This piece directly follows Warding Off Eclipses with Sex and Music, which chronicles what I thought of as my alt rock music heyday at fourteen.
I was seventeen. Everything had changed. Love Phones went off the air. A country station bought X107. Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys took over all the other radio stations. Even Randyand the neighbors weren’t into music anymore, like music has a switch for some that can be shut off. I wondered if my switch—that feeling I got from music that was like a direct line to the moon and my deeper self—was one of those circular switches for dining room lights, slowly being dimmed.
It was the night of the Battle of the Bands in my high school gym, the one school event that made me feel like I wasn’t an alien. I needed this evening so badly to help crank my light back up.
It wasn’t a school night but still, I wasn’t allowed to go. A girl I barely liked was having a birthday party. She invited three other girls who she was very close with, and me. They were all two or three years younger than me, quiet, interested in cartoons and being cute. They were real girls. With my love of rock music, penchant for cursing and dirty jokes, disinterest in makeup and fashion, and general feelings of being a freak, I never felt comfortable with girls. Mom said I needed to go to the party.
At dinner, I argued for the Battle once again. “What if I just tell Lizzie Jean I can’t make it, and take her out to Friendly’s for ice cream next week?”
“Emilia!” Mom looked up from her meatloaf, angry. “It’s not even about that. You told this girl you’d go to her party, so you will.”
“I’m old enough to make my own decisions!” I yelled. “If she’s that mad and doesn’t want to be my friend, then that’s my consequence.”
“No,” she said again from her usual seat at the head of the table. “I can’t believe how selfish you are!”
Fuck you, I wanted to scream in the shrill, ragey voice she used on me. I scratched my arms angrily and hoped my parents would notice. It was my last attempt to make them understand my urgency.
“Stop doing that!” Mom said between forkfuls of mashed potatoes.
“Well, I’m desperate! I’ve tried everything I can think of! I’ve tried logic. I tried being rational. I cried. I argued. I don’t know what else to do to make you realize how important this is! You don’t even have a clue who I am!”
I might as well have yelled at boulders and expected they’d part ways to let me pass. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve tried,” said Mom. “We’re not allowing you to go. You made a commitment to Elizabeth and it’s not fair to back out. The whole world doesn’t revolve around you.”
I couldn’t help thinking how convenient it was for Mom that this party symbolized everything she wished I was. It felt like her wish for me to be a good, perpetually innocent, normal girl fueled her campaign. It was like she thought if she could force me to go to the party and watch Dirty Dancing, instead of rocking at the Battle, she’d be able to make me into a better version of myself that would be easier for her to love. “Would you act this way if it was graduation?” I asked. “What if it was prom? Even the school musical? This is all about what you think is important and doesn’t take me into consideration at all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. This event isn’t any of those. They’re important.”
“This means a million times more to me than any of that ever could!”
“End of discussion!” Mom screamed. Just as always, everyone else quietly ate their meatloaf and potatoes and didn’t say anything. I always did the same whenever it came their turns.
“This is really great meatloaf,” Dad said, looking over at Mom. His voice sounded hollow, a feeble attempt to smooth everything over with a happy comment about the food. I hated them all.
I thought maybe I should just sneak out. It would be the rock star way to go. But I thought about the cars that came up to me while I walked home, the comments, the flicked cigarettes. That was in the middle of the afternoon while there were other people nearby who I could potentially run to if I had to. At night, by myself, I was afraid they might run me over. And if I snuck out, I could never come back.
I started to break the cardinal rule about crying where Mom could see it, so I ran up the stairs, stomping as loud as possible on every step. I ran straight into the bathroom and slammed the door. I sat on the toilet and sobbed into my arms as my furious frustration grew. A year and a half was all I had left until college, but in my desperate urgency, I didn’t think I could make it. I pounded my fists against my thighs, the only place to turn my anger. There was so much feeling with no outlet that I hit my legs until they were red and sore and my arms were tired. I didn’t have the energy to feel mad anymore, just sad and beaten.
Alone in my room, seven-thirty passed. I knew the gym bleachers were packed with music lovers and the guitars were amping up and I wasn’t there. Something inside me crumbled. I went downstairs and told Mom, in a hollow voice that wasn’t really mine, that I’d go to Lizzie Jean’s party. I didn’t need to look outside on the car ride there. I knew there was no moon. It wasn’t just the Battle of the Bands but the summation of all the dimming over all the years. My switch was off.
This is part of Moonchild, which you can read a full description of under the Personal Essay and Memoir tab. It focuses mainly on my freshman year of college, but starts out with four “eclipse” chapters that set up things from before that time. This excerpt is the last of the eclipses.
- She’s a Girl Rising From a Shell
- Constant Eclipse
- Ocean Reverie
- Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon
- Dusky Waters, Orcas Island
- Alice Cooper Is Not Happy With The State of Rock Music