The first time I ever cussed was also the first night I discovered my dad's new girlfriend. It was a cold night in December, and I was 10. My three younger siblings and I, accompanied by my mom, arrived at the doorstep of my dad's weird, post-separation pre-divorce duplex, shivering and ready to surprise him with Christmas presents.
My dad was definitely surprised. He opened the door and attempted to distract us with small talk while a blond head sprinted into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Kids notice everything, so of course we shoved our way inside, ran to the bedroom, and flung the door open to reveal Angie, a gorgeous 22-year-old with blond curly hair, clutching a wine key and an unopened bottle of red, a look of terror splayed across her face. Neither of my parents drank at the time, so I'd never seen a wine key before. It looked like a weapon. I made silent, defiant eye contact with Angie, then turned and ran back outside into the snow.
The Christmas visit had backfired and now everyone was standing outside of the duplex crying, my dad included. I'd wanted to cuss forever, but I knew it would get me in a lot of trouble. In order to utter my first cuss word, I needed the universe to provide a situation where I could do so freely, without consequences. In this midst of my tears, I became cognizant that this was my moment.
"Dad, what the shit is going on?" I demanded to know.
I don't remember an answer.
The day I officially met Angie was also the first time I ever went on a shopping spree. This wasn't a coincidence, but rather a planned outing orchestrated by my dad. A few years had passed since the nightmare before Christmas; Angie had made such a negative impression the first time around, my dad thought the best way for she and I to be reintroduced to each other would be for her to take me to the mall for some quality one-on-one time. He couldn't have been more right.
We didn't speak much in the car on the way to the mall. I was intimidated by everything about Angie, probably because she was 25 years old with a perfect body and huge, natural boobs. Growing up I had idolized Barbie, and at thirteen years old, I'd found myself in the presence of a living one who wanted me to like her and was thus taking me shopping. It was a dream come true. We kicked off the trip by hitting Journeys and getting multiple pairs of chunky, Doc Martens sandals. Shopping with Angie was fun because she didn't question anything I was into, fashion-wise, and she was very encouraging. When I couldn't decide between a brown pair and a black pair, Angie solved the problem immediately. "Get both!" she declared, whipping out a credit card. She even got a pair of sandals for herself.
Not only did I get two pairs of sandals, I also got VHSs of Clueless and Tommy Boy, five outfits from Limited Too, a literal ton of products from Bath & Body Works, and the stunning older sister I never knew I always wanted.
Angie's favorite store at the mall was a shop called Georgiou that sold "sexy business lady" clothing that, in Oklahoma City, was the closest to Versace you were ever gonna get. That day, Angie bought some form-fitting sweater sets, a chain belt, colorful jeans, and a few little scarves to tie around her neck. Georgiou also sold evening gowns, so naturally we tried some on. Staring at myself in the mirror, dressed in a black halter gown slit to the thigh with a sheer panel over my midriff, I no longer looked like a 5'10" 13 year old—I looked like an adult. Angie told me I looked hot and bought the dress on the spot.
Not too long after our shopping spree, I drank my first glass of champagne while out to dinner with Angie and my dad at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. The club had a formal dining room—black tie only—and since I'd just acquired my first formal evening gown, it made sense that the three of us should celebrate by showing it off. The waiter arrived to take our drink order.
"We'll have three glasses of champagne, please," said Angie, flashing her million-dollar smile.
"Absolutely," he replied.
My dad began to protest, but Angie cut him off before he could get a word out.
"What, Butch? It's one glass of champagne. Jesus!"
Before my dad could respond, our waiter had dutifully delivered the champagne to the table. I gleefully sipped mine while Angie smirked defiantly at my dad, silently challenging him to put an end to our shenanigans. He downed his glass and stayed quiet, knowing full well I was breaking the rules and there was nothing he could do about it.
When my dad upgraded from the duplex to a new house, Angie moved in with him and brought her constant urge to turn up with her. Rarely did I see her without a beer, glass of wine, or cocktail in hand. She didn't have a job, so she spent her days cooking, cleaning and decorating my dad's new home with insanely expensive, woven picnic baskets made by this company called Longaberger that she was obsessed with. She filled them with magazines, stuffed animals, fruit—anything that could go in a basket, really. I'd never known baskets to be such a thing, but here we were, surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of them. While Angie focused on her burgeoning passion for baskets, my dad took to collecting rare Beanie Babies, convinced that their value would appreciate over time.
