In May of 2003 I graduated college and two weeks later found myself in a
baptism by fire crash course none of it helped program to become a New York City public school teacher. Teaching had never been what I set out to do, or wanted to do, for that matter, but I needed a job. I had dabbled in journalism, writing for my college paper and the New York Daily News, but my real dream was to be a music journalist. As Rolling Stone wasn’t knocking down my door, there I found myself under fluorescent lights at Brooklyn College with a motley crew of recent college graduates and change-of-career idealists who all had some delusion that we were going to change the world somehow. That basically meant teaching Hip Hop as Poetry. I’m sure your mind is blown.
Right in the center of our spastic little band of dreamers, as we all bonded over code-switching and cheap drinks, was The Hipster: holding court and being gregariously altruistic. The first time he ever spoke directly to me, we were sitting in a classroom, both pinned in by those horrible desk-connected-to-chair contraptions. The Hipster turned to me and asked, in an overly gracious manner, a. If I had any lotion and b. Did white people get ashy? It took maybe 3.25 days for me to be an absolute goner.
That Feeling: the flutter in your gut that feels like potential and unfettered-no-agenda-possibility — of the lusciously tangible Something that could happen between the two of you. It’s getting dressed in the morning with the anticipation of, hopefully, seeing him and wondering if he’ll sit next to you on the train so you can spend the ride sharing stories (yours: halting and self-conscious, his: bewitching and implausible). It’s unexpectedly running into him in the hall and sharing a hurried, whispered moment; the exhilaration of hearing his laugh (deep, throaty and unrestrained) at something you’ve said, ringing in your ears for hours afterward. And all of that building, building, picking up electric momentum into this agonizing blur of OMG maybe tonight could actually be The Night.
Tall, brown and charismatic, he wore skinny jeans before it was a thing for dudes to do. I mean, really, it is very possible they were girl jeans. Who cares. He looked delicious in them. And, once I got over my initial stuttering ima-just-stare-at-you-when-you-talk-to-me Shyness, we got on like a house on fire. We talked music, books, New York City — still the three greatest loves of my life — and we laughed. A lot. It was The Best. That summer was a blur of
grad school Jack Daniels and The Hipster. Instead of mastering Delaney cards, we became fluent in the Lower East Side. We stayed out way too late, did far too little homework and flirted our fucking asses off.
It is important to remember, however, that, ALL SUMMER, The Hipster and I, our tragic heroine, were Just Friends. There was the whole
nuisance business of the aforementioned roommate, I mean girlfriend, I mean, wait what? He has a girlfriend? I found out this crucial piece of information detail one day after class when a group of us were walking to the subway. Someone was mentioning how flirtatious he had been and wasn’t that weird because he lived with his long-term girlfriend. So many red flags in one sentence. So much choosing not to care. (That definitely wouldn’t come back to bite me in the ass, like not at all. Nah, surely not. Ugh. Anyway.) All I knew was how alive I felt when I was with him. His laugh was the kryptonite to my will-power.
At the end of August, The Hipster, Our Friend, and I went to at job fair at some generic hotel in downtown Brooklyn to try to get jobs. The three of us had become a crew within the crew, raising a lot of hell, shirking a lot of responsibility. (Are you sensing a theme, yet?) However, the summer was hurtling toward a close and we seriously needed some jobs.
Sitting next to him in some dull as rocks orientation about how to like talk to potential employers or something earth-shattering like that, I was aware only of how close his arm was to mine. I think I would have agreed to work in a Last Chance school in the northernmost part of the Bronx if it meant he’d just make out with me right then and there. A few minutes into the spiel he leaned over to me and whisper-asked what I was doing later that evening. (Uh it’s cool, not too much, just pledging my undying love and devotion to you.) I told him that I planned to go to the happy hour one of our colleagues had organized. He
pierced my soul looked me right in the eyes and said, “Happy hour is for kids. You’re going out with me tonight.” Fucking swoon. Just let me die happy right now.
