17.

I don’t know how it was exactly, that when we were 17 we felt so old.

Road worn, burnt out, exhausted.

There were movies in the 80’s that tried to play homage to the era. They were over blown and exaggerated. But not. On many weekends we could be found at any of the following scenes.

The standard issue 80’s party: Aqua net hair, so many bracelets, Cindy Lauper inspired eye make-up. Acid washed jeans. Lita Ford screaming out a radio, drunk girls singing along. A keg in the basement, boys getting blow jobs behind garages, a drunk girl crying in a corner somewhere, furniture on the lawn. A cheerleader and her best friend’s boyfriend fucking in someone’s parents bedroom, beer bongs, short skirts, and the cops showing up to disperse the chaos.

The hoodrats parents party: 40 year old men wearing grease stained levis and plain pocket t-shirts. The men ogle us, the teenage girls. They make jokes and try to slip their nicotine stained hands up our skirts. Their very thin, very drunk wives, pretend not to notice but give us the stink eye all night while they gossip and complain and drink cheap beer. A handful of someone’s siblings run around unattended. Our inebriated 17 year old selves wonder who is keeping them safe. Our friends, the boys, play poker in the basement and call each other by nicknames only they can use. We all smoke too much, drink too much and the dads pass around ditch weed.

The chill night: a dozen or so best friends converge on the house of whomevers parents are either working third trick or out of town on vacation. Our choices seem to center on those two options. Mini dramas play out between friends/lovers. Euchre is going on in the kitchen with the occasional game of quarters to liven things up. Motely Crew plays on the turntable. Eventually the couples pair off for another night of pregnancy roulette. The singletons stay up finishing off bottles of whiskey and smoking the rest of the cigarettes. Some nights the guys drop, smoke, ingest; too much. We fret, worry, mother them. We love them.

They self abuse to forget their absent fathers. Fathers taken away by the ride of capitalism, chasing tail or their own personal demons. We gather in circles and sing old songs, Ruby Tuesday, Crimson and Clover. Songs that make us remember being young.

I remember standing in the doorway of a house that smelled like ashtray and old laundry. The couches rust colored with some autumnal scene. One of the dads was doing the lean in. Making small talk. Cigarette dripping from his fingers, Judas Priest playing in the background. Passing a bottle of whiskey between the two of us. The way he’d run his hand along the outside of my thigh so casually I questioned if it actually happened. He was cute. Tall and lithe with jagged edges. Beat up hands, calloused, a contrast to my soft youth. One of the few single dads of the group. “Lets go out back for a bit”. My flight response kicking in. I head down to the basement where my boyfriend played poker, betting pennies against his friends.

Being 17 was exhausting.