I got drunk for the first time with Angie during a weekend visit to the new house. On this particular Saturday evening, she and I were in the master bedroom watching Troop Beverly Hills when she offered me a Coors Light, which I enthusiastically accepted. Four beers later we were dancing on the bed to Madonna's Immaculate Collection. This is how life with Angie was: an endless sleepover with no rules.
Angie was also the first person I ever witnessed get too fucked up. My dad had taken me, her, and my siblings to Dallas for a weekend. We were at a pool party, and a wine-drunk Angie, who was 26 at the time, became increasingly loud and obstinate, arguing with my dad and his friends and alienating herself from all the other 40 and 50-something adults at the party. She was wobbly, and would jerk her wine glass away from anyone who tried to take it from her. Eventually, she fell down, breaking the glass and spilling wine everywhere. Instead of being apologetic, she roared with laughter, her short, floral dress riding up around her waist to expose her underwear.
I watched all of this from a distance, fascinated, but also aware that something was wrong. Angie had chosen to be a part of a world in which there was no place for her. Women loathed her; men feared her. She was alone.
I hadn't told anyone that I'd been on crank all day.
The next time Angie flipped out was during one summer vacation when my siblings and I were spending a week with her and my dad. We were going on a trip, and our first stop was Bartlesville, OK, where the Woodward Travelers—a high school boys' baseball team my dad coached—were playing their final tournament of the year. We were to make our way to Grand Lake, in northeastern Oklahoma, for the rest of the week after that.
The first weekend of our mini vacation, I went to the championship games with my dad, but my siblings opted out and hung back with Angie in the hotel instead. On Sunday night, the Travelers won their final game, and what I thought would be a great trip was just around the corner. Then my dad got a call from my mom saying Angie was drunk and driving my siblings all over Bartlesville.
Angie had apparently spent the day downing beer after beer in the hotel, before piling my siblings into the car and taking off towards the baseball field. Her erratic behavior and impaired driving abilities scared my brother Jake so badly that he'd stolen her cell phone and called my mom to tell her what was going on.
My dad hung up the phone just as Angie's Blue Chevy Tahoe careened into the parking lot. What ensued was the fight to end all fights: My siblings and I hustled into my dad's car while he tried to calm an infuriated Angie. Eventually, she stormed over to us, all crying at this point, and started circling the car like a predator in a horror movie, verbally assaulting each of us individually.
First, she went off at Jake for stealing her phone.
"You retarded little thief!" She yelled, referring to his Asperger's syndrome. "Fucking baby!" She directed at my youngest brother, Kurt, who was crying and upset. She called Claire, the youngest of the four of us, a "whiny little bitch" before locking eyes with me.
"You spoiled fucking brat," she snarled.
I was taken aback; I'd thought Angie and I were friends.
She concluded her rampage by running over to her Tahoe, flinging open the back doors, grabbing the portable TV that we were supposed to bring to the lake with us, and smashing it on the ground.
Thus began a period of time where Angie floated in and out of our lives. Usually, her disappearance was caused by a drunken or drug-fueled meltdown that would cause she and my dad to split up for a short period of time before getting back together.
When I moved in with my dad at age 15, Angie had moved out of his house and into a condo down the street. I didn't know it at the time, but this was because she'd been busted using his prescription pads to get painkillers, and a judge had ruled at a custody hearing between my parents that if my dad wanted to see his children, Angie would not be allowed to live with him. However, Angie slowly but surely worked her way back into our lives, and eventually my dad decided to marry her.
Angie took it upon herself to inform me about their impending nuptials.
"I have something to show you," she said one night. Then she smiled maniacally and flashed her engagement ring in my face, drinking in my shock with pleasure.
My dad moved into a new house (which Angie promptly filled with even more decorative baskets) when I turned 16, and I threw my first house party while he and Angie were in St. John getting married.
