I told this story to some friends on my birthday a few years back, and they still reference it as my “origin story”. They seem to think this is how I became who I am today. While I don’t think that’s necessarily true, I s’pose it has some merit.
As our story begins, this is basically what I looked like (about 8 months before this story takes place)…
In the summer of 1990, between 6th and 7th grade, I was living in a giant apartment complex in Phoenix. When I say giant – I mean it was a city block of mostly single-story apartments. About half of the buildings had 2 apartments stacked on top of each other – the remainder (like the one I lived in) was just a single story with no upstairs neighbors.
At the time, I was hanging around this kid named Alan. He was a nerdy little hell raiser, not unlike me. We both had single, divorced moms who worked throughout the summer, so we got along well and we got into trouble pretty regularly. This included : building little paperclip slingshots to shoot at people tanning near one of the pools, random acts of vandalism, stealing “chromies”1 shoplifting, and eventually – legally speaking – breaking and entering.
Alan lived in one of the (slightly) smaller apartments that had an upstairs neighbor. Thing is – his upstairs neighbor didn’t exist. It was just an empty apartment. We walked up there once and saw an empty, but furnished apartment. It was clearly not lived in – it still had information brochures and placards on the immaculate coffee table. I remember saying “I wish we could just hang out in there!”. Alan agreed, and we went back to shoot paperclips at people tanning by the pool.
At some point, Alan made friends with these slightly-older kids (probably 13-14 at most) that he’d occasionally hang out with. I never cared for them. They just seemed like bullies and assholes, and they treated Alan like their servant. He probably looked up to them the way the younger kids tend to feel “cool” for hangin’ with the older kids. For the sake of the story, let’s call the older guys “The Dicks”.
One morning, I woke up to Alan knocking on my door. “I wanna show you something…”, and we rode our bikes back to his place (the complex was large enough to require that). He walked me up to the 2nd story, and just… opened the door. I was in awe. We were in the furnished apartment. And he didn’t even break a window. I still have no idea how he got in there. We hung out on the couch, kicked our feet up and relaxed. This was our “clubhouse”.
We had to set some ground rules — no trashing the place, leave it empty at the end of every day, and no guests we didn’t both pre-approve. I made that last rule cause I knew The Dicks would fuck it all up.
For the next 2 or 3 weeks, everything was great. We’d wake up, meet at our Clubhouse, eat some breakfast, hang out on the couch, play cards, look at porn mags we stole. Then, around nightfall, we’d pick it all up and go back to our homes or to each others’. There was really no need to even have a clubhouse. We were both left alone in our respective apartments all day long, with actual electricity and air conditioning and food. But.. this was a fun little secret. A place no one else knew about.
One afternoon, I went over to his place and he didn’t answer. Figuring he was in the clubhouse, I went upstairs. There he was. With The Dicks. I said “oh. hey.”. The Dicks had their feet on the couch, with dirt all over the soles, one of them was smoking a cigarette (with no ashtray in sight). I said “hey, guys.. could you not make a mess of the place?”. Alan came to their aid – “hey man, they brought beer! and, fuck it man, no one knows we’re here. It’s fine”.
That’s 2 rules broken, Alan.
I said “alright, well I’ll catch ya later”. One of The Dicks asked if I was “going off to tell on ’em”. I told them I just didn’t really wanna hang out and drink beer, so I was gonna go back home – reminding them to keep the place clean, and that I’d be in just as much trouble as them if I were to narc anyone out. Alan jumped up – “HEY! Fuck you, man! I was the one who got us into this place – you don’t make the rules”. The Dicks chanted “FIGHT! FIGHT!”, Alan took a swing and hit my arm, of all things. I figured fighting back would mean all 3 of them going at me, so I just shoved him away hard enough that he fell and I walked out.
Over the next few weeks, I’d see Alan and The Dicks around the complex, and they’d yell shit at me and Alan would occasionally join in. I wasn’t afraid they’d try to beat me up or anything (though, frankly, that was pretty likely), I just thought it was a dick move on Alan’s part to choose them over me. I treated him like an equal, they just used him to do their bidding.
Middle school started shortly thereafter, but Alan’s mom decided to put him in some other school2, so we saw each other even less.
One day, I walked past Alan and The Dicks3 and Alan just shoved me, clearly trying to show off. I got lucky and grabbed his arm as he was pulling it back and gave him a quick punch to the face. The Dicks just laughed at him. I felt bad. I couldn’t just beat up my friend – I walked away. The Dicks shouted at me “we’re gonna FUCK YOU UP DUDE!”, but somehow never ran after me.
I was pissed about the whole experience, pissed I’d lost a friend and a clubhouse. I decided The Dicks needed a little come-uppance. Time to investigate.
(to be continued…)