“LGBT Resource Center,” Shampoo answered the phone enthusiastically, “how may I help you?” After becoming an official volunteer for UC Berkeley’s Queer Resource Center, Shampoo’s mood was improving. She no longer had the sorority girl pressure of wearing skimpy outfits from overly expensive brand names. Today, she donned a small baby blue T-shirt that matched her high-lighted purple locks ad some painters khakis with large pockets. She jotted down some notes for the coordinator and then hung up the phone.
It was her first volunteer phone call. After four days of training and learning the ins and outs of the resource center, she was finally at the front desk. The same front desk that Jane Dunway once sat. And she was feeling quite good, and comfortable. She stretched her arms out and prepared to take a nap.
A chipper Michael Ming entered the center wearing a gray muscle t-shirt and blue jeans. He was holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Lisa hid behind him, still wearing her baseball cap, white T-shirt and baggy brown khakis.
“Hey girl!” Michael said gleefully. “How are you holding up the base?”
“It’s wonderful,” Shampoo said as she started folding resource center pamphlets. “We had ten people here in the last hour discussing transphobia and genderqueer identity.” She smiled. “Did you know that there are people who are born with both male and female sex organs and there are five degrees of intersex genitalia?”
“Yeah,” Michael feigned. “Anyways, we got these for you! For your first day.” He handed her a bouquet of lilacs and begonias. Shampoo smiled at Michael and then took one look at Lisa before dropping the flowers into a waiting vase. Lisa tried to feign disinterest and looked at the humongous rainbow flag behind Shampoo.
“Thank you,” Shampoo said. “This is so sweet of you!”
“You’re welcome,” Lisa mumbled. She was still ashamed by the fact that she denied a potential girlfriend in front of all of her Christian roommates. Shampoo smiled at Lisa, trying to assure her that she was going to be alright.
Michael noticed the tension between the two girls. “Anyways,” he started to say flippantly, “It’s Friday! What are you doing tonight girl?”
Shampoo didn’t actually know. If she was still in her Christian sorority, Shampoo’s nights would have been a combination of intense Bible study followed by several girls sneaking out to the nearest “party” fraternity house which was located on the other side of campus. Ling would be her partner-in-crime as the chugged down beers in plastic red cups and laughed as the drunked male fraternity brothers tried to make out with each other.
Michael would have liked that party. “Um, homework?” Shampoo fidgeted.
“Wrong!” Michael said gleefully. “Are you in college, girl? Jeremy Tang is throwing this week’s downe party and it will be a whole lot of fun!” Shampoo looked worried. The word party took her back to the memories of drunked fraternity boys hitting on her. “What is a downe party?” she asked, “and what makes it different from any other college party on this campus?”
“Well,” Michael said, still looking at her, “a downe party is a asocial event consisting of members of the UC Berkeley queer community where we discuss the week’s events and relieve our selves from the stress of the week.” It sounded way too sophisticated, especially with Michael’s arms flailing in a haughty way.
“We get drunk off our asses,” Lisa said quickly. Shampoo stifled a laugh. Lisa smiled a little more. Michael felt insulted.
“And you’re invited!” Michael said and he handed a small business card to Shampoo. The logo for Downelink.com, a growing digital gay community, was on the business card. On the back, in rainbow font of course, was the address and cell phone number of said Jeremy Tang’s townhouse.
Shampoo smiled. “I’m honored,” she said. “What time should I be there?”
“8 p.m. on the dot,” Michael grinned and then turned to Lisa and then back to Shampoo. “Don’t be late or too late, if you know what I mean.” Shampoo had no idea what he meant but she was too excited to say a thing.
After her volunteer hours and women’s martial arts class were over, Shampoo drove back to the Lambda Delta Lambda house and took a two-hour nap. She wanted to be up all night in order to thoroughly enjoy the party. Finally, the alarm clock rang at 7 p.m. and Shampoo started to get ready.
At first, she considered a pink top and tight jeans but she realized that it was a downe party, not a straight party and looking straight-acting wasn’t going to help her fit into the community. What did The L-Word girls do? She quickly pulled on a white dress shirt with black pinstripes and blue jeans. She checked her purple hair and started to grab a purse. Wait a minute, lesbians don’t carry purses, Shampoo thought to herself. She emptied the contents of the purple purse and placed them into a black messenger bag. She looked at herself in the mirror. Butch, but not too butch. It was the look she was going for.
