[Previously on The Diary Project: I met a boy in a bookstore, Bradley. He lived in Alaska, I lived in New York. We wrote each other letters. We got all smitten. I visited him in Alaska. I came home to New York with a broken heart. Great, we’re all caught up now.
Here’s the thing. Brad and I had a close friendship before things got romantic. And when things didn’t work out in Alaska because he wasn’t ready for a serious relationship or whatever, I told him how important it was we maintain the friendship. I even told him, “I’m going to need you to get over you.” (Yes, I said those actual words out loud; I was a melodramatic 18-year-old goth, what do you want?)
We stayed in touch after my Alaska visit (which was in April), and he had a trip planned to New York in May. We were supposed to hang out and possibly try to get tickets to Saturday Night Live because The Cure was the musical guest. It all sounded like a decent consolation prize considering my broken heart. I was actually really excited for his impending visit, despite its platonic implications…]
May 11, 1996
Saturday. I’ve been hanging out at home by myself. Hopefully, I’ll go out tonight. I’ll call Chad in a couple of hours to find out if he can go to the Batcave (a friend’s band is playing).
Brad was supposed to arrive on Wednesday. I wouldn’t know if he actually did because I haven’t heard from him. (And tonight The Cure are appearing on Saturday Night Live—he mentioned how he’d love to try to see them).
At first I was extremely upset and angry. Well most of the depression is gone now (thanks mostly to my mother, her healing powers got rid of a lot of stress and negativity). So it’s predominantly anger now. I’ve tried to reason that maybe he didn’t bring my phone number, but I realized that he knows my address by heart, so he should have tried to track me down by now. And if he does have my number, then he is purposefully avoiding me.
[Let’s talk about Mom’s psychic and healing powers… I do believe they’re real, to an extent. Sometimes I believe more than other times. In my late adolescent and early adult years, I believed in them a lot more. I needed to, especially when at the mercy of a big, bad broken heart. I don’t recall exactly what this ritual involved, but there were definitely candles, and possibly an egg.]
The more I think about it, the more pissed off I get. I hate the feeling I get every time the phone rings (at this point I don’t even know what I’d say if he did call or show up). He has never been this inconsiderate before.
I don’t know if he understands how much this has hurt me. Now I’m not hurting anymore as much as seething. I don’t care what personal shit he has to work out, this is just incredibly rude. Especially after I flew all the way out there to visit him. I even made him an in-flight package a couple of weeks ago. And in his last e-mail to me he wrote: “see you in a few.”
[Before I flew out to Alaska, he sent me a package for the long flight, with a couple of books, and I’m not sure what else—probably candy and a mix tape. So I did the same thing before his trip to New York. While we didn’t make a concrete plan stating when/where we were going to meet, in my mind, there was no question that we’d see each other.]
True, he didn’t specify days. It could be months, years. This thing is, he knows how much I care about him. If that freaks him out, fuck it. It’s not right to say he owes me, but there is a factor of having decency, common courtesy.
It’s upsetting to know I’m not a priority, it fucking hurts. At least it did. I don’t want to let it hurt anymore, he’s the one in the wrong, he should have the pain. I have never before wanted to call him a bastard but I can’t help it now.
It’s awful because I held the trip to Alaska in such good light, but this… turn of events has tinged it with bitterness. It’s sort of tainted the beauty of those memories.
I’m not going to rationalize this further or make excuses or anything. The only thing that scares and infuriates me more than my inner debate of whether I will forgive him or not is the very realistic possibility that he may not come asking for my forgiveness. We’ve dealt with everything so openly up to this point. I can’t take this bullshit. It makes me want to throw things. Bastard.
And this is where I recall that thing 18-year-old me said: “the person capable of making you feel great joy is also capable of the opposite.” Welcome to the opposite.
Being stood up is the worst. Because at first, you’re not even sure you have a right to be upset. What if the person standing you up got hurt? What if there’s some other kind of emergency? At first, you’re worried. And that worry never fully goes away if you don’t hear anything, but it’s mixed in with a cocktail of other emotions. There’s disappointment, of course, and varying doses of anger, maybe embarrassment. Sometimes there’s even a dash of shame, that you must matter so little to the person standing you up, you don’t even merit the flimsiest of excuses. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time I experienced being stood up, but it was the first, and by someone I cared about, so it hurt like hell. It was like being rejected by him all over again. And it wasn’t even the regular sick feeling of being stood up once, at a specific time. He was in town for at least a week, so it was like being stood up for days on end, over and over again. I was crushed and questioned what I might’ve done wrong (did I miss signals that he didn’t want me in his life any more?). I even visited the bookstore where we met, on the off-chance he might show up there at the same time again (he didn’t).
