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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Megan Stielstra

Between you and me, there was no philosophical reasoning whatsoever behind me and the bassist from that Metallica cover band hooking up in the bathroom at the all-ages show. It was at this little store-front dive bar filled past capacity with two hundred sweaty kids head-banging and playing air guitar and slamming the devil sign in the air and the front row all full of groupie girls with 'the hair' -- you know, three tight curls with a hot-wand, half a can of aerosol, and brush it back into a sort of mushroom cloud over the forehead -- and in the middle of it all there's me, sixteen and drunk on bad whiskey that Cheryl's big brother gave us out in the car, totally hypnotized by the hair.

There were four of them on stage and they all had it-- long and lovely and swooshing up and down and up and down, almost like in slow-mo so you could see each individual strand climb the air and wave around like a Pantene commercial, and I was in love with all of them, but most of all the bass player. I've read that you can judge a woman by the rock star she covets, and for me it was always the bass: standing towards the back, not needing the spotlight, confident in himself and his music, holding everything together, and I was starstruck. Now, granted, this guy didn't look anything like Jason Newsted from Metallica whose pictures were on my wall at home, but he did have a bass that he played okay, and I was drunk, so okay was enough. I stared at Pretend Jason Newsted up there on stage with his long, flowy hair and I ran through my mental laundry list of groupie fantasies: Rock Star writes love song and dedicates it to you in liner notes; Rock Star says in Rolling Stone interview how you made him see the light; Rock Star buys you leather pants; Rock Star locks eyes with you in crowd, pushes his hair out of his eyes so he can see you clearer, jumps off stage, crowd parts like Red Sea around him so he has an easy path to where you stand, grabs your face between his palms and gives you this long, killer, wet hot superkiss and says taaake my haaaand, off to Never Never land, which was really the guy's john in the back of the bar and holy fuck, it smelled, there was wet toilet paper all over the floor and Pretend Jason Newsted latched the door and turned out the light and grabbed at me and we were kissing, but we couldn't get at each other's mouths 'cause we both had a lot of hair and it was getting confusing 'cause it was all the same color and I didn't know whose was whose, and finally Pretend Jason Newsted took my shoulders and spun me around so my back was to him and my arms were up against the stall door, my eyes locked on the words STYX ROX--r-o-x--graffiti - inked with a sharpee, and I thought of the one love song Metallica ever did: Trust I seek and I find in you, everyday for us something new, open mind for a different view and nothing else matters.

Pretend Jason Newsted ripped the seam up the back of my dress and nothing else matters.

I heard his zipper zip down and nothing else matters.

I closed my eyes and envisioned pyrotechnics.

When I left the bathroom when it was done, I walked right into my boyfriend, Gary, who I'd drunkenly forgot was there. He took one look at me with my dress ripped and my makeup watering down my face, smelling like sex and whiskey, and pulled me by my wrist out to the parking lot. He and I were pretty different, him eighteen and in college, all J Crew crewcut and polite and logical, even-keeled and calm in a crisis, but for some reason that I never quite got, he loved me. He tried hard to keep his temper. What he said that night was "Uhm," and then stopped, like if he continued he would let loose with everything he didn't want to deal with. He was like a bottle of champagne that somebody had shook real hard, and I needed to start talking before he uncorked.

"I did it because of INTEGRITY," is what I said. "That's what I need in a man, someone who cares about what he does! James Hetfield got set FIRE to on stage, he almost DIED, he got third degree burns ALL over the place and had to stop making music for a really long time because he loved his music enough, now that, THAT is integrity. And what do you do, Gary? You live in this little apartment, and you wake up in the morning and you go to classes and you write all these papers that nobody will ever read all while Metallica is out there, day in and day out, spreading the poetry of pure metal to the mainstream--"

"They wore spandex," Gary said. It was a waste of time to talk rationally with me at this point.

"That was pre-And Justice for All!" I said, indignant. "And who cares what they wear when their music has such depth, almost biblical musings of--"

"They had mullets at one point," Gary interrupted.

"You son of a bitch," I said. I thought of Jason's long lovely hair swooshing up and down during that bass line intro for Enter Sandman, and felt incredible injustice.

"You did him because of the hair!" Gary said suddenly, an imaginary lightbulb going off somewhere over his head. When I think of him now I realize how well he knew me.

"How dare you!" I said. I had, by that point, worked myself up into such a lather that I believed what I was saying, and to have Gary belittle it was infuriating, regardless of whether or not he was right. "I did him because of respect," I said icily, and then I turned and marched grandly back to the bar.

"No," said Gary to my back. His words hit my skin through the hole in my dress. "It was the hair."

I expected him to kick me out after that. He didn't. On the flip side, I'm sure he expected me to leave. I didn't. We were both there, but we weren't talking, just those eon-long uncomfortable awkward impossible nights when you both lay silently, still-ly in bed staring at the ceiling, no arms or elbows crossing the imaginary dividing line between the mattress.

One night -- musta been a couple of weeks later -- I woke to his side of the bed empty and music coming from the living room. It was 3 a.m., and Gary was very much the in-bed-by-ten, up-at-six kinda guy, so I followed the sound. It was For Whom The Bell Tolls -- one of Metallica's finest --a nd it got louder as I got closer. I didn't know what was going on. Gary's greatest musical influence was Aha. I certainly wasn't prepared for what I saw when I leaned around the doorframe.

My boyfriend Gary was dancing in front of a full-length mirror in the lamplight, lip-syncing Metallica into a spatula, head-banging his long, black, knotty, skanky, ratty-ass hair.

It was a wig.

He'd bought a rock wig, middle-of-the-back length synthetic hair secured to his scalp with an itchy skullcap. He was whipping it around the room, rocking out in American eagle pajamas, trying.

He looked ridiculous, but he was trying.

I fell in love with Gary at that moment. I went over to him and wrapped myself up with him. We stood there for a long time like that, hugging, still, and after a while I reached up behind his back and pulled the wig off.

That was forever ago, and it's been years since I've seen him. But this past week I've been wishing he was around. I could use somebody like him -- what with everything that's happened -- somebody calm, who kept his head, who didn't go all insane, or violent -- someone who tried to find a way out of the mess.

Everybody could use somebody like that nowadays.