In Memory of Angie
David and I re-united at the funeral. It wasn’t the decades-later blowout we had foreseen. We didn’t smoke, just drank tea, too sad and scared to get fucked up – invincibility was just a pipe dream after all. We kept flipping through our pictures and whispering her name. Angie. We shot the shit for nearly two hours, but She never did roll in late.
Angie is seated on the planter outside Burger King. She sports a black skullie and sexless grey sweatshirt, nursing a Mickey’s hand grenade because she’s Italian. She’s looking off-frame, lips slightly parted, like she’s about to call a fool out, or crack some streetwise remark. I’m on the left, staring down at my OE, probably thinking something out of place about the fleeting nature of fame or why a man would ever wish to be born a woman. And then there’s D. Too tall – head chopped off. Only the bottom of his half-hearted dreads, his green tent shirt and body-obscuring jeans are visible. His chin is tilted heavenward, the 40 empty but for that last inch below the label reserved for B.I.G.
A fleeting encounter with a bike-riding Somalian led to $40 exchanged for bunk weed. “Sonofabitch!” We sniggered – D was funny when he got pissed, summoning all this deeply voiced machismo. He was the only one at drag night that could’ve turned pro, but here he was, ready to beat his man boobs and act butch – over weed.
“Who the fuck cares? We’ve got enough booze to go all night.” Angie balled up her fists and jammed them into her baggy kangaroo pocket. She dressed like a stripper off duty. “Come on, fools. We gotta blaze.”
The brown line cut through a part of Chi that D and I rarely frequented. But this was Angie’s home turf. Once we hit Kimball, Ang hopped off and we did our best to follow. She slunk invisible underground, artfully dodging homeless and crazies. Shoulder to shoulder with a suit who’d just hired a hooker and then she disappeared.
When I saw her with the others, I finally got some context. There were three – all skullies and baggy hoodies, all under five-six and low profile enough that you knew they were honest-to-god badasses. No need to front when you’ve got real secrets to hide.
“Look Ang, if they’re coming, you gotta tell em wassup. Can’t be getting popped for no Jane and Joe College.” The smallest dude with the lisp was the leader. And her brother.
She rejoined us to warn this ain’t no Beastie Boys video, it’s real life. Before long, two kids were hoisting each other up on shoulders to shimmy a freeway post, leap some razor wire and commence a highly illegal art project. It took about fifteen minutes and David and I sweated through our clothes despite the late-autumn windchill.
When they were through, white-puffed caterpillar letters reduced Lake Shore Drive to the promise of LSD. We could almost feel like badasses just for being there. But not really. We’d never be as cool as Her.
Me and Angie flipping the bird outside the steps of the English building, imposing phallic pillars, superwide pupils. It’s eight am. Still trippin’ but we’re there. No one else in sight. If you look close, you can see I’m holding our Women of the Twentieth Century textbook.
It was after that midterm, both of us strung out and sure we’d fail, despite monthly bleeding and living in those times that we hopped the El Train to Chicago’s only nude bar. I plopped down forty bucks and we slouched into a booth amidst a handful of balding regulars and twenty-five women au natural. The telltale pink wristbands let them know we couldn’t buy drinks. The clove cigarettes drew them to us like moths.
We tried on each other’s lives over Shirley Temples. One girl was saving for college, one groused about the 200 bucks you had to pay the house just to dance. They all looked like superheroes to me up there. But there was apparently no way not to feel like a failure as a twentieth century woman.
Our arms are wrapped around each other’s shoulders. David’s in the middle, Marilyn-mugging with a pursed-lipped kiss. Angie’s clowning too, though her eyes are a bit askance. We were all fresh out the scene shop, paint-streaked arms and hasty ponytails. This one is almost innocent. Except for those eyes. She sees something we don’t yet understand.
Right after we went down to Giordanno’s for some pie. Angie bummed a smoke off the line cook and he sat down with us awhile. He looked more native than Hispanic, and I struggled to interpret the slang he threw out from deep down Oaxaca way.
No translator needed to see he was horny and amped. Ang was bored with college dick. I was bored by his unoriginal game. When midnight struck, I asked if me and D could bounce.
“Why not?” Ang French inhaled, keeping her eyes on the cook.
“Well, you guys won’t be able to talk if I leave.”
“I ain’t looking to talk.” That disdainful laugh and roll of her eyes. God she was beautiful.
Me and D’s place, the night of the naked party.
Angie’s in the tub, waiting, no daring me and David to join her before the party starts. Her head is shaved, scalp dyed red like the Bad Boy of basketball himself. A golden nose ring pokes out her nostril and coal-black eyes look like PJ Harvey in her own bathtub pic.
It was impossible to be friends with Angie and not think about fucking her. It’s how she smoked, how she laughed, how she moved. That night she turned all her wanton energy on us. But I couldn’t stop thinking of the stranger with the busted condom and the 400 bucks I lent her to take care of it. I turned her down. David never forgave me.
Graduation. Angie in a cheap pink wig and Peg Bundy costume. The yellow tassel on her square black hat means she graduated with honors. I’m dressed in black watching Ang stare down the camera. Solo cup in one hand and Camel wide in the other.
Angie was the first in her family to graduate, but she called bullshit on pomp and circumstance. That night she kissed me square on the mouth and hugged me twice as hard. “We made it.” With a wink and a flick of her smoke, we waved our last goodbye.
No photo, just a clipping from last month’s Tribune – “Chicago Woman Found Hung, Stabbed, Set on Fire. Cat Dies by Her Side.”
D and I sat around for hours, still half-expecting Ang to show up. There was reverence in our goodbyes now, just in case. We ducked back out into warm June rain, each holding tight to our glossy squares of proof that She was real.
I keep thinking about her last few minutes alive. How some kinky pissed off stranger ended it all. I’d like to think he did all those brutal things because she wouldn’t stop laughing. He could desecrate her body and rob her of her life, but I prayed for the first time in decades, that he never came close to touching her fearless heart.
Maggie Rawling Smith is a mother, a writer, a filmmaker and an activist who hopes to leave this world just a bit better off than she found it. She and husband Brian co-adapted his collection of short stories into the Amazon Prime series Spent Saints, as well as co-adapting the festival-winning documentary Tucson Salvage, which she also directed. She is the author of Delilah M Pennymaker, a forthcoming young adult novel and is an advocate for the LGTBQ + community.
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