of windmills and pop-up art installations, and keep trying to turn it into the next Las Vegas, but it’s the land that holds the real power. The same desolate landscape that inspired a generation of musicians, and forged a new genre of cock-rock music, can be as powerful as it is deadly. Locals weave a lot of tales regarding the canons of these warm desert sands and the voices, mostly males, have omitted quite a lot of the truth. Maybe it’s time for that to change.
My old pal and I have plans to hang out very soon. Mostly likely during a Samhain gathering of witches and bitches I’ve arranged. My way of sending off this fucked up year with a pagan bang. There’s something magical about the solitude of the desert. Maybe we’ll raise a few spirits, for certain we will drink to the dead.