That Easter weekend my girlfriend Marie’s parents were away she stayed home and I lied about where I was going, and went to Marie’s. There’s something about going to work the morning after you’ve lost your virginity that feels invincible, even if it’s a holiday, a religious one; I felt like it was me, who’d arisen. I was working my first job, a CVS pharmacy in my neighborhood, and Marie dropped me off and we kissed and hugged, and the sun and the birds were out, and I stormed in to work a new man, and it was April, 1988, about 9 in the morning, Easter Sunday.
In that job I was responsible for cash handling and the light tasks of keeping the aisle carpets clean, facing the various lines of Aqua Net hairspray on the shelves, breaking down boxes and scanning things when the orders came in on Tuesdays.
When I worked the till, it was up on a raised platform with all the cigarettes and cash registers and condoms, which I felt to be in league with now and entitled to steal, along with the blank cassette tapes and razors; in my loosely established value system of 17, these seemed the perks that come with minimum wage.
And it was on the cassettes I wrote love letters with the music I dubbed for Marie, and that Saturday night it was just the two of us I brought the first album by the band The Lords of the New Church, and there was nothing female-friendly about it but I put it on after dinner when we started in, and we didn’t get too far into the first side before I was through.
That week it had been really sunny, I remember because my dad built a raised platform in our backyard and on it I sunned myself but couldn’t find any suntan lotion so I used cooking oil instead; I ran it all over my chest and lay there for a good, long time—and that night at Marie’s I had sun poisoning so bad I wanted to die. I scratched my chest just once and then it was aflame and burning and I had to sit on my hands to keep myself from scratching—but she gave me some anti-histamine from her parent’s medicine cabinet, allowed me a can of one of her dad’s Coor’s Golds, and I lay in a cold bathtub wondering if it was true, we’d finally do it.
Marie made pasta and lit a candle and played some music and when I came down, the pill and the beer and the bath had fixed everything, and we left the dishes on the table half-eaten and went upstairs, and that was that.
But Marie lied to me about being her first, which I found out through my roommate later at college. In fact, she’d been with another guy, the one I’d dressed up like Run DMC with one Halloween, when the two of us wore Kango hats and gold chains and lip synced one of the songs at the high school dance, and drove there in his mom’s silver Mercedes, and probably had a good amount of beer, and looked like dicks, because we were.
She and I wrote long letters to one another at college and she sprayed hers with perfume, and I saved them for a long time in a shoebox and lost track of what happened to them, in someone’s attic.
But it was on the raised platform at the pharmacy I remember my English teacher coming in once, my favorite teacher of all time, the one with the lazy eye who was balding and smoked cigarettes, when he ordered a carton of Winstons and I chastised him and he gave me this fraternal look of fuck you and said one day you’ll realize, you just won’t care what people think. And it’s because of him I probably write—and on our senior prom that year, when my parents wouldn’t allow Marie and I to sleep together in a hotel room but would allow us to camp outside in the backyard, it’s Mr. Perrett who lent me his tent, and we thought Marie might be pregnant in the morning but she wasn’t, and I went by his house to return the tent and we talked, and before I moved to France many years later I wrote to him and tried to reconnect, but we couldn’t.
Marie’s mom didn’t like me, that’s one of the reasons it didn’t work out. One night we were in my parent’s car outside my house I was pissed off and punched the inside of the windshield and it just spidered out and broke. The glass didn’t come in or anything but it was impressive, I must have hit it at just the right angle, and though I was proud of myself and my strength, it didn’t play well when Marie made the mistake of telling her mom, who suggested maybe next time it would be her I hit, that maybe I had anger issues.
And I lied to my dad about what happened so we could claim the insurance money, I said something must have fallen on it; it was hard to tell whether the point of impact came from the inside or out.
And when it was really time to say goodbye to Marie, when that moment came after all the breakups and on-again, off-again, she’d gotten a nose job and was laid up in bed, her face bruised and bandaged, I thought it would be a good way to remember her, and on the way out of her house I said to her dad “high price on vanity,” and he only nodded, and how much the same is true for me, how hard that is to see.