And then the porch light blinds us. I squint as a doorway materializes like the light at the end of the tunnel. From inside this light, a blobby, penguin shape appears.
"Oh my god!" gasps Lucy with one hand on her mouth and the other cradled across her pregnant belly.
I clear my throat. Propped between us is Stan. Lucy's husband and my friend from the dorms. Stan is what every parent hopes for. Goal oriented, serious and primed to succeed. He is also a good husband. Kind, faithful and ambitious in his industry. But Stan went out with us. Now he's drugged and streaked with vomit.
"Oh hey Lucy! We like..." and the words trail away in my California accent where everything always sounds like a question. In her shocked eyes, I see how wasted I am. So I squint and pretend to be serious. "We like, found him like this..."
I look at Kym and nod. We haul Stanley inside, lower him to the floor and let go. He flops face first on the carpet groaning. Lucy flips him over.
"Oh my god!" says Lucy again. She squats down awkwardly and rubs the hair plastered across his sweaty forehead. "Honey! Honey are you ok?"
"Bleaah" says Stan.
"It was nice meeting you Lucy" smiles Kym cheerfully, "thanks for having us over!"
I get off Muni on Fulton Street and walk. Entering the cool, green embrace of Golden Gate Park is like stepping into another world. An emerald oasis in the concrete coils of the city. Strolling beneath the colossal cypress trees, my day melts away. Only the stench of french fries lingers from my crappy dish room job. The mental chaos of my chemistry lab that was almost in a different language and the bland horror of statistics shrugs off in the shade. Too beautiful of a day. I breathe the scent of pine as the tree's wave giant arms madly overhead in the bay breeze.
I see them on a bench by the de Young Museum enjoying some rare, San Francisco sunshine. Kym is in overalls with a black tube top and sits with her knees up to her chin as she laughs at something Dev says. Dev looks like a train hippie. Thick dreadlocks in her auburn hair, a Subhumans shirt so old I can see her bra and skin through it. One of Kym's brown miniskirts and black leggings with bare feet and a couple of silver toe rings. Though they sit next to each other, I shove in between them. I need contact like a sad monkey in the forest canopy needs his nits picked.
"That bad babe?" says Kym putting her cigarette to my lips where I take a hit. I exhale and she kisses my cheek.
"Fucking pop quiz statistics bullshit."
"Aww Lover is sad" says Dev wrapping her arms around me and squeezing me until I relent and smile.
"Where's Melo?" I ask. He said he had some acid for me.
"Working" says Dev.
"He has a job?" I ask incredulously.
They look at each other and laugh.
"He sells drugs silly" smiles Dev.
I feel stupid because Yeah, that's what Melo does. Like I bust my ass in the dish room for minimum wage, a deferment on student loans and a free meal. Not bad. Melo and Jason operate in a cash or barter based economy. No taxes, no forms and no boss. But I could never deal in their world. Too much hustle and way too social. I'm too shy to be a drug dealer.
I smoke Kym's cigarette and sigh. Kym plucks it from my grasp and talks over me.
"I saw Cammy at work yesterday. You going tonight? The Stan and Lucy thing?" she asks Dev.
Dev leans over me. "Rondo told me about it but I wasn't invited."
"What?!" exclaims Kym and I in unison.
"Don't worry" smiles Dev leaning into me. "I don't want to go. These grownup parties are mondo bizarro. People hold up mirrors to each other and lie like motherfuckers. They're like funerals for our youth. I'm not there yet."
I look at Dev as I feel my eyebrow rising. She stares back at me blankly as Kym shoves me while she stretches and yawns.
"Well I'm going. Just come with us Dev. That bitch won't say anything" says Kym rubbing her eyes.
"Nah" says Dev.
Kym shrugs and lights another cigarette. She wants to go but Kym wants to go to every party from now until the end of time. It's her nature. I look at Dev.
"Oh just go! I really don't care and I know you guys will piss off Lucy. Have fun!"
