Corey was a stocky grocery-store worker who was trying to talk me into being in a new-wave band with him. Angie was a preacher's daughter with bad acne and a penchant for spontaneous sex. They were both from Hermiston, a small Oregon town about forty minutes south of Kennewick, Washington, where I lived my first twenty years. They came up to Kennewick because there was a bingo parlor that hosted underage dances on Friday nights. These dances were the highlight of the week for us. Other than those, there was nothing to do except go to the mall and shock conservative grown-ups by the way we dressed. This was the '80s, and I was really into paisley. My mom made me dress jackets that looked like they came from Prince's wardrobe. I also wore dangly earrings and stretch pants with penny loafers.
Kennewick was a bland place to be, but I felt especially bad for Corey and Angie. Hermiston was known mostly for its rodeo. They didn't even have a top-forty radio station. No wonder they came up to Kennewick every weekend and slept on Marco Torrez's floor. Marco was this guy all my other friends made fun of. He was a tall, black-clad Mexican who wore lipstick and women's hats. Most of my friends around that time were just out of high school. They wore trendy clothes and colored their hair. The most rebellious thing they did was collect Bronski Beat singles. There was Darren, Josh, Pete and Doug. We bonded because we liked the same kind of music, but we also made fun of each other mercilessly. I was constantly horny and decided it was in my best interest to branch out into some of the other cliques of new wavers and bingo-parlor regulars.
One night, Corey and Angie met me at Shari's, one of those twenty-four-hour restaurants we often found ourselves in since we were too young for bars. Corey kept going on about how he was learning guitar and buying a drum machine. "We could be like the Jesus and Mary Chain," he said. Corey seemed to think I was going to be the singer in his band. "We have to think of a good name, and we have take press photos," he said as he sipped from an oversize milkshake. I looked at Angie to try and gauge her position on the matter.
"You should take naked photos," she said. "That would get some attention and create controversy. I could use my uncle's camera. He lives up here."
"That's awesome," said Corey.
I wasn't sure what to say. I wasn't thrilled by the idea of posing nude for photos, but I liked the idea of taking my clothes off in front of Angie.
The following Friday, we met at Marco's before the dance. I'd only been to his place once before. It was a small one-bedroom apartment with big posters of The Cure and Bauhaus looming over the front room. There were black curtains and black candles and a black fake-leather couch. Corey sat in a director's chair, writing band-name ideas into a notebook. He told me Angie was on her way and that her uncle was coming over to help her set up the camera. "Her uncle is cool," he said. "I met him once. I think he used to be a model."
There was a little kitchen in the apartment. I went in there to say hi to Marco. I was hoping nobody else would be there to watch this. Marco was wearing a satin bathrobe and I asked him if he was going out later. He shrugged and took a pizza out of the oven. "I guess we'll see what everyone feels like doing."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"We're all going to do it," he said. "It's going to be cool."
One of Marco's goth friends came out of the bathroom. It was a girl named Alexis. I didn't know her very well. She was sort of new in town and over twenty-one. She bought all the alcohol. She was tall and skinny
"Shirts off!" yelled Marco. I was watching Alexis dancing out of the corner of my eye.
and wore clothes that barely stayed on. She made up her face to look like a china doll. In fact, her whole body looked like it was powdered white. She could glow in the dark. She was probably the first person I knew who wore such sexy clothes. Garter belts. Lace. She probably had to go to Seattle to buy such things. I said hi to her and wondered if she was going to get naked.
Angie came in with her uncle then, carrying a tripod and an awkward camera. Her uncle was a chubby forty year old with a fringed jacket and feathered hair. "Hi everyone," he said, a little too jovially. "This is going to be fun." He helped Angie set up the tripod in front of the couch. "Should we do the band photos first, or just start with everyone?" he asked. No one said anything.
Angie turned and snapped a photo of my blank expression. "We have lots of film," she said. "Let's just do some candid shots first. See what develops. Get it? See what develops?" She turned and took a photo of her uncle.
"Oh, God," he said. "Whatever you do, don't let your dad see me in these photos. He'd damn me to hell — again!" Everyone laughed a little about that. We all started drinking then. I put more vodka in my Big Gulp cup, mixing it with the last of my Coke. I liked the burn in my throat, the sensation of almost throwing up with each swallow. Five or six swallows later, I was over that hump. I became loose and daring.
"Shirts off!" yelled Marco. He had Depeche Mode on, and I was watching Alexis dancing out of the corner of my eye. Five shirts were thrown into the corner.
We looked at the uncle with his striped polo shirt still on. "I'm only here to document," he said. Then he asked Angie if there was supposed to be someone else there. "I thought you knew an Asian boy," he said. He seemed disappointed when she told him her Asian friend wasn't coming.