"Nobody Passes," Make/shift, Spring/Summer 2011
I met Truly Outrageous Chrissie Contagious just before the March on Washington in 1993, the biggest ever of its kind, a million white gays in white T-shirts applying for Community Clout credit cards but at least that meant the freaks, we found each other, and fast. Chrissie and I met in Dupont Circle because she liked my hair and then later that night I saw her dancing naked in a tree and screaming girl!!! I didn’t realize she was screaming at me until she came down with eyes bulging from Ecstasy and took my hands and said you know you know you know you know you KNOW we’re sisters.
Chrissie loved to tell stories, so it made sense that other people loved to tell her stories too. Like when she stole some trick’s car in Seattle and decided to drive cross-country, I can’t remember if she was trying to get back to Florida where she was from or to some club in New York that didn’t exist anymore but anyway she ended up crashing into a cop car, spent time in jail in Wyoming but then somehow she was back in Seattle where she became the manager of the poshest boutique hotel in town, this was weeks or years later but it all ended when she decided to throw a party and serve up all the liquor bottles earmarked for the mini-refrigerators. Or maybe that’s when she stole the trick’s car, you know how these stories work. With Chrissie there was usually someone kicking her out or locking her up but then she was back at the bar and all the other legendary messes would giggle knowingly or snicker, and keep on drinking and doing bumps because at least they hadn’t ended up in jail in Wyoming.
We were both crazy queens who spent too much time in worlds of clubs and drugs; we both sold sex for a living and moved from place to place in search of something we would never find. We both turned tricks for way too long until it made us distant in ways we hadn’t expected. We believed in runway and reading and rage and rapture, but I don’t mean to suggest that we were similar. Even when we first met in D.C. at the very end of our teenage years, I was there to protest and she was there to party. I’d returned to the horrible place where I’d grown up, and she had so much fun that she moved there.
We were looking for different things, but we were always looking. I remember the first time Chrissie stopped doing drugs, I guess it was soon after I first stopped doing drugs, now that I think about it, but I didn’t think about it then. Chrissie started going to the gym and drinking protein shakes to bulk up and she bought blue contact lenses to cover her deep brown eyes and she tried to imitate some kind of upscale preppy look that before I’d always thought she was making fun of—but the worst part was that she didn’t want anyone to call her girl anymore.
I remember when Chrissie first came to San Francisco, maybe a year after the March and she was working big fake eyelashes and some store-designed club outfit and she took a look around at how people were reacting to her and said girl, I need to change out of this. And I said honey, don’t ever let them make you change. I remember that moment because Chrissie told the story over and over, and I loved her for it. And also I loved her.
There was never anything balanced about our relationship—I knew she was completely unreliable, and so I never relied on her. She always trusted people who I thought were repulsive. Still I respected her because she could let everything go, over and over again, in hopes of finding what she wanted. She never did, but neither have I. One time after drugs were gone from my life but before it felt that way, Chrissie she came to my house with gray skin and black knuckles, fresh from the hospital and another abscess she called a spider bite, sipping Dust-Off from the straw that came with the can, girl I got cab vouchers. That’s not a spider bite, I said, so she wiggled her tongue and asked if she could shoot up in the bathroom. Me first, I said, and we took a cab to a restaurant. Outside, she started shivering, and when I took her hand in my hand or really the mitten covering my hand, she said something about how her head hurt so much, she was sick of it all, she was angry that everyone was always letting her down—that’s when we were really sisters.
The last time I talked to Chrissie, she had just listened to me on an NPR program where I was telling the world that the gay marriage agenda was draining resources from everything that mattered. Chrissie was so annoyed at the announcer for calling me she. We call each other she all the time, Chrissie said, but that’s because we’re camping—I couldn’t believe that announcer, it was so disrespectful.
I never understood how Chrissie could live in worlds filled with freaks and fruits and perverts and whores for so long, but still she wanted to be normal. Sure, she could pull stunts that made everyone else look tame and prudish, but only on drugs.
A few years ago, Chrissie went back to Florida to get away from crystal, and I became someone she would call late at night when she’d been drinking for twelve hours the way she’d been drinking for twenty years almost and even though she mostly stopped the rest of the drugs there was always a cocktail waiting. She’d alternate between getting more ice, asking me about everything I hated in San Francisco, and yelling at the TV, a play-by-play commentary on Hillary or Heath Ledger or the latest dildo infomercial. She loved Hillary and Heath and was somehow scandalized that dildos were for sale on TV, but sometimes she would surprise me with a drunken insight—Obama came on one night and Chrissie started screaming: what are you selling me, just tell me what you’re selling me!
Maybe you’ve figured out that Chrissie’s dead. Her heart stopped, that’s what they said. Later they said it was because of huffing, but I’m sure that’s not the whole story. I wonder what Chrissie would yell at the TV during the sudden flash of news stories about an epidemic of queer teen suicides, an epidemic we all know has been going on for generations. I’m wondering about those of us who do survive—for how long?