Looking back on it now, maybe it would’ve been worse if we saw each other again during that time. I was eagerly anticipating his visit, but maybe too eagerly. Maybe in the back of my mind (not that far back, even) I was hoping it would reignite something romantic. But even if it didn’t, he was an important part of my life and having our friendship continue meant a lot to me. Having him disappear on me like that was like having the floor drop out from beneath me. It took my heartbreak to this whole other level. Maybe because that thoughtlessness removed the bit of hope I nursed that we’d get back together (if you could count us “together” in the first place, considering the distance). Maybe because it opened up a delayed reaction to dealing with the end of our relationship. In any case, while I vented a lot of anger in my diary, there was still plenty of grief, too, and dark emotional issues I’d be dealing with for a long time to come.
[As my descent into gothdom continued, I befriended Chad, a college radio DJ who had an industrial band with his friend Rick called Clamp. He invited me to see his band play The Batcave, a club I had been curious about for a while, though I heard it was nowhere near as good as The Bank. He offered me a free ride to the club and free admission since I’d be with the band, so I couldn’t say no. (And for the record, while Chad was an utter sweetheart, I had no romantic interest in him.)]
May 5, 1996
What I wonderful time I had last night.
Let’s do a Batcave vs. The Bank (Sat. nights) thing. First of all, The Bank has much better music. The Batcave was mostly industrial, though the last half hour or so was great in that I heard Sisters, Bauhaus, The Cure, Corpus Delicti, Alien Sex Fiend. Much fun to dance to. Also water is free at the Batcave (nice to save two bucks) and the people seemed a lot more approachable (though there are many more normal ones). And the Batcave’s dance floor is really cool—big checkered tiles and amazing lights…strobe, colorful pattered lights. It’s almost dizzying. I’ve giving The
Batcave a lot more points here but I still feel more attached to The Bank because they play so much more Goth.
[Goth and industrial music are quite different, though they share similarities in that both are dark and often relay heavily on synthesizers. Goths also seemed to outnumber rivetheads, their industrial counterparts, though they were essentially part of the same club scene and there was a lot of overlap in music taste. While I enjoyed some industrial (Skinny Puppy, Ministry, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Nine Inch Nails of course), my preference was for the less aggressive and more melancholy and melodic goth bands. So all the free water in the world wouldn’t have had me favor The Batcave over The Bank considering their respective playlists. And I’m sure it’s obvious by now, but I was totally one of those snobby goths who got annoyed at seeing “normals” in clubs, which usually meant jeans and sneakers. I wasn’t expecting everyone to be decked out in fishnet and leather, but come on, you go to a club like this, at least wear your black jeans and a dark T-shirt.]
As for people—at first there was no one that outrageous-looking, a few typical industrial boys. But then while dancing I noticed this guy who was almost even too scary-looking for me! He had a red velvet cape on, decorated studded/painted jacket underneath, lots of chains, a long skirt, lightning bolts painted all over his face.
I said something about him to Anita and she started laughing because she had just told this girl we had met that in a second I would mention this guy (in fact she jokingly bet her 10 bucks that I would get his number).
[Look, I know judging people favorably for their unusual appearance is just as bad as judging them poorly for being “normal” but here’s the thing. I was in my sixth year at a magnet school wearing The Gap were the unspoken uniform. I had been mocked for my… more colorful attire in seventh and eight grade, I got sick of the ridicule and wore bland clothes in ninth and tenth grade, and in eleventh grade I stopped giving a damn and started wearing what I wanted again. By the time I was a senior and doing the goth thing, I was definitely drawn to others who had a more unusual look, even though none of my friends did.]
I waited a while, mustering up the guts, and went up to him. I said something like: “I have to say, you look incredible.” He smiled and I walked away (not rudely, though—I hope). I guess I might have been a tiny bit freaked out, but I also wanted to leave a sense of mystery, have him come to me. Which he did at about 3:30 (yeah, he took his time, I guess we were both being coy).
We chatted for about 10-15 minutes (his name is Lanique, but the way) and exchanged numbers.
