Nate watched Molly with fascination. She held a purple can with her left hand, and lifted clumps of blond curls to be sprayed with her right. She moved in quick jerky motions. As she sprayed, she instructed Nate on the correct way to do hair.
“You have to move the can fast, see, if you hold it in one spot it gets clumpy.” She glanced at Nate’s reflection. “Flip my record will ya?”
Nate ran out from the bathroom into the main room of the small studio. She picked up the record sleeve and studied the cover; it had a picture of a building on fire and thunderbolt letters spelling out “Def Leppard, Pyromania.” Nate flipped the record and set the needle. Screechy guitar began to squeeze through the diamond shapes on the tweed speakers.
“Turn it up and come back in here!” she yelled. “You need to learn this stuff.” Molly waited for Nate to get in the bathroom before she continued, “you gotta stop looking like a boy and you gotta start wearing make up and not swimming at the pool with no shirt!”
Nate listened and pretended to focus on her words. As she stared at Molly, she imagined Joan Jett walking into the bathroom, leaning up against the wall, smoking a cigarette. Joan interrupts Molly and asks Nate to play guitar in the band. ‘Hey kid,’ Joan says in her low blunt voice, ‘you wanna come on tour with us?’
Molly’s voice cut in: “aren’t you tired of the girls throwing you out of the restroom?”
Nate thought about it for a minute.
“Well, I don’t know, I can come home and go to the bathroom.”
“That’s not the point Nate, you could be pretty and get a boyfriend.” Molly drew in closer to her reflection. “Fuck! You see there? It got clumpy, mother fuck!”
She threw down the can which hit the sink and discharged some more of the thick smelling chemical. She grabbed a comb and began furiously pulling up pieces of hair and hitting it.
“I can tease it out, see, Becky showed me how. You know she might be pregnant? Don’t tell anyone but she thinks she is and I think she is too. She and Amos did it twice when her mom was gone, fuck I gotta call her, anyway if she is pregnant her mom is going to kick her ass and also Laura, Amos’s ex, will be pissed because she wanted to have his baby but she’s a slut.”
Molly stopped and took a few steps back. She tilted her head side to side. Nate wondered how her hair had become so tall, and at the same time thankful her own hair was still so short that Molly wouldn’t try to do the same to it.
Molly was getting ready to go out and planned on dragging Nate along; Nate had figured this out and had dug out her favorite shirt. She felt ready to be a teenager so that she could join a band. She figured that the hours of practicing guitar and lip-syncing along to Journey would pay off. Nate assumed that when she grew up she would be a boy and would not have to go through this ritual of hair and makeup.
Molly started on her face.
“See you take the lighter and just barely heat up the tip of the eyeliner, just for a second because if you get it too hot it will smudge and you will put it on too thick and look like a goth, and goths are weird and most are lesbians.” She gave Nate a warning stare. “Don’t grow up and be a goth.”
As Molly finished she tried to convince Nate to cut holes in her favorite shirt and slice up the sleeves. Molly informed her that the Motley Crew shirt was cool because Vince Neal was fucking hot but that it needed to be doctored up. Nate refused and they left the tiny apartment. On their way down the stairs Molly warned Nate not to tell her mom that they had left.
“Your mom’s cool but she will fucking kick my ass if she knew, not a word, I’m only taking you because you are pretty cool for a ten year old but don’t be a baby.”
The night air was warm and surrounded their limbs. Summer in Spokane was one hundred degrees in the day and ninety at night. They walked along the residential street. Nate tried to walk like she had seen the boys in her neighborhood walk. She took long steps and added a slight limp on her left leg.
“Why are you walking like that?” demanded Molly who didn’t wait for an answer before she started talking. “So we are going to meet the Wolf brothers and Tina and Gretchen, who is dating Tommy Wolf I think but he was dating Carmen so I don’t know what the hell is going on now.”
Nate attempted to keep up with the details but was quickly lost. They crossed quiet streets and passed huge pine trees. The sky was like a giant black dome and the streetlights erased some of the dark. They turned right on Cleveland Street and headed into the park. Music could be heard at the far end.
“So don’t say anything about the Laura thing because Tim Wolf likes her and doesn’t know about Amos. I think Tim is cuter than Amos anyway, Amos’s skin is gross. Tommy Wolf is super cute too and their older brother came to visit from the rez last summer and he was hot, like really hot, and he had a Nova.”
As they approached the crowd a girl’s voice called out: “There you are Molly you rag! I missed you!”
Molly ran to hug the other bouncing teenager.
“Your hair is long I‘m so fucking jealous.”
Molly made her rounds to the ten or so teenagers standing around the park bench. They were nestled in the center of the big park and could blast the music with out attracting attention. Nate stood on the outskirts of the crowd until Molly introduced her as “the tomboy Nate, she’s cool.” Nate watched a skinny longhaired boy toss Molly a can. “Bout time, heeey Tommy, you gotta smoke too?”
Nate studied the movements of everyone. The boys stood with their legs far apart and bounced their heads to the drumbeats coming from the silver radio on the bench. One boy had a pocketknife and was carving into the tabletop. Two girls with hair like Molly’s huddled together smoking. One boy had long black hair and jeans tucked into high top sneakers. He stood in front of a two other boys smoking and spitting between drags.
