[February, 1996] Still Valentine’s Day

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2/15/96

It’s still Valentine’s day in my mind because it’s 4:25AM and I’ve been up since noon. I can’t even write, I’m too busy thinking about Bradley. I spoke to him for about 3 hours just now. I called a little after 1:00AM and a half hour/40 minutes later he offered to call me back to pay for the rest of the call.

Oh yes, he is the one. I have never loved another male so calmly and confidently. If I had doubts about being in love before, I don’t now. I can’t even make sense of it, I can only blurt out little things like that he isn’t into sports or politics, he’s not religious, he’s incredibly eloquent. He’s just so wonderful. I’m afraid of delving into clichés to describe him. I might go further into this some time, probably won’t. It’s sitting too lovely inside me to be brought out on the page.

Well, I brought some of it out on the page anyway, with less-than-lovely (and needless) descriptions of phone-bill-cost-logistics. So there’s that.

After all those years of dabbling in crushes here and smooches there, I finally felt that great big love feeling I had been searching for. Circumstances weren’t ideal with his being in Alaska and my being in New York, but that added to the whole (tragic?) romance of it all. In some ways, the distance didn’t even bother me at first, because my brain was being flooded with dopamine, serotonin, and all the other chemicals that make up the happy love cocktail. Add to that letters and phone calls full of heady words and I was heading down, down, down into the rabbit hole of infatuation.

I mean, let’s face it, falling in love long distance can be pretty easy. You get to curate and present your best self in a packaged way that isn’t possible when you have regular face-to-face contact with somebody. And for a writer, doing so using words feels being given the same advantage on the page that physically attractive people get in real life. In this case, Bradley and I were both writers, so we used language to charm and beguile each other across the miles. Except that there were many, many miles. Over 3,000 of them, in fact. And building a verbal bridge across such a gap would only go so far. Eventually, the distance would have to be addressed and dealt with head on.

[February, 1996] Lost Souls

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2/7/96

To my surprise/relief/whatever I think I might just be over Nathan. Was in the Village yesterday shopping/job hunting (might end up working in a store about 50 feet away from Record Runner actually). I didn’t stop in. I think I was afraid if something did happen I wouldn’t care anymore. Do I still? Now that there’s Bradley… not that much. It’s better if I stay away.

Damn, I am so tired. I bought the most wonderful book, Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite. I’m only about 30 pages into it and already it’s one of the best books I ever read.

I can hear my parents arguing in the other room, about money. This college financial aid stuff is such a headache. I hate even thinking about it, I just want to be there already, in college, in Boston.

I don’t have the energy to write any more.

Blah blah blah boys blah blah now that I was smitten with a boy in Alaska I was over my crush on the record store manager blah blah.

Moving on to books. I’ve never been a big fan of vampires in general, but Poppy Z. Brite’s modern goth vampire novel really got under my skin. I don’t think I could have found anything more perfect to read as a still-newly-minted-but-quickly-becoming-thoroughly-immersed goth. It made New Orleans sound like a deliciously dark, romantic, magical place and the young vampires she described sounded just gorgeous and swoon-worthy. Plus, they listened to Bauhaus, how could I not love that? (Get it? The vampires, an icon of gothdom, were goths themselves. 18-year-old spooky mind=blown.)

As for financing college, that’s the real horror story. Things got pretty scary for a while. Dad was adamant that I apply to Ivy League schools and be pre-law or pre-med. I was interested in schools with solid liberal arts programs and wanted to focus on writing, preferably in a big city. The only Ivy I even briefly considered was Brown, but decided Providence would be too small a city for me, so I didn’t even apply there. Of the four schools I applied to, two were in Boston, which seemed like the perfect location: large enough to be bustling and diverse, but small enough that I’d find my way around easily; far enough that I’d get away from home, but not too far in case I got homesick. Getting there would be another story, though, because Dad didn’t want to pay for an education he thought would be useless instead of one that would set me up in a high-paying career as a doctor or lawyer (it just goes to show how old school he was that those were the only two professions that epitomized a lucrative career for him). Mom also worked, but her salary was low enough to just cover basic household expenses but high enough to prevent me from getting significant financial aid. It was a stressful time at home, with a lot of arguing. Apart from getting a crappy summer job and earning some pocket money, I didn’t see how I could really improve our financial situation. I just had to hope everything would work somehow work out and I’d be able to get the education I truly desired.

