My Friend Goo
My friend Goo is fierce, but she’s a troubled sort. The kind of girl whose mother framed “The Serenity Prayer” and hung it up in her bathroom, so every time Goo sits on the toilet she has to read: “God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can…” I hate that prayer — Goo does too, but she’s the one that has to face it everyday. I close my eyes when I use Goo’s bathroom. I have neither the courage or the wisdom, but Goo does.
I’ve seen what Goo does in the bathroom every morning. She started on her 13th birthday and has done it ever since. Every morning she scrapes a scab she has on her inner right thigh, next to her lady parts, with a sharpened nail file. She scrapes enough of the scab off to uncover the raw skin, but never deep enough to draw blood. Then she makes a new cut in the shape of a cross on the inside of her left thigh, this one deep enough to draw blood, and it trickles down the inside of her leg to that cave on the back of her knee where it branches out like the roots of a red cedar. She’s brave enough to chant “fuck you” to the serenity prayer. Goo calls this her “ritual ablution.” She’s unlike anyone else, full of such ideas and words. I couldn’t do that everyday for 3 years.
I get this powerful feeling when I’m with Goo. She also has the best taste in music. The other girls at school are listening to Whitney or Madonna, while Goo’s making mix tapes of Dead Kennedys, The Butthole Surfers, and her favorite group Sonic Youth. That’s where Goo got her name, from the song “My Friend Goo” on SY’s new record. Her real name is Virginia — she used to go by “Ginny,” but Goo said the last time she was “virginal” was when she was 12. Her father Pastor Summers changed all that.
No one messes with Goo, not the jocks or the “Junior Superlatives.” All the cliques give Goo a wide berth. I love riding in her wake. Her spotlight throws off just enough light to snare me in it. Most of the guys are scared of Goo, so they leave me alone too. Goo is my one and only friend now.
Goo tore up Jimmy Poteat’s knee one day in P.E. I’ve never seen anything like it. Jimmy thought he could just help himself and put his hands down the front of Goo’s shorts, like it was a natural thing for him to do, like he was born into it and now taking his prize. I don’t know what I would have done. But Goo, like it was nothing at all, like it was pre-planned or something, she cooed and asked Jimmy to step behind the bleachers so she could take her shorts down properly. When they got back there Goo put her shoulder down and came down on the right side of Jimmy’s knee. Jimmy’s knee buckled in such an unnatural way, and the sickening pop it made turned my stomach. His cries were nothing I’ve heard before — wails so thick and deep from his gut — it froze me for a minute. That’s the time it took Coach Koziol to run across the football field. I thought Coach would keel over from the shock on his face. And Jimmy couldn’t say a thing against Goo, she told him so before Coach arrived.
You see why I think Goo is fierce?
So I’m not sure what Goo gets out of marking herself up in this “ritual” way. But I know I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the courage. Anyway, my parents check me all the time as if my “ladyhood” was something sacred. Goo says nothing is so sacred as to have to withstand that. I tell her everything. And even though she talks a lot, it seems like she holds back a lot. But I see what she does.
Nothing is so sacred for Goo because I think she lost so much so early. She said her father used to check her too, then it went wrong. She didn’t tell me all, but enough for me to know it’s one of the reasons she marks herself up like she was drawing the blood of Jesus through her own stigmata. She marks herself to insure no one else will want to do the same as Pastor Summers. She also goes on about “purifying through scarifying,” which scares me because she’s so poetic that she makes it seem like I should be doing it too. Some things go over my head, but she moves me so. I feel her power course through me, like I’m her disciple.
Goo tells great stories. I think she’s the best writer in English class, and Mr. Dodd likes her writing, but her grades are awful. She skips a lot, especially when we’re diagramming sentences or reading dead white men. I’d like to skip too but I can’t. I’d probably get a whipping like when I was younger. I’ve done a good job steering clear of father’s belt and mother’s pitch. She once threw a glass ash tray that caught me in the eye, and they had to keep me out of school for a week.
Goo makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a great adventure or mystery. Like yesterday she asked me to bring her my father’s gun. I know where he keeps his revolver. I once overheard him telling Del Quonset that the gun was “his girl, his Saturday night special.”
Goo heard her father has a new position at the First Memorial Hospital chapel. “He has friends in high places,” Goo said.
I think she intends to scare him straight.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
— Anne Lamott