Nate knew that the night would be better if Joan Jett would show up and they could jam for the crowd. Joan would grab Nate by her collar and say: “Lets play some music, kid” and Nate would begin strumming the guitar. Nate imagined the faces of the teenagers as they realized that Nate was actually a guitar prodigy. They would make Eddy van Halen comparisons and clamor to talk to Nate after the gig. ‘See you in the studio kid,’ Joan would say as she was leaving.
“Have a sip of this,” Molly said.
Nate took the silver can “Hamm’s?” she asked.
“Just try it.”
She took a small sip, swirled the liquid around in her mouth and went for another drink.
“Yeah, that’s it kid! Look guys, the kid is chugging, sweet!”
Nate took another drink to impress them more.
“The kid’s going to puke all over ha ha!” yelled a scrawny boy with light brown frizzy hair and a sleeveless shirt.
Nate shot him a look and yelled back, “I’m fine asshole.”
The crowd of teens grew silent. “Hey this little fucker showed you Brian, you fag! Ha ha ha.” The teens laughed and someone cranked the music up.
Heads motioned up and down and pimple faced kids began acting out their drunkenness. Some crawled around the corner of the bathroom building to throw up. Others attempted a sloppy make out session. Nate began to feel her head spin and sat down to listen to the music. A red haired girl in a green plaid skirt sat down next to her. Nate hadn’t noticed the girl before and the girl seemed younger than the others.
“You like Ozzy?” she asked.
Nate answered yes and the girl continued, “He is the best heavy metal singer, this is my tape I put it in, who are you?”
“I’m Nate, Molly brought me here.”
“Is Molly your baby sitter?” asked the red haired girl.
“No” answered Nate. “We hang out and my mom lets me go places with her.”
The girl stared at Nate for a moment then began to fish around in a bag she had tied to her wrist. She handed Nate a Camel and then handed her the lighter and held her cigarette out for Nate to light. Nate struggled with the lighter.
“You have to get good at that so you can light girls’ cigarettes for them.”
Nate got the flame going and lit the girl’s, then her own. She felt thankful at that moment for all the times she spent practicing smoking with her neighbor.
“You’re lying about Molly, she is your babysitter, but I don’t care. Hey you see this skirt I’m wearing? See how I shredded the ends, it’s because my mom put me at St. Aurea and I wanted to piss her off. ”
Nate looked at her outfit and realized that she was wearing a school uniform. She then realized that she knew the red haired girl from school, except not the Catholic school. “You were in my class at Garfield right?” asked Nate.
“Yeah but I got in trouble a lot, whatever, they said that my playboy bunny Halloween thing was inappropriate and I got caught writing on stuff, anyway I started at this other school, its sucks.”
Nate and the girl sat quietly music blasting behind them. Nate remembered her name was Madeline. Nate began to feel sweaty and couldn’t think of what to say. She thought of all the things in her world that would sound cool but nothing was good. She didn’t want to talk about her dog or the class play she was in last week.
“My mom took me to see The Fixx like a year ago and her friend Kenny let me sit on his shoulders and I saw most of the show perfect.”
Madeline exhaled, “Wish my mom were like that, my mom doesn’t do anything cool.”
Nate quickly added, “My mom was only cool that one time.”
The crowd began to grow louder. Two boys started a small fight over a girl who apparently was in love with both of them. Insults were exchanged and the floppy haired boys walked their separate ways followed by wound-healing girls.
Madeline turned to Nate, “Those boys are stupid, you’re not like that are you?” Nate felt a panic set in. Nate was used to everyone assuming she was a boy but this was different. She didn’t want this girl to know. She liked being a better-than-the-other-boys boy. She decided to change the subject.
“My friend’s dad smokes pot every night while they all watch TV, he keeps it in a tin on the coffee table. I bet I could get some if I wanted.”
“I smoked pot before,” responded Madeline. “I bet Tommy has weed but we gotta to ask him quietly because he won’t share with everyone.”
Nate began to regret bringing up pot, she wasn’t ready to smoke it because she hadn’t practiced that yet.
Suddenly one of the boy’s yelled “Pigs!!” Nate looked around and saw blue and red lights flashing.
Madeline looked up. “Fuckin’ pigs, run!”
They both jumped up and began to run away from the light toward the baseball field. Sneakers squeaked on the concrete as the teenagers began to run. The radio was turned off and some girls screamed. Madeline grabbed Nate’s hand and pulled her along the dark park. They crossed the baseball field and kicked up dirt. Nate heard Molly yell from behind them and they stopped, both out of breath. Molly reached the field. Madeline looked at Nate, grabbed her shoulders and brought her toward her face. She kissed Nate on the lips quickly then pushed her back.
“Come see me at school,” and she turned and ran.
Nate stood still as the world around her quickly shrank to include Madeline only. “I will,” she said but Madeline was already off the field and Molly was rounding first.
“Run! Cops! Shit, I could get in so much trouble!” Molly yelled.
They ran under giant pines and down Cleveland Street. Molly found the spare key under the planter and they ran upstairs. The girls jumped on the floor of the apartment and silently listened.
“I don’t hear anything but don’t put the light on just in case, fucking cops, I knew I smelled bacon.”
Nate couldn’t hear a word Molly said. Nate could only hear “Come see me at school” over and over and over.
Nina Frick grew up on the mean streets of Spokane, Washington. She now lives in Los Angeles with her pit bull, Jack. Metallica, Slayer, The Runaways, and Black Sabbath were the soundtrack of her youth, and continue to provide the background to her adult life. She gave up her past work turning wrenches to write papers at Antioch; she doesn’t regret it