Go, Jim Dandy
Sandy carried a vial of patchouli oil wherever she went. We walked everywhere in our Converse high-tops. She was almost always restless; I was almost always bored.
In October we hitchhiked 175 miles to find a stringy college boy I had a crush on. A carload of guys picked us up and asked if we liked to party. I didn’t understand the question. “We’ll get out right here,” Sandy said. They left us standing on the shoulder in the dark between exits. Our next ride was an off-duty cop who made us call our parents. He watched. We waited.
We were adrift in our skins. All hipbones and hair, the long sweep of spine from lowslung leather belt to beaded macramé necklace. To hide the scars, Sandy kept her soft flannel shirts tucked in.
We stashed a carton of Kools in our locker. “When I’m thirty,” Sandy said, “I’m going to find a tall building and jump off the roof.”
Lunchtime in the school parking lot. Chug a bottle of Annie Green Springs, pass a joint, drop a hit of something we called mescaline but was just a dirty kind of speed. Black Oak Arkansas on the eight-track. Sandy braided Trevor’s hair; I drew flowers on the rubber toes of my Converse with a Bic. Everything happened in vans.
I wore costumes. A 1940s era coat with rhinestone buttons, a top hat with a long yellow scarf fluttering down the back. I wanted to be seamstress for the band, somebody’s Suzanne. I wished I owned a pair of red velvet pants.
For my fifteenth birthday, Sandy gave me Steve. Drive-in movie: The Legend of Billy Jack. Sandy and her boyfriend Mike sat in the front of his van. Steve and I screwed in the back on itchy army blankets. Slow motion violence pulsed through the windshield; the bong gurgled in the dimness.
Mike was twenty-eight. I pretended to know the things that Sandy did. All I knew were the alto parts, the square roots, the French verbs.
Sandy gave me a second hit of PCP when I thought I wasn’t getting off on the first one. I spent the last hour of school with my head down on my desk in Government, trying to remember if I had a mother. Twenty-four hours later I woke up, forearms tracked with bite marks. I had, I recall, been trying to make myself feel something.
There came a boy who didn’t know any better, so he got me home on time. He taught me to drive a stick and play pinochle. Some other things, too, things that didn’t include Sandy.
She was with some guys I didn’t know. When the car hit whatever it hit, Sandy was set free from the wreckage. I imagine her cartwheeling, airborne, grinning. She blew past the ditch, pot and patchouli spraying from her pockets, snagged on a fence post. Bled out before the ambulance got there.
It was open casket, and I sang.
Originally published at Brevity