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.
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.
10/22/94“The city’s a fire, a passionate flame
That knows me by name.” – U2
Yesterday I found an e-mail message waiting for me from Julie Wilson, this girl in Nebraska. One of them was a form letter for her ‘zine Heaven or Hell. The other was a letter from her. We’ll probably trade ‘zine issues. I also have myself a new penpal from Australia, Edna. She lives in Tasmania and seems really nice. I returned an FB to her (actually, it was a sheet) and she mailed me a whole bunch of stuff.
I had this dream that I met this girl Mary Salardi (I don’t even write to her but I see her in lots of other FB’s) and told her that when she writes NIN she has to put the second “N” backwards. It was funny.
“I want to fly but my wings have been so denied” – Alice in Chains
I had to include this entry because it mentioned email. In 1994! When computers were still so intimidating and novel and I had my doubts whether I would become an avid user of one (Doogie Howser Diary entries notwithstanding). This was back before Google or Hotmail, when checking for “e-mail messages” was a multi-step process and addresses involved suffixes like “.ny.edu” that I had to write down in order to remember properly. Though it was around this time a new Internet service provider called America Online (later to become AOL) was starting to get adopted by non-luddites.
I still preferred my correspondence to be on paper, in stamped envelopes. Reading a person’s handwriting was so much more personal, and you could write letters anywhere, whereas I had to sit in computer lab to type out emails. Plus, back then something like friendship books (or FB’s) would have been difficult to do via email. In high school I had a friend who would make photocopies of all his letters before mailing them, and I always found it strange that he did so. Considering how uber-nostalgic I am, now I wish I had done the same, at least with some of my letters, if only to see what I left out of the diary.
A word on FB’s for those who didn’t have pen pals back in the day or those who spent more of their lives typing than writing by hand. Back before the worldwide web became ubiquitous, before it was easy to find people with common interests via websites, blogs, message boards, and social media, there were friendship books. Here’s how it worked: One person started the FB by stapling a few small pieces together into a booklet (sometimes a single sheet of paper was used, but usually they were booklets.). Their name and address would go on the cover and could be decorated with various photos/glitter/doodles (I was a fan of borders in funky nail polish colors because they were shiny and bright). There was usually a list of favorite bands, interests, and the types of pen pals being sought. Sort of like snail mail platonic personal ads. The friendship book would gets mailed to a pen pal, who decorated the next page with his/her (usually her) details and then sent it on to a different pen pal. And so on and so forth until person to fill the last page mailed the friendship book back to its owner. Ideally, the book came back with a few potentially interesting new people to write to. You could also start a friendship book for one of your own pen pals as a surprise for them.
I was initially excited to find new U2 fans through Propaganda, but that pen pal circuit was pretty incestuous, so FBs dedicated to the band had a lot of the same names in them after a while. However, there were always a few new folks in the mix, and the less obsessive fans with more varied music taste, had more eclectic FB’s. Once I branched out to more alternative music, the pen pals became even more diverse and interesting.
I wish I kept a few of these friendship books for posterity, because there’s really nothing like them today. They would have been a great time-capsule, of a period before communication became more electronic and disposable.
Saturday, June 11, 1994
Carnival was Wednesday and Holly, Hahn, and I left after the first hour (and I thought even that was too long). We went to the movies and saw “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” It was great. What was even better was when I got home my second letter from Ronin was waiting for me. I was expecting it for a week and a half because Anita got a letter from him (I gave her the address) and we mailed ours around the same time.
In the letter to her he wrote: “I think Damiella is wonderful.” Heh-heh. Well this second letter was so worth waiting for. His first quote was from “All I Want is You” which is going to be my wedding song. Then he wrote that I was very pretty (I sent him a photo) and that he thought I was his other half. At the end of his letter he wrote he thinks he’s found what he’s looking for! Then there is all this little stuff that we have in common (except our “other” music tastes vary) such as our favorite version of “Pride” (the original) and our favorite Doors song (“The Crystal Ship” and I’m not even into them!). We also agreed that Achtung and Zooropa have changed the face of music.
There is a catch. I haven’t gotten a picture of him yet. I don’t want to be shallow but it does matter what he looks like. If he’s plain-looking, no problem. If the photo thing turns out all right and he’s being sincere, I think I’ve also found what I’m looking for even if it’s (he’s) in Scotland. Hey, at least I’ll have one hell of a story to tell the kids. We’ll see.
I got home from Anita’s a while ago. I consider her my closest friend at the moment, we get along so well. This summer we will go (as soon as her parents let her) to Lolapalooza together where one of the headliners will be my second favorite group, Smashing Pumpkins.
The year is almost over. Good, I have more interesting things to do.
[Last entry in Teddy Bear Diary. Quote on inside back cover:
“WHEN YOU’RE 16 YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD—AND SOMETIMES YOU’RE RIGHT.*”]
I remember those nerve-wracking weeks leading up to getting Ronin’s picture. I would look at every guy I passed on the street and think, “if he looks like that, I would be fine with it… if he looks like that, I would be…less fine with it.” I tried to forgive Ronin for any physical flaws he might have ahead of time, tried to remember the connection we quickly established over the course of several letters, which would surely surpass the superficiality of what he looked like. But I did pass quite a few males that didn’t pass my “If he looks like that” test.
Finally, his next letter arrived. I tore into it in the elevator, fishing out the small, passport-photo-sized picture, wondering if I was about to see the face of my soul mate.
I felt like I was on a game show where I picked the wrong curtain and the wah-wah-wahhhhh trumpets sounded announcing my misfortune. When I described him to Anita, the first word I used was “bulky.” It wasn’t just that he was a large guy; I was hardly a waif myself, and have always been forgiving of some extra poundage on male. No, it was his face. Despite having blue eyes, there was something doughy and vacant and unappealing about it. I just wasn’t attracted even a teeny tiny bit to Ronin and no amount of great personality could make up for it.
I couldn’t think of a graceful way to reject him. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t bring myself to write Ronin another letter. It was terrible. I can’t imagine how insulting and upsetting it was to him. He may have hinted some concern in another letter to Anita, but she stopped writing to him too. I still feel a twinge of guilt about the whole thing today.
I hope he eventually did find what he was looking for, because it definitely wasn’t me.
* From an interview with Bono.
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…
I am so worried about you. I heard about you trying to kill yourself by jumping in front of a car or jumping out the window but luckily people could and did stop you from doing it but I guess it was too late to stop you from taking those 11 high blood pressure pills.
But Why? Why did you take those pills.
I know things aren’t going too well with you getting pre-suspended but that was no reason to try to kill yourself. That will never solve any of your problems, it will just increase them.
I really hope that you will be alright and please don’t do anything like that again. You really scared me.
I know you will get better and I know things will get better so just hang in there.
Love, Your very sympathetic and worried good friend,
While I was seriously worried about Chen-chi and her multi-faceted suicide attempt, I wonder if some my concern stems from leftover feelings of guilt at narcing her out on Halloween. I also wonder how I managed to believe so many theories as to how she tried to off herself. A car, a window, and an overdose of high blood pressure pills? Really? Really?
I can look back at the situation with a healthy dose of skepticism and question whether reports of Chen-chi’s suicide attempts were greatly exaggerated–if not completely fabricated. Back then, I didn’t question any of it, probably because I was too busy being a “very sympathetic and worried good friend.” One who never sent this letter or came clean about the Halloween incident.