Two weeks after I turned fourteen, I hit the road with my boyfriend. A day or two earlier, my mom had issued an ultimatum: Either I stop seeing him, or she would call the police. I had brought him home to meet her, and the sight of a scruffy bearded 26 year old man, assuring her that he was serious about me, must have been horrifying.
I was filled with excitement when he suggested that we run away together. He was a Pied Piper figure on the Sunset Strip, with plenty of followers eager to help in our getaway. In no time, we had fake IDs and a guy to drive us to San Fransisco. Our birth certificates belonged to an 18 year old girl named Debbie and some guy named Warren. For the next few weeks, we had to call each other Warren and Debbie, names I still hate to this day.
I stopped at a phone booth to call my sister. I told her I was leaving, and I’d be back in four years. She was furious and threatened to tell our mother. When I said she could have my over-the-knee boots, she backed down, clearly surprised by her good fortune.
For some reason, I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses. It was annoying but I guess I resigned myself to being blind. It was already after midnight and our first stop was Tijuana, to get married. He must have wanted to make an honest woman of me. I remember waking up some guy in a shack who didn’t speak much English. My bridal attire was one of my every day outfits: an awful brown satin dress that looked like a civil war costume, and bare feet.
From Mexico we went to San Francisco, our driver’s original destination. He let us off near a Goodwill thrift store, where I bought a black velvet opera coat for fifty cents. The plan was to dress like a “straight” person, but I had to rebel. It was a reflex or an instinct; it was all I ever did. My husband went to a barber who cut his long hair and shaved off his beard. I was stunned by how unattractive he looked without the hair and beard, but it was too late. I was stuck with him.