I myself tried very hard to be an addict during that year. I was 17 and living in a bay-front apartment with two other totally self-involved slags who, when they weren't fucking my boyfriend behind my back, were introducing him to a harem of other girls for basic blowjob consideration.
I tell you, that's the problem with dating hot guys. Scott wasn't just hot, but drop-jaw hot, with long blond hair and eyes as blue as blowtorch flames. He looked like an angel, but evil. God he was evil.
"Do you love me?" he once asked despondently. I wondered if that might be the reason he was acting so strange lately. Oh, the poor, handsome, sad little god. "Yeah," I replied tentatively.
"That's the problem," he said, exasperated, "I don't love you."
Evil, I tell you. By the way, that is the only time I ever punched a man.
But he stayed in my life for as long as I let him. Later, I caught him shooting up in my bathroom. Then he tried to pimp me off on a friend, and another time he and another drunk friend tried to gang rape me while my roommates laughed in the living room, ignoring my cries. Finally, our brassy hairdresser neighbor heard me screaming from the sidewalk and simply walked in through our open front door. "What the hell's going on here?" she shouted. At that, the guys let me go and continued their marathon coke-snorting session in my kitchen.
I tried to let all this be OK with me. I tried not to care when I'd come home after my third work shift for the day to find the son of the owner of the Mexican restaurant where my roommates worked waiting for me in my bed like he was entitled to be there.
"Who is that asshole in my bed?" I'd ask the crowd of other strangers in my place. They rolled their eyes in a universal signal of how unhip I was.
I was on my way to fitting in, I think, when (thank God) my old friend Kathy came to visit. She always hated Scott, as anyone who had sense might. So one day she drove the two hours south from Torrance to San Diego -- where I had moved since the two of us attended high school together -- to assess my living situation.
"Look at the bay!" I'd say excitedly. "It's right outside our window!"
She was unimpressed. She couldn't care less about the close proximity of the ocean if it meant sharing an apartment with "these bitchy pigs" -- indicating my roommates, who at the time were in the other room passed out under a pile of guys. "Get yer shit," she said. "We're outta here." She began to gather my things.
And that is how I didn't become a drug addict my first freshman year in college. Kathy threw my possessions in the back of her impeccable '72 Ranchero, stopped for a minute to grab a pair of scissors and cut the crotches and armpits out of every single item of clothing my roommates had hanging on their clothes line over the carport, and moved my ass back up to Torrance, where I lived for the next four months with her sister Nadine in an apartment at least five miles from the beach.
Kathy herself lived with her mother in Rolling Hills, and she hadn't spoken to her father in years. The last time she saw him, she said, was when she caught sight of him early one morning asleep in his car parked outside a bar. His head was resting halfway outside his window, as was his arm, which dripped a trail of blood down the car door.
"Didn't you stop to help him?" I gasped.
"Fuck no," she said. "I hope the bastard died that day."
I used to wonder why Kathy would bother to save me but not her own father. Now I think I know the reason. It's because she must have tried. She must have tried so many times growing up to make herself matter more to him than his own addictions. And because she couldn't, she probably took her father's failures personally, and hated him for making her hate herself.
I started my second freshman year in a different college the following fall, and four years later, I got a call from Kathy. I'd stupidly lost touch with her since the fiasco of my first freshman year, and was surprised to hear her voice.
"I'm just walking out the door to graduate!" I yelled happily into the phone. Yes, I was about to graduate like a normal person, someone who wasn't hiding a secret first freshman year from school administrators. "Can I call you when I get back?"
But I never talked to her again. I just hung up the phone like the person on the other line never saved my life at all. And like an ignorant child, I went about enjoying the gift she gave me without looking back.
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