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…
I got home and listened to the message Mr. Laurie left:
“Damiella, we have a problem. I spoke to Nathan and now he says he can’t do the show…” Major blow.
Called the show this morning to find out why. Two reasons:
1) He couldn’t get off work (probably the excuse he gave to strengthen:
2) He’s “sort of seeing someone” and at first she had no problem with him being on the show but then it started to bother her. Of course Nathan still wanted to know who it was but could not be told. This is the most interesting part. At one point Mr. Laurie put him on hold and got back early hearing him say to another man: “What about that girl who comes into store? The one who just dyed her hair black…?” So at least he did suspect me, no not at least, I’ve been hinting.
For some reason I was really upset. It was probably—yeah, “probably”—the “sort of seeing someone” part. I left school at 10:00 and began walking to the Village, listening to the Cure’s 17 Seconds and feeling very numb in the unhappiest way. But I made it to Barnes & Noble on Astor Place and spent 4 ½ hours there (skipping Poets House and Sociology) trying to cheer myself up by reading Dave Barry books (it made me laugh as I read it, but when I stopped I barely felt better).
I still remember this quite well. Hunter College High School was on the Upper East Side, and Astor Place all the way downtown, so that was a good 4+ mile walk. I know for a fact that I was wearing one of my pairs of Doc Marten combat boots, because I think I might have written a poem incorporating my footwear into the disappointment. Maybe that makes up for my skipping out on my volunteer shift at the poetry library Poets House? Maybe not.
And being the good goth that I was, of course The Cure was my soundtrack. I must have listened to that album four or five times consecutively, on my Walkman (it wasn’t until college that I upgraded that particular cassette to CD). And even though The Cure’s fourth album, Pornography, is widely held as their most depressing, it was Seventeen Seconds that resonated with me more, because of the lyrics to “M” which begin:
Sing me a line from your favorite song
Twist and turn
But you’re trapped in the light
All the directions were wrong
You’ll fall in love with somebody else
Preach it, Reverend Smith.
The truth is, things worked out the best possible way they could. I think my dream on Monday night contributed to the sadness. I dreamt that Nathan showed me these two Joy Division stamps but the photos were the most heartbreaking things and just as I needed to be consoled for being so upset by them (I don’t know why the stamps upset me so much. The melancholy photos, Ian’s suicide, etc. It made sense then) he got up and left. But not just because he needed to do something, he made a point of leaving me (on purpose). Then the next day I remember waiting for him to come back to me, and I knew I was waiting in vain, but hoped anyway. It was the saddest dream I ever had and as I was walking in the Village, every once in a while I would get that same feeling, that maybe I’ll run into him, knowing that I wouldn’t.
I used to be really into dream interpretation and even owned a dream dictionary back in the day, but (un)surprisingly, there was no entry explaining the meaning of dreams about Joy Division stamps. Go figure.
Sadness over not being on a cheesy talk show aside, I have no idea why I would have wanted to run into Nathan that day, except to see his face full of wistfulness as he realized that he wanted to be with me instead of Miss “Sort-of-Seeing-Someone.” Ok yeah, I guess that’s a reason.
But I was trying to talk about the good of this. The obvious great thing is that I wasn’t rejected on national television. And I know he’s “sort of seeing someone.” And the very best thing is that he still doesn’t know who it is. I hope this curiosity really eats away at him. I’m going to stop by the store on Wednesday (at this point it would seem suspicious if I didn’t) and do the best acting job of my life. When he asks (if) I will of course deny, but be sure to get in something like, “but if it was me, I wouldn’t tell you” (something less obvious, though).
Let’s see, I was already a prime suspect considering what that show producer overheard. Throw in my bad acting plus my lack of any tact or subtlety? What could possibly go wrong!
I can’t say this is heartbreak, because I don’t feel any actual serious pain (like when I listen to “Lovesong”). It’s more as if my heart was shot with novacaine. It’s just numb. But I’m numb in a really bad way. At least I haven’t ruined the whole thing for myself and there is still hope. But there’s also the terrible numbness.
I also can’t say this was heartbreak, because that usually requires more of a relationship with the other person than buying Cure postcards in their place of business once or twice a month and chitchatting about music. I wish I could tell my teenage self to pretend that it is ruined, to stop having hope something romantic would happen with Nathan. I wish I could also give my younger self a mild spoiler and let her know that something far more magical and romantic was right around the corner…
May 15th, 1990
Sometimes when I have a lot on my mind, I write a letter and it usually makes me feel better, so here goes:
Lately I have been thinking a lot about us. I thought about our dating, then our break-up and you going out with Emily.
I know that hating you for breaking-up with me was the wrong thing to do and so was trying to break you and Rose up. I did the wrong thing and I admit it.
The only reason I felt so angry was because I felt that you used me and when you got bored you’d just go on to another girl (which in this case was Carmella Louise, even though she said no when you asked her out.).
I know that we didn’t take any trips to the alter or anything and I’m not even sure we were going steady, you tell me if we were.
I think that during the last few months (and this may sound corny) I have learned and matured quite a lot, because only know am I ready to admit that we really broke-up and I finally except it.
