March 22, 1996
My handwriting will be a little sloppier because I have gloves on as I write this (I’m outside Hunter College and it’s pretty cold out). Anyway, I have “Suffragette City” stuck in my head, last night I caught part of a Bowie concert broadcasted over the radio and was fortunate enough to hear (and tape) him singing this song (I had only heard—and loved—Corpus Delicti’s version up to this point).
[Here’s something embarrassing about me that’s still true to this day. There are a ridiculous number of famous songs I first heard as covers that I believed to be the originals. These include “Dancing Barefoot” (U2), “Gimme Shelter” (Sisters of Mercy), and “The Passenger” (Siouxsie & The Banshees). One of the most embarrassing was “Hazy Shade of Winter” which I used lyrics from in an 8th grade art project and actually attributed to The Bangles. Poor Simon & Garfunkel got the shaft again when I recently swooned over “The Only Living Boy in New York”… by Everything But The Girl.]
My parents talked to Brad last night. I was kind of nervous but he wasn’t (or so he said but I believe him). I don’t even want to think about the kind of things my dad said to him—he (Dad) brought up marriage—Jesus Christ! But he totally liked Brad. My mother did too, as soon as she got off the phone she said he was adorable. I didn’t get to talk to him much, but I’ll probably call him next week.
[Did I mention that part of my Dad’s leniency about this Alaska trip was his relief that I wasn’t a lesbian? Yeah, the less said about that, the better.]
Less than two weeks to wait now. It seems really soon now. Hm. I almost don’t even mind waiting because I know I’ll blink and find myself in Alaska.
[And in another blink I’d find myself back in New York and angsting it up about something new.]
I’m hungry and cold. I could go to Starbucks and hang out there until it’s time to leave for Pepsin Literary Agency (or Ms. Pepsin’s place, which is what it really is).
[When I was a senior in high school, I had this fabulous year-long apprenticeship with a literary agent who worked out of her Upper East Side apartment. I’d sit in her living room surrounded by books and stacks of mail and papers, reading and rejecting query letters and manuscripts and setting aside ones I thought were worth Ms. Pepsin’s time to review. Other than that, I did some coffee and post office runs, but it was mostly reading, reading, reading. It was heaven. It also concerned me that the fate of all these writers was being put in the hand of an 18-year-old; something I still think about as a querying writer today.]
Still not positive how I’ll do my make-up tomorrow. How superficial of me to be writing crap like this but I feel the need to keep writing. [If you don’t feel the need to keep reading, nobody will blame you.] Besides, I love “talking” (in spoken and written form) about The Bank. Don’t know if I’ll try to talk to anyone there. I keep telling myself I don’t need the temptation. I see an attractive male and immediately think, “I don’t need the temptation.” Part of me hopes Industrial Boy or Goth Boy (guys who work at Tower Records) are there, or Nate (this attractive guy who works in a clothing store I talked to a couple of times) but then the other part of me utters the resounding phrase.
[And this is the danger of falling in love with somebody for the first time who lives very far away (well, there are lots of dangers, this is but one). You don’t get to experience small daily interactions. You emotionally commit more than you should. You feel guilty for flirting with other guys when no boundaries were set. Part of you still wants to go to goth clubs and smooch boys in fishnets and eyeliner (that last one may be less universal and more specific to teenage me).]
Not that we’re engaged or anything, but I feel really committed to Bradley and I think he feels it too (not that there are that many temptations in Alaska, but still). I don’t even know what we are to each other. I mean he’s obviously more than a friend and there is a lot of attraction (well, 4,325 miles away there is, but also when I first met him). A word like “boyfriend” I would consider too mild and silly. He’s my soul mate, my other half. However I will not be able to introduce him as such (when I finally do introduce him to people). Ah well, whatever. In less than 13 days I will see my love. That is all that matters.
That is so not all that matters, I want to tell my younger self. There are a multitude of other things that matter with this whole Alaska situation. Protecting your heart matters. Not getting your hopes up so frighteningly high matters. Enjoying being young and foolish matters. Oh wait, I was already living that last one.
March 21, 1996
It’s hard to keep my hand straight as I write this—no not caffeine, sleep deprivation. Bradley called last night around midnight (I was watching “Hellraiser III,” which wasn’t that great, anyway) and we stayed on the phone all night, until I had to get ready for school. So the 6 1/2 hours or so of sleep I would have gotten was spent on fabulous conversation (something I would prefer over sleep anyway—especially if Bradley is the fabulous conversationalist we’re talking about).
[It’s hard to keep my eyes straight as I type this—no, not caffeine, but the urge to roll them non-stop when I read the above paragraph.]
