True Stories: The Only Greaser I Ever Slept With

He leaned out of his beat-up car and asked for my number. I gave it to him.

by Lauren Quinn

He leaned his elbow out of the window of a rumbling old Ford and cocked an eyebrow at me. "Afternoon, darlin'." And he said it just like that, with a little country inflection and everything.

It was the same way he'd been hollering at me for weeks — cruising around the neighborhood in that rumbler of a car, painted flat-black, headlights always on, even in the daytime, like a glaring pair of animal eyes. Always riding shotgun, always saying, "Hey there, little lady," or some bullshit. Like a goddamn TLC song.

He'd been hollering at me for weeks.

Usually I would just spit out a sour "Pssh!" before walking away. But that day, as he damn near craned his entire torso out of the car, I looked at him: blown-out neck tattoos, helmet of pomade hair, spiderweb elbow. What was he doing here?

His blue eyes looked me up and down. I was wearing a black pleated skirt, one I'd sewn a Misfits patch on, that I for some reason kept wearing even though I hadn't listened to the Misfits in three years. Which isn't that long, but feels a lot longer when you're eighteen.

His eyes lingered on my knees as he stared from inside that cage of a car. The engine growled like a snarling beast. I felt powerful.

"You gonna finally give me your number today?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Fuck it." I wrote it down and handed it to him through the window.

He held my fingers as he took the scrap of paper. Our eyes met, and he winked in a way that didn't make me feel powerful — that made me feel like he'd won. Well, he had. And he knew it.

He grinned at me, a scar creasing above his lip.

 

It was 2001, and I was living back at my parents' house in Oakland. No one used words like "hipster" or "gentrification" then. We didn't need to; those things hadn't happened to Oakland yet. But there's always the first wave, the derelicts and ne'er-do-wells who break the floodgates, and that's what Joe was — a redneck greaser who'd ended up in an apartment down the street. Joe wasn't all-the-way redneck, but he was the closest thing I'd met. I'd grown up one of the only white kids around. My brother and I had made sure to distinguish ourselves from real white people by "talking black," not listening to country or rock music, and relentlessly making fun of rural whites.

Well, it didn't work; I'd always felt out of place. As a teenager I'd rode the hour-long bus to Berkeley, where I thought I'd find my people. I started going to shows and smoking meth; I rotated through a cast of identities — goth, punk, indie. I never got any of them right. Then I tried out other things — being a stoner, a pill popper, an alcoholic. Those I got too right. I'd been clean a little over a year that summer I moved home, after having scraped my way through that first year of college sober. I hadn't fit in with the collegiate Orange County breeds either.

Now I was home, lonely, working days at a swimming pool where twelve-year-olds smoked weed in the locker room. When I met up with my old friends at house parties and hangout spots, my hoodie zipped up against the fog and clouds of skunky weed smoke, I felt even more alone.

That was when Joe showed up in that black car. Suddenly seeing a white dude in the neighborhood was intriguing. But of course I couldn't take him seriously. With his inflection, his hair, and his membership in a car club that was better known for beating people with tire irons than for fixing cars, he was the living embodiment of all the shit my brother and I had made fun of as kids.

But seeing as I didn't have much else going on, I met Joe at his apartment a few days later. He was still getting dressed, wandering around in his boxers, a no-longer-in-your-early-twenties beer belly bulging from beneath his wife beater. He smelled like Old Spice and hair grease.

I sat on the corner of the futon (no frame, on the floor) and watched as he strapped on a Confederate-flag belt buckle. I raised my eyebrows. "You've gotta be kidding me."

"Relax," he said with an eye roll, "it's not what you think. It stands for Southern pride."

I blinked at him hard. "Yeah, well, I can think of something else it stands for."

We stood there in a kind of stare-off, plastic Venetian blinds cutting little lines across our faces. "I'm not going out with you wearing that," I said. He grinned then and winked at me — the same kind of wink as before. Then he put on a Budweiser belt buckle instead.

 

So we started "dating." And by "dating," I mean having sex in his bedroom, shades drawn and crackly old LPs playing in a half-assed attempt to keep the grunts and slaps from reaching the virgin ears of his roommates' kids.

After that first date, we never left his apartment.

After that first date, we never left his apartment. Shit, we barely left his bedroom. Which was fine with me — I didn't really want to be seen in public with him anyway. I mean, people would have seen us and thought we were the same — two white kids who didn't belong.

"Is he, like, a Republican?" my friend Alicia asked.

"Nah, a Libertarian."

"What the fuck is that?"

I shrugged. "A Republican who believes in abortion."

Joe may have been a greaser, but even I knew that no one just becomes a greaser. It's always part of an evolution, an identity that someone arrives at after a succession of discarded rebellious identities. Sure enough, Joe had been a gutterpunk — a Drunk Punk, actually. He even had a tattered old police report from some juvenile arrest — he showed it to me — that included "a tattoo that says 'Drunk Punx'" under "Identifying Characteristics." He was proud of that. He told me how he'd dropped out of the ninth grade and train-hopped his way to Berkeley. "I used to hang outside of riot grrrl shows at Gilman," he told me, "and yell 'Bikini Kill cooks my breakfast!'"

