When I got that 1986 midnight blue Chevy Cavalier in late January 1990, it was some sort of deliverance. I was no longer restricted by who I could receive rides from; it was liberating. My life, in a sense, had begun. I dated like crazy, ran every errand I could, and was chauffeur to my carless PBA friends.
Around that time I also met a unique girl who hailed from Jackson, Mississippi. Yes, she had the accent you're hearing in your head right now. She had fire engine red hair and often wore Laura Ashley dresses. She attended Palm Beach Atlantic and also worked at Eckerd with me. We became fast friends, strictly platonic. A back massage is about as erotic as anything got. She seemed typically conservative in the PBA (and Southern) vein.
As we hung out, I learned otherwise. "Laura" (not her real name, but it'll do) had a bit of a wild streak, eager to stir things up when given the opportunity. How clearly I remember that night on Palm Beach Lakes and Village Blvds., at a stop light next to a car with two young black guys. Laura was in the passenger seat, directing her derogatory remarks and accents at them. I was livid and scared, fearing some serious damage. Sure enough, the guys followed us onto Village and it seemed as if I would have to put the pedal to the metal. But within seconds, they flew into the left lane and sped past, shouting something at us I've blocked out. I gave Laura a few words, but soon we were laughing.
By night Laura was a goth, complete with black fingernails and black robed garments. She loved going to Respectables, a downtown WPB club that played music by The Cure, New Order, Faith No More, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, along with doses of old school ska and punk, and lesser known acts like Alien Sex Fiend and The Swimming Pool Qs, both of whom did shows there. Even before I met Laura, I went to this club semi-regularly, but was usually clad in blue jeans and untucked short or long sleeved polo. I actually slam danced or something there a few times, though mostly hung at tables with my friends and just listened to one cool song after another. A few years later, I was outside in the back bar area, eating something from the late night menu. "Marijuana is the only food you'll ever need," a helpful chap offered.
With Laura I got to meet and hang with many other goths, and it was fascinating. Back at Laura's place at some ungodly hour, many a head spinning night was had - not necessarily because of drugs or an excess of alcohol, but definitely becuase of the conversations (whatever their catalyst). These people came from much different backgrounds than me; their points of view so foreign. They looked at me with curiosity and I imagine in some cases, pity. One of them wore a T-shirt that read: CHRISTIANITY IS STUPID. Despite that, most of my exchanges with them were friendly.
That changed, however, when I met Laura's ex-boyfriend, a somehat psychotic and combustable fellow named "Rick". Rick also frequented Respect's and seemed to always be glaring at me. He thought Laura and I were an item. Laura confided many awful tales to me about her ex, including a time he picked up a hammer left by a construction crew and tried to bonk her in the skull. Lies? Who knows? My observations and overall vibe about this dude suggested otherwise. One night, I felt his hand slap me on the back. He sarcastically said "hi" as we were all swaying to Depeche Mode or something similiar.
The best story about Rick? He went nuts one day and damaged several pianos in the music department with a fire extinguisher. That was being talked about around campus. I'm pretty sure Rick got expelled.
Laura and I had a fun time, and she even played advisor/counselor when the girl I spoke of in the previous entry called me out of the blue to see if I would take her to her senior prom, on a cruise out to sea and back. This was a few months after we had broken up. Laura told me not to accept, but of course I did, and had a miserable night. It all concluded with my date and I being kicked off the ship's dance floor by her teacher/pastor, beacuse we began fighting, loudly. Once we reached the deck, it was cold and raining, but the shouting crescendoed nonetheless. I don't remember it all, but she most certainly did storm off and tell me to go to hell. Laura had warned me.
But Laura and I would have our own falling out after she and her roommate toilet papered my car in my driveway. Normally, I would LOVE that sort of thing. I had a couple of choir mates build a nest on my hood once. I don't know, though, for some reason that night I was not amused, and quite furious that this was happening. After my scene, I went back in the house and they tore off. We did not speak after that. So silly. I don't know what got into me.
A few weeks later, in a postscript straight out of a David Lynch movie, I saw her chatting with some guys near one of the dorms on campus. I drove by, stuck my head out the window and did a bizarre loud cackle at them, eliciting confused stares. It was another strange moment for me, as I never did things like that. Laura must've had some odd influence.
Many years later, Laura is one of my 380+ Facebook friends. She even sent me a case of Peach Nehi! The reason behind that is for another time, invisible audience.