[March, 1996] 17 Days Until Alaska: Or (People in Love Can Be Such Dorks)

Indeed.

Indeed.

3/18/96

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.

[March, 1996] Alaska Bound

February 16, 2015 2 comments
Just 3,352 miles separating us...

Just 3,352 miles separating us…

3/9/96

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.

 

[March, 1996] Blah, Blah, I-Love-You, Blah

I-heart-you-hanging-Happy-Valentines-Day-2015-Wallpaper

3/2/96

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…

[February, 1996] A Deluge in a Paper Cup

January 28, 2015 2 comments

2/25/96

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.

[February, 1996] “What if?” Territory

...

2/16/96

Ah yes. I would be one of his dinner guests.

He also told me how he left the bookstore and walked a couple of blocks to his destination then thought, “Why didn’t I get her number?” I said I wish he had. Then he found out he got a letter from me and tried to look me up but the number was unlisted. Frustrating. The distance will be, too. But we’ll see each other again and have a lovely adventure.

I discussed the prospect of spending the summer with him with Anita and she said she wouldn’t be upset because she knows he is just a once in a lifetime guy. This is so hard to believe. I slept 2 hours the other night and feel magnificent.

First off, as happy as I am for my 18-year-old in-love-self, I sure wish I wasn’t such a cornball about it. I wince to see how much I used words like “lovely” and “magnificent” at the time. Then again, I did always have a flair for the dramatic*, so I can’t blame myself for being so grandiose about the whole damn thing. But back to the entry.

Years prior, when I was cultivating a collection of pen pals, as a way to fill the pages and learn more about each other, we’d ask all kinds of hypothetical questions. One of my favorites was: if you could invite any two people (living or dead) to dinner, who would they be? For Bradley, to have a world full of geniuses, legendary figures, and all kinds of fascinating individuals, from humanity’s entire history to choose from, but name me as one of his choices was a hell of a compliment. Then again, at that point in time he would have been one of my guests, too.

And if we tread into “what if?” territory I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he did get my phone number that night at the bookstore. He was in town for another week and I was on Christmas break, so we would’ve been able to spend time face to face instead of over pen and paper and telephone lines. Would things have fizzled within days or become more passionate and immediate or something in between? Speculating is pointless, but I wonder what that parallel chain of events would’ve looked like.

As for the summer, the original plan was to go to Ireland with Anita. While my obsession with U2 had tapered off some at that point, we still had a desire to go abroad and see the beautiful country. We talked about visiting Windmill Lane Studios, where the band recorded some of their albums, and yes, perhaps taking a quick peek at their houses (nothing crazy; we had no intention to go climbing security fences or anything). Bradley’s existence made me reconsider that trip and think of heading west instead. Not that he and I had talked about my traveling to Alaska to see him, but our correspondence was building in intensity. It was inevitable that we’d discuss a way to meet in person sooner or later (and since impatience was my middle names, odds were it would be sooner). After all, I was sure we were destined to meet again and have a “lovely adventure.” Weren’t we?

 

 

*Alright, no point in using past tense there. I can still be a big ol’ drama queen today.

[February, 1996] Still Valentine’s Day

...

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

...

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105 other followers