[January, 1996] A Letter from Alaska

November 11, 2014 1 comment

1/31/96

I got a letter from Brad a couple of days ago. Anita called while I was reading it and I could barely speak. It was the most wonderful, most beautiful letter. He practically called me his soulmate in it. He said he knew he was probably being forward for a first letter but wrote the loveliest things.

I have not been able to stop thinking about him. It’s scary because all I have to go on is the brief moment in B. Dalton’s and this letter. Anita said it seems too good to be true, echoing my thoughts. But I knew it would happen in an unusual way. What would happen? It could be too soon to say it. I don’t know him well enough but there’s a part that’s instinctual (if that’s a real word). I’m scared to put all my trust in him so soon (and there is the 4000 mile distance) but Bradley could be the one. Strange to say this after the whole Nathan ordeal (which isn’t even over). But I’m saying it. I feel a very special connection.

I admit there were many false starts in my brief romantic life prior to this. Most could be chalked up to unrequited crushes or random encounters. And for all I knew, this could be no different. And yet it was different. I think I knew it, deep down, the moment he approached me in that bookstore.

I remember opening the letter in the elevator. The envelope was handmade (as was mine when I wrote to him; I was fond of making my own envelopes from oversized music and fashion magazine pages). The letter was a single sheet densely packed with jagged handwriting on both sides. There was a wrapped stick of clove gum in the folds.

I still have that letter, in a box upstairs, surrounded by other boxes that will remain unopened for a long time. I could excerpt it, but I won’t. Because even though I’m laying my diaries bare here, some things need to stay private. And also, it’s not the words so much as the feelings it evoked.

Those feelings were a blend of terror and elation, with a dusting of wonder, certainty and hesitation. Because a ten-minute meeting and two-page letter do not a soul mate make. Or do they?

David Letterman had a recurring skit on his show called, “Is This Anything?” He’d reveal random acts, like a woman hula-hooping several hoops or a pumpkin being dropped off the roof of a building. At the end of the segment, Dave would either proclaim the act to me nothing or something. That day, when I got Brad’s first letter, I thought of the Letterman’s skit and asked myself the question. I knew it was too soon to put a name on it, but I knew, this was something.

I bet that letter still smells of clove.

 

[January, 1996] You Caught Me at a Bad Time

October 16, 2014 2 comments
Yeah, having a secret crush is nowhere near this cute.

Yeah, having a secret crush is nowhere near this cute.

[A little set-up for this one. A couple of months prior, I decided to tell Nathan, a record store employee, that I had a crush on him… on national television. It never happened, but I continued to toy with the idea of telling him, anyway (as well as confessing I was the one who nearly brought him in front of a studio audience to reveal my feelings). Eventually, common sense lost out and I went to Record Rabbit to tell Nathan the truth. Here’s what happened.]

1/24/96

Bought the new Tori album yesterday (kind of aimless but it will grow on me). The lovely goth boy at Tower sold it to me (still wore that same Bauhaus shirt, even though it was a month later). Seems a bit dead at heart but I’d be thrilled to see him at The Bank.

Ok, main story. Under the circumstances, it went as best as it could have gone. Luckily the store was nearly empty and he was the only one in the front. He said hi, how are you, the usual. Then I started looking around the store. Again it was really awkward.

I was incredibly nervous but knew I had to do it. So I went up to the counter with a couple of postcards and said “you probably suspected it, but I was the one who called the show.” He looked puzzled for a second. “The talk show.”

Then he said “that was you? That was you? Aw.” (like the way one would say “aw, how sweet”). “That was really you?”

