Ok, so here’s the real twisted shit, but first, a little backstory.
When I was in high school, I was chum. I was what bottom feeders ate. At least when it came to getting noticed for anything but being a nerd. And a bitch. Let’s not forget I was considered a bitch. But I owned it.
But mostly I was just really lonely and immersed in a world of imagination wherein famous and acclaimed people noticed me. These flights of fancy were fueled by the occasional trip outside of Arizona to places where kids really looked up to me. Where I instantly became queen bee of actual cool kids. In those few instances, the seduction of power was palpable. Good thing they were short bursts, because we all know power corrupts.
When I was 14, I could look like this:
But on the inside I was this nerd:
We glowed up, Simon and me:
I was never going to be cool in Nogales. The cool kids came in varieties. There were the pretty cheerleaders and poms who partied hard and acted like they were on the set of some teen drama.
And then there were the subculture cool kids who listened to punk and hung out at Acho’s house up by Wade Carpenter. Acho was a legend.
I only heard whispers of what went on there. Boys playing punk. Girls offering sex for drugs and attention. The boys were cute but cruel. The girls were young and sad and missing that crucial element of self-esteem.
It wasn’t until my senior year that I actually witnessed this scene for myself. I went with my senior best friend, who was really in with the musicians. And it was a scene from that classic Three Dog Night song “Momma Told Me Not To Come.”
Everyone seemed stoned out of their minds. I knew what stoned looked like because I’d seen Dazed and Confused and been to my first concert by now.
There were a lot of drugs. I wasn’t interested. By now I was drinking heavily and using speed. But I didn’t trust these motherfuckers. And they hated my guts. If they even remembered that I had guts, or that I existed at all.
Plus, I’d had a really bad experience with a best friend who went to Salpointe and started using freshman year. I wrote about it for a school essay and her father found out, put pressure on the principal to get me in trouble for writing about it. The world is topsy turvy and so I didn’t get in trouble for not using drugs, but instead for narcing on my friend.
Guess who now was a regular at these get togethers at Acho’s.
But mostly I was kept naive about what was going on around me. Basically sex, drugs and rock and roll. But mostly a lot of exploitation of teenage girls by guys who thought they were cool because they were musicians. Classic tale, right?
I felt bad for those girls. Well, not true. I thought they were gross sluts. And that’s language I wouldn’t use today, but those were my sentiments at the time. They felt vapid and cruel. They felt like nihilists. They wanted to take the world down. Only they didn’t know what nihilism was, so they settled for drugs and being sexually exploited. At 13 and 14 they were already so desperate for any affection.
In my own way, I was desperate too. And maybe if one of those boys had thrown attention my way, I would have succumbed to that lifestyle. But, in the oddest twist of fate, my social awkwardness made me a pariah in that scene and kept me safe from exploitation. Let it never be uttered that being a nerd is a bad thing.
Fast forward to March 2020.
I’m now 40 and pretty self-assured when it comes to my boundaries and what I’m willing to do. In NYC, everything is at your fingertips. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. In advanced quantities. NYC is a city of indulgence. But what strikes me the most is the sex scene. The sex clubs, the polyamory, the gender fluidity. Everyone is pretty much fucking everyone in different combinations and configurations. I’m a hedonist. But I tend to be easily overstimulated. And after hearing some of the stories about these clubs from the most repulsive men I’d ever met…well, let’s just say I wasn’t interested.
I wasn’t even the slightest interested when the 🦄 offered to set up a threesome with a girl he kept in town. First of all, I am so straight that I loop around to gay man, and second of all, I want all the attention on me. All the time. All. The. Time. So every time a threesome has been offered, I’ve politely declined. And when it’s been pressured, I pull diva-level shit and say that I don’t perform in groups. I’m a solo act.
So that part of NYC never got the chance to suck me into its grasp. I never felt pressured to partake in order to feel cool. For as little self-esteem I can have on the regular, I’m pretty grounded in what I want and need. And also what I don’t need.
But it was March 2020, and I knew I was coming home, so I checked in on Tinder in Tucson before coming because I knew I might get stuck here for a while.
After dating in NYC for three years, no one in Tucson looked appealing. Every guy was some variation on a baseball cap, Oakleys, a U of A t-shirt, cargo shorts, and a penchant for shooting guns or fishing. And if they weren’t wearing a baseball cap, their hair was gelled to sustain category five hurricane winds.
No, just no.
