Category Archives: art installation
His name was Gwar of all things. Do you know who Gwar is? They are an awful band in giant goblin type costumes with spikes and monster makeup. They throw vomit and blood and piss and semen (or rather accurate fakes) at their audience through out their shows. They have quite a following among some people.
He had GWAR tattooed on his knuckles and he made sure that every person he ever met knew that he had earned that name by having the word Gwar carved into his arm by the lead singer. He claimed this happened when he was 8 years old, but I think the scar seemed fresher.
I had very recently turned 14 and very recently ran away to Portland Oregon. I was using meth, I was tasting what I thought was freedom, I was being hunted by a serial killer whose victims were all street girls between the ages of 12 and 19. My boyfriends name was Rush. Rush was my boyfriend because he was the only person I could find the morning I left Olympia who would take the bus to Portland with me. I was scared to go alone. I was disappointed that it had worked out that way. I would have rather taken his girlfriend.
While I was in Portland I met a lot of people. My name was Flame because my hair was bright red, one shade brighter than my always, even now, red cheeks. Flame and Rush and Gwar are all pretty stupid names and we were pretty stupid kids. We thought very big of ourselves and our place in the world, sometimes you have to, too survive how invisible you really are in a culture of adults who are skirting the responsibility of initiating you into something worth belonging to.
I met a lot of boys and a lot of men. They wanted to get me high, they wanted to sleep with me, they wanted to sell me or show me off to their friends. Some of them wanted to be my Dad and some of them wanted all of these things. Gwar was the only boy I met, the only person I met who was in my corner. He was my friend, and only my friend, from the gate.
He was 16 years old and 6 feet tall. He had a faded green Mohawk. He was covered in scars and track marks. He was the sort of character, in his cut off pants and stick and poke tattoos, that most people would cross the street away from after dark.
I met him and forever after every time I saw him he asked how I was and he meant it. I heard that when I got arrested he got drunk. While he was on that drunk he saw the arresting officer leaving the police station under Pioneer Square. He picked up his skateboard and ran with the intention of beating that man, it took 8 teenage tweekers to knock him over and hold him down. Fortunately the officer was a block up and didn’t notice the commotion. He got in his car and lived to arrest another day.
That was not a side of Gwar I ever saw. I only saw big blue eyes and the only safe friend I had. At punk shows he would put me on his back and spin as fast as he could in the middle of the mosh pit. I would hold around his waist tight with my legs and stick my arms, covered to the elbow in spiked bracelets, straight out and knock over anyone who came close. I would feel powerful and supported.
When I was arrested and sent back to Washington I moved in with my sister. Everyday I planned on leaving but everyday I chickened out. My brother came over once a day and made me a fried egg sandwich. My mom dropped off boxes of Cheese crackers outside the front door.
One day, months later, Gwar showed up in town looking for me. He told me that 6 people had tried to hitchhike north to find me when I had first been sent back. Some how they ended up in a ride that took them East and left them in Yakima. They were too high to know where they were. While they looked for me in a town that was several hours away from where I was, they decided to break into a house and were all arrested.
That’s when Gwar decided he would be the one to come find me. He thought about it everyday for months and one day found himself with the right combination of drugs and gusto to really do it.
I don’t remember much of his visit. I remember what he looked like skateboarding down our hill. I remember he always picked me up when we hugged. I remember him leaving when he realized I could not be convinced to come with him. I made him drink the water here everyday because it is legend that if you drink the water in Olympia, you will always come back.
Three years or so later I ran into some people in Eugene who I had known from that time and I found out why he had never come back, even for the gallons of water I watched him drink.
At 17, shortly after I had seen him, his body had been found by the edge of the freeway.
I heard a tall tale about kidnapping and drugs and important people. I don’t remember that story, it seemed like more of meth helping people make sense of senseless things. It seemed like more of those boys who never grew up finding a way to feel more important than they are.
What is true is his body was found by the side of the road and at least one person remembers his heart and how truly rare a being like that was. In a sea of manipulation and greed and addiction and distrust and violence I remember one of the best hearts I ever met. I remember when it stopped beating. I won’t forget how quiet the world is now without him. I won’t forget how relentless beauty is.
It will sprout from scars.
It will sprout from concrete.
Whatever happens to us, beauty will keep pushing, keep breaking, keep surfacing especially where no one is looking. That’s how beauty survives. That’s how we, the ones of us who did, survived.
Thank you Gwar. I love you.