I replied “how else would I know about it?” and he realized it was me.

He said “I thought it was a joke.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“That is just the biggest compliment…”

I told him I knew about the girlfriend and he said “you caught me at a bad time” (I think he may have said that a couple of times). Those words made this whole ordeal worth it. It means there’s hope (damn the girlfriend). It also means there is no closure. But after I confessed, we started talking about the Cure and things were back to “normal.”

He was just so sweet about the whole thing. It’s not over, either. I still have a chance. Eight months, it will never end (ah, melodrama).

I think I what I love most about this entry is how I refer to it as an “ordeal” as if it was something that I was being put through instead of orchestrating it myself from start to finish. All that melodrama was my sole doing, the “torment” self-inflicted.

For all my wackiness and emotional grandiosity, and for all my foolishness thinking I still had a chance with Nathan, I was right about one thing. It wasn’t over. Our paths would cross again, more than once in the coming years, in a couple of unexpected ways.

In the meantime, I’d have other boys to occupy my obsessive soul, some more “dead at heart” than others.

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Speaking of obsessive (when aren’t I?) after Tori Amos’s third album, Boys for Pele, my passion for her music was beginning to wane a bit. Part of it had to do with the fact I was developing a taste for darker bands, which were predominantly fronted by broody men (Bauhaus, Christian Death, Rosetta Stone, Nosferatu, etc.). Another part of it was that her music was becoming gradually less personal to me. The first two albums shot a bullseye into my heart, with numerous songs that spoke directly to me, but this one veered to the outer edges of the target. And it was so long I could rarely make it through the entire thing, especially because I owned it on cassette and it wasn’t as easy to skip the songs I didn’t like. It did grow on me, though, and “Putting the Damage On” was my anthem for at least one major heartache.

Unfortunately, my freshman year at college would do further damage to my Tori love. But we’re not there yet.

[January, 1996] Unhappy Birthday

Image by © Solus-Veer/Corbis

Image by © Solus-Veer/Corbis

1/22/96

Brad still hasn’t written. I figure I’ll give him until the end of the month and then I’ll send the tape back with a “hope you got my letter” note. Katie mailed my postcard to Tim (w/the Smiths quote “You’re evil and you lie and if you should ever die I may feel slightly sad but I won’t cry”). I hate Tim. Very much. Suicide is really the only acceptable excuse. So Tim is dead. Or else I would have heard from him.

I feel restless. I’ve been that way a lot lately (lately meaning the last few years). I’m sitting next to Jim, who’s pissed that I never mentioned him in my journal. There, now he can’t complain. I’m going to go off and try to be creative now.

Wow, crabby much?

Let me explain the Tim situation. It’s probably not going to make me look like a less horrible person but a girl can try. Tim was a pen pal with great music taste, depressive tendencies and something of a muse to me. And of course I had a crush on him, because who had two thumbs and a weakness for gloomy goth boys in need of saving? This gal. (Still have the thumbs but grew out of the other thing, to an extent.) Tim and I traded letters and mix tapes and phone calls, and then he got a girlfriend and wasn’t so depressed anymore. Then I briefly visited him and we resumed our correspondence—and then he fell off the radar.

Which happens. I lost touch with pen pals all the time. At one point, in my mid-teens, I had as many as fifteen at a time, but then I started going to concerts and parties and the Village and had less time for letters. Had a boyfriend been thrown into the mix, I’m sure I’d barely have any pen pals left. But I thought the friendship Tim and I had was special. So I was particularly stung when months went by with no word from him. Especially when I traveled hundreds of miles to visit him. And then I became angry. Not that it’s any excuse for what I did next.

I decided to send Tim an anonymous postcard for his birthday, quoting “Unhappy Birthday” by The Smiths. I don’t think I went as all-out creepy as to make it look like a ransom note, I think I typed the lyrics (which I’d gauge as only medium creepy). But then I had a pen pal who lived in another state mail the postcard so Tim wouldn’t suspect it came from me in NYC (which probably takes us back up to all-out creepy). Who knows, maybe Katie never mailed the thing and Tim never received my ill wishes. Or maybe he did and laughed it off, since he was used to mean-spiritedness from living in a backwoods, small-minded town.