We brought up little things we love about the way we talk (for example, I love the way he says “how quaint” in a Homer Simpson voice and “hey now” kind of defensively). I said as we were getting off the phone how I thought when I first started talking to him that each conversation would last a week or two. But now it’s become a day to day thing, the more I talk to him, the more I want to. It’s just a constant need to hear his voice (and I don’t think I’m being a pathetic female by saying that. It’s not a feeling of dependence but… well in the most simplest term—love).
[No, I’m not being a pathetic female by saying all that stuff; it’s a feeling of, in the “most simplest” term—annoyance. Look, I can be super lovey-dovey, one of those insufferable “in love with love” people, but even I’m at my limit here. Dear reader, if you are still with me, I promise the diabetic shock levels of sweetness in these entries will taper off, soon. Bear with me a little longer.]
I’ve come to realize that the same person who is capable of making you feel great joy is also capable of the opposite. [<–FORESHADOWING, FORESHADOWING! Dun-dun-DUNNNNNN.] Only in my case, it isn’t anything he does (because thus far he’s shown himself as a glorious human being). It’s when I don’t hear from him that I get the most upset. For example, he mailed me a package over a week ago and my frustration and disappointment at still not having received it is a bit severe.
[I’ll cut my 18-year-old self some slack here, because the package was—oh whatever. Just, no. It was probably some books Bradley sent for me to enjoy on my flight to Alaska, but I was talking to him every few days at this point and would see him in person in just two weeks and everything was just peachy, so I needed to chill.]
Ah, it feels good to get all this out, I should try to bug my friends with less talk about him. Not that I genuinely think they are annoyed by it, but few of my friends have someone so special in their life and it can’t be all that fun listening to someone go on about how happy they are when your current life situation isn’t so… happy. A most appropriate lyric must go here, I hope I’m not misquoting:
“As we call treason treason
A shout, a scream
Into your nightmare
We’re all so happy
We’re all so happy”
I would hazard a guess that my high school friends were at least mildly irked at my Bradley chatter. Nor do I blame them as I read over these entries years later. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy for 18-year-old me, and I’m glad I recorded some of this for posterity, but to rave about what a fabulous conversationalist and glorious human being he is… come on already. I get it, I get it: I was utterly smitten and wanted to talk to him all the time.
I do still agree that the person capable of making you feel the highest highs can also plunge you into those lowest lows. But for now, I was still riding high, so no need to spoil the party.
So maybe it’s only right that I ended that entry with a song by a goth band that was quite dark despite it’s catchy hook or ironic title (“We’re So Happy”). It was one of my favorite songs of the time, and I probably quoted it because it was in my head, but I did, in fact, misquote it. It’s actually:
“As we call treason treason
In your nightmare
We’re all so happy”
And it’s not a particularly happy song. I should have remembered the end of the first verse, too, which was, “We’re always loving/We’re always hating.”
As I hurled through my senior year of high school, I filled up the red spiral notebook I had since being forced to keep a journal in my life-changing creative writing class. By that point, I no longer felt coerced into chronicling my life; I did so willingly. I felt life was getting interesting and worth noting for posterity (and, unbeknownst to me then, future blog content).
I got a smaller, 6 1/2×9″ three subject spiral notebook for my next journal. Black, of course. On the front cover are three stickers: Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and Skin Crawl (an East Village purveyor of gothy accessories; the shop’s logo was a white skeleton). The back cover is covered entirely in Skin Crawl stickers.
March 20, 1996
So tonight is the night I choose to begin my new journal. No quotes to start it off like the last one, just my writing. I like this notebook, its narrowness appeals to me.
[My pretentious attitude toward a notebook I probably paid a couple of bucks for at a drugstore does not appeal to me.]
Ok, on to more important things. Less than 15 days until Alaska. Ugh, I don’t know how I’ll be able to wait (silly thought, I have no choice but to wait, and besides, this will probably be the best thing I ever waited for). While I’ve mostly thought about the wonderful time I will have there, I can’t help but once in a while think about how depressing it will be to leave (“depressing” even seems too mild a word, but perhaps “tragic” is a bit melodramatic).
[Yes, “perhaps.” Perhaps there’s also some foreshadowing here.]
There are things to look forward to before Alaska, however—namely The Bank this Saturday. A whole big group of us are going (Leon, Jennifer, Ellie and Cynthia—well it’s more people than I usually hang out with all at once). I am the only one with a serious interest in the Goth stuff, the others will dress up however. I will finally get to wear my new black velvet cape. Yay. And my chiffon and velvet black dress, also new—sheesh, I’m such a girl.
