So many things have me revisiting my musical past as of late. It’s really kind of odd how so many things converged at once. Sometimes I feel like, for whatever reason, I just really let music slip away for awhile, and over the last month, a switch has flipped and all of a sudden, I’m back.
I think I’m a little too embarrassed to admit one of the things that started all this. I’ll just say this: it was a TV show. And it wasn’t that I loved the music on the show so much as one of the characters reminded me of how I used to feel about music, and that got me listening to CDs again, and trying to rebuild my old music collection by buying a bunch of used CDs, and looking into concerts and shows again. Okay, I’ll give a hint, since it sort of relates to the remainder of the post, this TV show I don’t quite want to name is named after a song.
“I miss just how it feels to wish for someone to call, you know? I miss how special it would make me feel every time a guy I liked talked to me. I can’t really explain the feeling. It’s kinda just like how great it would be every time Andy and I would kid around and play practical jokes on each other, even the times when all those girls came to see him at work. That hurt, but I don’t know, I just feel like I don’t feel anything deeply anymore. My life is just like a dull ache or something. I need some of…something.”
“I have an idea,” Steve says. He looks at me and it suddenly flashes in my mind, exactly what he’s thinking.
“The bushes?” I ask. He nods. I get the CD player going, Steve double checks that Mom and Dad’s car isn’t in the driveway. We hold hands. It’s all about the euphoria of the music.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Everything’s turned to sour milk, it seems. Everything used to have a shine that has somehow disappeared. I mean, look how I used to whine about how no one would ever date me, almost every day of ninth grade.”
“Even though you knew that wasn’t true.”
“Well I believed it at the time. But now, now that I’ve been in a few relationships and found out that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be, I feel like I’m too jaded to even believe in love anymore.” I return to the couch and slouch down, hiding my face.
“That’s sad. But I see what you’re saying. Once I caught my girlfriend cheating on me, I just, well I felt like something died inside of me. I never really thought of it the way you described, but I haven’t even flirted with anyone ever since. Wow.”
“Wow is right,” I say, laughing. “I remember when that whole group of girls used to bug me every day to find out who you liked. They were each convinced they were your one and only because you flirted so much with all of ’em!”
“Yeah.” His smile is wistful. “I miss my girls.”
You can think of this penultimate installment in this story like the title track of an album.
I remain silent, trying to hold back the tears that are starting to form. Never do I cry in front of my brother. But it’s sad, and there’s nothing I can do about anything anymore except watch the tragedies unfold. I resort to looking at the picture again. I sit behind May with a helpless, forlorn look on my face. I was always looking for attention, I think to myself with disgust. Steve on the other hand, looks unusually happy compared with the rest of the group. His smile looks genuine as he taps the floor with his favorite drumstick. It’s been awhile since he’s smiled like that.
“And even senior year was tough,” Steve continues. “Remember how at the beginning of the year, that girl committed suicide? I didn’t really know her, I don’t suppose anyone did, but it still scared the shit out of me that someone in our senior class, some girl who’d been in one of my math classes, would think to kill herself. I mean, it makes you wonder what goes on inside her head, why she would do, what could be so wrong in her life.”
Okay, points time! This title comes from a line of dialogue from a TV show that I have blogged about on this very blog. It is from the last episode of the first season. The conversation that contains this line takes place on a roof.
“I was on the phone with her almost every night during the whole ordeal. She asked me to come home and help her, and I felt really selfish, but I couldn’t. I had my classes and stuff. Sometimes I hate myself for it, especially now that I haven’t heard from her in awhile. Her dad wanted her to get an abortion and she didn’t want to. Then the guy’s parents forbid him to speak to her or see her. They called her up screaming one night, telling her it was all her fault. I just didn’t know what to do when she called me afterward, what to say. I feel like an idiot trying to help her with this stuff and then worrying about, say, my physics grade.”
“I know how you feel,” Steve says, turning to look out the window. “I felt lost that day when I found out about Brad. I mean, I’ve told him everything since I was ten or so, you know? He was always the little angel child, the one everyone thought could do no wrong. His parents, they always said he was just going through a rough time, acting out they called it. But we all thought, especially me, that deep down he had a heart of gold. I mean, he was so sensitive, so concerned about everyone, even when he pretended not to care. I don’t get it. How could he have gotten mixed in all that? The papers said he was dealing coke.”
And the story goes on. Another installment from a story I wrote in 1999. Funny, I just realized I’m working on a fiction/non-fiction/hybrid/story/fantasy/clusterfuck right now that centers almost entirely on a conversation, and so does this story.
