Although I’ve been posting here less lately, mostly because my life is boring, one of the benefits of having this website around for six years now is that the majority of my life is chronicled online. Little things that might have been forgotten by even me otherwise live on within Jux. Occasionally a plow through the depths of the soil of years will turn up a new juicy nugget to look at and go ‘huh.’ Due to my rambling, archival nature I’ve also felt the need to write down a great number of life stories, the better for future generations to know my greatness. For however many dozens of told I’ve told there are hundreds that remain only in my head, but a lot of the important ones are here.
Today a strange sequence of events made me realize that a particular story had never been told. And I think it should be. And, because I don’t think it makes much sense without context, and because I’ve barely written lately, I’m going to go out of my way to give you the full story of why this particular memory is worth writing down.
Rather than listen to my iPod at work today I loaded up Slacker radio on my BlackBerry to test it out. Somewhere down the Rock Hits station chain the song “Come Down” by Bush came on. Like most people, I associate songs with things, and this song has a particular association. I rarely hear this song anymore, despite it being in my music library, so I simply noted it and waited for the next song to come on. On the drive home Come Down came on again, this time on the station formerly known as SquiZZ. At that point I started thinking about writing this article. When it came on again, this time on the station formerly known as Lucy, I pretty much gave in to fate.
The memory associated with the song Come Down is the most apt one possible, as it’s a memory of a time when my life changed for the better in a subtle but powerful way, and in that moment I really didn’t want to ever leave it again. Let me tell you what happened, and why it still somewhat matters to me.
We’d all gathered to play Mage, and the game had just ended for the night. I was sitting in the window-nook section of Scott’s room, where Ryann had pulled me aside. For privacy she’d cranked up Scott’s stereo, which just happened to have Sixteen Stone playing on it at the time. Across the gigantic room Scott’s dog Lucy was busy molesting April. Propped up against the big easy chair in the corner (which he still has) with Ryann sitting next to me, she told me she ‘liked’ me. In that way. And as she talked about it, the song Come Down was blaring at deafness level from the stereo.
Such a simple thing really, especially in retrospect. But you have to realize where I was at the time. I’d been put down, literally laughed at, for years at this point about how un-dateable I was. And I mean literally in the literal sense (thanks, Amber, Amy, and anyone else who was a cunt). By the summer of 2000 I’d convinced myself in no small way that I was done. I didn’t fight it anymore, I didn’t even try. The final straw, although through no fault of her own, had come by way of Rebecca. For years, after the initial breaking of my confidence, I had retreated into myself after one of my numerous rejections, leaving whatever friendship I had with the person behind in the process. Notable examples: Lesley, Rachel.
With Rebecca I tried something different. I stuck around and hung out with her, and soon we were good friends. And, because I was an idiot, which is something a theme here, I asked her again: September 9, 1999. And for the second time, I decided I didn’t care, and stuck around. And soon we were best friends. And on February 14, 2000, I asked her if anything had changed. It had not. At all.
The side effect of this was that whatever part of my brain controlled ‘hope’ and ‘confidence’ when it came to women in a romantic sense essentially packed its bags and went to the Virgin Islands (hah!) to wait out the long winter. In the deepest, dankest, stupidest part of my head, where the eldritch horrors of my mind dwellt in their realm of chaos, the thoughts struck out at me: Rebecca understood me, she had seen everything I had to give as a person at the time. And there was nothing. Ergo, there was nothing within me of value in that arena. The false syllogism went that if I couldn’t convince Rebecca of all people to even give me a chance, what good would trying with someone else do me? I was somewhat damaged, it seemed; an excellent confidant, a good friend, but at the end of the day, not someone anyone wanted.
Stupid? Yes. I told you that was a theme.
By the summer of 2000 it had been two years since I’d even paid much attention to anyone other than Rebecca, which is completely crazy in retrospect. When I first started hanging around Ryann and April, I definitely gave the former a thought, but when the latter convinced me to ask her to prom because she wanted to go and she turned me down, I just added that notch to my list of emotional scars and terrible mistakes and wrote off Ryann too. And, to my credit, did not stop being friends with her. I didn’t run.
So convinced was I of my uselessness that I deliberately ignored all the signs of what was to come that lead up to that fateful night in June in Scott’s room. As observant as I was, all of the signs that I picked up on that made me think “Hey, Ryann might like me!” were immediately shut down by the part of my brain that was convinced that such a thing was entirely impossible. When she took me to April’s back porch the week before and chickened out at the last second, her intentions obvious to even me, I still managed to convince myself that I was somehow wrong. Lord forbid she had carried through with her original idea to tell me through Ninja Mail because her character was going to fall in love with mine; had that happened I probably would have assumed it was a rather cruel prank and gotten angry. In fact, I spent some amount of time, listening to her in that corner, couching all of my answers just in case it was a prank. This was my mindset.
So what the song Come Down represents to me is a link to that memory. Because once she told me how she felt, a whole part of my world was suddenly opened up for the first time. That may sound melodramatic, but that’s really what it felt like at the time, and even now. From that point on I knew it was at least possible for me to find what I was looking for in life. And even now, almost nine years later, I still have that.
There have been quite a few ups and downs since then, but I’ve never again hit that point where better days felt impossible. And for that, whether she remembers it or not, I have Ryann to thank. I doubt it looms large or important for anyone else (for obvious reasons), but for me, I can still remember how it felt when I finally let it sink in that maybe I wasn’t worthless, hopeless, in that one particular realm. Whenever I start to feel those dark crawling horrors in the back of my head start to work I can think back to that feeling, and to all of the other days since, and push them back. From that point forward, at least I had memories.
And that’s what Come Down means to me when I hear it. A slightly bittersweet memory of one of the better days of my life, shared with a person long gone, but not entirely forgotten. The most important gift of all from her, and from all of those who followed her in one way or another: knowing that I could connect with someone in that way, however briefly, however fleeting.
And now, immortalized here.