[And thus, my drive-by flirtation technique was born. I had the nerve to approach guys and be bold with them, but for very, very short bursts of time before I ran away.]
There was someone else, too. This stunning… industrial boy I’ll call him, even though it seems unfair to categorize someone so lovely. Tall, kinda thin, fishnet shirt, straight bleached hair (about jaw-length, pinned back) a long blond braid on the lower half of his head, some eyeliner and lipstick. Such a breathtaking face.
I watched him dance for a while. After I met Lanique, I went out on the dance floor for a while (when they played that stretch of Goth) and saw the blond nearby. Just as Anita and I were about to leave I asked her to give me a second.
I went up to stunning boy (well he was in his 20’s probably, but I’ll still use “boy”) and said, “don’t let this go to your head, but are beautiful.”
He smiled and said, “Thank you” then “you are, too.” This second part did not register for a moment, but by the time I realized it was to late to thank him so I just smiled.
Anita came over and we started to go. I was going to leave anyway—that mystery thing again, I suppose. Also, I’m not sure I could “have” someone like that.
As Anita was getting her coat and putting it on he walked by (actually she was blocking his way). He told me his name and asked me mine. I said, “Damiella” and repeated his name, “Berlin?”
He said, “Berlin” (or something like that) then “see you around.”
When Anita and I got outside we walked behind him for a block and she pointed out that he seemed to just float down the sidewalk, he moved so quickly and gracefully. He sort of reminds me of Zillah, from Lost Souls. There was something very vampiric about him… his seductiveness, really. It was sort of surreal—he is what inspires me to come up with my most memorable/intriguing story characters.
[I haven’t read Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls in twenty years, but when I looked up the character—described as androgynous, slender, incredibly beautiful, but also menacing—and then found fan art depicting him, I guess I can see why I made the comparison. And it wouldn’t be for a year or two, but “Berlin” would end up being a character in a future short story.]
I have not even mentioned Clamp’s performance. Well, they had technical problems at first, and then they were ok. They definitely have potential, I’ll say that. Oh and Chad told me tonight that he and Rick decided I’m their #1 fan. How sweet.
If I remember correctly, there were maybe twenty people in the audience for their performance. They were really nice guys, though.
I was definitely coming into my own and finding a new boldness as a goth, even if my flirting style was on the childish/passive-aggressive side (hey, at least I didn’t pull guys’ hair and then run away).
There is nothing like the feeling of being somewhere you feel you truly belong, and—as corny as it may sound—I have felt than many times at goth clubs, and not many other places I can think of. Of course, those were on the good nights. There were also nights where I felt self-conscious, lonely, dejected, and anxious (because after all, drama sticks to goths like white on rice), but those feelings could be cancelled out by dancing to the right song or meeting the right guy (even if for a fleeting moment) or that greater sense of being part of the cosmic cobweb of the goth scene.
Let’s talk about “Berlin” for a moment. While it was fun chatting with Lanique (who I never called and vice versa), it was the pale-haired man I met later who I found truly mesmerizing. He was one of the most stunning men I had ever seen. In retrospect, I’m surprised I had the nerve to talk to him at all. I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I’ll reveal two things: 1. My stupid hearing picked up his name incorrectly. 2. Our paths would cross again, more than once.
[Two important things to know going into this post:
1. I was deep into the goth scene and frequented a club called The Bank.April 28, 1996
Went to The Bank last night.
[…Inconsequential stuff about logistics and getting there in time for Switchblade Symphony…]
Then I saw someone about 6 or 8 feet away who looked like Nathan. I kept looking over (and noticed him glancing in my general direction as well) until I realized it was Nathan.
He was with some people, but in any case I decided I would stay right where I was. Less than a minute later he came over and started asking me, “Are you Damiella?”
I gave an affirmative reply and greeted him smilingly (he looked better than I ever remember). He said hi (happily as well) and hugged me (yes hugged me and yes I enjoyed the hug).
I said, “I can’t believe you recognized me with this make-up on” (I had the 3 spikes drawn under each eye). He replied “you look good” in an appreciative voice.
He said that he thought I misunderstood what he said in the store that day (when I confessed) and that when he said it was unfortunate he meant that if he didn’t have someone he was already happy with, he would have done it and that it probably would have been fun.
I got to meet the girlfriend, too (don’t remember her name, must’ve blocked it out). She glared at me and Nathan had to take her hand and put it in mine before she would shake it.