Maybe I should cut my hair to make myself look more dyke-y. Shampoo then felt he hands slap her. The messenger bag would be enough. She touched up her eyes with purple eyeliner and put a blend of Cover Girl Mauve and Midnight lipsticks accompanied by Lip Venom lip gloss that she ordered from Curve magazine ad. She picked up her car keys from the table and walked out of her room.
As she passed the LDL living room, she noticed Alexandra Lao and another rushee named Jamie Mott sprawled on the couch watching TV. The cream-colored leather couch was quite old, draped with a rainbow weave shawl. And still smelled like dog.
“What are you guys doing,” Shampoo asked inquisitively.
“It’s a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit marathon and then I have shitloads of homework to do,” Jamie replied airily. She looked Shampoo over. “Where are you off to looking so dolled up?”
“I’m going out,” Shampoo said. “My friends are having a social gathering.”
Alexandra Lao rolled her eyes. “Not one of those downe parties again!” she replied. “Gay womyn of color can do so much more than getting wasted and making out with each other.”
“You’ll miss dinner,” Jamie replied, still looking at the soft butch bombshell Mariska Haritgay on the television. “Katie is making one of those organic macrobiotic recipes,”
“I’ll pass and get something on the way,” Shampoo replied coldly as she walked out. She opened the door quietly and closed it. Then she hurriedly got into her car and started to drive out.
Still inside, Alexandra carefully heard Shampoo’s car drive away. She looked at Jamie who now had a cross face. Her arms were folded.
“You didn’t tell me she was hanging out with those people,” Jamie said.
“C’mon,” Alexandara muttered. “At least she’s paying rent!”
Shampoo parked her car in front of a small white house in the middle of Shattuck and University. She looked at the clock, 8:30. She was late! Shampoo quickly slammed the door. She muttered about her choice of black pumps as she trounced her way to the door.
A young Chinese man answered the door. He had tanned skin, spiky black hair and a diamond earring on his left ear. Obvious sign. He was wearing a striped red and white shirt with a metallic red tie and black jeans.
“I’m sorry I’m not too late,” Shampoo said quickly.
“Wow, what are you doing here so early?” Jeremy asked. The background was Law and Order: SVU. Jeremy’s living room was quite empty, with the exception to a television. Shampoo also noticed a swimming pool in the back, which would be quite ironic for the freezing cold Berkeley weather.
As they watched the rest of the Law and Order: SVU together, Shampoo learned more about Jeremy. He was a fourth-year, like Shampoo, political science major. Jeremy was also an ex-boyfriend of Michael’s from high school who had transferred to Berkeley in his junior year. He wasn’t big on Cal Q&A events as Michael was but Jeremy went to the support group meetings to help welcome freshmen and transfer students.
Shampoo also resolved that Detective Benson was quite attractive. She looked around. “Where did everyone else go?”
“Michael, Lisa and Mai went to the corner store to buy a few essentials,” Jeremy licked his lips gleefully, “and as soon as that arrives, the rest will follow.”
Just as the television show finished, the doorbell rang. In flooded Michael Ming, Mia Vang and Lisa Lai. They carried grocery bags with contents that clinked to each other. Jeremy and Shampoo quickly helped the girls take the bags. Lisa and Shampoo’s hands lightly touched each other as they transferred one bag to the table. Michael rolled his eyes and Lisa scowled at him.
Michael started to unpack the bottles. There were brown bottles and blue bottles and red bottles and green bottles. Some bottles were big. And some bottles were small. The bottles glistened within the fluorescent lighting of Jeremy Tang’s house. And within flowed dark liquid quivering from motion. Shampoo’s eyes just got wider. She didn’t do quite well in chemistry class.
“I think we should do a tequila shot first,” Mia Vang said without a doubt as she pulled out one tall brown bottle labeled Jose Cuervo. “I’m sick of chugging down rum shots. That was so sophomore year.”
“Who else wants to take a tequila shot?” Michael asked. “Jeremy hon, can you get some limes and cut them up?” The others unanimously raised their hands, except for Shampoo. Shampoo shook her head. All she knew were red Dixie cups. And she was about to get another lesson.
“What’s a tequila shot?” Shampoo asked.
“Oh honey,” Mia Vang rolled her eyes. She was a cute Vietnamese femme with short black hair and glasses. ”We are getting you so plastered tonight.” Jeremy had chopped up slices of lime and handed one to each of them. Michael passed Shampoo a shot glass filled with light yellow liquid. It looked like beer but smelled strongly like car grease. Mia asked Shampoo to stick out her hand and poured small salt particles on top of it.