My dad came back from what was supposed to be a low-key wedding for two visibly shaken. Angie had decided to treat the weekend like it was MTV's Spring Break 2000, and over the course of 72 hours, she had nearly gotten thrown out of the hotel, the hotel bar, and the beach bar. Their wedding portrait said it all: she and my dad on the beach, him holding her in his arms, every muscle in his body strained in a desperate attempt not to drop her, her grinning ear-to-ear, a cocktail in one hand and a bridal bouquet in the other.
After the wedding, Angie and I lived in a state of tense, passive-aggressive hatred toward one another. I'd discovered weed during my freshman year, and I also discovered that I liked getting high way more than I liked studying for biology, which landed me in summer school with a bunch of upperclassmen potheads. It was fantastic. We'd get stoned every day during lunch, then hang out and get stoned until my curfew, then I'd wake up the next day and do it all over again.
One night, I came home high as fuck to my dad and Angie in the midst of a screaming match. She was so wasted she could barely stand up and was trying to accuse my dad of strangling her. (My dad is not, and has never been, a violent person.) When she started threatening to call the cops, I lost it.
"Shut the fuck up, you drunk fucking bitch!" I screamed from the living room.
Angie stormed out of the bedroom, cordless phone in hand.
"What did you say to me?" She slurred, angrily.
"You heard me. Why don't you just leave and get the fuck out of our lives!"
Angie raised the phone over her head as if she was going to hit me with it.
"Oh, you're going to hit me now? Fuck. You."
I pushed past her, running up the stairs to my bedroom. I tried to slam the door shut but Angie followed me in, her face twisted with rage.
"Guess what, Lara? I've been fucking your dad since you were seven years old!" She screamed. Then she looked me dead in the eyes. "I've been fucking your dad since you were seven." Tears were streaming down my face.
"Fuck this, I'm calling the cops," she muttered as she turned and walked away.
The cops came that night, we all had to give statements about what happened, and I thought for sure that this incident would be the final straw. I thought my dad would annul their marriage.
I was wrong.
Angie and I smoked our first joint together later that summer. We had caught each other trying to smoke weed on a family vacation at the lake and realized that, despite our differences, we actually had a lot in common. Even though she was 28 and I was 16, we cared about the same things: getting an allowance and getting fucked up. The shared joint completely revitalized our friendship, so I wiped the slate clean and forgave Angie for everything she'd ever done. We started smoking weed and drinking together whenever my dad wasn't around, which was pretty often. And when he was around, I left them to do their thing and went out to smoke and drink with my friends. Life was great.
Our partying eventually took a harder turn when Angie introduced me to meth. My dad had to go out of town on a last minute business trip, and I convinced him to let me stay at his house overnight with Angie as my supervisor. My mom, having a pretty spot-on hunch that we'd be up to no good if left to our own devices, argued hard to have me stay at her house, but I plead my case, hinging everything on the one condition that I wouldn't be late to school the next day. I went to an Episcopalian private school and rarely made it to chapel on time, so my promise to be punctual was essential in getting my way. It worked.
Angie and I started drinking and smoking weed the second my dad left the house. As the night went on, we got more and more fucked up. I retired to my bedroom after getting the spins, and passed out face down on my bed with all the lights on around 3 AM. I awoke at 7:35 AM, with 10 minutes to get out the door. I quickly threw on an outfit and stumbled downstairs.
As I hazily poured coffee into a styrofoam cup, Angie appeared in the kitchen looking extremely pert for a 28-year-old who'd only gotten three and a half hours of sleep after a night of binge drinking. She smiled woefully and shook her head at my predicament.
"You know...I have some crank on me if you want to do it. I think it'll really help you!"
Normally I would have said no, but this was a dire situation. I was hungover as fuck and had to get to school, or else I'd be a dead woman. Doing crank seemed like a reasonable solution.
"Uhh, okay sure. If you think it'll help."
Just like that, a plate with two teeny tiny lines and a straw materialized in front of my face.
"Snort one line in each nostril. It'll burn, but then it'll go away."
I snorted the lines. It burned like crazy, so I snorted a little water to make the burning stop, which kind of helped. Then, I poured cream in my coffee cup and left.
