The Good Years: 16
I got laid.
That's pretty much the extent of it, and it didn't come easily, or cheap. 16 was also the year that switch tripped in my head, and though I'd later learn to navigate around it, my world undoubtably got a little darker, a little heavier, a little..funkier. But I am not going to make the mistake I did with the last post about being 12, getting bogged down in "stinkin' thinkin'." No, sir, this is going to be a goddamn happy mutherfucking post.
At 16 rock 'n' roll started to mean something to me, and since it has been a lifetime companion, that cannot be understated. Springsteen in particular offered me a promise of something better. When you live in a small farm town, are the weirdo eating the proverbial paste with the bowl haircut, hearing "It's a town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win" for the first time is your Breakfast Club walking-across-the-football field, fist in the air, Molly Ringwold's stank still on your finger moment. The turnpike just over the hill that leads out of this town to...where? A better fucking place. Because you've read about it. Maybe. But you've seen it in movies, that's for sure. And you've heard stories about it. You own a goddamn TV, have seen articles in magazines. There are people living...better...than this. Or maybe not. Because one day you will find that the problem with running is the ol' "no matter where you go, there you are." But at 16? No, man, that's James Dean shit. James Dean, the reason I still walk slightly hunched over and crooked, because when I saw that cockeyed tormented outcast sonofabitch in East of Eden in Mr. Brittingham's Film Appreciation class ("They seriously have a class where you can watch movies? Fuck yea, I'm taking it!"), I wallpapered my walls with his posters and affected his every mannerism, curling my shoulders and only peeking up through the tops of my eyelids to mumble.
A fringe element, you start scouring the cultural junkyards and collecting the shiny scraps you'll need to make it in, or out of, this place. I found the Boss, and Pink Floyd, and James Dean, and learned to embrace the one thing I could do: art.
I wanted to be an athlete. My brother Josh was an athlete. And popular. He was my younger brother but was bigger, stronger, and more well liked than I, especially by our father. I couldn't compete with that. So I went the other direction, withdrew, started a band, tried to become...smarter. Not "book" smart, at least not yet. I wanted to "figure it all out," ask the big game hunting questions, so even though I didn't read much, I decided I'd be a writer, and so I wrote terrible poetry, culling what I could from pop song lyrics and the school assignments, misreadings from Shakespeare or random, single lines that sounded good to my ear, and I'd throw them together in sprawling 40+ pages poems about death that literally said nothing. Not that there wasn't some worth in them, mostly an ear for language, I suppose. Or rather, just the fact that I cared to try and submitted creative writing assignments made English teachers at Berlin High like Ms. Virosteck encourage, citing, and I quote, "a fine flair for writing," a compliment I remember since it was the first time anyone told me I was good at something scholastic.
And, yeah, I got laid. My friend Shawn had a girlfriend. I hung around with these three guys, Shawn, Bob, and Bill, and for a few months we did everything together. Y'know, it was The Boys. It was the first time I'd been a part of a group like that. I'd played team sports, but not being as good as the rest painted me an outsider there. Here, we just hung out, drove around town, listened to music, laughed, felt like bad kids causing trouble because we threw stuff at mailboxes once in a while. Instead of walking like a freak around my hometown on Friday nights waiting to be offered rides back home, I actually had plans, something to do, parties to go to, girls to talk to. But I wasn't so good at talking to girls. So when Shawn broke up with his girlfriend and she kissed me, well, I threw those boys aside to get laid. At the time, it seemed like a good idea.