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[May, 1996] Stood Up

[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…]

I couldn't find a good screenshot of The Cure playing Saturday Night Live, so this is a photo of them playing "10:15 Saturday Night" live instead.

I couldn’t find a good screenshot of The Cure playing Saturday Night Live, so this is a photo of them playing “10:15 Saturday Night” live instead.

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.

Mopey Garbo is what you get when you search Google Images for "joyless." I'll take it.

Mopey Garbo is what you get when you search Google Images for “joyless.” I’ll take it.

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.

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[April, 1996] Unexpected Reunion

[Two important things to know going into this post:

1. I was deep into the goth scene and frequented a club called The Bank.

2. I nearly appeared on a talk show to reveal my secret crush on Nathan, who worked in a record store I frequented. It never happened, but I told him it was me, anyway.]

[Not a photo of The Bank, which was much darker, more crowded, and grungier.]

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.

[Nathan is a bigger Cure fan than all of us.]

[Nathan is a bigger Cure fan than all of us.]

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?

[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.

[January, 1996] A Letter from Alaska

November 11, 2014 1 comment

1/31/96

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bet that letter still smells of clove.

 

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

October 16, 2014 3 comments
Yeah, having a secret crush is nowhere near this cute.

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

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

1/24/96

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

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

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

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

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

He said “I thought it was a joke.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“That is just the biggest compliment…”

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

[January, 1996] Unhappy Birthday

Image by © Solus-Veer/Corbis

Image by © Solus-Veer/Corbis

1/22/96

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

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

Wow, crabby much?

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

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

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

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

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