But then I saw someone I knew. Someone from home. Someone I couldn’t stand because he always thought he was such hot shit.
I mean, this guy is sort of successful in the music industry. If you know me from Nogales, you know who I’m talking about. Yes, the orkestra leader. Let’s call him HS.
I swiped right on HS. We matched.
We talked. Not much. I told him I was coming to town. We said we’d meet up. But not for what.
March 10th comes around, and I land in Tucson. I know I’m headed for a long bout of isolation and celibacy. So I head to Owl’s Club directly from the airport for $2 whisky gingers. Five of them.
My suitcase is in the corner. I’m drinking and trying to feel good in one of the few Tucson places that feels authentically home to me. I see people I know. And I’m dressed in tons of black eye makeup and overalls.
One of the people I see is one of the sweeter musicians from Nogales. He played with his band at my sister’s 13th birthday party. We talk and he introduces me to his friends. One of them is a member of HS’s orkestra.
I text HS and he tells me to come over to hang out with him and another musician from Nogales of contemporaneous generation. We’ll call him Four Eyes. I’m tipsy but not drunk and feeling super social because I’d been social isolating on and off for a month while getting over some flu (Covid? who knows). Let’s just say I sort of know what could happen, but all bets are off. We’re older. I’m wiser.
I order the Uber, throw my giant fucking suitcase in the trunk, and head to Four Eye’s aunt’s house.
HS and Four Eyes are drunk. HS wants paws on me almost as soon as I get there, but I tell him to back the fuck off. He gets kinda mean. And by that, I mean that he starts asking me why I’m acting so “cool and punk.”
It’s a neg. He’s looking for weaknesses in my defenses. But I don’t work that way. Meanwhile Four Eyes is acting responsible and managing HS’s dirtbaggery. He seems actually grown up; and that’s something I never thought I’d say of him. He’s divorced but engaged, so I figure he’s somewhat stable.
We drink more inside. HS is trying to both impress me with his success and also find out what’s going on with Michael, my bff. Since they’re both musicians who’ve had success he’s basically trying to prove he’s better than Michael.
As we drink, HS keeps asking me if I was this cool in high school. For the record: I never have been, nor will I ever be cool. But I am weird and I can be very aloof and sometimes those things get conflated.
The guys take me down memory lane, and by that, I mean they tell really sad stories of how they took advantage of all the girls I grew up with. And in a way that lets me know how funny they still think it is.
And then we go back to Four Eye’s room and have the tamest, lamest threesome ever. But it was also funny and kinda hot. And sort of silly. Neither of them can get it up, so the attention is just on me. And it turns out HS isn’t such hot shit. But Four Eyes is uh…not half bad at the stuff.
HS passes out. Four Eyes is determined to keep going through to the morning. We finally pass out and sleep like sardines. And then we have to wake up and sneak out of the house so as not to alert Four Eyes’ aunt.
They drive me to the AirBNB with my giant suitcase. We get Eegees drive thru. And of course HS is playing his latest unreleased album. It’s actually good. But he’s still trying to impress me about his talent. Fine. It’s good. But I know the real deal. He sucks in bed. And now I will always know this. And I will carry it around in my back pocket for the rest of my life.
Four Eyes is still considerate. He gets my suitcase for me. And that was it.
But was it? Because now I’m one of their stories of all the girls they tag teamed and took advantage of since high school (the unfurled scroll is long, my friends). But I wasn’t taken advantage of. I knew what I was doing. And as soon as I knew that these douchebags were blabbermouths, it felt like a challenge to me. A sick, fucking twisted challenge.
I was going to use them. I’d mess around with them only because I knew it’d get back to the girls. And two of them, in particular, who, try as I might, I will always dislike. No matter what.
You see, HS and Four Eyes can go around telling everybody that I’m now on the list. But I was the only one sober enough that night to know who commanded the situation and what really went down. It was my choice. And I wasn’t some simpering, dewy-eyed adolescent girl looking for acceptance.
I was a 40-year old woman who could say no if she pleased. And I wasn’t looking for love or validation. I was just looking to close the chapter on that part of my life wherein I didn’t know what I was missing.
Turns out, not much. Though Four Eyes was pretty good, considering Mexican dudes are the absolute worst sex partners.
I told you it was twisted. But sometimes I let 16-year old Vene drive the bus for us all. Give her a chance at the wheel. Because she never got out on the open road the first time around. And now, I’m secure enough to know when to take the wheel back.