"We're not going!" says Jason as he takes a bump of coke and passes it to Autumn who stares at me like a pissy cat.
"He's our friend. You should go" I say lighting a cigarette.
"Why? Lucy wears Stan's balls in a pouch around her neck. It's fucking sad dude. Worse, it's boring. BOR-ING! And a baby shower? C'mon man!" gripes Jason.
"There's catered food" I answer knowing Jason's soul better than anybody in the room. Stan and Lucy spent their honeymoon in Hawaii and came back addicted to island food. Jason looks up expectantly. I pick up the invitation and read.
"Entrees include a whole Hawaiian roasted suckling pig, sashimi and an assortment of Chinese cuisine from Hunan Home restaurant. Served with an assortment of tropical libations and fine, Napa valley wines" I read as Kym hugs my arm and studies the invite.
"Ooh cheesecake from Zanze!" she squeals.
"Correction! We're going" says Jason. "For the suckling pig. But you fuckers are still going to see Rancid at the Gilman with us."
"Ok" agrees Kym.
Autumn rolls her eyes.
A baby shower is an awkward thing for a male in a ripped, knee length black shorts with long johns and combat boots. Kym tried to dress me but I ignored her. Mistake. I am a freak here but at least this Agent Orange t-shirt has no cigarette burns or holes where I twist open beers. Jason wears an obnoxiously white suit. When he discovered Kym gets cheap, tailored dresses from a neighborhood Mexican boutique, he had to have a suit. It's so fucking white you need sunglasses to look at it which is why he wears white-framed, fake Ray Bans.
"Jesus!" says Kym when struts out in his suit. Jason twirls around and smiles.
"It's like your whole body is screaming COKE DEALER!" screams Kym.
Autumn is head to toe black. A black scarf wrapped around dyed black hair, black nails and this full length, collared black dress that looks like something the Nazis would wear to prom. Kym is squeezed into a silver, mermaid-scaled strapless dress with ridiculously tall high heels. Her purple hair is in a bun with a chopstick shoved through it. She winks at me through sparkly, silver eye shadow while I look at my scuffed boots and sigh. Fucking Dev is always right. This is gonna suck.
The door opens and a surprised old lady who looks like Lucy is at a loss for words when she sees us. Jason steps forward.
"Friends of the father to be!" he announces and the old woman smiles in relief. Jason hands her a bottle of vodka. "For the party. We didn't want to show up Irish!" he laughs.
Everyone inside is dressed like Financial District workers. Lots of dress shirts, ties and women in power pantsuits and unflattering dresses. We instantly stick out but I win hands down as Worst Dressed. Autumn and I wither like dying blooms in our social awkwardness. Most of the guests are only a little older than us but the cultural gap is a vast, enormous rift. Jason and Kym strut around thriving in their social element. Lucy spots us first and elbows Stan.
"Guys!" greets Stan coming up to us.
We congratulate him on his impending fatherhood. Stan is genuinely happy to see us. I spot Rondo and his girlfriend Cammy across the room talking to a group of people. Rondo holds up his drink to us. He's also in a damn tie. Looking around, Rondo and I are Stan's only school friends. Most guests are coworkers, Lucy's friends and their relatives.
"It's a buffet so eat! Let me get you some drinks!" grins Stanley.
I end up wallflowering with Autumn. We mutely watch people tear into the roasted baby pig corpse and sip our Mai Tais. Sometimes they greet us but I just smile and nod like an imbecile. Autumn never talks but always cackles when they leave.
"Here" she says holding out out her finger to me.
A small off-white bump rests on black nail polish. I look around and quickly snort it. My eyes peel open and I look at her accusingly.
"That's not coke!"
"Never said it was."
"What is it...?" and then I know.
It's heroin. I feel it cascading down my bones. That slow honey trickle...
"Thanks" I smile.
