It has been quiet in Uncle Sam’s backyard for a while.
But you know Uncle Sam’s backyard is one surreal, upside-down place, and it never stays quiet for too long.
Sure, I don’t know the half of it, but I’ve begun to wonder.
I used to take it as a simple article of faith: The oddballs, the eccentrics, the wayward and troubled souls of the world are attracted to me.
I didn’t wonder why. I just accepted it as a symbiotic fact of life.
They are my people.
They need me. I need them.
They seem to know this even better than me.
Lately, when they come to me, I look at them a little differently. I furtively search their eyes for the inscrutable. I wonder what cosmic coincidence brought them here.
I will continue to be a skeptic, to believe in what I can see, hear, touch, taste and feel. I will stick to the empirical.
But I will wonder.
And here I sit, a quiet night in a north Tacoma McDonald’s. I come here because I trust that nothing worth reporting happens in a McDonald’s in a relatively affluent community.
It’s sterile, which is its primary virtue.
And I’m trying to finish up a little anecdote about a guy named Crazy.
What’s he know about crazy?
I look up and she’s there, standing above me.
She asks if she can plug her phone into the receptacle which sits atop the one where my laptop is connected.
Of course, I say.
She sits across the table. I try to make her welcome, move my shit around so she’s not crowded in by notebooks and backpack and flannel shirt.
And I try to walk the line between concentrating on my work and not being rude. I keep my head down, eyes fixed on the screen, fingers on the keyboard.
Somehow I knew it wouldn’t stay this way. At some point her narrative would start trickling out, and I would be trapped.
I was wrong.
When it came, it gushed. The dam inside her gave way all at once, and before I knew it the space between us was flooded with a 100-foot-high wall of crazy.
She looked down at my pile of notebooks, and asked if I was some kind of writer. I never know how to answer this question, so I nodded ever-so slightly.
She said she’s a writer. She’s currently on the fourth version of her life story. She first wrote it when she was, well, she’s not sure. Math is hard for her tonight.
She says her name is Kylee May. At least that’s her nom de plume.
And of course I ask about her life story, since not many 22 year olds have stories worth four editions.
“The first guy I was in love with, I saw him get shot in the face,” she says. “Then his crazy, crazy meth-addict brother became obsessed with me and started stalking me. People tried to beat up my brother for being racist, for saying the word ‘nigger.’ (she lowers her voice to say ‘nigger.’) His best friend is black. It was a white guy who beat him up.”
My head swims. She says she grew up on Tacoma’s north side, went to Wilson High.
Says she hopes to get her book published and then counsel kids.
“I want to talk to kids who are going through what I went through, drugs and alcohol abuse and addiction. Everything. I want to make a difference.”
Let’s rewind a second: She saw her ex-boyfriend get shot in the face.
“They held a gun to one guy’s head, and he didn’t say anything,” she says, without explaining who “they” are. “They held a gun to another friend’s head, and he didn’t say anything. They held a gun to me, and he freaked out. He said, ‘don’t you dare touch her.’ He freaked out and hit the gun. They weren’t going to shoot. I sat there and held him for two hours, literally, I was escorted out of the house when the cops came.
“Me and his brother ended up getting infatuated with each other. We understand the same hurt.”
Her story flows like this. Mind-boggling anecdotes of drugs, death and devastation followed by jarring transitions.
She sees I’m typing faster now.
“Don’t write my story,” she says.
It’s OK, she says. Only joking. She doesn’t care that I have become a virtual voyeur. How can I do anything but type down the shit she says before it all slips away?
Maybe she made this all up on meth. Maybe she dreamed it while lost in the K-hole. Maybe it all happened like she says.
Who the fuck knows?
I ask her about what happened when, and the math trips her up again. She can’t quite make ends meet.
“Sorry,” she says. “I’ve been drinking.”
She doesn’t look so fucked up. She wears a blue sweatshirt. She’s a brunette, with brown eyes. Her hair’s dyed blonde at the fringes. Yellow sunglasses rest on her forehead. She’s slightly overweight, but not unattractive.
The most eccentric thing about her look is the gold stud protruding from the left side of her upper lift. She’s got a smaller ring in her right nostril.
In other words, she appears a typical 22 year old.
“My ex-boyfriend’s in jail,” she says. “He’s in for different reasons, for MIP (minor in possession of alcohol).”