We are going to be graduating very soon and I don’t want us to part being enemies (or whatever we were), so if you just want to be friends than we’ll just be friends.
Next year we’ll be at different schools, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t keep up a friendship.
One more thing, if you got the impression that I hate or resent you, I don’t. Please don’t show this to anyone because this is how I really feel and I don’t want anyone to read it.
Let’s see here… Writing “except” instead of “accept” showed some Freudian slippage in retrospect. And the “trips to the altar” line seems falsely flippant and self-conscious. There’s also the fact that I never actually apologize for trying to break up him and Rose, just admit it was wrong. And okay, okay, I realize how phony and ridiculous it was to try to suggest a friendship after graduation when we never really had one to begin with. Still, I was aiming for closure and resolution on my end, and I like to think I managed to attain it.
Even though I never sent that letter to Mitch, at the very least this shows a nice departure from my evil conniving ways and maybe even a bit (a teeny tiny bit?) of personal growth.
April 4, 1990
I finally figured out a way to get back at sleaze-ball!
What I did was write him an anonymous letter about how I was in love with him and gave him some clue to who I am by giving Elaine’s description (Elaine said it was O.K.).
Today I’ll write him another letter saying to meet me/her in the library, and the whole gang will be there, then Elaine will say “can you come outside with me?” and we will follow her outside then yell “JERK!” and he will be SO embarrassed and humiliated!
Why get mad when you can get mad and even?
Oh, the plotting. Dealing with heartbreak is one thing, but add a dose of betrayal and mere wallowing just isn’t enough. This isn’t to say that I didn’t do my share of moping behind closed doors (there were still plenty of tears), but I needed another outlet for the bad feelings. Planning revenge while nursing a broken heart seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution. And what better revenge than a scheme that could teach sleaze–er, Mitch a lesson about his nefarious womanizing ways? Who wouldn’t wither under such cruel humiliation as being called a jerk, loudly, in public? That would show him!
The elements were in place and we just needed to see if Mitch would take the bait…
Mitchell R is such a two-timing sleaze-ball!!!!! I hate that f#$%ed-up @#$hole!!!
He asked Rose out and she said “Yes!” At first I was furios but then I realized that it was Rose who was getting the raw end of the deal! He’ll just go out with her for a few months (maybe even less!) dump her, and then find some other girl to chase after!!!
She’s going to learn her lesson the hard way!!!
That’s what she said.
I was learning some lessons, too, about how unfortunate it is to date in such close quarters. While I may have made a mistake in assuming things with Mitch were more than they were, working his way through my female friends like that before my body was even cold was pretty tacky.
Oddly enough, at the time I think I was angrier at Mitchell than Rose, which makes less sense to me today. Mitch had already proven himself to be a jerk, but Rose was allegedly a good friend. And yet she blindly agreed to go on a date with Mitch without even asking if it would upset me (which we can see it did, in the most melodramatic way). Either she didn’t realize how utterly heartbroken I was or didn’t care or both.
Oh well. At least I had a good nickname for the boy-who-done-me-wrong. Never mind the fact that it’s up for debate whether he really two-timed me or that our dates. This type of anger and heartache defies all logic.
Luckily, I was about to hatch a plan, one I was sure would bring me vindication against my transgressors…
Today started out as a perfectly normal day but it ended up one of the worst days of my life.
It all started when Chen-chi told me that she knows something about Mitchell that will upset me and she wasn’t supposed to tell me but I dragged it out of her and she told me that Mitchell asked Carmella Louise out but she said “no.” Well I was really upset and disappointed but I made it through lunch and I was talking to my friends on the stairs how I’m going to dump him when we went to the next landing and guess who was at the top? That’s right Mitchell. He probably heard everything. When I got back to the class Sam P gives me a note from Mitchell saying:
I didn’t really give a damn (I was mad enough already!) but he gave me another note saying some shit about liking me but wanting to see other girls and what really pissed me off is at the end it said:
But we could still be friends!!!!!
I’m having mixed feelings about this: part of me is just furious, another part of me is really upset and a small part of me even wants him back! But I guess that is just the way the cookie crumbles.
Now he’s just another name in my book of memories.
Oh, the drama! The race to make that preemptive strike, to be the one who dumps, not gets dumped. The nerve of him for asking another girl out before letting me know where he stand. And what extra nerve to use the biggest cliché in the break-up book by saying we could still be friends! How could he?
In hindsight, I of course realize he lacked the maturity and emotional sophistication to be honest with me, or at least bit more tactful in ending what was a tenuous relationship at best. Let’s review: two months, two dates and zero kisses. Really? Come on, there are Amish kids who probably have steamier relationships than that.
A day or two after the break-up, I took the bracelet Mitch gave me and wrapped it in a note that said: you are a two-timing sleaze-ball! I snuck into the coat room during class and hid the bundle in his jacket. At the end of the day, he tried to give me back the bracelet, but I was a girl of principle and refused to take it.I don’t remember what happened to the stuffed puppy he gave me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it met with an equally dramatic fate.
While I was able to maintain a brave face in school, when I got home I cried and cried and cried. Then I cried some more.