Jewish Strippers on Heroin is based on true events but of the names have been changed.
Today I wake up resentful as usual of going to work. Not even the thought of getting paid later motivates me to leave my bed. Propping myself up with a pillow I find my head throb slightly and my room moving side to side like a pendulum. As a comfortable distraction my eyes focus on the baby stroller sitting out on my third floor balcony. Tossed inside the baby stroller are empty Smirnoff Vodka mickeys where the labels had faded from shiny red to pale pink. How the baby stroller got there was a result of one hell of a night. Using the stroller as part of our Halloween costume last year we planned to create a night that would fulfill our punk-rock fantasy of her being Kurt and me as Courtney. We knew that the famous couple stood for everything that was outrageous and heroic. These icons gave us strength – they had a darkness and rejection but remained adored, rich and famous. We had found all our supplies at Value Village where we got the stroller cheap, a Francis Bean replica doll, and a sweater and t-shirt to duplicate the ones that Kurt wore. Hilary ended up looking eerily like Kurt from his stained long-johns under his torn jeans and Daniel Johnston t-shirt. She even completed her look with a special touch of fake gunshot wound blood on the wig. We were serious about re-creating every last detail down to her pale blue lips. Decorating the stroller with our glue guns in hand, we pasted fake flowers, a mini-tea set and pictures of band members. Last minute we attached a Sid and Nancy poster with “Homemakers and Proud of It” written in a cartoon thought bubble on Sid’s head. Replicating real life details studied from Rollingstone and Spin like writing Diet Grrrl on baby Francis’s stomach made us beam proudly at our art on wheels.
Walking down Yonge Street that night people’s reactions were more of voyeurism then offense when gawking at her fake gunshot wound, but nobody said anything. That was really disappointing. We wanted an audience, so when some teenagers surrounded us around a variety store at Dundas we started doing an improv: “Come on! Write my lyrics Kurt!” I yelled to Hilary, waving my fake pistol around.
“No, please don’t shoot me Courtney! Think of the baby!” she’d yell back. By this time we’d snuck some more swigs from the mickey we hid in the carriage in a secret zip-up pouch alongside our weed, and were well on our way to getting wasted. The crowd of teens cheered prompting us to continue along with a game of ‘toss baby Bean’, and we were lapping up the attention. It was then I suddenly felt an arm around my neck, and I heard a deep male voice command: “Freeze, drop the gun!” At first I thought it was a friend pulling a prank, and then I saw a bunch of cops jumping out of nowhere dressed in blue jumpsuits with fluorescent orange bulletproof vests. They were pretty rough with Hilary, thinking that she was a guy. They pushed her up against the wall and frisked her. They even took her into the cop car, while I was standing there un-frisked in total disbelief. At that point I noticed a familiar face in regular police gear who I recognized as a friend of my fathers. I shouted out: “Hey Randy, it’s me… David’s daughter!” We showed them our I.D.’s. Thank God she had it on her that night, as they were surprised to discover Kurt was a girl. Randy explained that the variety store owner had been suspicious because that night someone had been shooting at store windows all around the Eaton Centre. The owner called the cops when he saw me waving the gun. We had almost gotten ourselves arrested, but that didn’t stop us. We continued our tribute of Kurt and Courtney by hitting up all the clubs on Queen West. One band stopped playing a song when we came in to dance around. At my favorite dance club we wrestled to the Hole song “Rock Star” playing ‘toss baby Bean with fellow clubbers. Finally we ended our spree at Lee’s Palace where we tagged the mirrors in the ladies room with red spray paint. We simply believed that we were unstoppable, nothing standing in the way of our fun.
In the morning I always feel utterly disgusted by the amount of alcohol both of us consume. But on the other hand, I do it cause I need the distraction that debauchery provides for me on a daily. It softened the harsh reality of not being in school and not having a future plan other then to dress as someone else and entertain people.
When my bladder bullies me out of bed, I take a look in the mirror and see another pimple has sprung up on my cheek to join the steadily increasing cluster. My issues with my skin keep me in a low state of depressed angst. My hair has also started to thin, and I figured that would happen sooner or later after the continual cycle of bleaching, dying and removing the colour to bleach it again another few weeks later. Hair can only take so much abuse, more than my liver I figured. Who’s going to hire me as a bartender, and really I can’t just put the few retail stores I’ve worked at and the Have-a-Java on a resume. Resume’s make me feel once it’s all on paper I really didn’t amount to much. When I talk to Taylor and Jenny at work about it they say it isn’t likely that I’ll walk into a place and immediately get hired.
“Everyone has to put in their hours as a hostess or server first.” Taylor says. Sandra, who mostly works day-shift to accommodate her important play she’s in at night loves to put in her two cents, “It’s similar to working your way up in theatre. First you volunteer your time building sets, or ushering and getting to know directors and then you can audition for something, but really you still may not get a part for a long time.”
