Thursday, February 28, 2008

Just Before Sonic Youth

My college years were inextricably linked to my high school years in many ways. I went to college in my hometown. Every school break we had, my old friends would come streaming back into town and we would catch up. This usually meant drinking way too much beer at someone's house and then moping around the next day drinking even more coffee, or in Justin's case, whatever he liked to drink for a hangover.

Late one summer, my friend Mike, the one who got U2 tickets for me, urged everyone to go see Sonic Youth with him. In New Haven? I seem to remember seeing them in New Haven twice over the years, the only two times I ever went to Toad's. This was the first time I'd seen them and I was quite excited.

Sonic Youth are The Rolling Stones of the American Underground. They seem to have always been there and so it is quite easy to take them for granted. But turn your thoughts back to the '80's and see just how truly bizarre and unique they are. They covered Madonna, shepherded Nirvana into their spotlight, kept the same lineup for over 20 years, and managed to incorporate the marriage of their two main singer/songwriters Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon into the dynamic of the band.

But this post is about S.C., the girl I dated when I was a senior at South Kingstown High School. She was a year behind me and from the wrong side of the tracks. I use that outdated phrase deliberately because it perfectly encapsulates the differences between us.

There was a wide gap between us culturally. But young love sometimes feeds on these factors. The romance was intensified by the differences in our lives. She had no intention of going to college. I never entertained the notion of not going. She deeply mistrusted her parents but spent a lot of time with them and considered her mother to be her best friend. I trusted my parents implicitly but would never have called them 'friends'. I still wouldn't. They are my parents! I wondered at the fact that she felt constantly betrayed by her 'friends'.

She also had a bit of a 'reputation'. She'd dated an older football player and rumors had gotten around. She had nothing to worry about from me...I could barely put my arm around her without breaking into a sweat. We kissed and petted from fall to spring.

She broke up with me a month before my senior prom. She wrote me a letter and poem that I still have somewhere. In essence, she was reading the writing on the wall. She knew I was going to college. She would be in high school for the next year and then going out into the real world and getting a job. She was letting me go. I was devastated.

But she'd been right. I quickly moved on and dove headlong into college life the next year. Even though I was still in my hometown, I didn't hear anything about her. Our circles were vastly different and her name simply never came up.

I'm sitting in my room listening to Sonic Youth's 'Daydream Nation' in anticipation of the evening entertainment. The phone rings at my folks house. Either I answer it or my mother calls to tell me it was for me.

It was S.C. She wondered if I could come over right then.

It had been at least 2 years since I'd seen her. I was waiting for Mike and Justin to come get me. Instead I found myself speeding out into the woods to her house which held so many memories...sneaking in her bedroom window, having my first cup of tea, parking and making out at The Great Swamp. I was young too but I distinctly remember being in awe of her youth and beauty. Her skin seemed impossible.

These moments flooded me as I approached her driveway. Was she in trouble? Did she want to get back together? In spite of all that had transpired since we'd dated, I could not say for sure that I would turn her down. My feelings for her had not abated in the least. They'd just been abandoned out of necessity.

I walked up the brick to the small house that sat tucked up against the bottom row of trees in a hilly forest. She opened the door and my heart leapt, as usual. In her arms she held a glowing baby girl.

For a moment I had the absurd thought that it was mine even though we broke up over two years ago. Not to mention that we'd never slept together in the first place.

We sat on her couch and reminisced briefly. She'd just wanted me to meet her, she said. She'd worried that I'd heard, that I knew she wasn't married, that I'd judge her like she was so constantly judged in this town. I told her that I was proud of her, that the baby was beautiful. And beautiful she was. I don't remember her name.

Mike and Justin were pissed off that I was late. I could barely speak and told them to back the fuck off. Then I apologized and told them the score.

I don't remember the concert in detail. Thurston Moore shoved a drum stick under the guitar strings and banged on it with another one; Kim Gordon wore a miniskirt and somehow managed to be a pin-up and a renegade all at once; the crowd surged and roared.

Somewhere back in the woods of Rhode Island, a young mother put her baby girl to bed. What had my blessing meant to her?


Anonymous said...

her name, I believe, is Amber

Anonymous said...

Bren - this is jean and i left the above comment! - I am having a hard time posting comments! didn't want you to think some random from your past was anonymously posting...

Brendan O'Malley said...

ok, that is hilarious.