[I still remember this so vividly. I have never been introduced to someone who showed me this much outward hostility before and actually refused to shake my hand. For the record, I had no idea Nathan was in a relationship when I called the talk show, and never would’ve done so if I knew he was. So this girl’s frigid attitude was a bit extreme.]
I always thought if he wanted to get in touch with me he could call or write. Turns out there was a fire in his apartment. I asked the all-important question: was much of your Cure stuff ruined? He said the firemen messed up some of his magazines with the water.So we were chatting about the Cure and he mentioned something about the “Staring at the Sea” video. I said I didn’t have it and he looked at me in disbelief and semi-jokingly asked, “What kind of Cure fan are you?”
Then he started going on about how maybe he could bring it over because he hasn’t seen it in over two or three years and I said, “sure” (though we never made any actual plans nor did we exchange numbers—which is ok, I’ll just call him at work or something).
As for Switchblade Symphony, they were quite good. Tina Root (lead singer) was so smashed but sang well so it only lended a bit of humor to the show.
Another part of the story—I met his sister. Turns out she’s a girl I have regularly seen at The Bank. We talked for about a minute and then I didn’t see her (she left temporarily). But hopefully I’ll see her there again and we’ll be able to chat.
As for Nathan himself, he gave me another hug before leaving and I told him I’d stop by the store.
When I went he wasn’t there (on Monday) so I called him at work and he gave me his number (he’s staying with his parents for the time being). I’ll wait until Thursday to call, not that I’m playing games, I just don’t want to annoy him.
You never forget your first love, or the first guy you tried to bring on the Sally Jesse Raphael show to reveal your secret crush to. It was actually good to run into him at the Bank, because I had only ever seen him on his turf (the record store) whereas I considered the goth club more my turf. And I always made sure to look my spooky best, so I felt more confident than I would have in my day clothes. And it seemed like Nathan noticed, too. Of course, the pesky girlfriend was still around, but you can’t have everything.
I guess it makes sense. Things didn’t work out with Bradley, so it was logical for me to revert to an earlier obsession. And since we bonded over music, I was happy to even embark on any sort of friendship with Nathan. I mean, the whole talk show thing could have been a huge embarrassment, but the fact that he took it in stride and still wanted to get to know me was a great sign—other guys might have taken out a restraining order against me by that point. My attraction to him was always more about his lively and humorous personality than his looks anyway, so I’d be fine with just being friends. Right?
April 25, 1996
Hung out with Dave on Monday. He’s thinking about the Prom (Brad will be here from the 8th to the 22nd. Prom’s the 30th). I had a good time. Then I got home and it was as if I just ran out of cheerfulness. It was awful.
[I mentioned David before. We talked about going to the prom together and I won’t lie, the idea attending the dance an actor who had a starring role on a cable show that had a cult following was pretty appealing. I wasn’t interested in him romantically, I just loved how insane he was and thought we’d have a blast. In the end, he didn’t end up going. I’m still not sure if he was actually expelled from Hunter for setting that fire in the hallway or he left for other reasons, but he didn’t think the school would be cool with him showing up at the Prom. Also, his girlfriend was not entirely comfortable with the idea, even though she knew we were platonic. I only met her a couple of times and she was kind of aloof toward me, but maybe she was suspicious I was trying to steal her man (I wasn’t). She actually became a more successful actress than Dave and is currently playing a supporting role on a Shonda Rhimes show.]
Since then it’s been off and on. I try to tell myself there are many things to look forward to (Switchblade Symphony at the Bank this Saturday, Valve at the Batcave next Saturday, Brad’s visit, college). I try to tell myself I’m just being a brat and have no reason to be depressed. Maybe it’s delayed hurt. My insides finally catching up with my outsides. But I don’t want to be like this. I hate it. It’s such a shitty feeling, a shitty state of mind. I don’t want to be a cliché, doom-and-gloom goth. I’ve got to stop being so self-destructive. I’m doing this to myself. I have to tell myself to just stop.
Or maybe I should have told myself to feel my feelings and stop suppressing the heartache. It was all well and good to recognize the good things in my life, but I thought Brad was the guy for me. Regardless of how unrealistic that dream may have been, it was over, and I hadn’t truly faced the reality of that. I tried to use logic to pull myself out of being depressed when I had just cause to be that way. It was the first time I had ever been in love, and while it ended fairly amicably, it still ended. I had every reason to be sad about it, but I kept resisting and trying to keep the hurt at bay. One way or another, sooner or later, it was going to keep coming out until I properly dealt with it. And I didn’t know it at the time, but it was going to take years to recover from this.
