The cool kid
(For Wendie Jo Sperber)
I was always the cool kid in my class, combing my hair like James Dean, getting my choice of the girls, even the girls the jocks couldn’t get.
I thought my fast car and smooth talk would carry me through the rest of my life.
For me, the future was a never ending 1950s full of drunken parties and races in the street.
I thought The Beatles with their mop tops were a bunch of fags.
Maybe I should have noticed something wrong when some girls didn’t look at me as much as I liked and I didn’t get the same respect when I paraded the halls.
I noticed a new crown making noise with fag-like Beatle hairdos the girls giggled over.
These “guys” didn’t even flinch when I threaten to beat them up, flipping us off as if we were geeks.
I got the an idea I might be missing out on something and thought maybe I’d like to hang out with some of them to see what they were all about.
One kid, Pauly, seemed to head this click and I thought if I could hook up with him I would feel cool again.
But I couldn’t just walk up to him and say, “Hi, can I join your gang.”
They would have laughed me down the streets like beaten dog.
Maybe you think I’m weird.
I started following them around, watching them on the sly to see who Pauly hung out with and what they all did.
I even put away my Italian shoes, high roller shirts, and creased pants and took to wearing jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.
My old jock pals started mocking me and calling me a nerd, though I knew they didn’t like the way their girls were looking at the hippies either.
Maybe I should have beat up Pauly and his hippie pals like my jock friends did.
But I couldn’t get over these new guys even when Pauly called me a nark and told the others not to bother with me.
Yet they couldn’t shake me, and finally, they told me that if I wanted to be part of his gang I had to cop some pot for them.
My old circle had no use for the stuff, and would had drunk piss before they smoked any grass.
They all assumed we would get addicted after a few puffs.
Still, I promised Pauly I would try, and I did, making a real ass of myself around school by asking anybody and everybody how I could buy some pot.
Finally somebody told me I had to go over to Greenwich Village to get the stuff.
I did that, too.
For a while, I couldn’t get anybody there to come near me, even the most down and out son of a bitch looking at me as if had the plague.
Eventually, some black dude wearing sunglasses – at night – agreed to sell me some.
I was so proud of myself I even told my old jock friends to screw off when I got back to Jersey. They told me I was acting strange.
I brought the bag to Pauly and handed it to him as if I had just brought him the Holy Grail.
He opened the bag, took a sniff, and let out a howl
Oregano, he said, and poured it out onto the ground.
Then, he wrapped his arm around my shoulders, and told me to come along.
Hell, I’ve been following him ever since.