She slips int a magical realm, a middle-school world of kings and queens, monsters and fantasy heroes.
“When I got to middle school, there was an evil kingdom, ruled by this girl named Rachel,” she says. “I called her Ms. Evil. Corny, I know. And she ruled the school with an iron fist, and she believed she was queen. We’re talking domains of power. She tried to rule me, but she was scared of what I could do. I ended up slowly taking over.
“When I was done, she crawled before me.”
Is this middle school? Or Twilight?
“I started getting myself into trouble,” she says. “I would tell people if they mess with me, they’re done. I became more capable than anybody I saw. My boyfriend and I didn’t care about anybody. I was a scary person. I went inside their heads and sucked out their dreams and turned them against them. And I was an evil person.
“And then my eighth-grade graduation came along.”
Here’s why I think maybe I’m part of some bizarre ontological experiment, that I am a guest on Cosmic Candid Camera. Because this shit is a little strange. It’s beyond my world view, which I tend to think is fairly open to crazy.
And then this:
“Then I turned into a lesbian for a while.”
Yes, you’re fucking with me, aren’t you, Kylee?
“I was with many chicks,” she says. “And this guy tried to start torturing me. He’d been in jail nine years for homicide.”
I’m not sure whether she’s coming or going.
“I got to high school and I was scared,” she says. “I looked for the top person. His name was “Shadow.” He quote-unquote was the King of Tacoma. Every single person under the age of 25 knew him.”
What made Shadow the King of Tacoma, I ask?
“The fact that no one could stand up to him,” she says. “No one could resist him. We secretly became best friends and we ended up dating. He was scared. I was able to make the king wither before me. The King of Tacoma. He withered before me.”
Well, that’s pretty impressive. I never know how to take these people. Being unsure of everything, I want to be careful. I’ve got enough self-esteem issues. I don’t want to have to wither before the Queen of Tacoma, to crawl before her at the north Pearl McDonald’s.
Because I’m pretty sure the floor hasn’t been mopped all day.
“He started using his power against me, making me feel worthless,” she says. “So I cheated on him with his brother. Because his brother made me feel wanted, and he made me feel like the scum of the earth. He cut me and turned into a monster.”
I felt like I was watching Shrek on windowpane. I knew the story would get more fucked up before it settled down.
“Then I got into some drugs,” she says. “Then I got addicted to meth. But I ruled in Tacoma because he was nothing. I was on meth, and I ruled Tacoma.”
I glance at her teeth. They look fine. Nothing missing. No gaping chasms or unsightly blemishes. Everything where it’s supposed to be. I think.
“I was raped, and people saw the fact that I wasn’t the ultimate ruler,” she says. “I threw an iron fist at people and they started listening again. Me and his brother started to rule Tacoma again. And we ruled over Seattle, Federal Way, Lakewood, Fife, all those places. And then our group, nobody in Seattle could stand up to us. All the guys who wanted to be in our group, they all got beat up. All the girls got shagged and left.”
They were the new party monsters, she said. “Party Monster,” I learn, is a 2003 film based upon “Disco Bloodbath,” a book by James St. James. I guess the name of the book is now “Party Monster,” probably to capitalize on whatever success the movie had.
James St. James is, according to Wikipedia, a celebutante. That might be the weirdest part of the story yet. A fucking celebutante, he is.
“We became the new party monsters,” Kylee says. “We controlled the party. We knew where the drugs were. We got into clubs for free. We got into raves for free. We were the kings and queens of party land. People bowed down before us.
“One day my friend overdosed. ”
“No, meth,” she says. “He decided to kill himself. We decided it was a good idea to party at his memorial. So we did. It was also my birthday. I OD’d at my birthday rave. I took about 15 ecstasies, all meth-based. I was hella drugged out. I sat with my best friend, and he held my hand while I puked. We became inseparable.”
Oh, but the party’s just getting started. Or so she says.
“I decided it was a good idea to buy a half-gallon. We had fun. By the time the warning came, I ended up in the hospital. I was overdosing and puking and my whole body felt inflamed. The next morning I found out I had a spot on my liver.”
If you haven’t found the narrative slippery yet, hold on.
She needs a dump truck, baby, to unload her head.
