[April, 1996] Going Off Script
[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…