1994. Where were you? What were you doing? Were you just a kid sneaking smokes? Or were you at the same desk you’re at now, wasting time in the usual way?

Were you happy? Were you healthy? Wealthy and wise? Did you have friends and stick by them when the going got rough?

In the spring of 1994 my parents took me out of the state run funny farm and locked me up in my room.

No going out, no telephone. I lay in my bed all day and dreamt of beautiful women coming to my rescue.

And on certain, lucky nights, one did. TRUE climbed the front yard tree and snuck into my window. She brought mixtapes and drugs and thermoses full of brandy. The mixtapes worried me the most. If I listened to my walkman I couldn’t hear my father approaching my bedroom.

He beat me with a pipe if he caught me listening to devil’s music.

Rock N’ Roll was one of our biggest strifes. Ever since I was four, and my parents got saved, anything other than Christian or classical music was banned from the house. I remember pleading with my father to at least allow me to keep the cover of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album.

I remember clinging to that thing for dear life, and how he yanked it out of my little hands with one brutal tug.

Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the roof and here’s all the people.

In that very short spring of 1994, while I was wasting away under the covers, TRUE was in NYC, turning into a street prophet. That’s when the clubs were still open. Cheap and pure E and H kept everyone easy like Sunday morning. TRUE’s “going out” persona was that of a tough, schoolgirl drag king who liked to get nice and suck dick. She also happened to be a lyrical prodigy, freestyling at will, beat or no beat. She was an underage adornment to the citywide party. People of every stripe were saying, “That little girl, she’s deep.”

Every night she was out in the West Village, drinking and rhyming. In the spring of ’94, the evening air was a freshly pealed orange—I took deep gulps of it from my bedroom window. I can’t explain its taste—except that it was new air for a new age. TRUE told me about riding in platinum iced out jeeps with rappers, and the house parties she went to uptown. I was jealous, I won’t lie. She liked to dangle out my window backwards and smoke cigarettes. The streetlights reflected off the trash bags lining the curb. Her knuckles were red and swollen. At the age of 13, she woke up one morning with arthritis in the joints of her hands and feet. It’s been there ever since, but never as bad as it was in that spring of ‘94.

I remember her eyes were slits; I remember the disdainful tone with which she spoke, as though the tale of her own exploits made her bored and repulsed.

Don’t tell anyone, but deep down she’s always been a little guilty about her partying.

She’d rather talk about making art.

For some reason it was important to her that I see her as a fellow prisoner, despite the fact that she did what she wanted and came and went as she pleased:

“My art’s also compartmentalized—locked away and hidden from the world,” she insisted. “Like you I only do it late at night or when you’re sure no one is looking, like some masturbatory act. Man, time is passing us by! We’ve got to bust out, make a path for ourselves—do you want to be like these poor suckers who come from work and sit cowering in front of the TV, hoping against hope in their little innocent dreams that somehow, someway, something magical will still yet occur? Tick-tock, man, tick-fucking-tock!”

Tick-tock, indeed.


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