I snorted. "You know I was probably one of the girls at those shows." I imagined us both having been there, some night years earlier, squatted against the brick wall and smoking, neither one of us fitting in, but (I told myself) for entirely different reasons.

Commentarium (27 Comments)

Jun 13 12 - 1:19am
AAC

I liked this story a lot. It's well-written and, beneath its gruff exterior, shows compassion and insight into its protagonists' inner lives (which is more than I can say for a lot of these "True Stories"). Both the author and her "greaser" come across as real human beings, and she neither romanticizes him nor treats him with contempt, nor does she make him into a neatly packaged life lesson. She also handles a bunch of tricky topics -- race, class, gentrification -- in a refreshingly matter-of-fact way, without being cavalier or hyper-apologetic. Given the narcissism and self-consciousness that plagues so much first-person writing these days, it's a welcome change.

Jun 13 12 - 5:41am
hmm...

I guess I'm still waiting for the punchline that you've set up.

Left me unsatisfied. Like good build-up sex but no follow-through.

Jun 13 12 - 7:06am
Amnd

Gorgeous, stilting, like life is. Wretched, amused, insecure, wry, accepting.

Jun 13 12 - 8:21am
nnsoreq instrument

Does anyone still say "greaser" anymore? And by anymore, I mean since 1962 or so?

Jun 13 12 - 10:18am
ibg

This was my question, too. The only time I heard the word "greaser" was in S.E. Hinton's books. Is it a west coast thing?

Jun 13 12 - 10:37am
West Coast Joe

Yeah, it is. You east coast pussy.

Jun 13 12 - 5:10pm
Julissa

"Yeah, it is. You east coast pussy." Ha brilliant!

Jun 13 12 - 9:00pm
Sven

We said it on the East Coast in the late nineties. Dunno.

Jun 13 12 - 9:59am
elle

"It was 2001, and I was living back at my parents' house in Oakland. No one used words like "hipster" or "gentrification" then. "

--I can assure you, that in 2001 people used words like "hipster" and "gentrification". Perhaps you didn't, because you hadn't heard these words yet, but I promise, they existed.

Jun 13 12 - 12:03pm
OaklandLauren

Of course they existed! I meant that we didn't use them in Oakland yet.

Jun 13 12 - 12:33pm
Cludeo

Then write better next time. This isn't a brief conversation in which incomplete and incorrect phrasings and such are necessarily excused. This is the written word and editing and re-writes are there for a reason.

Jun 13 12 - 12:41pm
tmp

It's obviously colloquial language. No need to get pompous about it.

Jun 13 12 - 1:36pm
Marm

Cludeo: write your own story, get it published here, and let us all pick your stuff apart bit by insignificant bit, please. Wanker.

Jun 13 12 - 1:43pm
Rj

The usage was fine, the following sentence clarified that its usage was not popular in Oakland because it hadn't happened there yet, not that nobody in the world used those words and they didn't exist. Not a big deal.

Jun 13 12 - 2:33pm
Eva

Yeah, elle, not to mess with your need to criticize/patronize anonymously on the internet, but Lauren's meaning there was pretty obvious. Cludeo: read better next time.

Jun 13 12 - 10:35pm
smt

Cludeo, your reading comprehension is pretty damn poor if you couldn't figure out that she meant those words weren't used in her area yet. Pls work on your reading skills i/o berating a perfectly coherent writer. Thanks.

Jun 14 12 - 4:07am
s

awww, the way you guys are all defending the author and jumping on the trolls leads me to believe there's some hope and goodness left on the internet. my cockles are warmed now. :)

Jun 13 12 - 2:19pm
..::bEEp::..

Well written. Made me go. "Aw..."

Jun 13 12 - 3:35pm
mh

Aw. I liked this. The style, the voice. Reminded me of Junot Diaz.

Jun 13 12 - 4:31pm
g

I liked this a lot. But it made me wish I wasn't so fucking soft. Don't know how to fix cars, never hollered at a woman, never beaten anybody with a tire iron or "rode the rails", been an alcoholic, ran away from home or been a biker. It's hard to romanticize "the outlaw lifestyle" when you're living in your parents basement and going to university. Because that would make you a giant poser. But I'm fucking bored!

Jun 13 12 - 8:11pm
truth

is out there

Jun 13 12 - 8:32pm
Sarah

It's kind of sad that what guys seem to be taking out of this is that men who lose their temper with women are more attractive. Would a "moral of the story" type ending really be so bad when dealing with a situation that involves domestic violence?

Jun 14 12 - 6:46am
M

I thought this was a pretty sexy, grimey, honest piece of writing. Very emotive. Good stuff.

Jun 14 12 - 5:21pm
AA

a libertarian isn't necessarily a republican that believes in abortion.... it's actually quite different

aside that, great piece

Jun 15 12 - 2:59am
cjp

This is why i come to nerve.

Jun 15 12 - 7:27am
h

A really good read, thanks.