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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dirty Sweet 'N You're My Girl (Eulogy For An Awesome Chick)

Genine was a high school friend. Brief, bright and deep, that was our love, from about mid-freshmen year to the summer of junior year. I wish I could find my goddamn yearbook so I could see what we wrote into the blurbs on each others' pages at graduation. Was it "remember when we..." and was it promises to keep in better touch? It's things like that you grasp for, when you find out a one-time friend is gone.


Sexy And Seventeen


I heard about the girl with the heart problem before I met her. My little brother had befriended a kid in his class, and Genine was Jud's older sister. Michael gave us wide-eyed, rambling re-tellings about her hospital stays, her sternum scar, and the times when she had to be rushed to the hospital, "her lips turned purple, her fingers turned purple." He used to pronounce it "purpoo" when he was little.

I don't even know where we originally met. Probably study hall. Joking and swearing like a sailor is what I remember that drew me to her. She'd joke about her heart, about the teachers, about sex. Damn, she was gorgeous. Sturdy, utilitarian body, a certain swarthiness to her complexion. Short, spiky blonde hair streaked with dark highlights. Or was it dark hair streaked with blonde highlights. Big smile, dimples, huge eyes. Genine's eyes were the kind you don't see often. They're not just one color. They're flecked blue and brown and practically twinkling with some private joke she'll tell you about later, and when she laughed they'd go all crinkly. Square capable-looking hands. OH and she had a beauty mark placed exactly right, so sexy, like Marilyn freakin' Monroe or something. Girl, you were the shit.

She's So Unusual


We had few classes in common, because Genine was not the least bit interested in college and I was taking AP English, History and French for some ungodly reason. Every now and then she'd miss a month of school, recovering from long ten, twelve-hour surgeries. She'd come back to school smiling as big as ever, getting caught up on the gossip, hopelessly adrift as far as schoolwork goes but not caring at all. "School is not my cup of tea," she'd say breezily. Can you say that? That's a thing? I don't think the teachers knew quite what to do with her.

She must have been tired all the time, but she never once complained.

We waited outside classrooms, coordinated study hall, got seats together at assembly, ate lunch together -- making fun of those styrofoam salad bowls and sporks. We traded whose house we'd bus to after school, before she got a car. Once she got a car we did anything we wanted. She took me to my first Beni Hana dinner.

Hanging out at my house, she gave me agida because she'd swear -- the big one, the F word -- right out loud, in normal conversation when my mom was right there. My mother never said a word, She got a big kick out of Genine. I think mom was secretly hoping for Genine to help get the stick outta my butt. I was a sullen sort of serious. My mom was more...Genine-like.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun


In those days Genine loved Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, Madonna loomed huge, but in her soul she was a Culture Club fanatic. On the days she didn't dress like Madonna, she dressed like Boy George, partially through adoration and partially because a recent surgery had left her abdomen filled with liquid that wouldn't go away, and Boy George's loose, flowing style suited the situation. She would joke about the bulge and refer to her "baby."

She had a fantastic record collection. Not only did she have all those pop and new wave faves, she also had soundtracks and comedy albums. We danced the "Time Warp." We mimicked Steve Martin, the "wild and crazy guy" in those days. And Bette Midler! She had a few Bette records, but I think it was "The Divine Miss M" we had to play every time we got together. It's the one that has the song about Otto Titsling, inventor of the bra. We LOVED that song. We talked about boobs a lot, as we're both well-endowed in that area. I also had a big round butt and Italian thighs, but Genine was made of more straight lines, except for those knockers. She'd grab both her tits and declare, "THESE are MY love handles." She wore low-cut tops, even though those also showed her sternum scar. It was Genine that encouraged me to wear ponytails despite my one-ear. "So fucking what," she'd scoff.

We both loved thrift stores. Thrift stores, vintage boutiques, anyplace where we could find old lacy slips, long faux pearls, jaunty hats. Pins, we were big pinners in the day, but we pinned jean jackets. We even tried on the spiky, pointy-toed little shoes even though we referred to that activity as "the evil stepsisters at it again." My feet are size 8, hers 10, plus she had these long oddly-shaped toe knuckles going on...we stuck with our Doc Martens, but found a way to incorporate the vintage lace, pearls and hats. She wore the slips as dresses. I couldn't quite get away with that; compared to all the population of Shepaug Valley High, she was always more...not sexual, exactly...sensual. She turned me on to the lesser-obvious, in so many ways -- the darker, the sexier, without being corporate candy. Like Tim Curry. Like Jack Nicholson. She loved Jack Nicholson. This girl was in high school.  I was still calling boys "cute." But "I think I'm having a Jack Attack," she'd say, mock-swooning and fanning her face with her hands. And in the blink of an eye I knew exactly what she meant.

Come Dancing


I worked so much during the summers, especially Junior and Senior years, that I missed out on most anything that was going on. I heard stories about parties and weekend road trips. I knew that Genine was hanging out a lot with people who made me uncomfortable, and she got this jock boyfriend somehow -- a popular boy. We always hugged when we'd see each other, but it wasn't often. Then in a flash, high school was over. Genine got a job, cooking I think, and I went off to the college in New Rochelle, New York.