Trying to play it super cool and aloof (lololol) I asked him, so, like, what were we going to do. When his response was, “Crashing a Sex Pistols party,” admittedly, my first thought was, “Those guys are definitely dead. Maybe this dude is a little whacked after all.” My second thought was that, really who cared, because he could have said, “Yeah they are but we’re having a séance over Sid Vicious’s grave,” and I would have replied, “Cool cool. Sounds good. Should we say 7? You have a ouija board or you need me to pick one up?” Now, for all my rebel delusions, it should be mentioned, I’ve never really been a rule breaker. I was kind of a shithead in high school because I had the grades to be, like, out of uniform. It’s safe to say crashing a Sex Pistols party gave me the kind of out-of-my-comfort-zone-stomach-pang that was equal parts holy-shit-this-is-awesome and nerd-anxiety.
So that night, after deigning to have one drink in Brooklyn, I found myself abandoning our other friends, at their pedestrian happy hour, yawn, because I had Better Plans with rock and roll, with adventure, with Him. Of course, with him you never truly got the full story (ie: you heard about the roommate/serious girlfriend obfuscation, right? I mentioned that one?). So, ok, we were going to this party, but how exactly were we getting in? Of course, The Hipster was also the guy who Knew a Guy. He went to see about his buddy who was supposed to be working the door, and standing there alone, in front of the Hotel Chelsea, I began to feel a little less invincible and a little more like I was wearing a black tank top and Converse and that we were probably way out our league. Then, as impossibly cool Industry People filed past me, I caught a glimpse of pearls getting out a cab and about died.
The Hipster had neglected to tell me he’d also invited Our Friend. She could start a barroom brawl faster than anyone I knew, but she also dressed like a fucking Stepford Wife. My rapidly eroding confidence that we were going to pull this off was now in the gutter. This was THE SEX PISTOLS. Take your Dave Matthews Band popped collar bullshit right on home. I could have murdered and buried her right there in the piles of trash on 23rd street, bloodstained Banana Republic skirt and all. I was convinced (convinced) that if there was any reason we weren’t going to pull this off, it would not be our highly-flawed-we-actually-had-no-IN plan, no (no) it would be that floral print midi skirt.
But, that’s the thing about The Hipster: he could Make Things Happen. I don’t know who he paid off, or how much he gave them, but about ten minutes later we were at the bar, ordering whiskey and
staring at chilling with Johnny Rotten. We spent the next few hours talking to the odd Pistol, sound tech, roadie, whoever, as long we were still on the Right Side of the Velvet Rope. To be in the room was enough. To feel that we had crossed some threshold of Cool was pure magic. Though, as the night wore on and the crowd dwindled, it became clear this was becoming a more intimate gathering. It also became clear we did not belong there. The security started to move in on us, but we weren’t leaving until we’d had our audience with Johnny.
The Hipster, not afraid of spectacle, took care of this. As we were being told to leave, being herded towards the stairs, he raised his glass, bellowing “Johnny!” across the bar. Standing a step above me, I looked up at him and then followed his gaze to the man ensconced in the private VIP area. Johnny Rotten looked over at us, bored.
“Cheers, Johnny!” The Hipster yelled again. The bouncers moved a little closer. Our Friend and I raised our glasses. And there where Sid had maybe killed Nancy, a punk legend deigned to toast us. He raised his glass, nodded, and went back to his conversation. Unplanned, but synchronized, we all threw our glasses down. As the glass shattered we were officially escorted onto the street. There is zero chance John Lydon remembers that encounter. I will remember that night forever.
If there had been any chance that I was going to wise up and let my infatuation for The Hipster fizzle, that night reduced the probability from Slim-to-None to Hahaha-Get-the-Fuck-Out-of-Here. That night, as we parted ways, and he said goodbye to me, he leaned in close to kiss me on the cheek. He grabbed me by the waistband of my jeans, his thumb looped right underneath the button, just barely grazing my navel. Fuckkkkk. I looked at him, inches from my face, and breathed: “You’re going to be trouble.” He just smiled and said, “You have no idea.”
A week later, he and his roommate broke up.