Another day that I would like to put up my words as fiction, but instead, the creative non variety will have to do. It is cold and my hands feel stiff and slow and I am ready to be fast and fleet as fire.
I am reading prompts, perusing memories, and all of a sudden, I think of you.
What makes me special, what makes me real, what makes me me and not some other girl. And some of that is your strange little friendship with me. I was young, fourteen or fifteen. I was in love at the time with Johnny Rzeznik and the Goo Goo Dolls. I had nearly all their albums. I must have picked up Hold Me Up along the way. I remember it started with Iris and that music video which came on VH1 or whatever it was and I found it to be completely compelling. This emotional, desperate man in something of period-style/distressed/punky looking red leather suit (oxblood is my favorite color) trapped in a tower where he views the world through a telescope had all sorts of fodder for my feverish teenage heart. Then, because you do this as a fangirl, I was into their older stuff, when they were this rollicking, searing, self-deprecating punk band that had songs like James Dean which was this melodic moan about “I want to be James Dean / I want to be oversexed and underworked / and look at me I’m such a jerk.” When you’re a teenager, a song like We Are the Normal feels anthemic. They had a really weird name. They were boys, but they weren’t a boy band.
It was a soundtrack to a couple years. They became something important to me. I went and saw them a couple times before they eventually lost their luster somehow. The first GGD show was the first time I’d really stayed out late and been exposed to weed, to live music, to the transcendent experience that it can offer. I bought stickers and put them on my notebooks. I bought magazines for Johnny’s face on the cover, I bought a guitar I attempted to learn how to play, I went online and found fellow fan people.
This was how I found you. You were much older. You were in your thirties, but you never patronized me. I was never in love with you, but I was in love with our friendship. You lived on the East Coast. I sent you emails and talked about my life, openly, playfully, melodramatically, earnestly. You were completely supportive about my writing desires. You talked about being a teacher. You sent me cassette tapes of rare Goo Goo Dolls interviews, the B-sides I didn’t have yet which I played over and over again, I would put in my walkman and go to school with. All of it made me feel better in a time when, I was a teenager…I was an outsider…I was this thing. All of it made me feel connected and alive.
I was young, though. Too young for the sorts of conversations that we were having, really. Not that you were ever inappropriate with me. I’m sure I must have thought something about your attention in that way, but I knew you were married and I knew we were penpals. That was how I saw it. I talked casually about our correspondence to my family. It did make me feel, I suppose, rather cool.
At some point, you let me know that you were cheating on your wife. You wanted advice from me about it. This sage, young person who could ply big thoughts into pretty words. I remember this freaking me out. I remember being hugely disappointed in you. I wish that I hadn’t been as moralistic as I was as a kid. I never saw it that way. The absolutes were just that absolute. It hurt me, but mostly, it weirded me out that you wanted me to keep this secret with you. I know I stopped writing after that. I also know if you and I had been friends now, I would have reacted differently. I don’t know if I should have done something else…I was so naive and just young, but I see now how much I’ve tried to replicate the energy we had together over the years. How much of what I think I need to seek in love, we shared.