Warning! Spoilers Ahead!
In the spring of 1999, just before I graduated from high school, I met a young man named Zoe. He was a few years older and, I thought, far worldlier than I. We met on a now defunct chat room late one night after my parents had gone to bed. I fell instantly in love with him and a few weeks later he took a bus into Hollywood one morning so we could meet. He had a black eye and over the course of that day he stole my watch, confessed that he lived in some detention camp for wayward youth, and told me he loved me. He’d told the authorities that he was going to his grandmother’s funeral. As an innocent kid from the LA burbs, all of this seemed terribly attractive and exciting to me. I lived with my parents in Glendale, where there was always fresh watermelon, newspapers, and plenty of protection.
Because of his lie to the authorities, Zoe was kicked out of his living situation and went to live with a friend who had a mobile home out in Yucaipa. The last time we spoke, after my parents’ banned me from seeing him, was on the phone one night after he’d gotten high with his friend, had sex with said friend, and called to tell me that he wanted me to see a movie called “Go.” He said this movie was exactly the kind of life he wanted us to live together—running wild, going to raves, taking drugs. As he spoke of this movie, of how much it meant to him, I realized that we would never be together. After all, I wasn’t even eighteen, and something about “Go” felt dangerous, like it had unleashed a devil in him from which I quickly withdrew.
I never saw Zoe again. I graduated from high school and went to community college. After Y2K failed to bring the melodrama it had promised, I became bored with life, caring nothing for my own future, giving no time to the venture of self. Then, one Saturday afternoon, my brother rented “Go” from Blockbuster.
“Go” is three interweaving story lines of multiple young people on the verge of danger at the end of the twentieth century. A girl tries to scam a drug dealer. A traveling Brit tries to outsmart a pimp, and two gay guys try to escape a pyramid scheme. The jokes are fast, not particularly smart, but always sarcastic, which resonated with me instantly. The plot is all right. It’s not brilliant, but it’s entertaining. The cast is phenomenal. Scott Wolf, Timothy Olyphant, Taye Diggs, Jay Mohr, and even Katie Holmes, each play major roles throughout. In fact, Wolf and Mohr are the aforementioned gay couple. It’s fascinating to watch each of these now mega-famous actors cut their teeth in a quirky film about a rave and drugs. Katie Holmes was still wholesome, while Timothy Olyphant made the perfect skeezy drug dealer who was equal parts hot and hilarious. Also, keep your eyes akimbo for a then unknown Melissa McCarthy toward the film’s end.
My brother and I loved it. We integrated quotes into our daily vernacular almost immediately: “Don’t go all 818 on me.” “I don’t even give my friends head.” “Look at your shirt, bitch. This ain’t Hawaii.” I saw what Zoe had loved about the film. None of the young characters appear to have parents. They all have cars and clothes and schedules fit for middle-aged, full-time workers. They were all pretending to be adults, not realizing that pretending to be something you’re not always turns out bad. Zoe wanted his life to be a movie in which beautiful teens are hit by cars and don’t die, in which your friends are always available to get high and go on adventures. As you can imagine, his life was not this. He was doing drugs in a mobile home out in the desert.
I knew my life wasn’t like the characters’ in “Go.” Hell, my life wasn’t even like Zoe’s. I didn’t do drugs and until then only ever did anything as dangerous as meet strangers off the internet, which, granted, was dangerous enough. Still, I knew that the characters in “Go” were still the cool kids in high school. That is, not me, which I’d grown to accept years earlier. Still, I wanted a taste of that life. The danger from which I’d originally detracted now seemed exciting to me.
Over the years, “Go” has actually become a family favorite. We watch it at least twice a year, each family member delighting in their own contained excitement of vicariously living a fictional character’s story arch. The jokes seem less funny, but the actors are all still beautiful, especially Timothy Olyphant who is shirtless throughout. I wonder if my family members ever wonder what their lives could have been had they gone on more dangerous adventures. To me, now a man in my thirties, “Go” seems almost innocent in its depiction of pre-2000 debauchery. Everyone thought the internet was going to take us to different worlds, never once thinking that it would eventually just make the world smaller. Justin Bieber was a six-year-old living in Canada. Facebook didn’t exist.
When my family now suggests we watch “Go” I always have to convince myself to watch it with them. I recently realized that the comfort of living vicariously through a character’s life is not something I need. In the years following my initial viewing of “Go”, I flew to Chicago to meet another man I met on the internet, spending a weekend with him in his dorm room and subsequently cheating on my boyfriend back in Los Angeles. I did the same a year later, this time going to a rave in San Francisco with a stranger, only to be stranded in a Sacramento parking lot at five the next morning. That same year, when I was nineteen, I popped a blood vessel in my right eye during a long weekend in Las Vegas. I shortly after dropped out of community college and soon found myself in Hollywood apartments at three in the morning with strangers, frequently allowing myself to dance in West Hollywood clubs until I was so dehydrated that I had to make out with bartenders for free bottles of water.
No, “Go” is not a way for me to live something I never got the chance to. “Go” is a reminder of the innocent kid I was and how that kid, because of a black-eyed druggie named Zoe, learned to never let any of my crazy, and sometimes idiotic, adventures go too far. For when I thought I might be in too much danger, when that devil would appear, I could hear Jay Mohr whisper a single word in my ear.