A GOTH girl, that is!
A little bit about the way I operate: When I find something I really love, firstly I become deeply obsessive and immersed. I learn everything I can about said thing, collect what I can, etc. Once I have absorbed everything that I can within reason, I become an evangelist and try to get everyone I can to drink my Kool Aid. My U2 obsession was a perfect example of this. First I became hooked on their albums, then I started buying the singles, books, t-shirts, and other memorabilia, and once I felt enough of a U2 expert, I began preaching the gospel. I talked about them non-stop and made numerous U2 mix tapes for people, trying to “convert” them (yes, I used that exact phrasing).
My goth phase was pretty similar, though considerably more intensive and far-reaching. There was the music (which was first and foremost to me) but also literature, fashion, general aesthetics. And the nightlife. I did try to get friends and acquaintances into the music, but it was easier to convince them to go to the club with me. Because, unlike me, most of them weren’t music snobs.
I don’t remember this particular outing, but I do still have photos of us prior to going out, posing in Jennifer’s room, our whiteface make-up blotchy in the flash’s glare. We took exaggerated poses of gloom and despair (hand-to-forehead, that sort of thing). But the best shot was of the group of us posed on the bed, with the rope from her overhead light hanging in front of us looking remarkably like a noose. Good times.
17 days until Alaska. Before I talk about him, however, I have to mention something else that happened.
I saw Nisa a couple of days ago after not seeing her in over 4 years. I was a little worried about how we’d get along because I knew we both went through changes (mine a bit more radical). But I had a lovely time with her. I feel like no matter how much we drift apart, I will always come back to her friendship. The years we didn’t keep in touch I never felt really satisfied and thought about her once in a while. It was wonderful seeing her again, I slept over her house on Friday and we spent hours talking.
Nisa was my elementary school best friend. We did hit a rough patch in 6th grade and there was additional tension between our parents when her mother implied I was accepted into Hunter College High School because I was Jewish, and her daughter wasn’t because she was Muslim. Our religious differences never affected our friendship directly, though, but we did drift apart after graduating elementary school. Many of my happiest memories of childhood involve her and the various “imagination games” we would play together, using Barbies or random props around the house (I truly believe that laid the foundation for my becoming a writer). Unfortunately, I never saw her again after that one time as a high school senior. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again one of these days.
The next day, when I called my mom at work, she told me Brad called the other night at 2:00AM. When I got home I gave him a call (I was worried wondering why he called). It turns out he just really wanted to talk to me (a feeling I frequently get myself, have right now, actually). We spoke for close to 4 hours, the last half hour of which was spent trying to get off the phone (it started when I mentioned how bad I am at ending letters and conversations. He always thinks of strange creative things to write/say and all I can manage is “take care”). But we finally did.
God, people in love can be such dorks.
Today he called again, at 6:30AM (he knows I get ready for school around this time). We only spoke for 15 minutes but it was the best way to wake up. He phoned for two reasons. The first was because he finished Lost Souls (the quickest he read a book—2 days) and loved it (I mailed him a copy).
The other reason was to thank me. See, I kept insisting that he has to write, and he hadn’t in a long time. Now he stated writing again and gives part of the credit to my “nagging” (my word, not his). I just need to make it through these 17 days and then bliss awaits. This could possibly be the best week of my life, I mean these last couple of months I’ve never been happier (I probably have been saying that a lot). Life has been too good. No, not too good because that’s almost like I don’t deserve this joy (and why shouldn’t I or anybody have the right to feel fulfilled—momentarily, anyway).
You guys, I’m going to be totally honest. I thought I might end up coming back from Alaska engaged. I mean, I was this guy’s muse, for god’s sake! And we had similar taste in books and music, as well as a penchant for rambling letters and phone conversations. What could possible stand in our way? The bulk of the 48 connected states separating New York and Alaska, you say? Way to be a buzzkill.
This will be my last entry in this notebook, and I think appropriately so (well, actually a better transition would have been to start a new journal after meeting Bradley but alas, at least I am finally completing one notebook. Ready to move on to the next one.
I must end with a quote and the one running through my head is from “Crazy” by Seal:
“Miracles will happen
as we dream…”
Yeah, life seemed pretty miraculous at that point in my life. Either I was about to set flight or crash and burn in a big way. Anybody care to take bets?
And so another journal comes to an end. For once, I was filled with so much happiness, my goth membership card should have surely been revoked.
The back cover of the notebook was covered with purple magic-markered stars and filled with slogans from U2’s Zoo TV tour I wrote in block letters including:
WORK IS THE BLACKMAIL OF SURVIVAL (this one had a thick border around it; me to my teenage self: “You don’t know the half of it.”)
