I don’t think my parents liked me having the bedroom door closed when Marie was over, but it wasn’t tightly enforced. We closed the door and smiled at each other: there wasn’t anywhere else to sit in my room, just the bed. There was the bed and the stereo, and the two kind of went together.
There is an earnestness when you are young and overcome by hormones and lust. As a parent now, this is the fear of what’s to come next: the stew of sex and drugs and people you can’t trust, coupled with the advent of texting and phantom relationships, online.
For Marie and me, there were handwritten notes passed in class and calls on the home phone. There weren’t machines to record messages even; someone wrote it down.
It was the prom and we had designs on renting a hotel, staying out all night, being grown-ups. My parents pushed back, and said the only way we could sleep together was in a tent, in our back yard.
My English teacher with a lazy eye lent me the tent. He’s the same one who introduced me to The Smiths and the first to really encourage me to write, 1987.
To recount what happened in the tent would be crude, but suffice to say we thought she might be pregnant through some mechanical mishap, and nodded off with our backs to one another in our sleeping bags.
Our next day at the beach was cold and windy. June, but easily winter at the Jersey shore. Something had changed in her overnight, something that couldn’t be presented or discussed. I wondered if she was just hanging in there with me to make it through the prom, and then cut bait.
I got angry and punched the windshield from the inside of the car and it spidered out: the windshield just broke, from my fist. I felt like an action hero and a villain as she shrieked, and when she told her mom, her mom said I was dangerous. And I had to lie to my parents and say I don’t know what happened, for insurance purposes. But I was proud of my own strength, what anger could do.
After we split I would sometimes drive by her house and slow down as I passed. There was the hope I might see her but also the habit of going that route that let me think for a moment we were still together.
And the dead end intersection near our house where we first pulled over to fool around: I would stand there staring at the empty spot, picking at it. And it spawned the first of a series of really bad poetry influenced by Robert Smith of The Cure and Morrissey of The Smiths. And just about this time I read Catcher in the Rye and bought a used cashmere overcoat and tortoise shell frames, started smoking, and the rest is history. Now I had pain.