Either way, I feel terrible about it to this day and even worse that I would be so flippant about suicide and his possible death. But he has a profile on Facebook, so at least I can rest easy knowing he wasn’t driven to off himself by an anonymous nasty postcard. And who knows, maybe my crush on Tim was obvious and made him uncomfortable. Maybe after the visit he had enough of me, or maybe his girlfriend wasn’t cool with the correspondence (Because he kinda had a crush on me too? Haha, yeah, right.). Whatever the reason, I like to think I’m a bit more easygoing about that sort of thing nowadays. Or at least less vindictive (and yes, creepy).       

At least I wasn’t feeling such vitriol towards Brad (with whom I had the meet-cute encounter the day after my 18th birthday). There was plenty of time to set unrealistic expectations and end up disappointed on that front…

[January, 1996] Fangs, But No Fangs

1/15/96

So I finally saw the Joel-Peter Witkin exhibit at the Guggenheim (this was Saturday, with Anita). It blew my mind. Very twisted, very dark. Brilliant. How these could be photos is baffling. There’s some collage work but the rest is just sick, fabulous imagination.

Also finally bought a Rosetta Stone CD, The Tyranny of Inaction. Great album.

Went online for the first time at Anita’s. The Industrial/Goth chat room was a bit dull at first, but got better. Was Instant Messaged by this cool guy in AZ, OrpheusBlack. There sure are a lot of people into Marilyn Manson and NIN. Not nearly enough Bauhaus fans, at least from when I was on. It was fun, but something I could definitely live without. I prefer letters.

...

I’m listening to Christian Death at the moment. They have grown on me a lot. I told Anita to tell me if I ever start to annoy her w/this whole Gothic thing, the way Claudia did with Punk. I depend on her to keep me grounded, like when I told Anita to make fun of me for wanting fangs (which I do).

Today I went to Didi’s. Played Monopoly with her, Leon and James. They said they’d go to The Bank with me the next time they come back from college (Leon in March, James in May). I must go back soon. Maybe I can beg Anita (doubt it). I’ll find a way. I always do.

Entered my portfolio in the Scholastic Writing contest (the same one I won last year for Short Story). This is the big one, $5,000. I’m hopeful.

Had a dream the other night about asking Nathan back on Sally Jessy (as if I would learn). In the dream he had a girlfriend. I’m basically over it, but not completely, not until that absolutely final time I go there.

So, to summarize my18-year-old self: getting fangs = good idea/The Internet = bad idea.

Man oh man oh man. So much to mock, I don’t even know where to begin. I remember how much I loved that Joel-Peter Witkin show, which to date is one of the best museum outings I ever had. I also remember there was a little girl there, which I found troubling. Five years old is too young to be looking at photos of cadavers, amputees and hermaphrodites (call me old fashioned, but six should be the minimum age for that sort of thing).

Rosetta Stone = Sisters of Mercy rip-off band with some catchy songs that you probably don’t know about unless you were a goth in the ‘90s-‘00s.

...

Going online! Oh my. It figures my sole purpose would be to find gloomy kids around the world to chat about Peter Murphy, Siouxsie Sioux and the other main players in my counter-culture obsession. But then again, there were no other goths at my high school, my best friend was going the Brit-Pop/Indie route, and I was dying (no goth pun intended) to share this interest with others. Because somewhere out there were people who also wanted to get fangs and could recommend more broody music to listen to.

I was a luddite for the longest time. I was one of the people who believed the Internet was a fad or just for uber-tech geeks and wouldn’t really take off. Just call me Little Miss Lack-of-Foresight. I was also adamant that I would not forgo letter-writing for emails and yet in the last decade, I have hand-written and mailed exactly one letter that was longer than a greeting card. Maybe two. And living without the Internet today? Yeah, I think I could go longer without food.

