Like buying bitcoin for pennies, the peak time to meet a girl on the Internet came and went before you ever knew what you were losing. Before anyone would have thought to use a term like early adopter– a time so raw that it couldn’t have been confined to language. Before they called it the “wild west.” A time without shape or form.
Forget selfies, rewind past digital cameras- when scanners were still emerging technology, the most pressing question after “ASL” became finding out what she looked like. The description of her body would ignite the imagination. You’d never have guessed that this primitive fumbling would yield more honesty than digital pictures, twenty years later.
I knew I was in over my head when I heard Kristen’s voice. She spoke with the easy confidence of beauty. I always came out of left field. The outsider art of trying to get laid. A puncher’s chance, but give me enough time and I’ll land a clean left hook. There was a crazy charm to this and Kristen picked up on it. She didn’t know what to make of me, but she knew I was unlike anyone she’d ever met. I spoke with the easy confidence of insanity.
“Some wine, some wine, she’ll never decline some wine. She sees her ship is sinking so she’s drinking all the time.”
Things just didn’t go as planned, she told me, her face stained with tears. I knew she was talking about me- I was never part of the plan. She was naked and crying- something that would’ve turned me on but I wanted to be there for her. It just wasn’t in your cards, baby. I thought this was comforting. Confront reality like a stoic- always have a love of fate. The stars brought us together, baby- your life crushed by divorce, my eternal adolescence- if that isn’t a love story, what is?
She swore she didn’t drink at work, but she called this her downward spiral, so I always wondered. She’d get nervous when it was closing time at the liquor store and she was running out of wine. By three in the morning, she’d tell me she loved me.
“And I used to be strong, I used to be tough, and she used to be pretty, but now she’s just pretty fucked up.”
She told me that she never likes the ones who call her pretty. A mistake made in earnest, a fleeting desire for something real- not acting out a teenage role-play with an aging woman over cheap drinks. When the fantasy is all that’s left, the impulse is to get lost in it. You want to forget that you’re an arm above the water and your legs are giving out.
You want this to be what it isn’t- it’s been too long, and you’re too far from the shore. You want to pretend that you’ve lucked out and the prom queen agreed to a Saturday night at the drive-in. That isn’t what this is, and you know it, but it’s more satisfying to spend time pretending rather than going through the motions where you say the right words at the right times, like you’re punching in a Nintendo code, to skip to the end and pump rockets into Mother Brain.
“And now I tell you openly: you have my heart, so don’t hurt me… You’re what I couldn’t find…”
I’ve never experienced anything more ethereal than when our eyes met before homeroom. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but it hung in the air like an eternal sunrise. Nothing I’ve experienced since has matched this feeling- for only a moment, I stood before the face of God. Drug people lament the way it used to be, before things were cut with fillers; watered down; muddled; meaning progressively lost; purity replaced by mayhem; innocent experimentation escalating to candyflipping handfuls.
The first moment you fall in love; the first semester at college, and you’re popping pills at a party- throbbing waves of intensity. And you think you’ll take that feeling with you, like you finally won the ring-toss at a carnival. This is your big pink elephant, and it’s yours forever. You think it’s going to feel that way every time, with every girl, but every time you go back, there are more pieces missing. The fifth time through the haunted house at Adventureland and the plastic skeleton doesn’t have the same resonance. You become the old, recluse pothead rolling his eyes at kids going on stoner adventures- paint chipping away; hardwood floors stained; crabgrass growing through the cracks of the cement.
“Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline.”
I had this incredible moment of content while kissing Sarah in the backseat of my car. “Heroin” was playing on the radio. She had asked me if I thought her breasts were as big as I was expecting- that perhaps her nudes were deceptively angled, the old MySpace trick. She was so nervous I wouldn’t like her that she needed to hold her wine glass with both hands, to prevent spillage. This worsened when I told her to cut the shit with the sterile, first date, getting to know you chit-chat- maybe the last bold move I’d ever make. She had to put the glass down entirely.
Once in my car, she sat up straight, arched her back, and asked again- somewhere between seductive and genuinely worried. I told her that I’d need a closer look and took the straps of her dress off her shoulders. And I had this moment, in the back seat of my car, of true connection. I liked her- dark hair and large breasts. Insecure and she didn’t bother to hide it. A kindred spirit left behind by the dating market, looking for something real. This felt different. This felt special.
