Recently, I saw the headline for an older tabloid news story that said the marginally famous daughter of a late 20th Century famous actor had been a victim — and my brain immediately completed the headline with “overdose.” I’d known the daughter in the early aughts, not well, but well enough that we had each other’s phone numbers and had partied together on a couple of occasions. On the first occasion, we were celebrating my first apartment in the DC area.
That place was a total dump. This was before the suburbs were gentrified, before that area had any condos, before white people dominated that zip code. Before I knew better. Before a lot of things.
It was the summer of 2003. I had recently been awarded SSI and that year SSI was paying only $552 per month — and my rent was just shy of that for one room in a four bedroom ground floor unit. There were roaches, sure, and ants, and many, many other insects. The kitchen was covered in the accumulated grime and stench of who knows how many tenants from how many years. The electricity didn’t work in my room, so I had to run a very long electrician’s cable from the living room, down the hallway and under my bedroom door. We couldn’t call maintenance because we were all subletting, which was against the lease of the original tenants — and no one could remember the identity of the original tenants. As such, we weren’t able to get internet service put on the phone line. All of the furniture in the common areas had followed me from my moldy, sepsis-inducing apartment in Pittsburgh. And yet, there I was: freedom. I had to have a party. Friends, you know I had to have a party.
That was in the Livejournal days, so a journal entry was made on May 21st for a get-together to happen on May 24th. In it I noted that there was no lock on the building’s door (indeed, I never had a working key to the apartment), so folks should just come on in. “Bring: Other people, and maybe some food and booze as I am not rich. Also: Open turntables (and CD player), so bring music if you want to wank it.” (Most of my friends at the time were music nerds; many were musicians, DJs, or music journalists.)
It was at that party that I met had-been famous actor’s sex working, partying daughter.
We hit it off well, but to be honest, I hadn’t thought about her in years until I saw that headline and assumed the worst. That’s on me for judging, for making the assumption that she hadn’t changed when I certainly have. I did a little digging and she seems to be making good these days.
I wonder if she ever misses the chaos that was our late teens and very early twenties. We certainly have a lot of good stories from those years and I know I learned a lot from those ups and downs. But I can’t seem to decide if I was ever truly happy, content, or at peace during that decade of my life. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter; water under the bridge, sand through the glass, etc. We don’t get that time back. But we can follow those stories where they lead us over time. We can tell all the different truths those stories yield. And we can try to not repeat the harms we caused, no matter how much fun they may have seemed at the time.
K.C., I’m sorry for everything.