Speaking of which, a brief musical interlude from one of her peers, an Austrian wunderkind named Patrick Derieg whom I stumbled across on the Youtubes:
“My best friend he was in jail,” she says. “We were together three, four years. I was doing Ketamine, Molly, drinking 151 and Everclear and (smoking) weed. Doctors thought it was cancer.”
She told Shadow about her cancer scare.
“He shoved me on the ground and told me I was a worthless whore because I wouldn’t take him back,” she says. “He was nothing. I loved him, but he was a speck on the earth because what he did to me. Everyone else took it because he was king.”
Then there was a new boyfriend. I think he’s the one in jail for possession of alcohol. He’s only 19. She likes younger guys, she says.
“We were kind of in-lovish for the past four or five years,” she says. “We were walking down the middle of the street, breathing the crisp, autumn air. It was a bus entryway. There were no cars. Nothing. We walked for an hour. He thought I was pregnant. I told him the doctors think I have cancer. He looked at me and all he could do was hug me and cry. He loved me. He loves me still, even though he’s in jail. He still loves me.”
Then it was back to Party Land.
“We ended up getting separated by his girlfriend, who was my best friend.”
“I ended up getting hooked back on meth,” she says. “We would get high and no one could take us. The world was ours to take. We took it. We didn’t care. Warehouse parties in Seattle, raves, we ruled it. Everyone was wishing they could be us.
“I wish I could let them be us. Because I didn’t want to be us.”
And then another good friend dies. Hit by a car while high on heroin.
The driver of the car was drunk.
The driver of the car was a family friend.
“My dad’s best friend was charged with accessory to murder,” she says. “That was my best friend who died. Not the one I loved but the other one, the one person who stuck with me through all the addictions.”
He was the one, I think, who fished her out of the bathtub full of blood.
Oh, when she was all of 13, she climbed into a bathtub and slit her wrists.
She shows me the scars. She invites me to rub my finger across the raised scar on her left wrist. I do so.
“I tried to kill myself over stupid reasons,” she says. “When I was in seventh grade I tried. In the bathtub. I slit my wrists, slit them completely open. He came in and swooped me up. He ripped off the sleeves of his shirt and tied my arms up, just so he could save me. I just fell for the kid after that.
“I was 13 years old.”
Crazy or not, this is all quite unsettling.
True or not, it’s all very worrisome.
I ask about her family because, you know, I got a sweet little boy about to turn 5. How easy would it be for him to write this kind of story?
She said it wasn’t that bad. But then it wasn’t that good. Parents loved her to death. Parents hid stuff from her. They weren’t into anything bad. Just alcoholics.
In any case, she tells me to cherish Max. I promise I will.
“In society, a person’s a bad person if they do drugs,” she says. “Sometimes people are good people and they decide that doing a drug could be fun and they get hooked and they can’t stop after that. I did coke before I did weed. The minute I tasted any drug I was hooked. I wanted to taste that glamorous lifestyle. I wanted to roll VIP in clubs and raves.”
But she started to notice something funny amid all the carnage.
“No one even turned a head when someone died,” she says.” They used that as an excuse to party. Someone’s death as a continuous party. Some name to scream when you were fucked up.
“Shane, He died. I was at this party and everyone was chanting his name. I remember all my friends who died. They chanted it for a good 30 minutes. I can’t forget that day. I can’t forget many days.”
Now, Kylee says, she’s mostly OK. She’s not the queen anymore.
“I get drunk every now and then,” she says. “I’m IOP (intensive outpatient program). I’ve read books upon books. I’m a book addict. I’ve read probably 19 books in the past four months. All I do is write. One day everyone in the world will hear every detail of my story.”
And one day, she promises, she’ll use her story to help others.
“I had a lot of battle with death,” she says. “Whether it was someone else doing it to me, drugs or self-harm. Right now I’m willing to watch over my friends. I’ve screwed up too much. I’ve been through too much to just end it. Whether you’re quote-unquote ghetto, or hood, or classy, or top-notch or rich kids, you will never know until you’ve gone through stuff like the rest of us have gone through, us club kids, rave kids.
“I am going to make a difference.”
And with that Kylee grabs her phone, stands up and heads for the door, saying
“Have a nice day, night, year.”
Halfway to the door, she turns around.
“Take care of your son,” she says with a half-smile, then slips out the door and disappears into the Tacoma night.