we ain’t outa jersey yet

© 2011 by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

.exit 9 approach

I’m not wearing any male clothing, that’s what I’m suddenly thinking standing by the side of the New Jersey Turnpike in drag, hot August night 1973, as the state trooper who pulled us over turns his attention to me after frisking my three friends, the four of us in Saj’s beat up old car heading to a gay dance in New York. 

I’m going to get busted, drag is illegal in New Jersey, wonder what the penalty is? I’m no longer stoned, what a way to sober up. Can I plead temporary insanity induced by Saj’s killer weed? Reefer madness. I’ll have to call my Papa to bail me out. If they don’t kill me in prison, my Italian Papa will do the job. 

But Saj can talk his way out of any fix. He always has a trick up his sleeve. I did what he told me before we got out of the car. I remember his final words: “don’t say nothing, no matter what happens, let me do all the talking.”

The trooper’s looking me over, he’s so close I can smell his sweat. Why doesn’t he say something? He’s already checked every inch of the interior of the car and trunk and glove compartment. He found nothing, no trace of the bag of weed. He’s determined to find something, anything to bust us. The trooper’s mouth finally opens. I brace myself for the worst. Is he reaching for handcuffs?

“Uh miss you can get back in the car now.”

We’re back on the turnpike, no one says anything for the longest time, then Arnold starts laughing uncontrollably. Suddenly he reaches over, unzips my pants and pulls the bag of grass from my underwear. 

Saj was right, it was the one place the state trooper would never think to look.


originally featured in several theatre productions by Avalanche, a multi-racial LGBT troupe, in the late 80s and then again in a different form in the play Esther’s Boys at the Jon Sims Center in SF in 1998. In this version (a monologue), it was presented in the old brown jacket, performed at the Marsh in SF, the Marsh in Berkeley and Stage Werx Theatre in SF in 2018 and 2019.