In 2005 I began interviewing people I grew up with. Because I left home at thirteen and spent four years in group homes, my social network was significantly wider than most people of that age. What’s most interesting about these interviews turns out not so much to be the things we remember differently as the things we remember the same. Read the rest of the interviews here.
Wendi – Writer
“Why are you doing these interviews?”
We first met at a party at Lauren’s house. Pat brought you. I think you were in sixth grade, I was in seventh, he was in eighth. You were looking around the room, like your head was spinning, trying to take it all in, and there really wasn’t much to take in, just bowls of potato chips, nothing on TV. Pat said you were a good guy and if he vouched for someone that was fine. Because when Pat said someone wasn’t a good guy, that guy would walk off with my purse.
I tried to talk to you and you looked at me and said, “Why are we here? There’s so many better places to be right now.”
Pat was like, “Yeah, we could go get high somewhere.” I don’t really remember much of that particular night.
The next time I ran into you was at Pat’s. He was with Nicko and you and Nicko didn’t seem to get along. Nicko was acting like the pompous jerk he was and you were digging through this milk-crate full of books. You pulled something out and I said, “Oh yeah, that’s good.” You were like, “You read this?” We started talking about books and then you left. I said to Pat, “You have a smart friend?” He said, “One or two.” He told me you wrote poetry and I was impressed by that. He said I should hang out with you more. Pat said, “You’ve got a fucked up life and he’s got a fucked up life. You guys are the gold standard of fucked up lives.”
I started heroin really young. Because of my youth I didn’t have the big obvious tracks. I would use my knees and legs. Nicko was the one who caught me. I was in Brian’s room and Nicko came in and went running for Pat. Pat came and stood there and watched. He didn’t say a word. I finished, untied my arm, put everything away. He turned and walked out and the next time I saw him it was like nothing had ever happened. But all of a sudden everybody knew about it, which I think came from Nicko.
I heard stories about things you did. About you slitting your wrists. When your dad shaved your head everyone was talking about it. That was horrible. All the people we hung out with had long hair and getting your head shaved seemed like a way to cut you out of every group. Everyone was so proud of their hair. Fat Mike used to shoplift conditioner on a regular basis. Who shoplifts conditioner? Every guy got to hide behind his hair. You had to wear your troubles on the outside and that bothered me.
I was always hearing that you had killed yourself, then we had to call around to find out if it was true. I was fifteen and Iggy was living with me. He came home crying hysterically. He said, “Steve’s dead. He set himself on fire.” I called Brian and asked about you. “Steve’s in Pat’s room. You want to talk to him?” I told Iggy you were fine. But people were waiting for it.
Once my heroin use became known I was running on the death pool right along with you.
I took a lot of shit because of you. You didn’t have a place to stay and Iggy said I should let you stay at my house because I had the “cool” mom. But my mom was running a crack house and I didn’t want to take a chance, if the police came, of you getting caught.
I don’t think my mom called it a crack house. She said, “There were all kinds of drugs there.” It was a one bedroom on Sheridan and Thorndale.
None of us knew how to handle anything. No one could handle the stuff with me and the kiddie porn. No one could handle the stuff with you. We all ignored what happened to Brian and what was happening to Pat. It was so over all our heads, we just had no idea. Everybody wanted to come over to my house because there were all these drugs lying around. Iggy was there, Albert was there, Joe was there. I wouldn’t let Aaron and Kenwood over because they robbed housees. Tim slept with my mother, which was kind of strange. She would tell me about his curved penis. It used to drive me crazy that my friends would come over and get high with my mom. So I stopped being there. I stayed out as much as I could, spent my time in Albert’s garage, the kelly house, the laundromat.
My drug of choice was heroin and there wasn’t any heroin at my house so there wasn’t really any reason to stay there.
You were noticed. People would talk about you. People were interested. You were the walking freak show who was going to kill himself or this really smart guy who was throwing everything away. If you weren’t around people were upset and worried. They would look for you. It was one hell of a support system. You had people who cared about you but nobody knew how to show it. Also, people thought you were going to hurt them. Not in a violent way, but that you would say something. They were afraid you were going to insult them. You were great at that.
