I walk to school alone today because Darn-it is sick, maybe. When I woke up this morning, he was still a-sleep, and that was kind of odd. Usually, no matter what he has done the night before, he’s awake at the crack of dawn.
He said his father would wake up everyone in the house yelling that no one in his house was going to waste the day. Often he would yank the cover off of Darn-it and his brothers and pour cold water on them if they didn’t get out of bed quickly. Most of the kids in our group of misfits have nightmares from time to time, myself included. Mine are about falling or being chased a lot, none of them are as bad as Darn-it’s.
So today I was the first to wake up, I crawled out of my bedroll to see why Darn-it wasn’t awake yet. He was sweating, felt hot on his forehead and cold on his chest and arms. When I checked his chest, he woke up and looked at me confused like he didn’t know where he was. I asked him if he wanted some water, he nodded yes. While I was getting the water, I did my usual count of people, bags and all our stuff. All was accounted for. I woke Colt and told him about Darn-it being sick. Rainbow heard me and started looking through her purse for a stash of meds.
“Teddy, what are his symptoms?” She asked with her head deep in her giant bag.
Everyone knows I hate being called Teddy, but everyone also knows that Rainbow can call me anything as long as it’s with love. For some reason that I have not figured out yet, she has a Southern accent when she first wakes up from sleeping and then not at all for the rest of the day or night, not even when she’s really tired or drunk. I can’t explain it, no one else noticed until I brought it up. So I tell her his symptoms like a good nurse. She hands me some bruised little white pills to give to him. She would never give us anything bad. So I prop Darn-it up and gave him what Rainbow handed me, with a drink of water. He smiles a little and lies back down, I cover him up.
Colt says we should take him to Ms. Brenda’s pad. (She runs a day care for extra money, she has an extra room that her brother uses when he’s not in jail and she is one of Colt’s best friends outside the group.) So we all start to rise and pull ourselves together. I start to think that I should call the school and tell them that Darn-it is sick and I will be late. No one else ever thinks to do this; they don’t care about school that much.
Taking a cab over to Ms. Brenda’s apartment would be the best and smartest way to get there, but a cab wouldn’t stop for us even if we had suits made of twenty-dollar bills and we danced the Hustle in the middle of the street. The bus was the next best thing. But first we had to get our stuff to its holding place a block away, behind Joseph’s Liquor Store. I think it really was called something like “Sunset Liquor or Boulevard Stop”, but we all called it Joseph’s since he bought it and started being super nice to us.
After that, De-De, Tim, Kenny, and Dana went off to find breakfast and “what ev” they were going to do today. Colt, Rainbow, our sick little friend, and I headed over to the bus stop to wait for a bus to Ms. Brenda’s. Colt had called her from the store; she said to bring him right over. I asked Colt how old Ms. Brenda was and he said 22. I was a little shocked; she seemed so much older than us. She had her own apartment and was taking care of all those little kids and not messing it all up. I was completely impressed.
We made it with only a few dirty looks by the people on the bus. I bet everyone thought Darn-it was “dope sick.” People always think that when they see a street kid looking not well. We get sick too; just like them–a cold here, the flu there–they can sit and spin if they don’t understand that. One old lady said, “I think your friend needs a hospital.” Before I could say, “I think it’s only a cold,” Rainbow shouted, “He’s got some kind of cold! Mind your own damn business, you nosy old bag!”
If Colt was our dad/big brother, then Rainbow was most definitely our mom/big sister. They looked out for us all the time, and we were happy to have them. You might think this is like an after-school special where the big brother and/or big sister protect us from the bad guys, but this is real life, they take our family very seriously. I felt lucky that they liked me. Just because my cousin asked them to teach me the street deal didn’t mean they had to accept me. They could have dropped me as soon as he went to jail about three years ago but, like I said, I was lucky–someone was watching over me. There are times I can almost feel it.
We get Darn-it to Ms. Brenda’s pad and all tucked in. Both Colt and Rainbow are going to stay and kick it for a while. I have to get to school. I give a big hug to Ms. Brenda’s son Robert and I can tell he likes. Brenda always whispers that he lets only two people get that close to him: me and her. Well, I took an interest in him from the first time I stayed at her house.
I said my goodbyes and started walking to school. It was already starting to feel warm. It took me about 45 minutes to walk to Hollywood High School from N. Cahuenga Blvd. and Romaine Street. I guess I walk fast when I am alone. By the time I got close to school, there were only about 35 minutes left in 2nd period, so I went to the locker room to clean up and change because I had had to skip it this morning.
No one was in there, so I had the sinks to myself. The other kids would not be back for about 20 minutes. I cleaned up quickly and started to change my clothes. I was pulling on this white kind of loose, knee-length slip (thrift store find) and some white loose white shorts (again thrift store), white socks, white shoes, and white T-shirt that I had hand painted a white design on it in art class last week. I remembered to bring a white lacy vest to pull it all together. I was going for a sort of gender–bending, tennis angel thang. It sounded good when I grabbed my clothes in the morning.