I do recognize the irony of using goth music to cheer me up. Even though at that point I was dying my hair black, the majority of my wardrobe was dark, and most of the music I listened to was gloomy, I continued to resist the goth stereotypes. Yet I was obviously drawn to this subculture because I felt an affinity to the darkness of it, on an aesthetic and emotional level. I mean, if it walks like a goth, talks like a goth, and mopes like a goth, it’s a goth. As much as I tried to smile through my purple lipstick and deny it, I was going through a depression, and while my feelings (suppressed and otherwise) were genuine, I was ticking all the boxes on the goth checklist. Luckily, things were about to get a little bit better for me. Unluckily, another emotional curveball was on the horizon.
[The following was written when I got back from Alaska, after traveling thousands of miles to visit the boy I loved, only to have him break my heart. While the tone here might be deceptively enlightened and optimistic, make no mistake that deep down I was also devastated and bereft.]
April 15, 1996
Of course there is so much more to write about (damn this drowsiness!). I feel as if this trip was one large epiphany. It was definitely life-altering. I will get to that.
The beautiful thing about our friendship is how honest Brad and I can be with each other. And yes, I say friendship; he has a lot of personal things to work out before he can be ready for a relationship. He doesn’t even have any definitive plans for the fall (school, work, etc.). Of course the night we got all this out it was very emotional. But I understand almost too well. He’s not a complete person yet (as hard as that is to believe seeing how lovely he is right now).
[If I remember this terrible night correctly, he left the cabin for a couple of hours one night, a few days before the end of the trip, to talk to a friend. He made up a reason why, but I knew it was to talk about me (if my life was a musical, this is where we’d sing, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Margarita”). On top of my mounting dread, I was uneasy about being left alone in this cabin with no electricity or running water, a quarter of a mile from the road in this tiny town in Alaska. While he was gone, in my clumsy nervousness, I burned myself on an oil lamp. It hurt, badly, but nowhere near as much as it was about to when he returned.]
I told him right before we went to sleep one night: “Find yourself” and he replied something like, “I want to.” I said, truly confident (and I am) “you will.”
One of the things he observed was how I “script” my life, meaning I’ll have all these plans for how things should turn out—things I can’t control most of the time. He, so very wisely, told me not to script my life and right now, sitting in my room in Brooklyn, I feel like I am in a very different frame of mind. I feel like I am more in the present, if that makes any sense. And to me it does, because I’m always saying and thinking how I can’t wait to be in college already and I’m looking so forward to getting out of here. But I am going to try to just diminish that restlessness a bit, enjoy things more on a daily basis.
[Yeah, being in the moment is still something I struggle with today, in between being nostalgic about the past and dreaming of a big, bright future.]
Brad also talked to me about approaching cool/interesting-seeming strangers and just striking up conversations with them (what he did with me) and asking them out for coffee or something. I looked at him with my mouth open when he suggested I do something like that. But it does go along with just going out and living life, instead of waiting for life to come to you. I’m really going to try.
I have already sort of started this “more acute” way of living, based on a suggestion Brad made. I told him about this really cool 8th grader at Hunter, the only person besides me who wears a Cure T-shirt. He’s short, pale, dyes his hair black (I think I saw roots), wears a lot of black, too. Brad’s idea? “Make him a mix tape.”
So I did (a mostly gothic mix). I feel like this kid has so much potential, not to be a Goth necessarily, but to carry on the “legacy of freakishness.” Anyway, I introduced myself, asked his name (Mike) and gave him the tape saying, “I think you’ll like this. If you do, come talk to me, I have more.”
I don’t even know for sure what it is I’m trying to do, play mentor or savior to this boy, who knows. Hopefully something interesting and positive will come of it.
[I’m pretty sure nothing came of it. He thanked me for the mix tape, but I think that was about it. Who knows, maybe it was a nice memory of his Hunter experience swimming against the current of normal while surviving the school’s hyper-competitive tides.]
