San Francisco, 1987
Torn jeans. Worn denim jacket covered with patches like tattoos. Seventeen, maybe eighteen, but Keisha looked older, acted older anyway, or at least tried to. She was dragging a skateboard and carrying a “don’t mess with me” attitude. Her shoulder length black hair tumbled in disarray around her firm, slightly girlish features that softened that attitude, much to her displeasure. Her skateboard scraped against the floor as she walked past racks full of record albums while New Order’s “Temptation” bounded through the record store.
Keisha was a mash of ethnicities: strong African, tough Mexican, a touch of quiet Asian. She was certain she had no Anglo or Celtic blood, but a friend once told her, “You must be Irish. You have an Irish disposition, quick tempered and brooding. And always yapping.” Dark freckles were scattered across Keisha’s face. But her gazelle eyes were darker than anything else about her.
She stopped walking in front of a rack stuffed full of records, and said, “Cool, they got the new Metallica.”
A friend of hers, obviously ready to leave the store, yelled something at her from the front door. Keisha yelled back loudly and in a very slow cadence, “My name is not ‘yo with the skateboard.'”
Then she noticed a girl browsing through the rack next to her. The girl had dark clothes, dark hair, a worn leather jacket. She looked a bit older and all at once sweet and tough. They smiled at each other.
To the girl Keisha said, “It seems there’s only two things in this life–” She pointed to herself. “–that work right. This board–” She pointed to her skateboard. “–and this music.” She pointed to the Metallica album. “My boyfriend–” She motioned to the guy by the door. “–mostly does not work right.”
The girl next to her said, “Boys can sure have a lot of stupid shit mashed into their brains.”
“Oh shit yeah,” Keisha said. “So what’s your name?”
“Hi, I’m Keisha.” She held out her hand and they shook. “Hippie parents too, huh?”
“Yeah. Keisha’s a real nice name though. At least they didn’t call you Sunshine or Moonshadow.”
“You’re right. There’s lots of poor souls in this city with summer of love names like that.”
“I was born in the summer of love,” Autumn said with a touch of disgust.
“So how come your name isn’t Summer?”
“My mom has this little story about how I was born in the autumn of her life.”
“Oh yeah?” Keisha said. “I used to think I was named after a drug–some obscure form of hashish only my parents knew about or something.” She dropped her voice into a low growl: “Hey kid, wanna smoke some Keisha?”
They shared a laugh.
“You know what gets me?” Autumn said. “These kids my age who follow the Grateful Dead.”
“Sprog Dead Heads. It’s pathetic.”
“I mean shit, I can’t stand my parents’ music. I need music that reflects my world, not something that happened twenty years ago.”
“I know what you mean,” Keisha said. “But when I think about those kids, it’s like–it’s their way of relating. They go to the shows and they hang out with all these other people who are doing the same thing. It makes them feel like they belong. Everyone wants to fit in. Me, I don’t wanna belong to anyone else’s club. I just wanna survive. I don’t wanna get high and escape. I wanna feel it, live it.”
“There’s so much to experience,” Autumn said.
“And so much variety,” Keisha added. “I feel just as at home with Beethoven as I do with Guns n’ Roses. That guy was into some crushing dynamics.”
“Loud and soft,” Autumn said. “Just like my world.”
“My world too.”
They paused and looked at each other with a reciprocal glimmer of curiosity in their gazes.
Autumn said, “Mostly loud.”
Keisha smiled. “Hey, I’m saving this spot–” She pointed to an empty section on her jacket. “–for a Beethoven patch.”
They were interrupted when Keisha’s boyfriend appeared from behind her. “C’mon Keish, let’s go,” he said.
She looked at Autumn. “This time he calls me ‘Keish.’ Isn’t that quaint?” To her boyfriend she said, “I wanna get the new Metallica.”
“Let me tape it?”
“Maybe.” She turned back to Autumn. “Where do you hang out?”
“I go to the Hideout a lot. And my boyfriend drags me to lots of metal shows.”
“Yeah? I go to the Hideout sometimes too. See you around, Summer of Love.”
Autumn smiled. “Yeah, see ya.”
Keisha started towards the counter, her skateboard in one hand, the Metallica album in the other, then she hesitated, turned back to Autumn and said, “Gonna go home and crank the Dead–relive my birth trauma.” She paused. “On second thought–gonna crank James and Lars. And get crushed.”
© 1988 Joe Beine