Kicking Your Friends In The Head
By: Kyrsten Bean
Sometimes, in life, you learn an important lesson that sits with you from the time it happens until you die. One of those moments came for me when I was a teenager living on the streets of San Francisco as a gutter punk. I had a boyfriend named Will who was nicknamed Schwill, due to his affinity for alcohol and the fact he had cirrhosis at age 22. His friends, Colleen and Jason, were the Sid and Nancy of the Haight Street scene. It took me a long time to be accepted as part of their "group," so much verbal and emotional abuse and almost getting punched in the face to finally be One of Them.
Schwill had an ex-girlfriend named Lorraine. She was much more punk than I was— something I judged by the number of patches she had on her hand-sewn skinny black jeans and how much of her head was shaved, even though I had quite a few patches, and sported a partially shaved head minus two wispy bleached blonde bangs that hung in my face.
We spent a lot of time together, Lorraine and I. Two years my elder at 17, she had already lived a crazy struggle of a life. The street was her chosen home, though she had a little old grandmother somewhere who would send her money when she really needed it. She was adorable, and sweet, always listened when I talked, never tripped that I was dating her ex-boyfriend, just worked as a team with Schwill and I to drum up change, hop trains, share liquor.
After the three of us hitched up and down California together for a few months—a trip where we'd had many shared adventures, one in which I'd been punched in the face by some guy walking down Sunset Boulevard while I was panhandling and we'd all slept in some bushes by the freeway as the blood dried on my seemingly broken nose, seeking vengeance together the next day though we never found the perpetrator—we came back to San Francisco to panhandle on Haight Street with our long lost gutter punk family. Lorraine branched out and started dating a person named Swill, a dough-faced guy with much more meat on his bones than my Schwill.
A gulf grew between us and Lorraine, now that she had a boyfriend, one we didn’t feel fit quite right. He, Shwill and I decided, was a total dork. Plus, he spelled Schwill wrong, without the fancy "c" in it. And, Will said, "I was Schwill first." Colleen and Jason did not like Swill either. It was affecting our credibility just saying hi to them on a daily basis as we walked down the street. Many a night was spent sitting on opposite sides of the Haight, Swill and Lorraine on one side, Schwill and I on the other, us glaring at them, them giving us goofy grins with no clue we were pointing so much vitriol in their direction.
I had a friend named Black Cat. She was super tall, built like a brick shit house, had a double spiked mohawk, and wore plaid skirts and black combat boots to her knees. One night she and I, after pounding a lot of forties, decided something had to be done. Those two could not be allowed to hang out with us.
One night Black Cat and I decided to beat up Lorraine and Swill.
We marched into the circle in Golden Gate Park where all our friends were drinking whiskey in a circle. Drunk on our own superiority, we started kicking Lorraine and Swill in the heads with our boots. I felt hesitant once finally engaged in the activity, but continued in spite of my gut shouting, "Dude, this is hell of mean."
It didn't feel right when my boot hit Lorraine's head. It felt unnatural, like I was kicking a part of my own body, like I was pushing through some invisible force of civility. At some point, Black Cat looked at me, since they weren't fighting back, just holding their heads with their hands, and said, "This is lame, let's stop." We stopped, and walked away, as if nothing had ever happened.
No one mentioned it again.
A couple of days later, I saw Lorraine sitting on the sidewalk by the old Cala Foods that is now a Whole Foods on the Haight. It was another gray day, not many tourists were out, and she looked wilted. I sat next to her, and having had a couple of 40's already, I looked at her face that wasn't looking at mine, simply staring at the sidewalk.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"It's OK." She said. "I understand."
My heart shriveled up inside my chest, and I felt a thick black guilt wash through me. I felt something else at that moment, too, a whisper inside my mind telling me that here I'd had a friend all along, someone who hadn't made me jump through any hoops to be close to her, had always been open to me from the get go, and I had kicked her in the head.