I am aware that both of my co-workers have the right idea by following the sensible steps to get somewhere, but rejecting that concept is all too easy for me. Nevermind these steps, I plead to no one in particular, just get me somewhere better now. The thought of being a waitress repulses me. I can barely tolerate clearing off dishes from the tables in the back of the Have-a-Java. Getting my smart-serve and doing the bartending classes were a waste of time and money, I conclude. If I had known that I couldn’t get hired right away, I’d never have done it.
After work I meet Hilary in the food court on the lower level. She’s now resigning to a life of predictable routine meals choosing only to consume tuna fish sandwiches on Seven Grain bread from Druxys. She terrorizes the girl behind the counter to pile on more vegetables: “Don’t skimp on those sprouts,” she tells her to my amusement. We sit at a table by the back, “My skin is so bad….it’s really bad,” I start to whine.
“That’s nothing, my hair is soooo bad. I think it’s falling out. I’ve even trained Darlene to pick pieces off the back of my shirt. Look” Hilary puts her sandwich down and points to her sweater, “there wasn’t any hairs on my sweater in the morning, and then after lunch I saw these, and then I brushed my hair and a huge clump ended up in the brush. I just get so tired of finding hair everywhere.”
“I think we only loose like fifty hairs a day average, my hair is totally worse then yours. At least you don’t have wretched skin like I do, really, haven’t you noticed it’s getting more and more fucked?” I wait to hear something comforting from her. I could just start crying here in the food court. Hilary was still involved in finding more wayward strands of hair. Wrapping up her half sandwich in wax paper she disposes the remainder of her dinner in her plastic cup. Reaching into my bag I pull out my compact and try to put more makeup over my makeup.
“I’ve got an idea,”
“What?” I ask not even looking away from my mirror.
“Do you want to come check out Kendal’s apartment with me? She moved in a few weeks ago, and has invited me to drop by, and we’d take the streetcar over one way and then cab to the subway back home after, it’d be fun.”
I remembered the first time I met Kendal at the alternative school we went to. I had to stop myself from staring at her exotic, green almond shaped eyes. She looked like a magical person drawn in a children’s story book with black and white striped tights. She seemed to be oblivious to how beautiful she was, in the same way Hilary dismisses compliments. If I looked like Kendal, I imagine, I could do anything I wanted. She’s also an artist who carries her sketch book everywhere she goes. When I was at school anytime I needed a good ear to hear me rattling off my anxieties I had spoken with Kendal. There was something about the way she’d squint her huge eyes and nod that soothed me immediately.
“Yeah, let’s go visit her. Where does she live?” I snap shut my compact, closing my horrible face. Hilary reaches into her velvet tapestry purse and fishes around for something. Once the matchbook is found she reads: 1255 Queen St West – it’s Parkdale I think.
“We need booze first.” Hilary says leaving behind gum wrappers and old transfers on the table that she already checked for any important information written on them just in case.
After we get our mickey we take the westbound Queen streetcar. During the ride we start drinking. My throat isn’t burning as much drinking straight vodka, which I believe is a good thing.
“Sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more,” I start imitating Mark Arm. Hilary continues with the guitar part,”Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh…nuh nuh” she got a guitar last year for Chanukah so I always let her do the guitar parts.
“You’re so ungrounded, surrounded, by scum sucking assholes who’ll shovel your shit”
“nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh…and they’re alllllll into yer shtick…”
Once we hit the bell and run out there’s something about this neighborhood that quiets us down. It could be cause we don’t come out this way often or the young black woman in thigh high boots and mini skirt across the way who may be a hooker.
Another young woman comes around the corner with a dude in an oversized ski jacket and baseball hat. With our baby-doll dresses over our bell bottom cords we don’t fit in here. We move in front of a dimly lit store with a fading sign for ice cream and milk. A group of men in plaid jackets with no scarves or hats on argue with each other, pushing and yelling in front of a bar. I wonder if that’s their life, getting drunk and fighting.
“Okay Hill, what number are we at?”
“We need to cross the street, I think that’s it above the hair place.” We move towards an older looking hair salon with a pink sign that reads: “Starburst Salon” Everything in the window seems to be covered in a smudgy gray film. A drawing of a woman’s head with a plastered down page cut seemed out of place as a picture of a black woman with extensions smiled at us from the display. Totally enraptured we cup our hands to look behind the gray film covered window.
“Check it out Annie – they have those old fashioned hair dryers out of the sixties.”
“They look so funny. Does anyone even come to this place?” The leaves on their hanging plants were brown and curled in. “So why would Kendal live in this neighborhood?” I ask her.
“I don’t know, maybe cause it’s cheaper. I think she’s on student welfare or something. She has roommates so it’s not like she’s paying for the whole thing on her own.”
“When we move out one day, we sure as shit won’t be living here.” I tell her. We knock on the door and I start to ask Hilary about what area she would like to live in but stop talking immediately when I see her. A girl with a grey face and dark circles under her eyes opens the door. The girl is Kendal.