* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *
One of the darkest blooms that comes out when I cast my mind back involves my first real girlfriend, Erin, and this Head named Mike Guerrasio. Erin was a dirty-blond Irish beauty who, you guessed it, wore black tights, had an asymmetrical haircut and loved the Violent Femmes. Getting together with Erin was the first great triumph of sophomore year, the first great year of my life, the year I met other freaks like me and unfurled and let my freak flag fly. It was early autumn, probably right around the time that Jeremy Janks killed his whole family. I was 14 years old and I thought I loved Erin more than life itself. But, in reality, I guess I didn’t even love her more than not taking a punch, something I will never stop regretting.
Mike Guerrasio was a Head, was really easily the biggest and scariest of all the Heads. Most of the Heads were actually pretty smart and relatively cool, but there were always a few sociopaths in the ranks and Guerrasio was the most obviously criminal out of all of them. He must’ve been left back more than once – he was the size of a muscular, full-grown man, or at least he seemed that way to me. He had greasy jet-black hair that he combed with an orange plastic comb with a handle that he kept in his back pocket. I believe he was the one who came up with the designation “Punk Rock Faggot” and if he wasn’t he certainly used it the most. I hated him, we all did; he was terrifying.
One day at lunch, there was absolutely no place else to sit so me and Erin ended up at the opposite end of this Head table populated by Guerrasio and the petty thieves and dealers that he hung out with. Was he a Junior at that point? Senior? No idea. Don’t think it matters. Anyway, as soon as we sat down there was all the typical grumbling about “punk rock faggots” and “how the fuck can a girl be with a faggot like that”, the kind of shit we were used to and were used to shrugging off unless there were enough of us around. Erin, however, didn’t shrug off shit. “Can’t you assholes find something else to talk about?” she asked sincerely. The Heads let out a communal “Ooooooh” and looked to Guerrasio. He looked over at Erin, leaned in front of me and said to her, “I’ll slap your face for you, bitch.”
I said nothing. Somehow I was still able to look at her. I looked across the table at her and she did lower her eyes but still shook her head and gave a hollow laugh. “I’d like to see you try.”
He kept his eyes fixed on her. “Oh, I’ll do it, bitch, you just watch me.”
And then the memory cuts off. There’s nothing else. I’ve fantasized the next part a million times where I get up and shout, “Fuck you, faggot,” or where I get up and pick up a lunch tray and slam the hard plastic edge into his face, or where I get up and punch Mike Guerrasio anywhere, anyhow, do anything and then get the shit beaten out of me, but at least I did something.
But I didn’t do anything. Somehow I sat there, skin burning with shame, and then lunch ends, I guess, and I leave with her? Or alone? And we still went out for awhile after that? Really? How? How could she, with a femmy little coward like me?
I was 14 years old and Erin was my first everything. First love, first kiss, first tongue, first skin, first jealousy, first fight, first dumping, first heartbreak. I was 14 years old. Erin was every single first goddamn thing except for the actual sex – that would have to wait until I was 16, and even then I would have to exhaust every single excuse because I was certain I was going to die when I lost my virginity. The few friends I told about this laughed at me. I didn’t care. I knew I was going to die at that moment of (hopefully) mutual orgasm and I wanted it known that I had foreseen this, that I had predicted the moment of my own death.
But really, that’s all just me trying to distract from the issue at hand – Erin was my teenage everything and it still wasn’t enough to turn me into a man in the face of Mike Guerrasio. My cowardice then has haunted me ever since, and has underwritten every silly risk I have ever taken to prove that I had somehow moved beyond the pathetic little sissy that sat silent while some overgrown asshole called my girlfriend a bitch and threatened to slap her across the face in front of all of his friends.
All I can say is, Erin, wherever you are, I’m sorry.