My relationship with the freshman sculptress lasted all of six weeks.
In hindsight, it was pretty clearly doomed from the start. There were too many irreconcilable differences between us, though my raging hormones and the exhilaration of a fresh romance kept me from noticing any ominous portents on the horizon. She was a Boston Latin grad, part of that weird exam school Mafia of extended social relationships and in-jokes that were lost on my suburban bumpkin self. She was devoted to that insular crowd, whom I happened to utterly (and irrationally) despise for being a bunch of pretentious pricks. Things were fine when it was us hanging out, or with a few close friends from the club, but it made any other form of social activity an exercise in futility.
More importantly — and relevant to the current cultural discourse — I was too immature and socially maladjusted to be proper boyfriend material. My…unusual…upbringing didn’t really prepare me for handling that kind of relationship. My primary influences on that front were my old man and Eighties teen movies, neither of which provided adequate guidance when it came to behavioral cues. I didn’t serve me well in my more ambiguous relationships in high school, and the problems were only compounded in the realm of a no-doubts-about-it romantic fling.
One of the reasons I became punk rocker was to reclaim my personal narrative after my family’s dysfunctions became a matter of public display. The problem was that I should’ve used it to work through my problems, rather than burying them behind an affected persona. Even worse, I kept up the pose long enough that it became second nature and it turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy of obnoxious aggression. It was the persona I presented to the world, and thus I felt obligated to live up to it.
Once my relationship with the sculptress passed the “goo-goo eyes” phase, the nastiest parts of me came out in force. If I wasn’t subjecting her to passive-aggressive head games, I was cutting her down in front of her friends, or just failing to put in any effort as a supportive partner. On the few occasions where I did sense I “went too far,” I resorted to grand gestures or surprise gifts to “fix” things.
Yet even though there was a part of me that sensed the relationship was rotting on the vine, I still clung to the delusion that things would somehow work out for us. When she did finally kick me to the curb on the Monday before Thanksgiving break, I was completely floored.
(I was apparently the only one, because Maura confessed she had a crush on me to some mutual friends not long before the break-up and they told her “well, I don’t think they’ll be together much longer.”)
I responded to it as well as an immature idiot would. I begged her to take me back, and when she wouldn’t, I dragged my knuckles along the length of the Science Building’s wall until they bled. (It took months for them to heal, and the last vestiges of the scars didn’t fade until the turn of the millennium.) Then I took the Red Line to Harvard Square, picked up a copy of Machine Gun Etiquette on tape and every issue of Baker Street I could find at Superhero Universe, then took a bus back home to wallow in my misery.
I didn’t return to the campus for two days, and arrived to find almost everyone had already cut out for the long holiday weekend. I’d hoped to run into my pal Leech, a punk rock pal of Tim’s who had glommed onto me after they’d had a falling out over some student film project, but no one had seen him for a few days.
Lacking anything better to do, I called a friend from high school on a pay phone and offered to pick me up at Malden Square so we could talk and grab something to eat. I went to grab my stuff at the Sci-Fi Club office, at which point Leech stumbled in and I lashed out and accused him of abandoning me in my hour of need.
This being one of the rare occasions where the Orange Line actually ran on time, I ended up at Malden Square a half hour ahead of schedule and hiked over to Excalibur to kill some time. There wasn’t anything in particular I was looking for, but I did pick up a copy of the Champions in 3-D sourcebook as a futile attempt at retail therapy.
The book was a guide-slash-adventure supplement covering various alternate universes superheroic characters might stumble into. Of the four written up in extensive detail, three — Nazi World, Horror World, and “Backworld” — were apocalyptically depressing in tone, and did wonders for my prevailing mood. By the time my friend showed up, I was in a state of near total despair. She did her best to cheer me up, but not even the giant phone prop on top of the delivery van of the shitty restaurant we went to could make me crack a smile or a mean-spirited joke.
I sleepwalked my way through my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, excusing myself before dessert to “clear my head” by wandering aimlessly around Woburn Center. My buddy Jeremy spotted me kicking along the side of the road as he was driving by, and asked if I wanted to ride around with him for a while. He took us up to where he used to live in Wilmington, but I spend most of the time quietly staring out the passenger side window while slowly clenching and unclenching my fists.
Things didn’t start to turn around until Black Friday, when I picked up the NES port of Sid Meier’s Pirates at the Burlington Mall and proceeded to lose myself in virtual exploration and privateering for the remainder of the holiday weekend.