The day after Christmas, 2016, and you wondered if what you were experiencing was the beginning of the end.
“You smile like a cartoon, tooth for a tooth; you said that irony was the ‘shackles of youth…’”
If you’re someone who likes getting the ending up front, I’ll spare you the details: the hero of the story is Bill Berry. I had gotten a copy of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People (1992) the week of its release- the cassette was yellow- and immediately fell in love with the record. While it would be years before I could appreciate the clever writing of singer Michael Stipe, the album served as a welcome departure from what I understood as music in the early 1990s. While Axl Rose and Metallica were producing work of equal measure, R.E.M. was my first exposure to the idea that things didn’t always need to rock- R.E.M. wasn’t afraid to give a moment space and allow a song to breath- this gave “Drive” room to brood ominously and “Everybody Hurts” time to emotionally settle. “Nightswimming” is still one of my favorite songs and always manages to make me cry.
“Whatever happened to all this season’s losers of the year? Every time I got to thinking, where’d they disappear?”
There is no place I’d rather be than walking beside a well-groomed front lawn on a suburban street in mid-August. Late afternoon, when the sun is just beginning to set- tired from a long day’s work- making its march toward the kind of warm hue that feels like a soft blanket enveloping your soul. The sound of distant lawn-mowers and the scent of cut grass- really, to properly maintain the admiration and respect of your neighbors, twice per week is ideal for lawn-care. American flags next to empty mailboxes. Dogs barking beside hamburgers on propane grills.
When you’re in eighth grade, suburbia is your canvas. You burn things in the woods and throw eggs at houses. Hop fences and explore backyards. Stand atop a hill overlooking the town below and throw-up a double middle-finger. You let the girls hang out with you and act like it’s this big deal and if they’re not cool enough they’ll have to go home. You probably could have seen their tits had you been more socially adept. You’d be stargazing had there been stars to see.
The waning days of August. After midnight; 2 a.m. about to roll around as inconspicuous as the 80,000th mile on the odometer of an old girl who won’t quit. Not quite ready to bring it down just yet. Miles of quiet. Last man standing. Watching the tide roll in. Everything leading to this feels weighted and opaque- a dull ache only noticeable in moments of stillness. When you’re young, there’s a timelessness to the hours before dawn. They dissipate in the moonlight. The keys to your dad’s old beater will open up the world around you like never before- possibilities expanding beyond the infinite. Everything with a veneer of significance. Sitting at a diner and only ordering coffee. Telling ghost stories on old country roads. Hopping fences and trashing swimming pools. Searchlights in graveyards on Saturday Nights.
Once this is lost, it’s gone for good. You get to an age where late nights just feel late. But you search for little bits and pieces of it. Maybe you drink to forget that the clock is always watching; a grim, invasive specter. If you have anything left to give- any mark left to make- you’re coming up on now or never. This is something an adult can never forget- no matter how many drinks he’s had.
When asked for writing advice, Delicious Tacos likes to keep things simple: get up early, every morning, and write. And there’s something to that- the foundation of writing is interpreting the disorganized thoughts of the writer through language and bringing those ideas to a place of external organization- coming to terms with what is initially termless. This is why keeping a journal is often recommended as a form of therapy. However, this only explains the process of writing- the easiest and most direct way to become a writer– rather than explaining what the goal of a writer should be, something that warrants equal examination.
A good writer is tasked with splitting his veins open with a razor blade and covering his keyboard in blood- a prolonged and terrible ritual. You’ll know a piece is finished when your face is numb, eyes unfocused, and body trembling. You’d think Delicious Tacos would have something like this- the horrible reality of being on the writing grind- considering I learned it from reading his work.
Perhaps the most important lesson for a young girl is on her emerging sexuality- like death and taxes, the biological clock cares not if one is ready for it to strike. When a girl goes through puberty, suddenly making her sexually viable for adult men, not only does her body change but as does the way the world reacts to her. It becomes possible that the same man who had treated her with genuine care and empathy now has his own biologically-driven agenda- complete with duplicitous intentions. Watch a clumsy man talk confidently to a child but fumble nervously with a sexually mature woman- also with puberty comes power.
However, not every lesson can be taught. One learns to be patient only through experience- patience is a lesson that cannot be taught. While you can try to tell a little girl on the cusp of puberty that her world is about to change, drastically, and that this new world comes with its share of dangers, it may be easier for her to process this through the subconscious language of the fairy tale.