"How do my spikes look?" He asked.
Muddy, blue Chuck Taylor All-Stars, white tube-socks with two red stripes at the calves, brown dress pants cut with scissors just below the knee and a necklace made out of an old bicycle chain. It wasn't a punk rock look at all, but a late 90s' high school "weird" look for the boys who didn't want to play sports.
"Great man, let's go meet some girls."
Neither one a sidekick, both underage and both awkwardly confident. They were young heterosexual men with eyes for midriffs and haircuts for Warped Tours. These were not predators either, but born again Christians at a rock festival full of youth pastors and Jesus People. Their rebellious attire was only a means for physical attraction. Like birds of paradise displaying for their potential mate, these guys weren't far off. If the girls wanted punk boys, these two were prime for picking.
But sex was always out of the question. These were good boys who wanted nothing more than the mere thrill of sexual pursuit. When the time came to play, they would never move beyond 1st base. Even if they hit the ball out of the park, they would stand stubbornly with their arms crossed, saying, "wait until marriage."
"Hi, what's your name?"
That was it.
That was all a sixteen year old had to say at this place. The girls were so friendly, they'd at least give a smile and response. Even if they were on their way over to "meet their boyfriend," they would still give a friendly wave and hair toss before walking away forever. But not even a minute later, as the boys approached the campgrounds near the lake,
"Hi, what's your name?"
And this time, the girl would stop and answer.
"Jessica," she said with bright eyes and a smile. A short haircut with the same liberty spikes in the back as the boys had all over their heads. A small swoop of gelled bangs, everything bleached blonde, and a slight midriff below a Fold Zandura t-shirt. "Where are you guys from?"
"Chicago." they answer in unison.
"Me too! What neighborhood?"
This was always a tricky part. If they said, "the south side," would this cute little punk girl believe them? They never wanted to say "the south suburbs," because then they'd have to start explaining where New Lenox, Plainfield and Mokena were. But one of the boys liked the way this girl looked, and he liked the way she was looking at him even more, so he decided to answer truthfully.
"Oh, the southwest suburbs, kinda near Joliet."
"Oh my Gosh, rock on! I live in Lockport!"
None of these towns should ever be considered "Chicago," but bands like Alkaline Trio and the Lawrence Arms said they were from Chicago, and these Lockport, Plainfield and New Lenox losers related to their music more than their friends' high school ska band. Punk rock was a Chicago thing, not a suburbs thing.
"Oh cool! They got that big sledding hill there." He replied with the only morsel of knowledge he had about the boring town west of his home.
"Oh yeahhh, everyone just knows about the sledding hillll." She wasn't proud of her town either.
He didn't want her to feel bad about it, "It's really fun though, I remember going when I was a kid and thinking it was the best hill ever."
"Oh for sure!" She was too enthusiastic and overly interested, a sure sign that she wanted to hang out with him. "I haven't been down the hill since I was a kid either..."
It felt like an opening, a time for him to say "well hey, maybe we should go sledding this winter." But it was 90 degrees in July, thinking about snow was too much of a stretch this early into things. The more important matter was finding out what she had planned for the next few hours.
"Speaking of hills," he had it, "are you gonna catch any of the bands at main stage soon? We were gonna head down the hill over there to watch MxPx."
"Oh I could check that out, I was gonna head up to the indoor stage to see Joy Electric soon though."
Another tricky moment. As defining as the music was to these young people, it was ultimately a means to a greater end. The boy imagined heading over to see MxPx first, moshing for one song only to find his latest infatuation bouncing and smiling on the pit's outer edge. "Wanna crowdsurf?!" he'd yell in her ear as the pop punk blared "Chick Magnet" deeper and deeper into his libido. "Sure!" she'd answer, putting her hands on his shoulders for the first time. They'd only just met half an hour ago, and now he's lifting her up by the back and legs. She sails over an ocean of young men who just had the exact same experience with another girl crowdsurfing just a few yards away. He smiles and watches her ride the crowd, the 90 pounds of flesh passing over their hands. It's like a communion for Christian punks, everyone taking of the bread and saying quiet personal prayers of hope. The sun had set, and the dark, rural sky was glittery with stars. A song or two later, the girl would find her new friend and greet him with a hug and a smile. This time he wouldn't lift her up, but stay right next to her while they both jump up and down to the pop punk, their arms brushing as they bounce. They'd look at each other and smile, and eventually leave the concert together, to a place where they could lie in the grass and look at the constellations.
But if they went to Joy Electric, these moments might never come. Then again, he thought, this girl probably wants to dance at Joy Electric. He hates dancing, but he'll do it if it means he can make out with her later.
"Aw yeah, Joy Electric is cool." He needed help from his bro in Christ for this one though, "what do you think man, should we head up there with her?"
He thought for a moment, turned to Jessica and asked, "...Do you have a friend?" The correct response, of course.
She happily nodded and called back to her tent area where a few other teenagers were sitting around a campstove eating macaroni and cheese in paper bowls. "Hey Carly! Wanna come see a show with these guys!"
"Yeah, be right there!"
Carly sprang up and ran toward them, the same punky hairstyle only pink. And this one even had a nose ring.
The two boys subtly looked at each other and smiled. They looked back at the girls who were both smiling at them. It didn't matter what show they were going to now. The night was set.