I felt someone staring at me. I don’t immediately look up when I feel this sensation because sometimes there is no one there, so I assume it is one of my guardians watching over me or like I’ve been told, some kind of witch watching me from afar or maybe a ghost. (I guess I get it all. I never know, so I just wait until it’s evident or they make a sound.)
Then I heard a locker dial spin, and it was Virgil Tortuga, a.k.a. Rocky, a giant of a kid at 6' 2". He is here from New York for this year because his parents are in the Biz. His father is in special effects, and his mother does makeup and hair. I had heard they are very good.
He was behind me kind of lurking. I turned so my slip skirt would float up. When I looked at him, he was smiling. I never know if a guy is going to be cool or not or if he used to be but not anymore. But here is Rocky smiling at me, hmm why?
“Hey you, what’s happening, Rocky?”
“I’m just changing from my gym clothes early to go to the photo lab to pick up some head shots.” (Yes, they did head shots at our school, another Hollywood thing, I guess.)
“That’s cool; I’m just changing before class.”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude on your dressing time.” (I think his NYC attitude is changing already.)
“No, it’s cool, I’m done.” (And I looked down and smoothed the slick white fabric.)
“Yea, Ted, you look fresh!”
“Wow! I wouldn’t have thought you would like something like this, much less know my name.”
“Oh sure, man, my sister Nicole and I talk about your fresh style all the time. It wouldn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice.”
“Wow that kind of has me trippin’. I thought you thought I was some kind of fag-freak.”
“No, you’re a creative type, I get that. I wish I was more like that and less a big stone-handed type.”
“Naw, dude, I don’t know you that well, but I only hear good things about you.” (OK, I lied; there is no one at this school that everyone likes. This is a nice moment; I don’t need to ruin it with the truth.)
“Aw, that’s cool, thanks for saying.” (By this time, he was in his underwear, and that was my cue to book out of there.)
“OK, I’m ‘Audi.’”
“5000,” he says with a smile, and we do the school’s handshake: back hand slap, front hand slap, and thumbs up and out.
I smiled and said “later days,” my own personal departure phrase. I looked back just in time to see his tightie-whities hit the floor. Nice butt, too bad he’s my age.
I take a seat in the hall to wait outside of Room 503 for the previous Home Ec class to be over. I was sitting on the bench there for about two minutes before “Cliff-a-tina” showed up. Ms. Thing was on her way back from the bathroom when she spotted me.
“What’s happening, ghirl?”
“Oh, I’m waiting for this class to be over so I can go in.”
“You have Mrs. Jons for 3rd period Homo Ec?”
“Yeah, ghirl, you know a ghirl like me doesn’t have to learn to cook, but it can’t hurt to catch a good man.”
“I heard that, Ms. Thing. What’s going on with this fly outfit? Let me see this.”
[I stand up and do a twirl] “Oh this, It’s just another TK original.” (Like oh my god, was I killing them or what?)
“I am like totally into your “sassy girl in white” look. Is that a slip?”
“Yes, ghirl, feel it; it is so soft. I found it at the ‘Hollyhood’ Thrift store.”
“That is a total find. Two snaps, ghirl!”
Then the bell rang. Cliff-a-tina said she needed to get back to Mrs. Rothmen’s English class to return the bathroom pass and she would see me later.
Clifford was one of the Gay Junior Mafia that ruled a part of Hollywood High. One of his two dads was in charge of new talent at Capitol Records, and the other was the top man at the Mondrian Hotel, together it gave him a kind of clout in a school like this. Before the next period was over, everyone would know about this outfit and if Clifford loved it or hated it. But because I liked Clifford and didn’t want anything from him, he seemed to like me as well. I guess it was also the fact that I was very out without apologies; even at a school like this, kids still somewhat apologized for being too gay.
Inside Mrs. Jons’ class, I was the first kid to arrive. She was at her desk and only looked up when I went to the window. I was thinking about Darn-it and if he was going to be OK.
“Mr. Kingston, what are you wearing today? Is that a skirt?”
“No, Mrs. Jons, it’s a slip over shorts.”
She mumbled something under her breath.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Jons, did you say something?”
“I said … I wish this school had a dress code.”
“We do, it’s called individuality, didn’t you hear?”
I laughed, and she looked sour.
“Mrs. Jons, I didn’t know you had a problem with my choice in clothes?”
“Well, I think you and some of the other students take the freedom to wear what you want too far sometimes.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but being young and different is what it’s all about at a school like this, I thought.”
Other kids started to come in at that time, so we dropped the topic. I was happy to see Benji coming through the door. He saw me, and I saw his eyes take in my look and then a big smile showed on his face.