Let’s see, what other details of the trip do I want to remember. Well, the last few days of my stay we ran out of water and we needed to do the dishes so he gave me this big metallic bowl and I got us snow, that he melted on the woodstove. He made his famous baked ziti with spinach and mushrooms and it was the best ziti I ever had.
[And the day after we “broke up” (since it’s hard to qualify our intense romantic correspondence as dating, per se) I remember standing in the kitchen as he heated the leftovers and trying not cry, and failing, and barely being able to eat with that big lump in my throat.]
We played Scrabble. That was fun. We would play up in the loft and once Brad asked me to bring up the dictionary and some cookies so I grabbed a big book and when I got up there and dumped it on a pillow, he started laughing hysterically. I didn’t understand why until I looked down and saw it was a book on World War II! How silly of me. I laughed so much on this trip.
[If I’m going to be completely honest, I laughed so hard when that happened, I actually peed a little.]
The drive back up to Anchorage was mostly great fun, too. We put on Achtung Baby and sang along really loudly to it. Then in Anchorage (which is pretty ugly) we went to this amazingly terrific music store called “Mammoth Music” where I’ve never seen a more impressive Goth/Industrial section.
I knew I was going to cry when I left. I was standing outside getting my suitcase checked in, not saying anything and Brad lit a clove.
[One of the gifts I brought for Brad was a tin of unfiltered clove cigarettes, and I tried one when I was in Alaska. And when I returned to New York, I kept smoking them (though I switched to filtered). And continued to do so for years, like the good goth girl that I was.]
He asked me why I’m being so quiet then tapped me on the head with his lighter and said, ‘that’s life” or something similar to what Morrissey said to that silent fan of his. Well, just as the girl Moz said that to did, I started crying. It kind of caught Brad unexpectedly. He was really nice about trying to keep the conversation going while we were sitting at the gate. And when it was time for me to go we hugged each other tightly and he said, “thanks so much for coming.” I said, “thanks for having me” and he replied, “of course” (something he says a lot instead of “you’re welcome”).
So for now we’re back to E-mail. But he’ll be back soon and we’ll have so much fun exploring the Village, going to The Bank, and doing all sorts of neat things a big chaotic city such as this one has to offer.
My biggest hope is that he’ll be here in time for the prom and will be willing to accompany me. We could get all gothed out and have a ball.
But I won’t script it. I’ll just hope for it.
Except that my version of “hoping” came with a hell of a lot of specific scenes with stage direction and dialogue. Which rarely played out in reality the way they did in my head.
While I may have tried to deflect or sugarcoat my feelings about what happened on the trip, there’s no question that I was devastatingly hurting, more so than I had ever been in my life. Things did get physical a couple of nights that we spent up in that loft together, but there was still something that felt off and distant about him.
I remember listening to U2’s song “Acrobat” in the days/weeks that followed and it trying to get strength from its “don’t let the bastards grind you down” refrain. It was a confusing, awful state to be in, as much as I tried to focus on the positive aspects of the trip. But despite being let down romantically, I was determined to hold on to the friendship. I remember telling Brad that I needed him to get over him. After having such a magical correspondence and many fun moments during the trip itself, I still needed him in my life, even if we weren’t going to have the fairy tale ending I had originally hoped for. And yes, as much as I was trying not to script my life, a large part of me hoped that once he got his life together, we’d have another chance at things and he might be ready for a relationship.
So yeah, I was nursing a broken heart, but also in denial about it. And things were about to get even worse…
April 8, 1996
My right hand is sort of jittery, most likely from the Almond Joy latte I’m drinking. I’m writing this from a coffee shop in Alaska. It’s Monday so I’ve been in Eagleton* for a while now. Hm, I can’t even think of where to begin.
The plane got into Anchorage at around 12:20AM and Bradley was there at the gate looking more beautiful than I remembered. It took a while to get my suitcase and find our way out of the airport. Then there were all these presents he hid around the inside of the car for me. He gave me two books (one of which was Poppy Z. Brite’s Wormwood), a cute little black flashlight, a tin of cloves and something else that has to be one of the best presents I ever got.
[Before we get to this magical gift, a note on our face-to-face meeting. I remember the long plane ride from New York, and how about 45 minutes before we landed, I swapped my glasses for contact lenses and put on some make-up to be cute for Bradley. I can even remember what I wore (black jeans and a navy long-sleeved top). My nervousness escalated to the point where everything felt numb. When he greeted me at the gate, we hugged. I think it was a short hug. It definitely wasn’t an epic oh-my-god-let’s-get-married-tomorrow hug. For now, let’s chalk it up to the late hour and travel exaustion. We had a four hour drive ahead of us to Eagleton where he lived.
