In case you missed it, yesterday I announced a call for content for 90s nostalgia pieces, prompted by the 25th anniversary of the Nirvana release Nevermind. This is a great way for me to recognize some of my favorite readers and writers by celebrating your stories and writing.
Give it up for Kristen at byebyebeer for boldly submitting the first piece below, and enjoy!
The first time I heard Smashing Pumpkin’s Drown was in the summer of 1992. I’d taken a tug on a bowl of what I thought was pot but soon learned was hashish. It was like climbing into a giant pillowcase. I lost the ability to speak, which was just as well.
Drown felt special and a little dark, or maybe it was the setting. I was 18 then, hanging out at an apartment with older guys who didn’t know I existed in high school and still probably didn’t. They were the stoners who knew all the right people and things to say but graduated years ago and never went off to college. They worked construction jobs during the day and came home to a shitty apartment in a shitty part of town. We’d go out on their roof to smoke and watch the Mexicans carrying on across the street. They’d start out one or two guys leaning over the porch railing and by midnight they were spilling out onto the street, Mariachi music drifting up in garbled keys. It wasn’t a festive atmosphere, exactly. Everything felt like a test, a challenge for me not to blow my cover as an idiot.
The only reason I was there was because my best friend at the time was dating one of the guys, or I guess more like hooking up. My friend had a habit of sleeping with just about every guy I ever liked but she landed this one on her own. Her and I waited tables at the same place and on Friday nights we’d change out of our polyester black pants and button up shirts and she’d drive us over to their shithole apartment with a few bucks for beer. We played a lot of darts and as the night wore on I put more and more holes in their wall and my memory.
One night I tried to drive there from another party but I was by myself and had too much to drink. I was driving my brother’s hand me down boat of a car, a Buick he’d nicknamed Valdez because it leaked oil so bad it required daily transfusions. I made a series of wrong turns and hit a dead end on a narrow street with parked cars on both sides. I panicked and wound up backing into a metal fence that wobbled and clattered. The memory fades after hitting the fence, but I’m pretty sure it spooked me enough that I gave up and went home.
Another time I stayed the night and took up my friend’s guy on his offer to share his bed, but we didn’t do anything. He had a cute button nose and shaggy hair and I just fell asleep cuddling him like a teddy bear. My friend found out later and was super pissed and I actually felt guilty, which is more than I can say about her.
In fall I went back to college and found a new best friend who never slept with any of the boys I liked and I stayed out of her boys’ beds too. We adopted a cat together and snuck him in and out of our dorm room in an old cat carrier that looked like a suitcase with a plexiglass panel on one side. Some Friday nights we’d stick around and walk into town to see a movie. That’s where I saw Singles, which I remember perhaps unfairly, as cheesy but it touched me enough that I bought the soundtrack on CD and wrote my name in sharpie because we were forever getting our music mixed up. Track 13 is Drown but I can’t listen now and so will listen from memory, which is muffled and soft, like listening from the inside of a giant pillow case.
Kristen traded in the hash bowl and pillowcase for more wholesome fun and blogs at byebyebeer.wordpress.com. She lives with her family in southeast PA.