"Where is My Mind" started playing a few minutes into my drive to school, and I was high as a kite. I drove like a determined, focused maniac, listening to the Pixies on loop. I connected with it so hard that it became my anthem for the rest of the day. Now, I think about being 16 and meth'd the fuck out every time I hear that song.
Guess what, Lara? I've been fucking your dad since you were seven years old.
Being high on meth was actually pretty awesome at first. I slipped into my chapel row at 8 AM on the dot, studied for (and aced) a history exam, and I felt like I was walking on air all day—it literally felt like I was hovering a foot above the ground at all times. I was talking to and connecting with people I normally hated; I didn't eat anything at lunch because food just did not feel right in my mouth. I was convinced that this was the new me.
The day went by in a flash, and before I knew it, my friends and I were hanging out at a nearby coffee shop after school. It was around that time that things began to take a turn.
I started feeling shaky and was having a hard time putting sentences together. I hadn't told anyone that I'd been on crank all day, because even though I ran with a pretty fast crowd, doing meth with my stepmom seemed like something I should keep to myself. I excused myself and drove home with "Where Is My Mind" on repeat. When I arrived, Angie was there, frantically cleaning while some guy fixed a broken computer in my dad's office.
"Hey!!! Hi. Ohmigod you're home!" Angie said, hugging me too hard. "How do you feel?"
"Not...not good," I stammered.
"You just need a little bump to pick you up. Come with me."
She led me to her bathroom, where she pulled out a plate with more tiny lines on it. I leaned down to snort a line, and then looked up at her.
"Angie," I whispered pointedly, "What about the computer guy?"
"Oh he's cool. I gave him some earlier! Here."
As soon as I did the bump, my phone rang. It was my dad, asking me why I was at home and not on my way to the therapist. I tried to explain to him that I'd completely forgotten I had therapy that afternoon, saying that it would be so great if I didn't have to go, but he wasn't having it and demanded I get there ASAP.
I hightailed it to my therapist's office, but arrived 30 minutes late and completely cracked out. That second line of meth had not helped remedy my situation—instead, it had rendered me a stuttering, sweaty mess. Fifteen minutes into my appointment, I realized I had no choice but to get out of there before my therapist started to suspect something. I made up some weird excuse about having to go while slowly backing out of his office, ran out to the car, turned on the only song that mattered to me ("Where Is My Mind"), and blasted it the whole way home.
The house was empty upon my arrival. My dad and Angie had gone out for dinner; I didn't know what to do with myself. I was coming down hard and fast, so I sat on the back porch curled up in a chair chain-smoking cigarettes until they got back. When Angie walked in the door, she only needed to take one look before whisking me away, getting me stoned and giving me an Ativan so I could sleep.
Angie and my dad divorced not long after my meth adventure. As far as I was concerned, meth was a one time only experience that ultimately was not for me. Angie, on the other hand, continued down that road in a major way, becoming gaunt and psychotic but still very into baskets. She took all of them with her when she moved out. A security guard was hired to oversee the house during her moving weekend, lest she try to do something crazy. I was sad to see her go.
History has a way of repeating itself, and Angie and my dad started seeing each other post-divorce. Six months later, she and I were back in each other's lives as well.
I was 17, and entering my junior year of high school. My life had spiraled completely out of control, and thanks to a series of terrible decisions (mostly fueled by drugs, alcohol, and loneliness) I'd found myself with very few friends. Angie became my go-to person. She'd pick me up from school, take me to her house, make me a Bloody Mary, and soon enough, I'd forget about all my problems.
My problems eventually caught up to me. The last time I heard Angie's voice was when I called her from jail and got her answering machine.
Sitting there, handcuffed to a chair after being arrested for possession of weed, painkillers, and Valium, I knew I was fucked. My mom and dad were both out of town, and all I wanted was for Angie to pick me up, take me away, and help me pretend that none of this had ever happened. If anyone could get me out of this situation, it would be her.
"Hey Angie, it's Lara. Um, I got arrested and I was hoping you could come pick me up? I'm at the Oklahoma County Jail... I guess you can just come here or call them and they'll tell you what to do. Okay, see you soon hopefully."
She never came for me. And after that night, I never saw or spoke to Angie again.