Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Part of you wants to give in to the paranoia. Perhaps you ARE being followed.

That's absurd, of course. What one Earth could possibly cause someone to follow you? Your mind entertains a few tangents: The microfilm stored in your heel since you were a baby. The uncontrolled impulse to love. The heretofore unrecognized magical powers that only you possess - and in that stranger's hand is an envelope calling you to greatness.

None of these seem to make sense in this scenario, though. Since this morning, you've seen this stranger at least four times - once at the Starbucks by your house, once on the train into work, once at the Einstein Brother's Bagels (where once again you order the most unsatisfying sandwich, believing it a healthier option. You'll sit and eat, the sandwich flooding your body with boredom.), and finally once from across the street.

He has seen you, too. You make eye contact as you pass on the crosswalk. He is a large fellow, with places to be. As you near him, the breeze opens his jacket just wide enough to see the letters printed on his tee-shirt:

I am Tuesday.
Do not Fuck with Me.

I've never been much into idol worship. For a while, I counted this a point of pride, seeing myself as too clear eyed to succumb to such fantasy. Those girls weeping at the Beatles, or New Kids on the Block, or Justin Timberlake - or whoever the pop idol du jour might be - had in them a weakness I could not identify in myself.

In high school, there was a squat chipper girl named Rachel in my drama class. Of my acquaintances, she was the most mainstream with her big curly hair and buoyant personality (She was a cheerleader on the Junior Varsity Squad and I think she entered our drama class thinking it was going to be all comedy and musicals.). Though my surly self could never really articulate it, I developed genuine affection for her. She was never mean. She ever acted out of any sort of malice towards anyone.

And she loved New Kids on the Block.

I totally judged her for it, but she could not have cared less. She knew my own tendencies. She recognized that they were indeed a bubblegum band. Rachel did not care. Her love was total and beyond reproach.

One night, I was spending the night at her house (how this happened, I'm unsure. I think we had a speech and debate tournament the next day and it was easier for me to stay at her place. Neither of us would have ever made so bold an invitation to the other. The tournament was a great excuse.)

Her room was plastered with images of her favorite: Donnie Wahlberg. With shirt, without shirt, standing by a wall, leaning at a jaunty angle, laughing with the guys, smoldering for the camera - there he was. There were enough photos in her room to allow her brain to imagine him in three dimensions, her virtual boyfriend.

I think I laughed. She smirked at me.

"You've never been in love have you."

I scoffed. "Please."

"I am. I love him, -j-j-. The first time I saw his face, I was all shaky and everything. I am in love with him. "

Rachel teared up. There was no irony in her voice. And no tragedy, either. She knew there was no chance with him, but she loved him anyway. As her eyes frosted over, something struck a chord. After a minute of silence (which is about as much silence as a 17-year-old girl can bear), I offered:

"I'm in love, too."

Dawn broke over her face. Until that point, I was not human to her.

"Really? Ohmuhgod. Who?!"

"Um...you'll think he's gross. He's no Donnie."

"I don't care, you have to tell me now."

Her fascination was compelling.

"Peter Murphy."

Her forehead scrunched up. "Who is that?"

I had no photos to show her. In my little town, images of Peter Murphy - former lead singer of the alt-goth band Bauhaus - were hard to come by. I pulled a worn tape out of my bag and showed her his posed profile on the front.

When I was a Sophomore in high school, I watched the MTV program "120 Minutes" with Dave Kendall like religion. 'Round where I grew up, MTV was the closest thing we had to alternative culture and, at the very least, one could get a dose of Siouxsie and the Banshees or The Cure (pre- Love Song) .

One night, while clipping my nails in front of the TV, Kendall announced the new video "Cuts You Up" by Murphy, off of his album Deep. This is the first and only time I had experienced the worshipful, quivering love of a distant figure. One I knew I'd never in my life meet, but caused my entire body to freeze. I couldn't breathe. My skin tingled. I was so totally freaked out and turned on, all at the same time.

Peter Murphy is an odd looking dude, to be sure. That made it all the better.

Rachel was a little grossed out by the half picture I showed her, but she was pleased, nonetheless. I never made fun of her Donnie love again.

I had that same tape for years. It have been warped and repaired so many times, it is something of a miracle that it worked at all. A few months ago, my sister's car was stolen...that tape was inside the glove box. The thieves cleaned the car out and the cassette was gone.

When I realized that I would never see that tape again, my heart broke a little.


Jan Smelk said...

Sorry, in advance. This might take a minute.
In tenth grade I felt really a lot about 2 boys. But one of them asked out. We saw "Driving Miss Daisy." He drove a tiny MG convertible that broke down on the regular. It was raining. We broke down on a freeway offramp. I learned how to pop a clutch. And no, not in the sexy way. Although I think knowing how to pop a clutch and driving stick shift have added to my appeal many a time. But I digress. I loved this guy, this boy, this color-blind nerd who is now probably soooo gay, so much I still look back on that first date in the rain with the broken car as one of the best nights of my life. We might have held hands at the movie, but I know for certain we never kissed. Even though we went out for 5 more months and went to prom, we never kissed. And honestly, if I go on too much more, I will still cry from hurt and shame over that fact. I don't know if it was that night or one of the many nights in that tiny MG, but this kid loved Peter Murphy. Way more than he liked me and maybe as much as you loved him. And in "that way." But Cuts You Up was in high rotation on the soundtrack of my life at 15. That, Pictures of You, and This is Where the Story Ends bring me to the heights of nostalgia so easily I can still feel the knot of expectation in my chest.
Will he kiss me?
And people wonder why I was such a slut.

outsion: what JD Fay (the guy) did to my burgeoning sexuality.

S. E. Johnson said...

In order:

No element of any Wahlberg has ever been, nor ever will be, "jaunty."

The Bauhaus cover of "Ziggy Stardust" = reason enough for the existence of covers at all.

"120 Minutes" got me through some of the worst moments of grad school. That's right. Grad school. You're a whippersnapper, and I'm effin' Wilford Brimley.

"Cuts You Up" = the sublime in 90s-musical form.

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