We all sat down. I could feel the eyes of the other kids on me. Why now, this was not the craziest thing I’ve worn here even this week. Then I looked to my left and saw what the issue was. One of the girls who felt like she was born to hate me, she sitting at the end of our row in an outfit very close to what I am wearing but not nearly as fun or sassy. Shell Beach Rhoades, a tired wanna-be “Richie”. In a school and city like L. A. if you are a “wanna-be Richie,” then it takes a whole lot for your family to actually keep up with those Jones’.
She had on a black lace top,
over a black lace slip with a shorter black skirt,
over a white nylon lacy slip,
with black socks and Mary Janes.
Cute, I guess, but mine was cuter.
I eyed her as she eyed me. This was the ripped-jean mini all over again. She also hated me because I got better grades than her and more people liked me without being pressured. I didn’t need this today. I was ready to tell her she won and I would change just to stop the drama that I knew was coming.
Mrs. Jons could tell something was about to happen, and she had us jump right into today’s lesson.
That kept everything calm except for the many rolled eyes by the people who liked her and the people who liked me.
Close to the end of class, I was about to raise my hand for the bathroom pass when Benji read my mind and asked me to stay. So, for cute little Benji I did.
As Benji and I were getting ready to walk out, Shell and her clique walked up to us just outside the door.
“Nice outfit, Ted, where’d you get it, digging in the trash can again?”
“No, Shelby (she hated it when people called her Shelby instead of Shell), if you must know, I got a couple of the pieces at the thrift store. You should know; didn’t you do the same? It’s good to see we both can shop on a budget and look good.”
“Ohhhh!” the kids said.
“Wow, Ted, you have a budget now?”
“Oh, little Shelby, I’m not in the mood right now, but I must say you’ll have to thank your Father for keeping my pockets fat.”
“Ohhhh!” again, louder.
Her face went red, and the kids started to howl and a teacher said, “OK, break it up.” I could see her sputtering. Everyone laughed as Shell walked away mumbling to her friends.
Benji walked me to my locker saying, “You shouldn’t even think about that Shell Rhoades. She so peaked in the 9th grade.”
It felt good that Benji was trying to get me to feel better about the battle that I knew was not over. It was sweet for a str8 guy to be like that.
On to gym class … ugh! Not today with the jumping and running. Why can’t guys use the excuse, “I’m sorry, coach, but I can’t take gym today. It’s my time of the month, and it’s a doozy! But nooo, as men we don’t really have that kind of unquestionable thing that makes others understand that we feel bad. WHY?
So I dressed, did the stretches, and ran the laps, but even Mr. Chuy could tell my heart wasn’t in it.
He gave me the option to just sit the class out if I wanted. Wow! He never does that. I must be looking bad. As I was jogging to the bench that held the “Red Dot Girls” and the asthmatics, I tripped on a sprinkler and banged my knee and my head hard on the ground. I saw stars, and they were kind of pretty. After what felt like a while, but was probably less than a minute, strong arms picked me up and carried me like nothing off the field. It was Mr. Chuy! I wanted to stay there forever. He carried me to the bench, and one of the RDG’s put a Band-Aid on my knee and elbow–I think it was Tangy, short for Tangerine Cream. She says it’s from some old song. Ugh, there is blood everywhere! I knew today was not my day. I had been asking myself all day, should I stay or should I go? I think I should have stayed with Darn-it today.
I sit for a while to clear my head, and then off to the locker room to clean up and do some damage repair. In my line of work, a guy can’t have too many scrapes and scabs; it drives the price down.
So in the locker room I think, hmm, what’s next? It’s still pretty warm; what do I have in my bag left to work the high school runways with? I dig out a couple of blue long-sleeve t-shirts and a thin pair of tie-dye thermals I’ll use for tights in dance class. The thinnest t-shirt I’ll use for a top and the other for a bottom tucking the sleeves back inside the arm holes and the neck-hole around my waist. It will look great with the white socks and shoes from the earlier outfit. It just needed some kind of flash to pull it all together. I know this is the second outfit that is pretty girlie. I think I do it sometimes to make the other kids crazy.
It’s also soo different from what I wear anytime I’m away from Hollywood. Its boy-clothes all the time without fail. Often my life depends on it. So while I’m here and safe enough, I’ll wear whatever strikes my fancy. Two weeks ago it was Army surplus every day. As I get dressed, I start to feel a little better, and I find a leather belt that De-De gave me that says “starchild” in brass lettering. Cool, this will help, but I will still need something for the neckline.
Maybe something will show up during lunch or my last two classes. I think I look good enough for Cliff-a-tina and the Gay Mafia, and Ms. Shell Rhoades can cool it now that we are not evil twins.
When I think of lunch time it brings a smile and a frown. I know I will see my friends, I don’t know if I want to see Rocky. I am soo like sure I don’t want to see Shell with her stank attitude. It may not be my time of the month, but I’m not in the mood.
September 14, 2009 written
May 16, 2010 edited by gp/tat