Sunday, November 22, 2009


JoAnne was turning tricks on Capp Street, I can’t remember when she started but Capp Street was the bottom of the line for hookers, why not take out an ad? JoAnne said she liked it on Capp Street, the girls watched out for each other, she wouldn’t be able to turn tricks on her own -- and I’m a fat dyke, she said -- no one would call my ad. JoAnne was proud of being a fat dyke, she was just reading the marketplace. She would get in cars for $30 blow jobs, but it was so convenient -- Capp Street was literally a block away from the house where we used to live together. In Boston, sometimes I went to the boy block, usually it was empty but I did get my best trick there, I mean the one who paid me the best, by the hour. We would always talk for at least two hours before doing anything else, but then during the sex part it was so hard for me not to freeze because of the way he touched me so soft and his body was all bones. I want to say that he was a crackhead, but actually I don’t think there were drugs I think he was dying. I liked the part where we talked about music, he would get all excited and even though it was classical music I would get excited too.

The first time I worked the boy block, my friends got worried because I didn’t come back for a while, they left me notes on the parking meters: call us as soon as you get this. We’d gone out to the block together but they hadn’t turned tricks before or if they had they weren’t admitting it yet. Gay culture was scary, but I did appreciate the camaraderie. It wasn’t so lonely at the clubs, waiting for the music to become everything. I mean I still had to wait, but it didn’t feel so lonely. Now Gabby and I would rush to the photo booth to get pictures of our outfits, at the big club that happened every Sunday, the highlight for Boston gay nightlife and I always stayed in the back where the music was harder but we would all reconvene at the end of the night to get home or to figure out the next stop. JoAnne started taking care of one of her lovers who was kicking heroin, she’d hold her in all that shit and vomit and I can’t remember what happened to that lover, I mean whether she got off heroin but then JoAnne was trying to kick, she sent me a book that I never read because it was about recovery from drug addiction as a spiritual quest and I wasn’t interested in spiritual quests. In the margins JoAnne wrote: considering my place on the social totem pole I’m rare to be alive at 21. And: addicts are my teachers now.

JoAnne didn’t want me to leave San Francisco, and I’m not sure I wanted to leave either, I mean right at the moment when I did leave it actually felt like home, at least in our kitchen, making stirfries and reading everyone. Later I would realize that always happens right before you leave. Afterwards, JoAnne tried to be friends with Angie again, or the people who were friends with Angie, or both, and I was never quite sure why except that it was hard to be a certain kind of dyke in the Mission unless you were friends with certain people. But now JoAnne was a junkie and the rule in the Mission was: a junkie will steal everything from you. It’s not that they didn’t talk to her, but they wouldn’t let her in and I blamed them, blamed them for everything.

I always had rules for my addictions. I never did drugs during the day, unless I was still up from the night before. Every week I would stop for several days and everything would get much much worse unless we went out for cocktails, yes please cocktails. Sometimes I would stop everything for a week or even a month, just to make sure I could do it, and everyone around me would be stunned and JoAnne would say: you know you’re an addict, right?

You can move to Boston, I said -- we could get an apartment together, you’d be away from all your sources. But JoAnne said: you don’t want to see me this way. She moved back in with her mother, in the Seattle suburb where she grew up, a town getting richer and leaving all the earlier inhabitants behind, the ones who were just middle class. Her mother wouldn’t let her leave the house slone because she was worried she would get drugs, that was one of her rules for JoAnne staying there so I went to the health food store in Boston and borrowed the largest size containers of all the fanciest vitamins and sent them to JoAnne, along with a 36-ounce bottle of Bragg’s liquid amino acids. Her mother remembered that later: JoAnne really appreciated those vitamins, she said -- she talked about you all the time.

But first, JoAnne’s mother kicked her out, after JoAnne left the house and went to Seattle for the day, probably to get heroin. Soon JoAnne was back in San Francisco -- Melissa was doing outreach on Capp Street when she ran into her. Melissa said: JoAnne doesn’t look good. What does she look like, I asked. She’s lost a lot of weight and you can almost see through her skin, Melissa said. JoAnne called me to tell me about running into Vanessa on the street, JoAnne was spare-changing and Vanessa wouldn’t give her any money but she told her she looked great, she might’ve even said amazing.

JoAnne was so angry about that -- Vanessa had never complimented her in that way before, it was because of all the weight she’d lost.


Anonymous said...

"Later I would realize that always happens right before you leave."

I wish there was a way to trick myself into believing that I was always going to leave whatever city I live in tomorrow. Then I would always feel like I was at home.

The only time I didn't feel that way was when I left San Francisco. Of course, I get pretty nostalgic about SF at times, but the day before I left I was so eager to leave that I couldn't sit still. The day I left I didn't feel even a twinge of sadness. This coming from someone who has to fight the tears when she finally throws out an old paperback book with half the pages ripped out and the rest stained with spilled coffee or something. What was it about San Francisco that made me so indifferent to leaving? Perhaps I should be asking, "What was it about me that made so indifferent to leaving San Francisco?"

Since I read Pulling Taffy, I am assuming you are referring to the same JoAnne. You were a good friend to her. I hate that someone told her she looked good because she lost weight thanks to the heroin diet. I don't blame her for being pissed off. I got the same thing when I went on the Chrissie diet. Sure, I had facial tics, my eye sockets protruded from my face, and my cheek bones looked like they were about to erupt through the skin, but at least I wasn't fat anymore. Meth-induced paranoid psychosis is such a small price to pay to be thin and gorgeous.

So how did the talk at OSU go?

Anonymous said...

oh, did I mention that you are fabulous? Well, you are, in case you forgot ;)


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Elian, "I wish there was a way to trick myself into believing that I was always going to leave whatever city I live in tomorrow. Then I would always feel like I was at home."

I know -- I wonder if that's what home means :)

Or, perhaps they'll develop a miracle pharmaceutical to keep us in that perpetual state of be-leaving...

And, "Meth-induced paranoid psychosis is such a small price to pay to be thin and gorgeous." So true -- want a bump?

The OSU talk was amazing, thanks for asking -- although now I'm a bit exhausted...

Oh, and did I mention that *you* are fabulous?

Love --