“Faster than the speed of sound. Faster than we thought we’d go, beneath the sound of hope.”
For the bulk of the past year, I enjoyed getting to work an hour before everyone else. Often, I’d be the first in the building- the motion lights of the hallways clicking to life upon my arrival. It felt important to settle into work. Wake myself up fully from the shit sleep I had gotten the night before. As I age, my brain seems to take longer and longer to heat up- like one of those old IBM computers, with the turbo button on the yellowing plastic shell, that would only display green type on a black screen. Back when computers held mysteries and nerds were the only priestly caste who could access them. Now computers are vehicles for advertisements and nerds are the consumers happiest about it.
I enjoyed getting to work early because the roads were empty and I could speed. The highway I’d choose was wonderfully twisted, lined with trees, and toward the end of the school year my backdrop would become a gorgeous sunrise. It felt like playing Outrun, and just the idea that a wrong move could flip my Honda Accord (I chose the “sports model”) and send it bouncing across the road made me feel alive.
What was the only risk embedded in my daily routine was cut short by a speeding ticket. The officer was polite and reduced my seventy-eight in a fifty-five to a seventy-five- citing major differences in consequence. I appreciated that. I plead guilty by mail, and got a reasonably prompt reply that my guilty plea was rejected. A court date was to be determined.
But I wouldn’t get to work early to do actual work- it was genuinely about swimming through lanes to cut-off the guy doing sixty-five in the left. Send him a message about my superiority. Maybe an intervention of sorts, a message that he needs to up his game to the point of being fucking competitive in a world that will eat anything less than alive. Feel the torque of your goddamn pick-up and become who you are.
I’d get to work and watch old MTV videos on YouTube. Stuff you couldn’t have appreciated upon initial airing. When I got around to “1979,” I found myself watching it on repeat, as my eyes would well with tears, for the rest of the year.
There’s a complexity to adolescence that becomes forgotten in adulthood. Like the ability to truly fall in love, once it’s lost, it’s gone forever. People who shit on adolescence- who mock those who miss high school the most, who swear they’d never go back while laughing at the cynicism they’ve developed over the years like mold on forgotten jelly- are completely dead inside and are to be avoided, because, if you’re so far gone that you can’t remember a time more lofty and wistful… you may as well give yourself over to the system entirely, work your bullshit job until you’re dead, and, if you’re a woman, get pounded out by every shithead with a decent opener on Plenty of Fish until you’re too old for that too. Most men don’t have that luxury.
If you do have fond memories of adolescence, you’ll end up doing all that just the same, but at least you’re not an asshole.
Adolescence is the intersection of childhood and adulthood. Childhood isn’t terribly interesting, even when romanticized, and adulthood is like a sitcom that’s been running for infinite seasons too long- every year becomes a rehash of the same- everything devolved to parody, where Kramer and George are building a rocket ship out of couch cushions because George got caught masturbating at the library.
The manifestation of sexuality is what makes the human experience interesting, but too much sexuality gets old quickly. There is nothing romantic about a twenty-two year old trying to fuck everything that moves- in another time, in another place, that energy could have been harnessed to build bridges and craft beauty, but in hell we spill fluid on hormonally altered women and consider that success.
But there’s a beauty to the emerging sexuality of adolescence. Taking a closer look at the pool scene in the “1979” video, we find the play and exploration of childhood, as a boy and girl leave a house-party to hop the fence of a neighbor and swim in their in-ground pool with freedom and ease, before a fleeting moment of eye-contact becomes a welcome kiss- we have a moment where the girl smiles with elation- and, as if this was too much, too soon- the characters are next seen throwing patio furniture into the pool; the kind of aimless destruction associated with the boredom of suburbia.
There’s a greater depth of meaning and reality to that kiss than every OkCupid date you’ve ever been on. In a perfect world, they’ll marry and share variations of that first kiss for the rest of their lives- taking the form of spending the first night in their new house, giving the first bath to their newborn daughter, the disastrous first Thanksgiving they host- everything will carry the newness of that kiss, and for a lifetime, they’ll never fully step out of that moment.
And I’d be lying to you if I told you that my eyes weren’t welling with tears just now, dear reader, as I type this, because I know we live in hell- and the reality is more likely that they’ll be chasing ghosts forever.