After eating, we grow bored. The sun sets and shadows are painted over the bay views. The city turns on it's lights and sparkles below us. Conversations with guests are alien. The Future. Everyone has a Plan or Goals. Jason lies, Kym is charming and embarrassingly enough, Rondo tells everyone his plans. This makes folks uncomfortable. While Rondo has a solid business plan, he makes pornographic fetish films. I love their expressions when he discusses the distribution goals of his next film: Temple of Fuck Vol. II: A Goddess Strapped. And I have nothing. I don't know when or if I will graduate nor what I will do. I grow tired of saying this and end up with on a couch watching a baseball game with other bored males. Much like a high school party, no one talks to me which is great because I'm high.
Jason inserts himself all over and wanders around with the bottle of vodka pouring shots. Lucy is is not into Jase. Plus she caught us all walking out of the bathroom where we were doing coke with Stan. Five people crammed into a bathroom at a baby shower is not normal. Stan mumbles about a running toilet and Autumn laughs. Stanley's not good at this.
I shake my head and pinch her but she stares Autumn down just because she can. Autumn stomps off.
The baseball game is boring. We're watching an American league game for Christ's sake. I get up to go have a smoke when Jason plops down besides me.
"Why so glum buttercup?"
"I feel like an asshole dressed like this" I answer honestly.
"Yeah we tried to tell you" says Jason wincing as he sucks down a shot and pours me one. "I would have loaned you something if you asked but your long ass legs won't fit in my pants. First time you felt like this?"
I look at Jason and he points with the shot glass at all the nicely dressed people walking around. Yeah. I nod glumly.
"The secret dude" says Jason leaning into me, "is you just don't give a fuck. I could be in my boxers and walk in like I own the place and no one would say shit. That's the goddamn truth."
"Well the Devil's Daughter is the worst one of them all" shrugs Jason. Then he slaps my freshly shaved mohawk.
"Hey! Let's take him with us."
We look at Stan who is pretending to listen to his father-in-law's tax advice. His face looks lost and his eyes glazed over. Poor guy.
"Yeah" I agree nodding. "Let's take Stanley out tonight."
We pry Stan away from Lucy's party. It's easier than we imagined. For some reason, she seems happy to see us go before cheesecake and coffee.
"I kinda wanted some of that cheesecake" mumbles Stan cramming himself up in the back of Kym's car.
"Don't worry" grins Jason climbing in after Autumn. He pinches her butt and she squeals. "We have gummy bears and cocaine!"
"I'm not dressed for the Gilman" says Stan looking at his tie and dress shirt.
"Just un-tuck the shirt" says Autumn.
"Totally punk" assures Jason in his ice cream white suit and sunglasses.
Kym unstraps her heels and pulls on boots. I help her clasp the spiked collar to her neck and she puts on studded wristbands. In her boots, spikes and mermaid-scaled cocktail dress, she looks an anime warrior princess. Kym removes her earrings which means she's going into the mosh pit and touches up her makeup in the rearview mirror.
"Fuck Kym" complains Jason from the back, "let's go already!"
"Je m'en fou" shrugs Jason.
"Quel salaud !" says Kym shaking her head and starting up the car.
"Is that like Mexican?" asks Stanley.
I see Autumn's pissy cat face in the rearview mirror. She hates when Kym and Jason banter in French which they do just to shit on each other. I have no idea what they are saying but I don't care. Kym is so obviously pretty that Jason always makes a point of insulting her. It is how they express their friendship.
The Gilman is dry so we make a stop at The Bird for drinks. A student place with toilets so filthy we do coke openly on the tables. Stan gets maudlin about the future and starts talking about his job and impending fatherhood. Looking at us degenerates, I know he feels a twinge of regret. Responsibility is a bitch.
"You're doing great Stanley" I smile because he keeps buying us rounds of kamikaze shooters and I'm getting drunk. "You always do the right thing. You're my role model."
"Really?" he asks suspiciously thinking I'm fucking with him.