“It has, but there’s more to it. Everything’s become more serious.”
“Tell me about it! I mean, everything was a joke way back when, even when you thought it was important. I mean, would you ever have thought of having to see your friend get arrested for drugs?”
“I still can’t believe that happened. What was it, a week before you left that Brad got busted? We never even knew he was dealing.” Again I studied that subtle defiance he wore on his face. It still didn’t seem real.
“I think it was before that, but whatever, yeah I had no idea and the dude was supposed to be my best friend.”
“And then May got pregnant a few months back. I feel like all I do is worry about her. She got kicked out of her house when she told her dad, did I tell you that?”
“No, I didn’t know that. God, what happened to everyone?”
More points if you know where I got this title from. It’s a common expression but I specifically got it from an episode title for a TV show. Said episode, from the first season of said show, aired in 2004. Some great shows started that year.
“Yeah.” I examine my nails. “Do you ever wonder where all that youthful fun went?”
“It’s been a long year away at college.”
“And a cold winter,” I agree.
I think of things, memories, those wonderfully long summer nights we spent rocking out. I don’t need to see the photo to replay the scene. They started a band, the guys did. Everyone except Steve wanted me to sing for them. Steve hated my voice, which was fine because I hated his drumming even more. So we’d argue, then one of us would tell all the others to shut up. Then we’d plug in all the instruments and crank it up. None of them knew how to play and I certainly couldn’t sing, but it was a complete blast. Of course my parents didn’t always enjoy the ambush of sludge, but that didn’t bother us any.
“Is it me, or has everything changed?” he asks quietly, breaking the silence of our thoughts.
Bonus points if you know where this title comes from. The album is from 1994. A previous album from the same band had a (fictional, presumably) story about a girl poisoning her parents to get to a show. Or something like that.
“If you say so.” Steve looks very doubtful, wearing a kind of half frown. He can be an airhead sometimes. I turn back to my photo. Jerry and Sean sit behind Stacy, giving her bunny ears. That was when they thought it would be cool to have blue hair and write band names on their arms. Tattoos they called them. Sometimes they thought it was awesome to walk around with straws in their noses, but luckily they hadn’t done that in the picture. They were constantly together, doing whatever the other did, almost identical. But Jerry had a more adorable face.
“Yes I do say so,” I mumble, my mind turning back to the conversation at hand. “I can’t believe our parents never caught on, even though the bush got all beat up. I also can’t believe none of us ever got hurt. I mean there were pricklers and all, but it was just too much fun to notice.”
“It was all about the euphoria of the music,” he agrees.
So, I knew right away that I wanted to use this picture. I think it might have been this page of the Bleach booklet that gave us the whole crowdsurfing idea. Or at least it inspired the idea that the euphoria of music could make you feel good flinging yourself into things–bushes, drumsets, same diff, right?–and might make you a little invincible. Which, by the way, was a completely valid and sound inference to make. Just for the record.
“Hey, was she the one who suggested the crowdsurfing thing?”
I turn to look at Steve, my train of thought interrupted. “Huh? I’ve never crowdsurfed in my life. I barely even go to shows anymore.”
“Oh!” Giggles erupt from my mouth. “That was so much fun! We’d wait until we could see through the front window that Mom and Dad were watching TV, and then we’d jump into the bushes and pretend we were surfing a crowd. What a zany idea that was. Remember that one time we all jumped together?”
“Well it happened.”
And here, the autobiographical in this fiction becomes obvious. Especially if you’ve read Warding Off Eclipses with Sex and Music. Yeah, I really used to do this “crowdsurfing.” Some people’s kids, I tell ya.
On impulse I get up and walk to the table in the far back corner. It’s covered in old puzzle pieces, love letters, a few books and some dust. Digging through the memories, I pull out a photo. There we are, the seven of us, immortalized in our youthful bliss and trauma. The picture was taken by my parents; they always thought we were such a “cute” bunch of friends.
First I study May, short and spunky with short red hair, sitting as close as she possibly can to Brad, the tallest and oldest of the bunch, wearing a leather jacket and spiked hair. It’s obvious he’s trying to sit apart from the group. He always was too cool to smile for the camera, I think, seeing his calculated look of nonchalance.
Most noticeable in the picture is Stacy, wearing a black band shirt, dyed black hair and an expression that conveys her superiority and her need for attention. She was an enigma to say the least, always in everyone’s face. But we loved her for that. She told it like it was.
Another quick installment from a story from late 1999.