“Keep it high, like this!” Michelle said, transmitting party wisdom over her shoulder with a cheerleader smile, holding a Marb red and a Schmidt can in one hand up near brunette Aqua Net bangs as she inched us through someone’s mom’s apartment packed with mostly white teenagers. I followed close in the crush, trying to protect my beer and not bump into her. She was a tiny junior glowing with charisma and cool. I was a six-foot sophomore with a spiked mullet and a forehead full of zits. So skinny. Still 15. Only 15. Not good at parties but wanting to be. It was a Saturday night in January 1987. Maybe early February.
In October a couple cops had taken me to detox after busting an outdoor party. The guys I was with ditched me because I was unconscious and ill and Steve, who I barely knew, thought I might mess up his immaculate brown Camaro. At the party, juniors and seniors I looked up to had laughed at me and pissed on me and tied my Reeboks to my Levi’s 501 belt loops while I laid in weeds on the edge of woods next to a nature center parking lot. I don’t know what else they did. They could have done much worse. I don’t know if anyone tried to help me. I’m not mad at anyone who didn’t. I wish more people would help, but I understand why they don’t. I can still smell the combination of vomit and Adidas cologne on my black and purple shaker-knit Oak Tree sweater.