One night we were in the laundromat. I was the most desired female in the laundromat because my hands were small enough to reach inside the machines and pull things out. Brian was asleep on a bunch of washers. Iggy and Fat Mike were doing God knows what. Lynn asked me if you liked women. I said, “You’re asking me if he’s gay, or too self-absorbed to like women?” I said I thought you liked women.
“Do you think he’d like me?”
“Has he said anything?”
“He scares me.” She said Brian would hate her dating you.
A week later we were all hanging out at Boone and you showed up and Lynn just gawked at you. I think she thought you could protect her. But you were living on top of Quick Stop, so I’m not exactly sure what you could have protected her from.
All the girls were looking for someone to take care of them and the guys were looking for the same thing. All Pat wanted was someone who wasn’t going to throw shit at his head every ten minutes. All Brian wanted was someone to mother him and have sex with him. A whole group of people that wanted people to take care of them, I don’t know how any of us got through it. All anybody thought of was getting high. We tried to cover for each other but we never tried to help each other. Instead of saying something nice to someone we would just hand them a bottle or a joint.
When I was 17 I was dating a guy and he was 24 or 25. He was an amazing drunk and pill head and his idol was GG Allin. We were at a Ramones show at the Aragon and someone walked past wearing a Charles Manson jacket. I loved the jacket because I have a serial killer obsession and I walked over and said so. It was GG. He took off the jacket and let me wear it.
GG would just come in and out of my life. He’d send me articles on Joey Ramone, or things he thought I would like. I still have all these trinkets sitting in a box that GG sent me. When GG died in his video tape will he left me the Manson jacket. His brother tried to give it to me. I was like, “Bury him in it.”
I stopped doing heroin 11 years ago because I woke up and looked in the mirror and hated the way I looked. I had just split my first marriage. It took about a month and a half to kick the heroin. Worst time of my entire life. Then I started doing what I was comfortable with, which was writing and all that crap. And somehow it all worked out. I’m concentrating on writing. I had something in Cosmo but it was under a fake name.
My mom and I talk almost every day. We talk about the crack house. She thinks it’s all so funny, part of a great rich past. My dad is dead and I’m happy about it.
My husband and I have been together about seven years. I met him through work. Everybody was like, “Oh my God, he’s such a bad guy!” He was a drunk and I was psychotic and I got on Zoloft and he cut down on the alcohol and we haven’t had a fight in a long time. We haven’t had sex in a long time either.
I don’t freak out anymore. There used to be a whole bunch of violence. I whipped a phone through the third floor window, then I put my arm through it. Finally they just replaced it with plexiglass.
I have a very large pentagram tattooed on my back and I have a couple of God fearing friends who say the Lukemia is because of the whole devil thing. I became a Satanist because God didn’t help me. Satanism is run on the basic tenet that you are your own god.
I haven’t talked about a lot of this stuff in twenty years. My husband doesn’t know three quarters of this stuff. I remember people saying, “I don’t want to remember.” When you spend your life like most of us did the last thing you want is for someone to remind you what it’s like. Part of me feels the same weird responsibility I felt back then which is, ‘don’t tell.’ Everybody was hiding something. Hiding from the cops or robbing houses. Not one of us was doing anything particularly legal. We all had to keep secrets. Nobody cares anymore.
I had to deal with your book, A Life Without Consequences. Normally I would read it in a night, but it took me five days. You never came off to me as mean. You were always polite. You were smart and you used big words. But sometimes you would get these sad clouds. Lynn used to call it the Charlie Brown. All of a sudden you were sad about something. I would see Lynn and she would say, “Steve was so sad today.” I saw it a few times. It never seemed permanent. You wanted to do stuff. You wanted to learn stuff. You seemed like you were in a rush, a rush to get past everything and get to where you are now.
Photo of Bryn Mawr and Ashland from Chicago Milexmile.