It all started
because my appendix hurt. I had been suffering from acute appendicitis
for four years, but as appendicitis is lethal within a matter of days,
there is a possibility that I may have misdiagnosed myself.
This was 1982, when I was a junior at George Washington University and
I was a Christian Scientist who was losing my faith. Having someone check
my appendix had not been, and was not, an option. I did not go to doctors.
I did not drink. I did not do anything that acknowledged my existence
as a material rather than spiritual being. This made me extremely popular.
"You know Chuck doesn't drink. What a goof! Is that true, Man? That's
like totally fucked up. I mean I respect that. You want to hang? You could
totally drive us to The Pier."
The Pier was a gay club out in the warehouse district of D.C. It was "the"
place with "the" straight crowd that went to George Washington,
American and Maryland. We danced to videos of gay guys with buttered up
skin dry humping. "Let's get physical, physical, I want to get physical
belted out as I tried not to watch the camera explore some bulked-up quivering
thigh on the big screen. But the most memorable thing about The Pier to
me was watching the disintegration of my friends. This group of intellectual
students morphed into a mob of spit-spraying, word-slurring, vomit-spewing
So, it wasn't the joy of alcohol or peer pressure that made me think I
should have a drink. It was my appendix - my logic being that I still
could not go to a doctor because I didn't drink because I was a Christian
Scientist. If I had a drink, then I would become a normal person and normal
people go the doctor, especially normal people who have had acute appendicitis
for more than four years.
And so, one night, while attending a revival of Mornings at Seven
at the National Theatre with my friend Kim Howard, I announced that I
was getting drunk after the play. Two hours later, we climbed the narrow
steps to Café d'Artist in Georgetown and found a table. I was queasy.
I wasn't sure if it was the excitement or my appendix. The place was full
of old people, like in their mid-twenties or thirties. Kim looked into
my face with her pale blue eyes. "Are you sure," she asked,
"Are you really ready to do this?"
yes and she took my hand in hers and squeezed it really tight and told
me how special it was that I had chosen her to be the first one I did
it with. As much as I wanted to get to the drink, I did not want the squeeze
to end. Kim was the best-looking best friend I'd ever had in my whole
life. But then, acting as if I, Chuck Freericks, was a normal person and
not a Christian Scientist, Kim broke the squeeze and asked me what I wanted
I had no idea. I did not know what anything tasted like, so I told her
to choose for me. She decided that a Greyhound was a good baby drink to
get me going. Standing all of five feet, one inch, she strode over to
the bar and came back with two drinks
one of them, believe it or
not, for me. She made a toast "Ya Le-bue Teh Byeh," which we
both thought meant "I love you" in Russian. I took a fairly
nice sized gulp of the Greyhound. It was an interesting concoction made
of grapefruit juice and turpentine. As much as drinking turpentine was
unpleasant, I knew I needed to have at least six drinks to get a good
drunk on, and I wolfed the rest of it down.
About half an hour and four drinks later, I was standing in the men's
room, which was moving like it was made out of seaweed and we were underwater.
I thought to myself, if this is what being drunk is, then I am a very,
very good drunk, because even though I can't stop the walls from undulating,
I am perfectly capable of doing anything and everything else. I am no
more stupid or slow than I was five drinks ago. I am a Super Drunk, unaffected
by the drink. Kim, who was drinking with me, and was maybe 100 pounds
if you made her wear a cinder block around her neck, held me up when I
stumbled out of the bathroom and asked me if I wanted to go home. She
took my whole face in her hands and kissed me on the cheeks and said we
would be best friends forever. When we got downstairs to my car, we decided
she should drive, even though she did not know how to drive a stick. It
took us two hours to go the mile and a half back to my dorm.
Although it was late I ran from dorm room to dorm room, waking up the
entire fifth floor of Crawford Hall, to let everyone know that I was a
normal person and I was drunk. The next morning, I woke up feeling like
my head was a large aluminum globe filled with a mixture of acid and noxious
gas. I went to the cafeteria in the Marvin Center, and slowly went from
table to table, telling all the kids I knew that I was a normal person
and I had a hangover.
But the first I am talking about is not my first time getting drunk. You
see, that night, I went to my fraternity house, Zeta Beta Tau, and told
everyone I could find that I was a normal person and I was a drinker.
Robbie and Anoush from Delaware, who ran a lucrative pot business from
the second floor, told me that my reward for finally drinking would be
that they were going to get me high. I'd known them for two years, but
this was the first time they had ever invited me into their room. There,
they gave me a bong, lit the bowl and told me to inhale. They then told
me not to wrap my lips around the bong; it wasn't a soda bottle, but to
put my lips inside it. "No, no, no, you let go of the thumb hole
did you get a hit?" The bubbling of the
water was thrilling. The feeling of the acrid smoke coming into my lungs
was horrible. My insides were on fire. But, they were both looking at
me and smiling like proud parents, so I took another hit to make them
happy, not so big this time that it seared my cilia. And then I took another.
