Tenth grade was actually two people for me: Sandra Clark, and Matt Joyce. Sandra was my love interest, and Matt Joyce was my Svengali, my guru, my guiding light, and my teacher. The subject: Getting Fucked Up 501.
Matt Joyce looked like Prince, if Prince were 6’1″, 225 pounds, and had an Afro. He had very full features and came from a long line of high-yellow folks. I believe many in his family tree had done some “passing”, as we call it.
He lived way out in the sticks in a palatial house with his parents and several siblings who were all older. I couldn’t figure how he was even in the Kirkwood School District, he was so far from the high school.
When I got to Kirkwood High, Matt Joyce was a legend. He was known as “Mr. Cool”. That’s it. He was the coolest guy in school. He was built like a bowling ball, and flashed a brilliant smile. He was All-District in three sports: baseball, football, and hockey. They said his name in hushed whispers: “Matt Joyce”.
It turned out that Matt was an indifferent student. He wasn’t doing that well in classes, but it was not because he wasn’t smart; he was very intelligent. He had other priorities, and those were, in order: getting high; girls; and sports.
Matt was two years older than I was and sat behind me in history class. I was in awe of him. I almost couldn’t breathe when we met. I couldn’t believe I was going to get the chance to know him by being in a class with him. We hit it off instantly, so now I could exhale.
Matt was one 18-year-old who could pass for 21, the drinking age. Rules were looser then, too. I faked an ID with a razor blade the next year and never had to use it. I remember the night I made it and went to a grocery store to buy a case of beer. They did not “card” me. I got the beer. I did not get “carded” from 17 on.
Matt and I already had a strong taste for marijuana in 1979. There was a smoking area at Kirkwood High in those days, and it was a minor drug bazaar at the end of the 1970’s. I didn’t smoke cigarettes yet, but I was often in the smoking area. Just socializing, you see.
Matt often had the best weed. He had all kinds of connections. He appeared to be ridiculously mature. He and I would skip lunch every day that year to get high. (One friend called me the “High Machine”. Well, Matt was the “Screwing Machine”, who got high). He knew how to handle everything, it seemed to me. He showed me the ways. He taught me how to do a “shotgun”: you took a lighted joint, put the lit part inside your mouth with your lips holding it in place, and then blew. The other person was to get very close so that he could inhale the directed smoke.
There was something homoerotic about the experience. We sat at Des Peres Park on a wooden outlook and did this procedure. Why were we doing it? It wasn’t changing the smoke in any way. We leaned in towards each other like we were going to kiss, and there was this heightened tension around doing a shotgun, especially with someone known to be as randy as Matt.
Matt always used condoms, I think. This was amazing to me. First of all, I hadn’t come close to having sex. I was terrified that I would not be able to perform if it came down to it. The idea that a teenager carried condoms in 1980, and used them, blew my mind.
Matt usually had more than two options at any time regarding girls, and they were always white. He said he wasn’t really attracted to black girls, and he seemed kind of uncomfortable in black spaces. His desire was to fit in in white circles. Still, because of his family, his prowess in sports, and his cool factor, he knew and socialized with many black persons, and said he had “done” several black girls. He just seemed to prefer the hockey crowd. Hockey was actually his favorite sport.
This hockey emphasis blended well with my white crew. My best friend when high school started was Bill Morgan. Bill was the best hockey player I knew growing up, and Bill and Matt played together on the Kirkwood club team. We were all set for a great winter.
One night Matt and I double-dated with two white girls. The evening began with Busch beer and weed. I didn’t know the girl I was with, and I was not interested in her as I got to know her. Matt was already sexually involved with the other girl, who was tall, had long brown hair, and blue eyes. She was quite fetching. They adjourned to the other room, where Matt proceeded to bang her lights out, which I could hear very easily. This was all beyond me. I was so glad to leave that night.
Matt picked me up in his station wagon one Friday night. He had joints rolled and a case of beer. Where do we go, he asked. I said, “Pull around the block and stop by this house. I have stopped here before and nothing happened.” The cops were there in five minutes. They were there so fast that we hadn’t been able to smoke or pop a beer yet.
It was still light out, and somebody had peeked out their window and seen a black guy at the wheel. They called the cops. They confiscated our weed and beer and told us to go home. The night was over, but we were not in any more trouble. I think they handled it correctly. We were not intoxicated. We were good kids. We know it is handled very differently today.
I realize I haven’t gotten through the material I wanted yet, but I had to tell you about Matt Joyce. I loved that guy. He was everything to me when I was 16. At the beginning of the next post I will analyze Matt and our relationship to each other.