We kept our drugs in a little woven pouch while we were on the beach, and the rest stashed inside my bible. Our pot was pretty good too. It’s potency almost got us arrested while we were at the dead show. While I was scoring off the eight-year old, my friends were talking to a clean-cut hippie. He wore tidy jeans, black leather loafers and a pressed tie-dye. My friend Lilly told him, “Look at all those buildings, they look like lit cigarettes.” Casually, he replied, “You must be feeling pretty good?” Our other friend Katie interrupted, she was fearful the preppy dude was really an undercover cop. “Lilly, come on, we have to find Shannon.” She grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her in the opposite direction and into the crowds.
Lilly was a gorgeous blonde- beyond her years-with a well-endowed chest, her girls called men and boys from far each end of the beach. She didn’t play the damsel in distress; she had a smart sense of humor and an amazing laugh. She was bright, confident and very mature. A few years earlier her father had been convicted of a Martha Stewart crime, and was sent away to a country club. His departure left her with a sour taste of reality, and a flawed edge. Her mom had full custody of her and her brother, and raised them without any help. Lilly’s mom worked two jobs to support the family after the IRS seized her mansion, and Mercedes. She picked up a lot of the leftover slack. Lilly was responsible, mothering, and usually our voice of reason. Getting her to say, “Yes,” to my antics, was shear pleasure, like a mom saying “Yes” to ordering dessert before dinner.
Katie was also brilliant and stunning with long-brown hair and sky-like eyes. I’m not sure how either one of them ended up under my influence other than my childlike charm. She and Lilly were part of the “smart, but pretty-not nerdy-girls” in school, and I was a drifter. Katie and I looked somewhat alike with our dainty, Irish, and French influenced features; except she had breasts and I had rump (before Brazilian butt implants were in style,) but she was taller, and more striking. We used to tell newbie’s that we were fraternal twins and they believed us. She too had to grow up fast when her mom went into treatment for alcohol abuse, but she was still fun loving despite the resentment she felt towards her mother. She never took anything too seriously, easily brushing turmoil aside with the sharp end of her wit.
There were a few other misfits in our group, but the three of us formed the perfect triangle. We were the combination of vulnerable, thoughtful, and restless. (In no certain order.) We were philosophically curious about the world in our conversations, and self-righteous about our findings. Logically, we found most of our peers irrelevant and dreadfully boring. We discussed the meaning of life, poetry in music and Hemmingway novels, but the vortex that brought us together knew heartache like the blade of a razor, and only the nicked understood.
A few days into our trip I noticed a little hole in the bottom of my drug pocket. I removed everything and left it sitting it out on the counter. Katie’s dad’s girlfriend found the purse and sewed it up without my knowledge. When we returned from the beach Katie’s dad handed it back to me. “Don’t get caught with that stuff,” as he dropped one of the leftover seeds in my hand. He wasn’t upset with me, he just wanted me to be careful, but I felt ashamed. I asked Katie, “Do you think your dad is mad at me?” “No, he’s probably just worried about us.” She was right, he didn’t say another word about it, nor did he hold it against me. Recently Katie told me, “My dad loved you to pieces that’s for sure. While you were living with us your mom called and threatened to call the cops for letting you stay there. He told her, “Go right ahead, call them if you want to report me for keeping your daughter off the streets.” He was not about to send you back there, even though I don’t think any of us knew the full extent of what was going on.” I never went back to my mom’s ever again.
While I lived with Katie the only time her dad ever got upset with me is when we were being disrespectful to her mom, his ex-wife. Her parents were divorced and we went to see her mom one night at an Alanon meeting. After the meeting we hung out, drank coffee and smoked cigarettes while she talked to a friend. I guess we talked smack, and behaved rudely to her friend in some teenaged particular, either way, Dan was pissed. I remember him lecturing us about respect. “Every human being deserves respect! I’m talking to you too Shannon. While you’re living here you will respect me and every other adult.” I felt worse than when he had given back my drug pouch. I’d let him down and that hurt, knowing he’d been so kind to me.