REBELLION IS PACKAGED
RELIGION IS A CLUB
TALK TO STRANGERS
CONTRADICTION IS BALANCE
EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG
And so I would be starting a new journal after trading in all that restless angst for infatuation and what was for me at the time the pinnacle of joy.
Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts.
Big news: I’m going to Alaska to visit Bradley (no exclamation marks, only because I find them kind of cheesy). I don’t know how, but I miraculously managed to convince my parents to let me visit him over spring break. This will be the longest 25 days of my life. We spoke on Thursday and he’s psyched. I can’t wait either, these will probably be the best 10 days of my life. He’s moving out of his apartment a couple of days before I come into this three-floor cabin with no running water or electricity (it uses a wood stove). I doubt staying warm will be a problem.
First of all, I don’t blame you if you’re not excited for my 18-year-old self because of my pretentiousness around exclamation marks. Because, come on, if anything merits an exclamation mark, it’s an eminent visit to see the boy with whom I developed an intensely romantic correspondence while being separated by thousands of miles. That’s not big news. It’s big news! Not even, it’s BIG NEWS!!!
I also don’t blame you if you’re not excited for my 18-year-old self because you think it’s a terrible idea to travel thousands of miles to a small Alaskan town to spend days in a isolated cabin with no running water or electricity with a boy I’ve known for a few short months.
Either way, the longest days of my life were about to be followed by the “probable” best days of my life. Emotional roller coaster much?
To this day, I’m baffled that I managed to convince my historically overprotective parents to let their teenage daughter fly across the country to visit a boy she met in person for maybe ten minutes. There was a lie involved, telling them that Bradley’s older brother would be staying at the house next door to Brad’s. You’d think having an additional male stranger in the picture would be cause for more alarm, but I suppose they chose to think of it as some sort of adult supervision. In reality, the brother wasn’t around at that point (possibly not even living in Alaska any longer) so it would just be the two of us. It was probably easier to convince my mother, because Mom was always a big-time romantic, and she saw how smitten I was, and understood that so much of my eminent happiness hinged on making this trip happen. I don’t know how she persuaded my father, though. She told me later on that Dad he allowed me to go in part because he was relieved to find out that I wasn’t a lesbian (Oh Dad…).
This trip to Alaska was a formative event in my life, but I could’ve sworn I only went for a week, not ten days. So I checked the dates on upcoming journal entries, and it was indeed ten days. There’s something odd knowing I’ve been remembering this trip all these years as being shorter than it was. It makes me wonder how many other things I remember incorrectly.
Bradley and I spoke on the phone for 6 ½ hours on Thursday night (early Friday morning). I called him at midnight and at 3:00 the stupid fax machine* disconnected us but he called me right back and we talked until I had to get ready for school. Right before we got off the phone I told him I loved him. He said, “I love you too” and then neither of us spoke for a few seconds.
[So this was a pretty big deal. I never said “I love you” to a boy before and I remember the feeling right before I said it. It was the same visceral sensation I had a few years prior when I dove off a 20 foot cliff into water: heart-pounding trepidation and a sense of plummeting mixed with exhilaration. Except it makes me cringe to remember it, because I said the words at the exact same time he started saying something else, so he didn’t hear me at first. He stopped talking and I had to repeat myself. Awkward much? At least I didn’t end up with a giant wedgie like I did when I jumped off the cliff. Small mercies, etc.]
It makes me so nervous to relive it (which I’ve done endlessly the past two days). But wow, 6 ½ hours. That’s longer than I’ve talked even with Anita. The conversation was great. He told me all these stories about himself (like the one I was the most curious about, how he ended up in Alaska) and I just loved listening to him talk. And he’s so funny, too, we were racking each other up the whole night. Of course there were the creepy “coincidences” too. The scariest one was that we both hate rap (and country) but love the song “Gangsta’s Paradise.” And we both use the exact same pen (Pilot Precise V5—we even both bought a box of them). Ah, it’s just too good. No, not good—phenomenal.
[It’s funny how similarities that seem like these massive or even creepy “coincidences” don’t have the same resonance in retrospect. I’ve met many people since then who don’t like rap or country but do like “Gangta’s Paradise.” It’s a genre-defying song and actually has a larger goth vibe than it does what might typically be considered rap. I’ve even heard it played at goth clubs a couple of times. And those Pilot pens? I’m sure at least one person reading this is a fan of them, too (or was, before electronic communication took over).
