The school bus had become our sanctuary, an oasis of acceptance in a vast desert of judgement where cruelty was a form of currency and there was always an abundance to spend. Children doled out to other children small nightmares as though their survival depended on it. The wrong kind of jeans could banish any one of us to “bottom bitch” status where identity was reduced to that of victim. If you were a victim that is all you were and all you could ever be. I felt as though I walked among vampires in the halls of this junior high and I had no garlic, no cross, and no fortitude needed to fight back or even run away.
It was on the bus where we could breathe at last. At the end of the day we would be giddy with the elation of plane crash survivors, relishing the here and now, this moment of knowing that for the next five minutes we were safe. And then five more minutes. And then five more minutes. This time of safety was our currency, a black market economy that traded in relief. Our true selves could come out of the hardened shells of anonymity and the “please God don’t let them see me” default demeanor we had created.
True to his word David brought his Walkman for me to listen to. The tape was Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil. The art work was a picture of a pentagram on one side and on the other a head shot of the four band members.
They were terrifying. The pentagram was terrifying. And this may have the coolest thing I had ever seen up to that point in my life. I pushed “play” and when the song “Shout at the Devil” began to play, I was vaulted to a new evolutionary level. It was my first time using headphones, and it was as though up to that point in my life I had never heard music. This song was everything I felt. The anger and frustration, the hatred, the love, the passion, the pounding beat that seemed to insert itself into my soul and give voice to my confusion and exhaustion. It was a hyper-masculine artifact that felt like a cloak I could don and it would afford me protection. I finally had a talisman to ward off the vampires.
I looked at David with wild wide eyes as the song played, and he smiled at me knowingly.
“Pretty fucking awesome, huh?” he asked.
I had no words. I hit rewind and then played my new anthem again.
I would join this tribe and be reborn.