So Cruel

The year is 1989. I am seventeen-years-old.

I am the front man of my first band, Neoteric Youth. I am performing for all of Conestoga High School. I am wearing a pink REM t-shirt, off-white Dockers, purple Converse All-Stars, a Mickey Mouse wrist watch, and tortoise shell I Ski sunglasses.

I am stoned.

The event is the Conestoga Senior High Lunch Munch. It’s the first warm day in May. The entire school gets a two hour, mid-day break. Four bands perform four songs each in the four corners of the courtyard.

We are seniors, and feeling our impending freedom tug at us like a tide. James, Matt, Jon and I strike out for McDonald’s in Jame’s convertible white VW Beetle. Pulling out of the parking lot, we pass my mother, who is pulling in to watch me perform. She smiles and waves. I wave with my right arm, gasping, “There’s my mom! There’s my mom!” My left hand holds a small wooden bowl and plastic bag secure in my left pocket.

Neoteric Youth performs REM’s “Strange,” and Living Color’s “Open Letter to a Landlord” and “Cult of Personality.” Mid-way through the set, someone lobs a plastic douche applicator towards me. We close with Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Drummer Wako Iwasaki plays an 8-minute drum solo.

There’s a videotape of the whole afternoon somewhere. It captures everything: Matt calling Heather a fat whore, James warning Scott against kissing Jen, Kirsten and Amie hocking senior week t-shirts, Sibby running sound, and me, sweaty, glassy-eyed, and grinning.

I’m not left with much else of that afternoon. I remember the hiss of the p.a. I remember the embarassment of being pelted with that plastic bottle. I remember a hundred, blank underclassmen stares, and the hushed derision of the Metallica crowd. Above all, I remember wishing I could wrap myself in a thick blanket of invisibility. I remember wanting to crawl out of my skin.

After school, as dusk settled on the nearly-empty parking lot, I dropped my lean adolescent frame into the vinyl bucket seats of my Volkswagon Rabbit. I closed me eyes for an instant and wished that I could go to sleep and wake up a whole person.

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