I was lying on my bedroom floor on a Tuesday night, talking or rather listening to my new boyfriend, Riley on the phone. It was Fall of 1998, so yes, it was a real phone with a telephone plug and a spiraled wire that always got tangled without even touching it. The chord wasn’t long enough to reach my bed, so I had most of my calls on the blue/greyish carpet that hadn’t experienced a vacuum’s touch in years. Riley was a sophomore. I was a freshman. Riley often said the n-word and spoke fondly of David Duke. He was also obsessed with the Insane Clown Posse. ( The ugly, white hip-hop duo who painted their faces in black and white clown make-up and rap offensive things, in case you didn’t know. And if you did know, I won’t tell anyone). The past weekend we took a streetcar, followed by a bus, to Tower Records in the French Quarter. He pushed me to buy ICP’s latest album- The Great Milenko. So, I did. When I got home that day, I started to listen to the CD, but had to press stop 6 seconds in. It was too abrasive and well…the worst music ever. I told Riley I listened to the whole album. “It was really good.” My youth was either me lying or not saying things out loud even when I should have.
“Hokus pokus, joke’s ride, come take a spin on the carnie ride. Folded, fat floopy-tittied freaks.” Riley quoted the lyrics, maybe wanting me to sing along, but I didn’t. No way. Instead, I focused on clawing my hand in the carpet as if it were gravel, collecting hair and other fuzzy bits and dirt. I was impressed with how much I got, as if my tiny fingers were as powerful as an expensive vacuum machine. I shaped the wooly grossness into a big ball in my palm and tossed it to the side. The trash can was too far away.
“Abracaadbra boom shock dae. I’m Violent J, and I’m back like a vertebrae. I’ll rip your face off, and wipe my ass with it,” he proudly continued.
Yeaaaaahhh…there really wasn’t a reason to talk to Riley on the phone other than, just to. I didn’t even like him. I did like having a boyfriend. He made me uncomfortable with his racism though. Sure, I was use to a little racism growing up in all white suburb right outside New Orleans called Old Metairie. It’s an upper/middle class neighborhood where everyone knows everything about each other. If you didn’t have a pool, then you had a trampoline in your backyard. Kids rode their bikes in lazy wide circles down the streets. It was safe. No one locked their doors. Riley, on the other hand, came from a lower-middle class family who lived on the West Bank, the other side of the Mississippi River. The side where you just don’t go to unless you lived there. Side note: Riley disclosed to me that when his father first met me, he told Riley that I had good child-bearing hips. I’ll repeat, I was a freshman in high school.
Yet, there I was lying on my dirty carpet feeling like a real teenager as if I was a character out of Dawson’s Creek. I had always longed to be normal. Well, I longed to be anyone other than me. Having a boyfriend, any boyfriend, took me away from that dark place. I looked up at the ceiling. A square tile was missing where cockroaches would enter and leave as they pleased as if they were guests at the Perkinson motel. But at that moment, there weren’t any cockroaches, and I was just a regular fifteen year old girl talking to her 16 year old boyfriend.
In the midst of mentally tuning out Riley’s bad rapping so I could imagine playing a role on a WB television show, I began to hear police sirens and saw flashes of red and white lights from my bedroom window. I quickly stood up, resting the phone on my shoulder, not mentioning anything to Riley. I counted 7 police cars outside my house. What the—-? An ominous sense of dread started to engulf me. My throat was closing in.
“Um…Riley. I have to go.”
“Why, baby? I thought we could do a lil’ dirty talking. I’m looking at some baby powder right now.”
Now, I was still a virgin, and so was he. We really hadn’t done that much physically. But he did sometimes jerk off as I would say like “ooohh” and “oh yeaahhh?” That’s pretty much all I could muster up.
“Yeah, I forgot I have an algebra test tomorrow. I really need to study. I can’t believe I forgot about it, but yeah… I have to go. I’ll call you later. Actually, I’ll just see you tomorrow. Sorry.”
I hung up on him. Riley was probably going to be upset with me. I guess I could have stayed silent on the phone, adolescently rejecting the fated emergency that was soon to be. A part of me wanted to grasp onto something normal like listening to my racist boyfriend badly rap awful ICP lyrics as if I was holding onto a teddy bear that was protecting me from the monsters under my bed. But another part of me knew that I needed to be present. I had an inclination that this was a night that would change my life forever. And I was right…