Friday, December 19, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Kenny Blane

Kenny Blane had a fast black car with orange flames painted on it. He would pick me up from high school and I’d slide onto his slippery seat and bask in the curious looks on everyone’s faces. We’d tear out of the parking lot and cruise – which in our little New Jersey town was rather limited. But we felt big anyway.

He scared me. Kenny was several years older than me and seemed so worldly and desperately cool. He was quiet by nature and I was quieted by shyness. So we’d drive around in silence. Then park. People referred to us as “going out” but even then, I didn’t quite understand what they meant. How could two people go out when they didn’t talk? Wasn’t that a prerequisite? Apparently not. But I knew he had a purpose in my life at that time - so I could lose my virginity and be done with it.

And lose it I did, one winter’s night at his house. I guess I lost it. Frankly, I still don’t know if I did technically. But close enough for me to announce it to my hawkish female ensemble the next day at the arcade. Like a game of musical chairs, I claimed my non-virginal chair and had nothing more to worry about it in that department.

Until he broke up with me a week later. To date the long-legged, gum-chewing Colleen McMonagle. Devastated, I sandwich my head between two speakers every night and sang the same lovelorn Led Zeppelin song and sob and sing and smoke alternately. I think on some levels – back then at least – breaking up suited me more so than dating. It was so dramatic. So operatic. Friends gave me cigarettes and attention and we carved Colleen into teeny little pieces with our mere words.

Yesterday, Krissie called me at my apartment in New York.

“You’ll never believe who I saw at the bar today. Kenny Blane!”

Krissie, one of my oldest and best friends, has worked at the same bar for quite some time and has often told me of people she’s run into from our past. Unfortunately, they are usually sad and scary tales. Our gang was a kind-hearted crew, but vulnerable and unparented. We relied on each other and drugs and alcohol to put a hazy warm glow on a rather dismal upbringing.
As years passed, many of us couldn’t seem to move on, as if the drugs and booze froze us in New Jersey suburbia and time. As if we only had 4 or 5 good years in us and after that, well, we were at Krissie’s bar for eternity.

Kenny Blane unfortunately was to be no exception. I sat down and prepared for the worst.

“Well,” Krissie continued, “He was at the bar, not drinking anything, probably because he couldn’t afford it, and eating a bag of 25 cent Doritos. I kept looking over at him because for a bit, I didn’t even recognize him. His right arm kept reaching between his legs and I kept thinking he was grabbing for something, like a bag.”

“What was he grabbing for, Kris?”

“Well, he was…he was…playing with himself.”

“Playing what with himself?” The concept momentarily alluded me.

“Like, masturbating.”


“I had to ask him to leave.”

“But I lost my virginity to him.”

“That doesn’t mean he can masturbate at the bar.”

“Yes, I realize that, Kris…but why? Why would he do that?”

Krissie went on to explain that he never really stopped using drugs and his life spiraled downward like a blind drunk on an icy hill. His faculties were now worn, his discretion poor. He smelled badly too, she said.

Somehow, the real clincher for me was the 25 cent bag of Doritos. I think I can wrap my head around your life tanking so badly from drugs that you lose any sense of public awareness – but to eat Doritos at the same time, with the other hand? That just seemed plain wrong.

Oh how the mighty have fallen, I thought, hanging up the phone. I don’t judge him. I fall with him. Those people were my flawed little family growing up. If Kenny Klein is masturbating at a bar with a bag of Doritos, then I too am masturbating at a bar with a bag of Doritos. I am no better and he is no worse - even though by outward appearances, it would seem so. We all have our Doritos and our public masturbation. We all pacify.

That night, I sat in a upscale wine bar in Manhattan and I reflected back on my strangely magical and dark teenage years. He wore a leather jacket…that’s right…that jacket. He smelled faintly of motor oil and leather. Wow.
I took a sip of my overpriced chardonnay. And he had those long, lanky legs, perpetually in jeans. Hmmm…I ate some peanuts with one hand and slowly reached my hand under the bar and touched myself with the other. In memory of my lost boyfriend and my lost virginity. Nobody seemed to care or even notice. This one’s for you, Kenny.

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