Now let me explain the fangs thing. It wasn’t about vampires so much. I appreciated their aesthetic but I didn’t actually want to be one, nor did I have any kind of bloodlust. Plainly put, I just thought fangs looked really neat. And I thought it would be cool to have some bonded to my teeth. Of course, it was above and beyond ridiculous (I mean, I can only imagine showing up to a job interview with FANGS. Oy.). Let’s just file that in the Thank-GOD-I-Didn’t-Indulge-THAT-Dumb-Teenage-Whim folder.

Also, I have no doubt that annoyed Anita with my goth fixation as much as Claudia annoyed me with her punk phase. Probably more. But it would be a long time before I outgrew that phase (and by “a long time” I mean “never completely”).

 

[January, 1996] Spider and the Fly

London After Midnight

Oh, 90s goth bands…

1/5/96

Technically it’s the 6th, it’s 1:40AM. Actually, I did go to the Limelight yesterday. London After Midnight were excellent. And Voltaire and Sunshine Blind were good too. I can’t put all this down. Yes, London After Midnight. Their song “Spider and the Fly” has been haunting me since the show…

I don’t remember how I ended up at the London After Midnight show after Mom was “dead set against it” but it probably involved staying over Claudia’s house and neglecting to tell my parents where I would really be that night (most likely, since they didn’t want me out so late on a Thursday night).

I probably used a similar excuse to see Morgan a day or two before that. Of course, I couldn’t write about that in my journal in case my parents discovered the truth, but the song I mentioned was probably intentional. I searched the lyrics for a clue and wouldn’t you know it, I found one. Here’s an excerpt:

 

Come over here and let me tell you something
nothing ever comes of nothing
we pay a price for all our choices made

come along now and take my hand
I’ll lead you to a promised land
the morning after it may never come again
never be the same…

Morgan’s friend lived way out in Queens and it took several subway and buses to get me there (if you’re not familiar with NYC, there’s a lot of sprawl and it can take 90 minutes or longer to get from one borough to another). There was a lot of snow on the ground and I was nervous about traveling so far out to see a boy I hardly knew, but I made it there without incident. Besides, it wasn’t the first time I traveled a long distance to see a boy and it sure wouldn’t be the last (heavy-handed foreshadowing much?).

The friend he was staying with was a petite goth girl with a short black bob and disturbed eyes. I don’t even remember her real name, so let’s just call her Kathy. The three of us spent some time in Kathy’s attic room, listening to CDs. We listened to more the more ethereal/darkwave/coldwave side of the goth music spectrum. I remember it was the first time I heard This Mortal Coil and Lycia. Very slow, beautifully dreary, atmospheric.

Morgan looked different without the make-up but still attractive. Pale, light eyes, pointy nose and chin.

The three of us didn’t talk much. Kathy closed her eyes while the music played and Morgan and I got a bit, um, handsy. After a little while, Kathy went downstairs, leaving the two of us alone for a while.

If you're immune to human stimulus and you know it, clap your hands...

If you’re immune to human stimulus and you know it, clap your hands…

Morgan and I fooled around for a little while and I swear at one point he told me he was “immune to human stimulus.” It was odd to hear at the time, but deliciously hilarious to remember now. It also provided a lot of fodder for my subsequent poetry and prose (I might’ve incorporated Morgan into a serial killer character in one of my stories).

Kathy must’ve come back up and seen us… partially clothed. Morgan went downstairs to talk to her and when he came back up, he said that she was upset. I took that as my cue to leave. I don’t know what the story was between them, I could only guess.

I do know that at the London After Midnight show, when I saw the two of them inside the club, Kathy stared daggers at me and pulled Morgan away in the opposite direction. I didn’t speak to him at all that night and didn’t know anyone else at the concert. I tried to focus on the music and did enjoy a lot of the show, but I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t entirely shake off the rejection of being shunned like that by the two of them.

Kind of appropriate that one of the albums we listened to that day in Kathy’s room was called A Day in the Stark Corner.

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