However, I wasn’t too worried about what he thought the day we ate our shrooms. We made peanut butter sandwiches and grabbed a few HI’C drinks and went to my car. The car was sticky enough before we peeled the bread of our sandwiches reveling the paste spread. To the mix we added dried mushrooms, and smashed it all together. We choked it down as our tongues ran trying to escape the cow-patty taste. We jawed it until we couldn’t take it anymore and washed it down with our sweaty juice boxes. It wasn’t long before the magic show began.
We wore silver-belled anklets announcing our presence as we passed by in the sand. The sound was intensified by the hallucinogenic in our systems. We couldn’t walk without feeling the vibration of the bells. We cruised the beach mingling with scrawny boys as we studied their pimply cheeks and the freshly grown hairs on their chests. Katie met a sun-kissed fellow whom she spent the afternoon cajoling on the beach. Lilly and I sat nearby making up songs about them to Eagles tunes, “I’ve gotta peaceful horny feeling, and I know you wont let me down, cause I’m already erect and round.” We laughed so hard and couldn’t get enough. Katie’s beau had fallen hard for her, love at first sight, but she stood her ground. She made that boy work hard before he got anywhere near her. He was a native Atlantan as well, and they ended up dating for a year or two.
We heard from friends on the beach there was a wet T-shirt contest later on that day. My crush at the time (although I didn’t know it until twenty years later) was supposedly entering it. A group of guys shouted, “Jenny’s going to enter the wet T-shirt contest at the sunset strip. Ya’ll come on, we’ve got to cheer for her.” To my dismay, we just missed her. She was walking down from the mock stage after the crowd cheered. Her hair was slicked back wet as her T-shirt clung tightly to her body. When we got back to school rumor had it she and another girl took a shower together and made out over spring break. I was jealous and indignant about it. I remember thinking, “How could she have kissed Mary, Mary is so annoying and goofy, and she’s NOT pretty.” I chose not to believe it really happened, but I was wrapped up in the story. I’m not sure why the lesbian meter never clicked.
By the time we were halfway through spring break, I still hadn’t sold the acid I’d bought at the dead show. However, we discovered it wasn’t real which wasn’t a complete downer because I knew I could still sell it. We met up with a few kids from school who’d met a gang of grimy teethed guy’s staying together at the local rat motel. Instead of walking to the other end of the beach, we decided to drive in case we needed to make a run for it. I sold each hit for ten dollars a pop, and doubled my money. We hung around for a while after everyone dosed as not to look obvious. Luckily, the rambunctious pecker-heads had already been through a case of Budweiser and were well on their way to intoxication, and Lilly’s DD’s were a big distraction. We giggled with the boys pretending to be catching trails off the ends of our fingertips. I’d twirl around asking, “Did you see that? Watch the cylinder spin around my body.” The group started getting rowdy and we knew it was time to bolt. “We’re going to get our stuff out of the car. We have some weed and rolling papers. We’ll be right back.” They were so drunk they didn’t know what was going on and we were stone cold sober- we had the advantage. Our nerves were a little rattled, but they settled when we squealed like pigs with laughter as we drove away.
We shared the night with patty melts and hash browns from the Waffle King, and anxious talk about the possibility of getting caught. “Do you think they’ll figure it out?” We had sold the whole sheet to them and they planned on selling the stuff up and down the beaches. My plan was to deny having any knowledge of fake LSD. “The hits I took were real, maybe the rest went bad, or got wet or something.” It never came to that, but I didn’t try my hand at drug dealing again.
The rest of our trip was uneventful in comparison. I was sixteen years old, and my looming reality was resurfacing but as I said before, I never did go back to live with my mom again. I knew for sure I didn’t want to be a dealer when I grew up but I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was reaching the end of my teenage years and still didn’t know I liked women. I lived with Katie and her dad until the end of my junior year. He was kind to me, and treated me like one of his own. He knew I was special, that we are all special, and encouraged me to do my best.
That summer I went to live with my grandmother, and her other son, my mom’s brother stole her fur coat and twelve place settings worth of china and silver, and my identity. (But we’ll get back to that later.)
I’d like to finish with Dan. Sadly, Dan the amazing dad’s body weakened and died under the duress of lung cancer. He was a soft spot along my way, and he taught me something about humility that I’m just now getting. If he were here today, I’d tell him, “Thank you. Thank you for believing in me when it felt like no one else did. Thank you for seeing past my disguise and into my heart. You were right, I am a good girl.”