In college, I was trying to keep my spot on the Dean's list and in the Honors Program, and when I wasn't studying I worked a ton of hours on- and off-campus. I made awesome new friends. When I got off work at my retail gig, I'd usually find my girls in one of two favorite places -- either an Irish pub where Larry the bartender let us do whatever we wanted in there, or a Portuguese bar called Louie's Caffee. Jukeboxes, some smokes, some drinks. Dives.

One night I somehow got convinced to go back to Marty & Lenny's. I had been to Marty & Lenny's once. Here's the thing about Marty & Lenny's. That place was for dancing and hooking up with guys, and I wanted nothing to do with either. It was also too far away to walk, so we had to call Bluebird -- there was this phone in the dorms that you pick up and it was already connected to the taxi company.

The reason I hated Marty & Lenny's was EVERTHING. It was a huge, deafening, dance club where leering bartenders didn't care about your fake ID. Hoochie mamas wall to wall. You had to scream to be heard. Strobe lights. Pulsing beat that never stopped. I hated the shitty music, I hated the Guido dudes in their Z Cavaricchi's, marinating in bad cologne. We college girls stuck together for safety -- put your bags down on the floor and everybody dance in a circle! Close ranks! Turn around now and then because those animals WILL come up behind you and grind their crotch into your ass.

Nope, nope, nope. Marty & Lenny's is for other people.

But the one night I let myself get talked into going back to Marty & Lenny's, who walks in but Genine. I saw her walk in the door, but the context was so weird that I almost didn't go up to her, in case it wasn't really her. But no, it was unmistakably Genine, the same but with longer, softer hair. We did the squealy "what are you doing heres" and caught up. It turns out she'd had second thoughts about skipping college, decided to split the difference and do two years for an Associates Degree. She was at Pace while I was at CNR. We made promises of lunch that never happened.

Let's Do The Time Warp Again


The very last time I saw Genine was in New York City.  Senior year. She'd sent me an invite to her birthday party. So I navigated the train from New Ro into town. At that party I must have met ten new people before I even found Genine. I remember a black girl who thought she heard me say that I hang out at the mall, so she took it on to school me. I was annoyed because ME, of all people. The mall? The last place I'd go for entertainment is a goddamn mall, Jesus.

I kept wandering through the party looking for Genine. "Where is she?" I asked a stranger. "Out back."

Turns out there was a kind of courtyard, decorated with lights and balloons. A boom box was blasting the Rocky Horror soundtrack. Well. At least I knew that I was at the right party. Almost the whole space was filled with people, all dancing the "Time Warp." Already smiling my hello, I scanned the group. No Genine.

"Where is she?" I asked someone else.

I'd missed her, because Genine was the one up front, back to me and the rest of her audience. I saw a sheath of platinum hair, then she turned around and there's my old friend, smiling that smile that lights up the world. She was leading the "Time Warp" dance, back-to, like in dance class. Coaching her friends to perfect their pelvic thrust.

Because of course she was.

Out of school by then, she was living in the city with some roommates. One was a red haired girl named Anya. They all had intimidating-looking boyfriends, and by intimidating I mean they looked like...not boys. These were men. Men that slept over. I wish I remembered more about that party besides the arrogant black girl. I didn't stay long. Genine was super busy with everything. I'm sure we promised lunch. I'm sure we meant it when we said it.

Over the years I received bits and pieces of "Genine news" here and there. My brother, still friends with her brother Jud, would relay to me that she'd met a guy and now she's cooking. Cooking?! Michael described crazy good food, like whole roasted pigs prepared at the hands of my old sweet, wild Genine. He had to have it wrong, right? Nope. Turns out she and her husband opened a successful, popular Mexican restaurant in Connecticut. She also became a mom, and you know, I bet she was the best mom. Just because she knew which things in life are...well, important.

Then Facebook, and we were able to get back into some kind of touch, but you know how it goes. A "Happy Birthday" here, a promise to make a road trip to Connecticut for lunch. Promises, again, never kept.

Over Christmas when I caught the news that she was back in the hospital, it coincided with a super-busy time at work. But I was determined to at least call her. I have been that person stuck in the hospital, and even though you're tired and drugged out, it's still such a nice break from the monotony to hear a friendly voice. I Facebook-messaged her. "Up for a phone call? It's been so long." She gave me her cell number to call. That was in January. Meant to call. Didn't.

Don't Dream It - Be It


I don't like thinking of all the possible times I could have picked up the phone between January and now. I caught the news of Genine's death the same way I found out she was in the hospital again -- Facebook. I had to read about ten different "RIP" posts before hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I never called.

If you're putting off reaching out to an old friend, just...just call.  Say whatever, say anything. Remind them of the "Time Warp." It's just a jump to the left.

Sweetie, I'm sorry I didn't call you. You were the real-deal, one-of-a-kind like you read about. Love you. Goodbye, Genine.

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