When I was 20, I worked for a public interest research group in New York, earnestly advocating for clean drinking water. I'm not sure how we accomplished anything: my part was going door-to-door, educating people and requesting donations. The minimum we were required to collect was $100 per night. Our team was made up of college students, an older man named Frank with horn-rimmed glasses and greasy hair, a thick lesbian named Daphne and a skinny kid with a big nose and greasy skin. I slept with most of them. We did something called "cross-training," where we could elect to go to another part of the country and work for their local PIRG and our travel and housing would be provided. I was sent to Virginia Beach and slept with a several people there, as well.
At that time in my life, everything was essentially an avenue towards sex.
At the beginning of our daily shift, we would ride together to previously scouted neighborhoods and be dropped off for a few hours. With territory map in hand, we'd begin knocking on doors at about 3pm and finish by 8pm. On paydays, we'd cash our checks and descend on Richard's house. Richard, and three of his friends, had moved to New York from Georgia and to me it seemed very glamorous and grown-up: four independent adults renting a whole house together. I was camping on my mother's couch at the time.
We would buy lots of alcohol and dance in the unfurnished living room. more than once the evenings ended in bed: Stuart, the bi-sexual blond college student from the wealthy family, George, the slender gay man, Richard, and myself. It's more than 20 years ago now but I still remember how lovely all those hands and mouths felt on me.
Abu, an Indian college student who wore tie-dyed t-shirts, joined our work team and our payday parties and he seemed to like me. This was entirely baffling and made me not like him at all. But we went out to dinner together and when he invited me to go see the Dead, I was more than willing. I hadn't been to a show, ever, although I pretended I had. I was, after all, a hippie activist.
The day of the concert bloomed sunny and temperate and Abu drove us to Giants stadium. I was amazed at all the people in the parking lot. While we were standing in line waiting to enter, I found a $20 bill on the pavement. It was that kind of beautiful day.
Our seats were nosebleeders, of course: our assigned section was something like XYZ600. Instead we rushed among the crowd of people thronging up against the walls, peering over at the floor section below. I could see that plywood had been laid out to protect the football field, and that was covered with blue tarps. Everyone was looking over the wall, leaning out, but no one was jumping down. I only glanced quickly before climbing over. It was a long fall. I jumped directly into the arms of a security guard.
He twisted my arm up behind my back and steered me towards the exit.
"Do you have a ticket?" he asked. I didn't want to answer him: I didn't want him to be sent up to that distant seat.
I said, "Please, I'll do anything." I meant it, of course. I knew if he said "OK," I'd have to follow through with a blowjob in some dirty, half-concealed corner. I didn't want to be ejected from the stadium, have to wait in the parking lot for Abu, miss the show...
"Do you have you ticket?" he repeated.
"Anything, I'll do anything, anything you want." I was trying to twist my head over my shoulder so I could see this man, who seemed so huge, who was hurrying me along with my arm snug up against my own spine. I thought if I could just make eye contact, he would know I was serious.
"Do you have a ticket?"
"Yes, but..." We were near the long exit hallway now. I was trying to think of how I would find Abu after the show, if I was sent to our seats. Where the hell had we parked? Please, please, please, was all I could think. Perhaps I was saying it out loud.
The security guard let go of me. I spun around him and bolted away and met the smiling faces of my fellow Deadheads, the ones who'd watched the end of journey, my near-expulsion and then redemption. I ran back towards the place where I'd jumped over and found Abu. He told me about all the people who'd been able to get onto the floor while I'd distracted the guard.
I didn't think about what could have happened, what almost happened, what I'd invited to happen. I was a happy hippie girl, a peripheral student of zen. I danced. But sometimes I remember the girl I was, and wonder about what she was so willing to give away.