In honor of Fleet Week and Memorial Day, I'm telling a five minute story at the Moth tonight. If they draw my name out of the bag, that is. Here it is:
Moving in to your horse's barn because your trailer got repossessed is what some folks might call a low point. If you're my Deaf pot smoking parents, you might just call it Tuesday. Because, the fact, is we had lived in that one room tin shed before. This time around we had electricity and running water. Despite those luxuries, it was time for a drastic change, so my parents moved us to the big city of Ft. Worth, Texas.
It was there -- when I was 16 -- I met a 23 year old Sailor. The Petty Officer from Akron, Ohio, was shy, tan and muscular and drove a white Trans Am with a fake vent on its hood. Mom said he looked just like JFK, Jr. The movie Top Gun had just been released so when I first saw him covered in grease from working on an F-14 Tomcat I thought my uterus would crawl out of my vagina and snatch him whole and devour him like a hungry Venus flytrap from a Roger Corman flick.
But the movie that really predisposed me to falling for the Petty Officer was An Officer and a Gentleman. At 16, I was already either too bitter or headstrong to think that I, or any woman, needed a Prince Charming to save her but in the final scene when Richard Gere scoops up Debra Winger –- his love literally lifting her up where she belongs out of that factory –- well who hasn't at one time or another want to be rescued from their despair no matter how big or small?
Ft. Worth had not provided the reinvention we expected. In fact, things only got worse. Instead of driving 45 minutes one way to get drunk, now Dad just had to stumble across the street to Bennigan's.
It was the summer before my senior year in high school. Mom was making decent money working 80 hours a week building helicopters. I supplemented our income with a full time job at Malibu Grand Prix and was poised to graduate with summa cum laude honors. So, after 23 years of drunken, stoned mayhem and Dad's blatant adultery, Mom finally filed for divorce.
Dad didn't take the news too well and started stalking us. Mom allowing the Petty Officer sleep over only made Dad angrier. After all, it was Dad who gave me the sage advice on my first date: "Don't fuck. I don't want you pregnant I want you to graduate and go to college." Seeing his "baby girl" get swept up into the arms of an officer and a gentlemen made Dad more possessive than ever.
Being a in the Navy meant the Petty Officer had to go on leave once in a while. This time it was a two week stint on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. His first day away, Dad took the opportunity to break in and slash all of Mom's clothes with a knife. We were pretty rattled by this and needed stress release. That day, Mom asked with a glint in her eye, "Do you want to smoke a joint?"
My mother wants to get me, her high school daughter, stoned?! Are you kidding me?
She whipped out a joint; we got high and then got the bright idea to go to Six Flags. We were dirt ass poor so we counted out all our loose change and found a buy one get one free admission offer on the back of a Dr. Pepper can. We got to Six Flags where a guy walked up and said, "Hey I bought these passes for the week but we're leaving town tonight so can't use them. You want 'em?" Good things happened to stoned people, I guess, because that meant we had money for FOOD! We ate ridiculous amounts of coney dogs, cotton candy and elephant ears and rode every roller coaster twice before coming home and collapsing. It was one of the best days of my life.
The next night my dad broke into the house again. This time he punched dozens of holes in the wall, held us hostage for four hours, strangled her and held a knife to her throat before I was finally able to stop the attack and call 911.
A few days later we were evicted for excessive noise disturbance and a few days after that the Sailor came back from sea. When he did, my uterus didn't devour him instead it smothered him with so much love he had no choice but to marry me.
So, Friday the 13th of January, after a long day of school and rehearsal for my role as "Lady Bracknell" in our senior play The Importance of Being Earnest we loaded into the Dodge Omni and Mom drove us to the courthouse. Mom signed the marriage license granting us legal consent. Basically a permission slip like a field trip to the zoo except with a dowry from the US Government in the form of housing and dependent pay. After a couple of quick "I Dos," a judge declared me a Navy wife. My knock off Richard Gere had saved my Debra Winger ass.
Soon after, Mom went on a much needed vacation. Before she left, she gave me a long hug goodbye then handed me a VHS tape, "Here, you and the Petty Officer can borrow this while I'm gone. I think you'll enjoy it."
My heart leapt when I saw the title. The movie?
Debbie Does Dallas.