But back to the presents. He was initially going to hide them along the road, then realized how impossible it would be to find them in the dark (and snow) on the drive back. Here’s the story of that last gift, hidden under the passenger seat.]
He asked me over E-mail what I would put into a cookie, if I could put anything into it. I said cloves, chocolate, powdered sugar (because it makes me smile) and would want the cookie to be star-shaped. So in the glove compartment was a box (a wooden one that he painted himself) filled with cookies. The very ones that I described as my ideal cookie. And they tasted wonderful too (even if they had been crap I would have been touched by the very sentiment).
[To be perfectly frank (and a little lame), my obsession with cloves came from catching whiffs of people smoking them in goth clubs all the time. It was one of my favorite smells in the world, though what would possess me to include it in a cookie is still beyond me.]
The drive to Eagleton was certainly noteworthy. First, we got pulled over for speeding (Brad turns to me saying he was only doing 60 when the cop caught him at 75). After being reassured that this was an extremely rare occurrence (his first speeding ticket, I think) and that he was a very good driver, we kept going.
It was snowing very hard (coming right at us, giving me the illusion of traveling through space at high speed). To briefly sum up the events, we skidded off the road. Probably the most scared I’ve ever been, a shocked denial coursed through me when it happened. Brad turned off the ignition, asked if I was alright and hugged me. It does not end there—it happened again a little while later—even more terrifying this time. He was so apologetic (a bit angry too, because he insisted this was not an accurate example of how he drives). The rest of the ride was fine, good conversation, little music (too distracting in those conditions).
[To this day, this is probably the closest I have come to dying.
We were driving on a mountain road. There was a lot of black ice. If the snowfall outside wasn’t a blizzard, it was pretty damn close to it.
That first skid was bad, but the second could’ve been the end. The car fishtailed and it went down down down an incline. It was such a steep descent, I expected the car to start flipping at any second. I thought of the Guns N’ Roses video where Slash’s hot model girlfriend is fighting with him in a moving car and sharply turns the wheel, sending them over a cliff. I thought, “I’m only 18 years old, I can’t really die now!” And I really didn’t want to die with my last living thoughts being of a Guns N’ Roses video.
But my fear wasn’t far off. When the car came to a stop after that second skid, all I could see ahead of me was snow and darkness. There may have been some trees off to the side. Had it been light out, I would’ve seen we came to a stop less than a foot off the edge of a cliff. (Bradley didn’t share this fun fact with me until much, much later.)]
Ok, I feel like I’m putting in all these irrelevant details, so I’ll talk about the big ones. The cabin, for instance. His brother built it (!) and it’s very small and warm and cozy. There’s just one room with a loft upstairs. A most comfortable loft, too.
[Yes, why delve into “irrelevant details” like, you know, nearly being killed, when I can share vague descriptions about a cabin. Why bother with other pesky specifics about the place, such as its lack of running water and electricity. Or the outhouse, which was the reason one of my gifts was a flashlight. Or the view of snow-covered volcanoes from the picture window that took up nearly an entire wall of the cabin.]
We got to the cabin at around 6:00AM and didn’t leave the loft until about 7:00PM (we were sleeping, talking, lounging around). Went to the Washboard for showers then drove around a bit so Bradley could show me the town.
Most of the last few days have been spent in the cabin (it’s so easy to just stay there because it’s ¼ mile trudge through the snow to get to the car). We’ve talked endlessly (I’ve never laughed so much in my life). Um. I’ll stop here for now.
I won’t stop here. I left out one major aspect of the trip in this entry. Despite all the laughter and great conversation, there was a strange energy between us. A distinct lack of the romantic connection we had created over the previous months through all those letters, phone calls and “E-mails.” I tried to rationalize it as Bradley not wanting to make me uncomfortable by putting the moves on me, but he should’ve known those moves would’ve been welcome. The fact that he hadn’t touched me aside from chaste hugging bothered me, as much as I tried to enjoy the rest of the trip.
I didn’t want to believe that scary near-death ride from the airport was a bad omen. Or the fact that there’s a special word for the time of year I chose to visit Alaska, when the snow turns to mud: “breakup.”
*Not actual name of town.
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.