As for why Bradley ended up in Alaska, let’s just say there was trouble at home, he wasn’t doing well in school, and needed a fresh start. If that sets off any warning bells for you, it sure didn’t for me when I was 18.]
Yesterday was a strange day. I was emotionally… mm, shaken, I guess and I was also so exhausted from staying up all night so my mindstate was weird. It got better as the day progressed. I took an hour-long nap when my college class ended (on some couches in the building). Then I walked to the Village, I had some time to kill before going over to Mindy’s house.
[Placeholder for stuff about Mindy’s I deleted because it was a non-sequitor and not all that interesting.]
But back to those three little words. I do remember the disoriented feeling the next day, partly out of sleep deprivation and partly because I wasn’t 100% that I got the timing right on saying “I love you”—actually, I quite literally didn’t. But even from an emotional perspective, I questioned whether I may have rushed saying it, even though I felt it. He did say it back, but who’s to say he wasn’t being polite? It’s easier to subvert the “I love you, too” in person than it is over the phone, where non-verbal gestures like a hug or kiss can’t substitute verbal reciprocity. Until I had reason to believe otherwise, I’d have to believe he meant it.
* Oh, what a ’90s moment…
Bradley and I have been emailing each other this past week. His eyes are blue and green and yellow (he doesn’t like using the word “hazel”). He is constantly amazing me. He is just too lovely. So romantic and articulate and intelligent. It’s all I can do to stop myself from calling him right now (it’s 8:00PM there). He mailed me the Polaroid with his last letter. Said the picture was mine, it always was, but he just didn’t know it then.
For those who may not remember, when I met Bradley at the bookstore, all gothed out for my first outing to The Bank, I was, at first, suspicious when he came over to talk to me. Then he showed me a Polaroid of himself dressed up for Halloween, looking like he could be a cover boy for Goth Teen Beat (if such a magazine existed). I knew right then, we were on the same wavelength. He said he’d send me a copy of the photo, but to get the real thing was even better and meant so much more to me, along with the sentiment that accompanied it.
A note on Bradley’s word choices. I would tell my best friend Anita all about our conversations, and it would drive her crazy that he would describe things in a way she found to be unnecessarily complicated (i.e. instead of just saying his eyes are hazel, naming all of the colors in the irises). She’d make fun of him, saying, “Why does he have to call it ‘that wooden thing with four legs you can sit on’ instead of calling it a chair?!”).
This is the kind of love so many people dream of, but never experience. I feel so incredibly lucky, despite the thousands of miles. He always seems to answer questions or address doubts, before I even voice them. He knew where “try to catch the deluge in a paper cup” was from (“Don’t Dream It’s Over”, a Crowded House song I adore). I guess the most immediate question is when to tell him I love him. I’d rather do it in person or over the phone, though if I was feeling really chicken-y I’d write it in a letter (I’d never do it over e-mail, though). Part of me wants him to say it first, but as wonderful as that would be, I’d also feel a little like a coward for not being able to say it first.
That was my most immediate question, huh? Not how two teenagers are going to make it work while being separated indefinitely by thousands of miles? Not how long a relationship might be sustained through letters, phone calls and (at this time, a new technology) emails? Not how we’d ever get to see each other when neither of us had a real job? Naw, why worry about any of those pesky details when the big, pressing issue was when to tell him the three little words. (*Rolls eyes at my eighteen-year-old self*)
It’s sad that I’m writing so little about this, because it’s just about the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. But I’m so wrapped up in it, I don’t have time to stop and write everything down.
Oh, the arrogance. For me to presume this love I was experiencing was so epic and majestic that much of humanity never encountered a love on that plane. But maybe that’s something typical with first love/teenage love. We don’t want to think that this complex and mind-blowing patchwork of emotions is a typical part of the human condition. Just like we want to believe we’re snowflakes, unique and set apart from others, so must be our love. Or maybe I was being flooded with delusions of grandeur in addition to the obsessive desire that was proving me right, that confirmed my belief that falling in love was the greatest thing a person could feel.
It’s funny how we create these codes made up of our beliefs and interests, small details that make up who we are, and then get enormous satisfaction and affirmation when somebody is able to break through the code. Back then, I believed part of love was being able to decipher those small clues and cues, whether identifying a song lyric correctly or expressing a romantic notion when I anticipated and needed it most.
A word on email. It was still early days for electronic communication and I was a stubborn luddite, but I made an exception for Bradley because I couldn’t stand being at the mercy of the postal service (it took on average a week for a letter to travel across the miles that separated us) and worried about the mounting phone bill. At one point, Bradley said he felt like email was invented just for us. See, I wasn’t the only one being arrogant.