Nerve Classics

Making the Band

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first time

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 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.

Alexis grabbed my arm and led me to the couch. She had a black see-through bra, and I saw her nipples sticking out a little. “Let’s see how tough you are,” she said. She had me lay with my shoulders on the armrest of the couch. She grabbed a burning candle and dripped wax onto my chest. It stung lightly before drying in clumps. I peeled the pieces off my smooth chest and looked at them closely. She tried to make designs on me. A question mark. The anarchy A. There wasn’t quite enough wax melted to do them. She straddled me with the candle. One of her bra straps hung down, and I was hoping she’d move close enough for me to brush my mouth against her breasts, but the candle went out and she leaned back, laughing. I remember some things vividly: her bra slipping down a little more as she laughed, the quiver of her body, the anxious erection in my pants.

Angie lit some more candles and starting taking photos. She wore a white bra that made her breasts look heavy. I noticed a few acne scars on her back. I wanted to look at them closely, but I didn’t want to seem weird. Marco sat by me on the couch; Alexis grabbed another candle and moved over to him. “Let’s see if you can take the pain,” she said to him. Marco was more light-hearted about the whole thing. He laughed and squirmed and pretended it was really hurting.

Corey was standing behind Angie as she paced around and aimed the camera at odd angles toward the couch. He seemed a little stoned or nervous. I got the feeling he wanted to see Alexis naked, too. He fingered the belt loops on his pants and breathed awkwardly as he drank three cans of beer in quick succession. Angie’s uncle eventually grew disinterested and tried to sneak out of the apartment. “Where you going?” Angie called out. He said he’d see her in the morning, and left without saying goodbye. “Oh well,” said Angie. She set the camera down and unsnapped her bra. Alexis and Marco hooted their approval and she kept going. She sloppily tossed her socks and pants into the corner. Corey nudged me and we followed her lead.

“Check this out,” Marco shouted over the music. He stood up, dropped his pants and had his penis sticking out of the fly of his boxers. The girls laughed. The mood seemed so much lighter with Angie’s uncle gone; it almost floated. I saw Marco’s penis. It was the first time I had seen someone else’s penis. It looked big around the head, but the rest of it seemed splotchy and discolored. Angie took some photos and Marco covered his face, suddenly shy. “I should get it hard first,” he said. Then he paused. “Right? We don’t want our dicks to look small.”

“Nothing looks worse than a dead dick,” Corey said. All of us burst into laughter.

“I’m not helping out in that department,” said Alexis. My anticipation was killed a little when she said that.

Angie’s camera turned our way. “Okay, future rock stars,” she said. She stood on a chair and shot us from above. I put my arm around Corey and he felt tense. He pushed me away a little and said he had to go to the bathroom to check himself out in the mirror. “We’ll only use the best ones,” Angie shouted after him. She gave me the camera and told me to take over. I wanted to snap a photo of her, but she dashed away, following Corey into the bathroom, saying something about how she didn’t like pictures.

On the couch, Alexis laughed as she tried to put her bra on Marco, but it wouldn’t fit and ended up looking like a weird sling or bandage. I took photos of that, trying to keep Marco’s penis out of the frame. Then I took some really close snapshots of Alexis’s lips, legs and breasts. She was drinking a lot and posing with a bottle of cheap vodka that was almost empty. I started to wonder if she might throw up, but she reached behind the couch and grabbed a blanket. I put the camera down and joined them on the couch. I squeezed in between them and Alexis slowly closed her eyes as she turned her back to me. I tried to kiss her shoulders, but she shrugged me off. I was starting to feel a little dizzy as well. I felt Marco pressing against my backside. I figured if I were going to make a move on Alexis, I wouldn’t be able to get rid of him, so I tried to block him from my mind. I felt his hands on my hips, slowly moving to my penis. All three of us were under the blanket. I wondered what was happening with Corey and Angie. I heard the shower on in the bathroom.

“She won’t let you,” I heard Marco whisper. It took me a second to figure out what he said and what it meant. The music had stopped playing, but I could hear Janet Jackson being played from somewhere else. Marco’s head went under the blanket and I shifted a little. I could still feel Alexis, warm on one side, as I looked at the ceiling. I felt Marco put me in his mouth, but it hurt and I pushed him off. I turned back toward Alexis and he started to work me with his hand. I stared at Alexis’s neck and the spill of her hair on the couch as he touched me more. I moved my hand back and found Marco’s penis. I closed my eyes and flipped over. I heard Alexis breathing, slurry and asleep on one side of me, and I heard Marco, breathing through his nose quickly, on the other side. We both came on the other’s hand. We didn’t say anything. I heard the shower turn off in the bathroom. I felt frozen and unsure of what to do next. Marco used the blanket to wipe himself off and nodded for me to do the same. I heard Angie and Corey exit the bathroom and slip into Marco’s bedroom. I pretended to fall asleep, hoping Alexis would wake up or flip over to face me. I thought maybe she wasn’t really asleep. I thought about the photos I took of her, and then I realized that someone else would see them — the person developing the film — and felt a nervous sickness.

I slipped off the couch and put my clothes back on. It was past 2 a.m. I stepped outside and breathed deeply. I thought about getting the film out of the camera and taking it. I tried to go back inside, but I was locked out. I pressed my ear to the door, but couldn’t hear anything. In a way, it sounded like nothing had happened.

This article originally appeared in Nerve’s True Stories.