I look at Jason who who is squeezing Autumn's boobs. She slaps him, he laughs and does a shot. Both of them have powdered nostrils and wear sunglasses. I nod at Stan and he smiles. Kym throws her arm around me and leans towards him.
"You're the man Stan! Hot wife, kid on the way and city fucking planner job! Always Mr. Responsible! So tonight" smiles Kym wickedly, opening up a dime bag of MDMA, "lets do the fun thing!"
She takes her gravity knife and scoops out a bump and snorts it. Then she dumps some in her drink and shoots it. I look around. Drugs and knives are frowned upon but The Bird is packed and no one blinks.
"Want some?" winces Kym as her eyes water.
Jason shakes his head but Autumn and I take some in our shooters.
"What is it?" asks Stan.
"MDMA!" shouts Jason over the crowd noise.
"What's that stand for?" asks Stan.
"The M is for Mmmmmmotherfucker!" screams Kym. Stan laughs as she dumps some in his drink and he slams it. Oh boy.
We show up drunk and late. Rancid is already playing. 'Junkie Man' cranks out over the claustrophobic confines of the Gilman's spray painted walls. Kym and Stan run off to the mosh pit. In their outfits, they look like a nouveau rich couple high on crack and punks slam into them enthusiastically. Autumn circles around the crowd to get closer to the stage without getting moshed. Jason and I melt into the back and enjoy the chaos from the shadows.
"TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP!" yells the lead singer and the crowds boils across the floor. People jump, shove and slam their way through songs but amazingly enough, no one gets hurt. Everyone is smiling. Sometimes I see a flash of silver as club lights hit Kym's dress like a fish streaking through swirling rapids.
Stan and Kym come back flushed and panting after a few songs. Jason pulls a flask of whiskey from his coat. We make sure no bouncers see as we take swigs from it. Gilman bouncers will throw your ass out for booze. Kym, Autumn, Jason, Stan and I form a circle as we press close together in our conspiracy. Arms around each and laughing, we slowly move in a circle and bob along to the music screaming "Give them the BOOT! The roots! The radicals!" and slurp Baymart brand generic whiskey.
"This!" exclaims Stanley as he squeezes me and Autumn closer and draws our circle tighter, "This motherfuckers! Let THIS part never change!"
I look at Stanley. Long hair cut neat for his city job. His pregnant wife threw out his old t-shirts including his favorite that simply said COLLEGE. Their house has framed art on the walls. No band posters or holes in the plaster where some coked out chick went nuts...Stanley has changed. Like a wind blowing through the club I look at this new Stan and appreciate. No matter how much of a fuck up I am, change is inevitable. And Stanley looks happy. Sure he's drunk and tweaked on whatever Kym and Jason dosed him with but looking at Stan is like looking at my future. Right on track he did it. Four years to graduate, marries his girl, knocks her up and now he stands tall. Like a big, goofy giant.
Talking with Stan tonight in The Bird simplified my views. He hopes for a son but would love a girl first because he grew up with older sisters. His job is boring but the salary and benefits let Lucy take a chance with her catering business. Pondering the murky future through Stan's eyes is the first glimpse of hope I have had in a long damn time. Stan and Rondo are my only grown up friends. The rest of us still act like crazy kids who drank too much fucking juice.
"I love you Stan!" I yell but I'm looking at Kym who smiles.
"To us! To right fucking now!" bellows Jason waving the flask.
We drain the flask as the ska-punk music rages and the crowd swells like a massive, incoming wave. The future looms up like a newly appointed god before us. Autumn winces and passes the last gulp of whiskey to me. I drain it, drop it and Jason kicks the bottle away. Stan turns white, starts to say something and pukes on himself. Kym elbows me as the bouncers move in.
"Hope you had a good time Stanley!" says Kym.
"I love you guys!" says Stanley as he loosens his tie and spews roasted pig all over the dance floor.