Alphabet Stories #2
D was in love with K — K was in love with S. I’m not sure why it turned out the way it did, but it did. It did me in.
D was my best friend. We rode many miles together on rickety bikes through the dusty valley. I met him in junior high school. He was one of those guys who wore trench coats before they were popular, with dark horn-rimmed glasses and flaming red hair. Kids at the school called him “Seymour”— a derogatory reference to a late night horror movie host on a cable channel from LA. I liked him instantly. He was an anglophile like me, and we’d spend hours playing chess and debating British TV shows. When I moved away from the white-trash slum I lived in to a distant farm, we’d ride and meet each other half-way on the long straight road in between the stockyard and the sewer farm.
D liked being mobile. After the bicycle, he got a Honda Trail 90. I’d jump on the back, and we’d climb the mountains. But D was crazy. He wouldn’t listen to reason. I once jumped off the back at thirty miles and hour when he steered towards a patch of ice on the road, just because he wanted to feel the bike squirm. I tucked and rolled with my camera, and looked up just in time to see him instantly fall over on the ice, his leg mangled in the wheel. I was fine. D soon moved up to a 350, and then a car. D’s car was an AMC Javelin, purchased during my senior year in high school. D didn’t go to a normal high school. It was a place for borderline kids, who for one reason or another couldn’t cope with regular school— sort of a hippie school. D, K, and S all went to the same school. D wasn’t a hippie. Neither was K. But S was, at least sort-of. Long-haired, quiet, and anti-social, the antithesis of the gregarious D. When K and S split up, D saw his chance. He wanted to impress her. So pulled up at my little spot of wilderness with K in his Javelin, to show her how “cultured” he was, with crazy artistic friends. I’d grown used to the role of esoteric other; the photographic freak in the middle of nowhere.
I suppose I was somewhere in the middle, personality-wise, between D and S. I didn’t like to press. I didn’t really have to. K did all the pressing. She pushed all the right buttons in me, and I became head-over heels in love with her. She was freckled and beautiful, and loved to play cards. I should have gotten the clue. Her game was solitaire.
We’d sit up all night long playing cards, and eventually D gave up. He told me he wouldn’t get in our way. But there were already many things in our way. K swore that S had tried to rape her; that’s why they broke up. K said she had been raped when she was fourteen, and had many sexual problems. It was my first lesson in patience. But it was also a lesson in believing someone for all the wrong reasons. I shouldn’t have believed what she said about S. I didn’t know him too well, but it seemed totally out of character. But I was so taken with her face, with the curve of her, with the warm feeling as I rested my head in her lap. It didn’t seem to matter to me that she wouldn’t touch me. Maybe someday, I thought.
Oddly enough, she wanted me to photograph her nude. I was working on my first show in college; photographing the twisted remains of burned metal at an oil tank farm struck by lightning. We went there often, and I did some fine work of her body parts, particularly that delicious neck viewed through the flanges and portals. The rusted speckled metal, and her speckled skin were so evocative, so classic. She made me promise I wouldn’t show them. I had no problem with that. When we split up, it hit me hard. It was the first time I’d heard “it’s for your own good— I’m too messed up.”
As if I were a prize— or as if she were benevolent. I didn’t want to let go, and I spent a lot of time wasted and thinking of her. K seemed to enjoy the torture. I remember standing in a phone booth in the rain, in the middle of a main street, barely maintaining under a massive dose of LSD. D had come by, as I was medicating myself at my brothers house (who had no phone), to tell me that K desperately wanted to talk to me. I called her at the hotel in LA. K wanted to tell me that she would be sleeping with two men tonight, to prove that she would be bad for me and that I should just get over it. She was going to marry S, after this, because he deserved her miserable self more than I did.
Looking back, I can see all the lies. But it hurt so much then. I wrestle with my conscience over one bad decision. K insisted that I give her all the negatives I shot of her. She cut them up before my eyes. I decided afterward that I’d never allow that again— I felt raped. If I made a photograph, it was part of me and I would never surrender pieces of me again. By this time, photographs were my life. I miss the photographs far more than I miss K. D, K, and S all joined the Air Force. K and S married, but were soon divorced. The next summer, I moved my way down the alphabet to an L. She was an improvement in every way.