By Sheila Squillante
We used to buy roasted chickens at the Grand Union after school and take them back to Jen’s house. We’d sit at the kitchen table with the plastic container between us, pry off the dome-shaped lid and just rip through the skin and into the meat, slick with grease between our fingers and burning hot, still, through to bone. We were fourteen years old and neither of us had ever kissed a boy, though we both would soon, and we used to, after eating the chicken, go up to her room and turn on Culture Club and cry real earnest tears about that lack which felt—as things do when you are fourteen—like it would be eternal.
After we were through with our carnal snack and lament for the afternoon, we’d indulge in another kind of hunger. Jen would pull out her newest album—the one she bought after we snuck into the movie a few weeks earlier. The movie with the rock star her sister, four years old and definitely kissing boys, had told her about. Did Jen's sister buy our tickets for us? This seems likely, but she must have left us there. I know she wasn’t in that dark theater with me and her baby sister, my best friend, watching, yes, but mostly absorbing a new energy, synthesizing, and forming our nascent sexualities. We mostly ignored the plot (not hard to do) and let the music and the movement push us straight over the edge of adolescence and up against the bleachers or the wall under the stairs near the band room or the set backstage after play practice, grinding and throbbing, all lips and ruffle and tongue and oh my god Jen will you look at that ass!
Jen and her family had moved to my town the year before from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The rock star, of course, was Prince and the album was Purple Rain and we, like countless other soon-to-be-kissed fourteen-year-olds in 1984, wore that vinyl out. My favorite track was “The Beautiful Ones,” because, oh how badly we wanted to be even though we were quite sure that we weren’t.
I haven’t seen Jen in more than twenty years, but I do have her email and we check in every so often. Yesterday I wrote, “Remember how we snuck in? God, remember your hair?” and she wrote back, “I’m listening to it now. Lump in my throat. Do you remember the chicken?”
Apparently he was a vegetarian. Still, I feel like Prince would dig the picture of two young girls (or maybe middle-aged women) using their hands to grab hard and sure at something they wanted. Something hot and ready, delectable and sustaining.
Barrelhouse Blog wants to hear your tributes to His Purple Badness. Submit poems & essays here and watch this space next week for more.