And then another, until this weird kid from Chicago came into the room
and asked me what the fuck I was doing. I told him that I was now a normal
person and a head. I was a stoner. It was then that I suddenly realized
that I loved the weird kid from Chicago. He was my best friend, as were
Robbie and Anoush from Delaware.
the first I am talking about is not my first time getting stoned. You
see, the weird kid from Chicago said that now that I was cool, it was
time for me to lose my blow cherry. Next thing I knew, "Tattoo You,"
the Rolling Stones album, was on the bed, a tiny homemade envelope cut
from a magazine page was spilled out onto it and a razor blade was chopping
through white powder. I was handed a twenty dollar bill rolled into a
straw, which I aimed at the powder, using it to suck the stuff up into
my nostril. Now I was pretty stoned, but I knew that tasting medicine
in the back of my throat could not be what was supposed to happen. It
was disgusting, like licking a syringe, or what I thought licking a syringe
would taste like. The guys explained that that was the good part, the
drip, and that I should enjoy it. So, I did. With every toot I took, I
waited for the drip. Oh, how great it was
the drip. I loved the drip.
I loved being normal.
But the first I am talking about is not my first time doing cocaine. By
the next night, I had blown off two full days of classes and had lost
track so badly that I wasn't sure what classes I had blown off. It was
that night that my friends from Crawford Hall and my friends from ZBT,
all wanting to see me drunk, took me to The Exchange (it was Thursday,
which was a gay night at The Pier). Everyone was buying me free drinks.
It was upside down shooter night, and if you lay your head on the bar,
looking up at the ceiling, the bartender would pour your shot into your
For the first time in my three years of George Washington University,
my friends did not disintegrate in front of me. In fact, they stayed as
witty and urbane and poised as they had been when they walked into the
bar sober. This was freaking cool. Phyllis Littman, who was Scotty Silver's
girlfriend and had a "Jew fro," came up to me and told me that
she had broken up with Scotty. Her eyes actually seemed to smile. I told
her that I had become a normal person, and not only did I drink, but I
smoked weed and snorted blow.
I was getting a little unsteady, as the walls of The Exchange began a
seaweed dance. I found a chair, and sat on it, talking to Phyllis Littman,
who was now standing over me. Phyllis and I had maybe sort of flirted
once before, but we barely knew each other. She was but one of a hundred
cute girls on campus who ignored me. Now she was standing over me and
laughing at everything I said.
a place to sit," she shouted through the noisy bar.
my lap," I responded. I liked drinking.
Phyllis sat on my lap and we starting talking about us and why hadn't
we gone out yet, and then I was dipping her, like we were dancing, but
we were sitting on one chair. I took Phyllis to my car and drove her the
one block back to her dorm. There, I pushed on the brake and let the clutch
up at the same time, stalling the car. Like a complete idiot, I started
the car again and instead of taking it out of gear, I sat there talking
to Phyllis for at least another fifteen minutes with my foot pressing
the clutch against the floorboard and my bladder filling beyond all known
human capacity. Holy shit did I have to wiz. But I was not going to give
in, because a cute girl with perfect teeth was sitting in my car talking
about me and her as an item, not as friends. It was a good conversation.
Finally, she said she needed to get back to her room and I did not stop
her because my foot was numb and my need to wiz was epic and my appendix
was starting to throb again. Then she said, "I guess I better kiss
you goodnight." And I did not know what to do. You see, I was Sweet
20 and had never been kissed. I had never actually placed my lips on the
lips of another human being.
So, I leaned in, the way I thought I should, and pressed harder against
the clutch and pressed harder against my urethra muscle, and I put my
lips on Phyllis Littman's lips. And then something unexpected happened.
She pushed her tongue into my mouth and the first thought that came into
my mind was, "So this is what a French kiss is." Still, drunk
as I was, I didn't know what was expected of me. Was I supposed to let
her explore my mouth? Was I supposed to nip at her tongue? Were we supposed
to tongue duel? I went with my gut and began to tongue wrestle. She moaned
and kept at it. Was it because she didn't want to embarrass me, or because
I had somehow managed not to embarrass myself? What if I was a tongue
moron and she was humoring me? When we were done, I put my head on Phyllis'
shoulder to say sorry if I didn't do that right. She smiled at me and
told me to call her.
But the first I am talking about is not my first time French kissing.
The next day I called a doctor's office and told them I had appendicitis.
They made an appointment for me that morning, causing me to blow off another
day of classes. I was nervous, as anyone with appendicitis would be, but
I knew I was doing the right thing, being a normal person, and so I waited
for the doctor. When he came in, I told him about being a Christian Scientist,
assuming this would fascinate him and he'd want to talk about it. He grunted.
He pushed my abdomen, asked me if it hurt, and told me that I did not
have appendicitis. He then told me drop my pants and my underwear.
What the fuck? Oh God, it was all true. All the horrible stories Christian
Scientists had told me about doctors were true, and now I was no longer
a Christian Scientist. I was a normal person. I had to go to doctors.
I drank. I smoked pot. I snorted cocaine off the album cover of "Tattoo
You" by the Rolling Stones and I loved the drip. I tongue wrestled
with girls. I put my head down on a bar and let a stranger pour alcohol
into my mouth. I had made my decision and I had to live with it, so I
took off my pants and my underwear and let the doctor feel my scrotum.
When he was done, he told me that I did not have a hernia either. He said
the pain in my abdomen was probably from not eating enough fiber and that
I should eat celery. Then he left without saying goodbye.
And so, I've reached the first I have been referring to since the beginning
of this story, the first time that I was ever felt up, and how ironic
it was that the person who felt me up was a bald doctor with too many
appointments to even take the little time necessary for a little bit of
conversation and getting to know each other to make me feel more comfortable
about the whole thing.
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