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Excerpt: Punk Disco Bohemian by Arya F. Jenkins

Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor

Sweet, pudgy Ellie was from Vermont, and we hung out from the start, at lunchtime, usually buying quarts of beer, yogurt, and nuts at a convenience store and lunching on the beach near Fisherman’s Wharf if it was sunny. When it rained or snowed, we went to her place, a small bright box of a room on Mechanic Street, close to the factory. After work, I stopped at Perry’s to buy my “cocktails,” three shots of bourbon for a buck and a half gallon of cheap Tavola Red wine. At home, I downed the shots, then ate a baby can of tuna and handful of spinach leaves for dinner before Ellie came over. We shared the wine and rapped as we drank. Ellie wanted to join a commune and had also read Fear of Flying, the feminist rage then.

“What’s a zipless fuck?” she asked.

“I think it’s the kind of sex men usually get but women can get too, if they dare. No ties. I think she thinks all women want this and would go for it if they had the balls.”

“I don’t want it.”

“I want the freedom to do it. Fucking establishes power, but sexual power is never going to be something every woman wants or can have. ”
What kind of sex did we want? Sex was not my priority, even in a place where it was a kind of religion, even if when I contemplated it, it hinted at something deeper. In ’70s Provincetown, sex was part of the prize you hoped to win when you went to the bars. It was always there, and you got it when you could, seizing hold of the chance to be with another body, which was how we celebrated being in the world. I didn’t know enough about sex to want it exclusively. I mainly longed for adventure, which had the potential to take us to strange places in Provincetown, especially in winter.

One night, after the bars closed, Ellie and I followed a girl from work over to her place, a big, mostly empty house. In the living room, somebody kept walking a young woman who’d OD’d around and around on a ratty rug. A chick wearing sunglasses was splayed out on the one couch, mumbling incoherently. In the distance, a wall of mirrors repeated images. The kitchen phone kept ringing, and Janet, the Portuguese chick who owned the house, kept screaming into the mouthpiece, “It’s okay, Ma. I’m coming. Take it easy.” Finally, she said, “Gotta go. My ma’s jumpin’ into the ocean.”

Janet gunned her car and sped so fast I wondered why no cops followed and finally came to a screeching halt next to the only other vehicle parked at Herring Cove. Straight ahead I made out an eerie black wall of waves spewing white. Janet leaned against the steering wheel. “There she is. I see her. I’m going.” She and her friend in front took off while Ellie and I stayed put, listening for voices amid the thundering waves and wind.

After a while, Janet emerged through the mist, taking off her leather jacket and placing it around her mother’s shoulders, a woman whose pallor streaked with wet hair stood out in the dark. Janet’s friend led her mother to her car, and Janet flopped into the driver’s seat—red bandana, tee, jeans, utterly soaked through in November.
“Jesus fucking Christ.” She slapped her hands together, blasted the heat, and pounded the car wheel.

“You all right?” I asked. “Is your mother all right?”

“Yeah. She does this all the time.”
 Wow, I mused, unable to fathom dealing with that. Still, I related to Provincetown’s brand of crazy, having grown up in dysfunction and drama myself with Mom popping Valium, Buddy being an acid head, and Dad disappearing. How did one grow into the world except by accommodating to madness? There seemed to be no other way.




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