“Tequila shot,” Jeremy said as-a-matter-of-factly to Shampoo. “You lick the salt off your hands and then you take the shot. Finally, you squeeze the lime juice in your mouth as a chaser.”
The group gathered in a circle- Jeremy, Lisa, Mia, Shampoo and Michael. They each held a bold green lime and a quivering yellow liquid. “It’s best to be drunk with friends,” Michael said, “we’ll take care of you.” Shampoo smiled nervously.
“To men!” Jeremy said gleefully. “And women!” Lisa added happily. Shampoo nodded and raised her shot glass but didn’t know the reason why.
She felt the warm liquid burn down her throat. The tangy lime juices helped calm the inevitable choking sensation a little bit. Then she felt her stomach warm up. It felt quite nice.
Lisa slammed the shot glass on the table. “Another one!”
Jeremy Tang walked to his iBook laptop and started playing “Jerk it Out” by The Caesars. As the fast-paced emo guitar riffs started playing loudly in the background, Mia poured another round of tequila shots. And then another. Shampoo felt the experience like a sudden blur, an eclectic mix of quick arm swaying to lick the salt, chug the liquor and squeeze the lime. She felt the burning liquid enter her throat five times. They all laughed as they took down the fifth shot.
Shampoo felt slightly fuzzy all over. Her stomach felt warm and her head felt warm. Her head felt light and wonderful like it weighed nothing at all. She could hear the guitar riffs beat faster. One light turn of her head and suddenly the room was full of people. And chatting and loud music. Another turn of her head and all of the diversity colored bottles were now open. The living room had become a dance floor and there were people dancing with each other. Men with women. Women with women. Men with men. It was a beautiful and eclectic combination. It was almost paradise.
“Hey girl,” Michael Ming suddenly appeared out of nowhere, “are you alright? You’ve just been standing there at the doorway for the last half hour.”
Shampoo looked at the compact. Her face had been taken on a putrid red persimmon color. Her flowing purple hair made her feel more and more like an eggplant. “Ai-yah!” she screamed. “I look like an eggplant!”
“Relax,” Michael Ming said, placing his arm around her. “You just have the Asian flush! It’s the reason that white people don’t’ think that we can hold our liquor well!” He opened his bag and handed her some cream colored foundation. “Put this on and no one can tell the difference?”
“I don’t know where the bathroom is,” Shampoo said.
“Just go that way,” Michael pointed to the right side, beyond the swaying dancers, “and it’s the second door to your left.”
Shampoo smiled and tried to keep the directions in her head. As she started to step out of her wall, she could feel her head suddenly become heavy like a bowling ball. Her bowling ball head forced her body to sway left and sometimes right as she trudged/stumbled her way through the living room. She collided into several bodies but managed to make her way into the corridor. After bumping into every other corner, Shampoo walked into the bathroom.
She pulled out the compact from her messenger bag but the headache had only just begun. She stumbled and looked at herself in the mirror. Shampoo fumbled with the foundation that Michael had given her and proceeded to apply it liberally. The persimmon became a peach. Content with herself, Shampoo started to walk out of the bathroom. She spied two girls hanging out beside the bathroom with red Dixie cups. A closer look revealed Mia Vang and another girl named Kelly Mok.
“Hi Shampy,” Mia said. “Having a good time?”
Shampoo wobbled a little bit. “Yeah I am,” she said.
“Good,” Mia said. “Now try this.” She offered her red Dixie cup to Shampoo. The contents tasted like a mixture of orange, pineapples with a hint of rubbing alcohol. “That was delicious,” she giggled to Mia.
Mia smiled back. “I’m glad you liked it.” Then she turned serious. “So,” she replied, “what’s going on between you and Lisa?”
Shampoo took another sip. “There’s nothing going on between me and Lisa,” she replied, “well not lately. Ever since I got kicked out of Kappa Alpha Omicron, I’m trying to keep things on the down low.”
“Well,” Mia said, “Lisa is my best friend.” She smiled sweetly. “You better treat her well or else I’m going to beat the crap out of you.” Both Shampoo and Kelly looked shocked at Mia’s reaction. Mia then turned her scowl back into a superficial smile. Shampoo excused herself and continued to wobble back towards the living room, with
Now that her view wasn’t fuzzy anymore, Shampoo saw more of the party scene. The music was now blaring as loud as possible. Shampoo saw a large sprawl of gay Asian men and women of all different nationalities. The bottles were sat on the kitchen pantry halfway full. Michael Ming was chatting with host Jeremy Tang and lightly touching Jeremy’s shirt flirtatiously.
