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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Glorious sadness

Just a small town girl, livin in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin anywhere
Just a city boy, born and raised in south detroit
He took the midnight train goin anywhere

When I was in college, I had what I thought was a great idea for a short story. I think it was about an abused woman. My boyfriend at the time started yelling at me, "Why can't you write anything happy??" He didn't understand when I said that sadness was more compelling.

I've always been drawn to it. I have that luxury, I suppose, given that I have had a overwhelmingly normal, functional life filled with much happiness. There's a hyperreality to sadness, an idea of, "this is it; this is what it means to really feel."

That must explain why I am obsessed with 80s music. It's desperate and sad, melodies that plaster themselves across a heart and chest that is barely keeping it together. One note away from falling apart. Listening to it summons the feelings, the physicality of it in an instant.

When I was in junior high, I got invited to a slumber party at D's house. I don't know why. Perhaps her mother suggested it. We certainly weren't friends. She was sweet and kind, and popular for those reasons, but she also continually sported a leather jacket from her much older boyfriend (she started dating high school boys when we was in the 5th grade, yet as far as I knew, never suffered any vicious talk behind her back about it). To note that these jackets, the succession of them, were probably Members-Only jackets really puts a damper on how thoroughly bad ass they seemed. For she didn't date the cross country team, the basketball team; she dated the guys who took welding for the express purpose of pouring their creative energies into making water pipes and got caught smoking behind the gym instead of participating in P.E. class. Guys she somehow tamed into watching their language and politely extinguishing their butts when she came around.

This was the girl who invited me to a slumber party. This was the girl about whose parties I'd heard whispered rumors. To say I was rattled and mystified at my invitation is an understatement. I wondered if it was a joke or if she had somehow lost a bet and I was the butt of it.

It was unlike any sleepover I'd ever been to. We got to order pizza, and drink Mountain Dew in her room, making prank calls on her private phone line. Her bedroom walls were plastered with posters of Warrant, Stryker, and Motley Crue. We watched videos on MTV (a channel I had only heard about). D talked knowledgeably about the themes in her favorite song, "Janie's Got a Gun," using words I had never even heard before, and she sighed over Nikki Sixx and Janie Lane.

Then her boyfriend drove past. He and his friends picked us up, and we cruised Main for a while. It was something I knew older kids to do; never imagined I would do it, too. The high school boys blared their hair metal and tolerated us waving our arms out of the windows in the air stream and shrieking.

It was almost too much for my system. Wired on caffeine and newness, the whole evening had a dreamlike quality. It became imperative to cross my arms in front of my chest, holding myself together in an attempt to keep my chest from breaking open and merging with the night. I didn't know how to stop it, how to put on the brakes and regain control out of the heady dizziness that the night became. I didn't want to. I didn't want it to ever end. It was wildly beautiful, desperate, and sad. I couldn't have articulated it then, but I sensed something beyond my experience, beyond my maturity, about the gorgeous tragedy of boys looking for excitement in a dead-end small town, of beautiful, ripening girls, children really, anxiously expanding the boundaries of experience.

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Blogger cilee said...

I love this.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I am pretty sure she did suffer vicious gossip...she at least thought she did, and that is almost as damaging to self confidence.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Lesley said...

I am sad to say she did suffer gossip from the mouths of certain girls in my own class. (Overheard by peon me on occasion in hellish locker rooms) But I don't think anyone escaped much slander from their tongues as it was terrible jr high. And that being said, thanks for creating such a wonderful, daring portrait of it, Ellie. I kept thinking about your post all day yesterday, reveling especially in that last paragrah. It makes all the gossip and cliques of that time almost fade away from my memory.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

the thing about gossip is that its real purpose is to make the person talking feel better about themselves. You know..."SHE is a slut, and therefore, what I did last saturday is not so bad."

That said, of course I have participated in gossip, which I feel bad about. But I'm sure that I will again, in the future. I guess there is a line that gets crossed between talking a situation out, and being mean. But sometimes it's hard to know where that is.

7:59 AM  
Blogger LE said...

Well, color me oblivious. I had no idea. That makes me sad. But I guess that's what happens in junior high and high school.

I think the thing about gossip is even if it's done to make yourself feel better (which I totally participated in during junior high, too), you should still know where the line is. I guess some people just don't care where the line is, though.

I have definitely vented about other people with friends, like about what goes on at school, and I can feel it in my gut when I go too far and am mean about things, versus just needing to process and get out my feelings. It doesn't feel right to me. Icky.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

yeah. Right now I am really frustrated about any number of things. And I don't really have anyone to talk to about it, and it can feel it all building up.

But last week at the brunch at my house, there was a lot of talk behind other women's backs, and I just hated it. I had to leave the room at one point. These are women I barely know, and I kind of don't want their opinions prejudicing me.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

LE, I absolutely love this post, and totally identify with it. Wonderful writing!

3:45 PM  

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