April 04, 2007
Her name was Kate Vicious. The name fit her; she was brutal. Brutal in a good way—her messy punk hair with all the colors leaking out of it, her skin stained from too much eyeliner. She was hardcore in a way that all our suburban kids wished they were hardcore. She was the first girl I met who was more than just an aesthetic. I was young then and easily impressionable. I thought I was dirty because I cut my own hair and I wore jeans from a thrift store. Kate Vicious was different than me. She was grimy, and she was real.
Her parents were gone somewhere. She never really specified. Her dad was some deadbeat and her mother kicked her out when she was thirteen. Since then, she had been living with her grandmother. It was a sketchy situation. Her grandma was real crazy. Not crazy in a “let’s paint our nails lime green” kind of way, not eccentric, but truly screwed up weird. Grandma Vicious kept a bar of soap under her crotch when she went to sleep at night and she was convinced that her dead husband had been reincarnated as her cat, Wiener.
Unsurprisingly, Kate ran away from that house full of strange vibes and cat shit. She stayed at some friends’ houses before the DCFS caught up with her and plunked her in various foster homes. One foster dad tried to rape her, another mother beat her with a stick. I don’t know how she had that much bad luck but the social worker brought her from place to place. Eventually she ended up in our “home for wayward girls.” She was there for a long time, mostly because no one knew what to do with her. Her mother didn’t want her back. Her grandma did, but Kate Vicious was adamant against going back to that house of doom.
She was barely fifteen then, I was a little bit older, but not much. We were very, very screwed up, but at heart we were fresh and we were only babies. That’s what the place was full of—little broken girls. The rest of us kids were enraptured by Kate Vicious. The stories she told and the shenanigans she pulled, like the time she stole the electrical cord out of the manager’s closet and taught us how to play dirty limbo. Gracia, the night warden who couldn’t speak English, got us into a lot of trouble for that, because she thought one of us was trying to strangle ourselves. Some of us would have, if given the chance. But it wasn’t always like that. We did the hokey-pokey one night and screamed during the Sixth Sense another. We forgot that I had done enough pills to nearly kill me, that Tina had to sleep outside in a hammock, that Kate Vicious tried to slit her wrists while drunk.
She left soon after that, packing up her small amount of belongings into a knapsack and leaving with a woman that was going to be her foster mother. A woman she had never met before in her life. As she walked into the parking lot, I saw her twitching. She was scared. It made me feel anxious, too. If she was afraid, then how could I be safe? I waved to her from the upstairs window, the window with the bars running across it so we couldn’t escape. She didn’t turn around.
Later she changed her name again. Today she’s calling herself Katie Vice. I think it’s a way of putting that past behind her. She’s different now, really into the whole scene thing. She’s living with yet another family; it’s not the best situation in the world but it’s better than living with a grandma who prays to her rubber plant. She still runs away from time to time, crashing on friends’ couches and hiding out in the back of garages. She still does copious amounts of drugs to block everything away. She still sleeps with boys and girls to make the aches go away.
Kate Vicious made a collage of a crow during art time and gave it to me. Now it’s hanging up on my wall, black crow against light purple construction paper. And her credit in the corner: Kate Vicious, 2006.
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Jamina Lin is a student living on the outskirts of Chicago, IL. She writes the zine "Oh My Stars" and maintains glisteningpoint.com. She spends her time writing, crafting, taking pictures, and observing the world around her. Her column takes a look at mental health and life issues.