Lisa was dancing with another girl.
“I thought we were just having fun,” Lisa replied to Shampoo.
“Yeah,” Shampoo looked down. “No biggie.” She walked back to the liquor. This time, she measured out a shot of some green liquid called Midori and tossed it in Sprite lemon soda. The combination was terrible but Shampoo didn’t want to waste the drink. She held her nose as she chugged down the bubbly combination of melon soda, with a hint of rubbing alcohol of course.
As Shampoo stumbled back into the main scene, she bumped into Alexandra Lao, who was no longer wearing her striped pajamas. Instead, Alexandra had her black hair slicked back with gel. She was wearing a large white shirt, a black striped tie and pin-striped pants. Accompanying Alexandra was another familiar face from Shampoo’s past. Jane Dunway, with her searing brown eyes and wavy brown hair, stood behind Alexandra. She was wearing a tight black shirt and blue jeans that fit her lean and curvy body. Shampoo tried not to stare too long at Jane and focused her attention on Alexandra. Jane did likewise.
“Well,” Shampoo said inquisitively, “what brings you here?” She gave Alexandra a hug, still adverting her eyes from Jane. She pulled back and acknowledged Jane’s presence with a nod.
“Shut up,” Alexandra said coldly. “Do you think I would be able to get away with going to these parties if I was so open about them like you are. If you didn’t know already, Cal Q&A doesn’t have a great reputation within the larger queer, read white, community.”
“Y’know,” Shampoo started to speak without thinking, “I didn’t really want to be in Lambda Delta Lambda in the first place. I don’t like their vegetarian cuisine and their constant talk about male castration. For cryin’ out loud, I know I like girls but I don’t really fit in with those group.” Shampoo was mentally shocked at what she was now saying. The thoughts had run through her head. Now, they became words. And the words lingered in the air, mixed with Shampoo’s melon-orange-tequila-alcohol stained breath.
As she continued to whine about Lambda Delta Lambda to Alexandra, Shampoo felt a sledgehammer hit her head. A mental sledgehammer. It hit her once. Twice. Three times. Shampoo tried to tilt her head but the sledgehammer continued pounding.
“Are you okay?” Jane asked inquisitively.
Shampoo nodded as she held her forehead. The sledgehammer continued to swing at her head. “Yeah,” she faintly said. “I just need to sit down somewhere if that’s okay.”
Shampoo swirled back into the crowd. Now, the sledgehammer started to beat to the rhythm of the high pitched hip hop music. The scene faded once again into blur, a mixture of colors and bright lights. Shampoo knew that she was going to fall hard, really fast. And she needed to find something. She spotted a vision of white, a reminder of Jeremy Tang’s white couch and she fell towards it. Shampoo felt the soft cotton cushion of the couch touch her head as the sledgehammer now pounded the back of her head in deep painful thrusts Suddenly, everything faded into black.
Shampoo could barely open her eyes. She tried to force them open but the muscles felt too stressed. She could still here the music faintly in the background. She also heard voices that overshadowed the music.
“How many shots did you give her?” she could faintly hear a British accent. That must’ve been Jane Dunway.
“Five shots of tequila,” another voice said. “We didn’t know she was new at this!” The voice sounded familiarly like that of Michael Ming’s.
Shampoo could feel a gentle hand grab her body. And another gruffer hand yanking at her. “I’m taking her to the loo,” Jane said. “She needs to throw up or she’s going to get unconscious. Help me out, willya Alex?” Shampoo felt her body being dragged, legs down, hair tossed like a purple weeping willow. The migraine and nausea continued to swirl around Shampoo’s mind as Jane and Alex led her to the bathroom.
Shampoo couldn’t tell what the bathroom looked Alex yanked Shampoo’s hair back as her face contacted the steel cold porcelain of the toilet. A sour lump in her throat floated to the top of her head and she started to spit out whatever was leftover from lunch. Several strands of chow mein and remnants minced pork swirled in the lucid toilet mixed in brown gravy of other remnants from lunch and breakfast.
“I think she’s done,” Jane said softly to Alex and the two carried her away from the bathroom. Shampoo could hear the toilet flush in the background. Vomiting made her feel somewhat better but she was now drowsier than before. She could definitely hear the music die out as Jane and Alex placed her back on the couch.
“She can crash here tonight,” Jeremy said. And that was the last words that she heard that night. Lying on the soft cushions of the couch, Shampoo, her eyes still feeling they were behind her head, drifted into sleep. The still consistent sledgehammer was now pounding less and less in her head