Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Little Debbie, Little Debbie...I'm a comin' on home...

I sat at an ancient wooden school desk, lacquer brown and dirty, stale, names scratched into the surface, "Jake loves Raychael", "Keri and John", crosses and faces and blue block letters. The stripes and deep dark plaids etched into the surface of the smooth rectangle beneath my arm. I was leaning on my elbow over Andy's shoulder. As we waited for the next Scholar Bowl match to begin, he flipped through the pages of my CD binder, smiling, excited, pointing at the bands he liked. I looked down at my extended foot, hovering above the ground, faux Doc Martens and shredded stockings. So what if they were taupe and not fishnet. I was stuck in the middle of the Midwest, in a small town with a "Heart of Gold", 5 miles out from Interstate 70, 70 miles from the closest city, no MTV, a fuzzy signal from the closest alternative radio station. Spin Magazine and Seventeen where all I had to drive my style. Floral skirt and combat boots, long blonde hair, slight makeup, quiet eyes. I walked the halls day after day, bored and drowning, confused and wanting so much more than this life. I stared out the window of the Study Hall Room as Andy pulled a Prayer Chain album out with a questioning expression.

"Underground Christian Alternative band. My friend Rich made me a tape of them at church camp one Christmas."

"You went to church camp over Christmas?"

My mind suddenly flipped to Richard Gary and walking through the dark night at Covenant College, winter of 1994. "What are you majoring in?" He had asked. He had mistaken me for a counselor, and I let him believe it. I had come on the trip with a youth group from Birmingham, Alabama, a youth group with whom I'd had little association or could really even relate to, me with my wide legged pants and NIN t-shirt, my vintage suit vest and plaid flannel converse.

I dragged my feet in the gravel on the parking lot. "Psychology?"

It seems so funny now that I lied at a church camp, that I spent the whole trip like some bad eighties teen movie ruse, trying to make myself out to be older and cooler. I guess at that age we all want to be something we're not or at least something more. I came from Brownstown, where I was pretty much the only one like me. I hungered for music. I longed to see art, movies, culture, anything but those asphalt roads and endless plains, anything but the closed minds and pointing fingers I'd come to know so well.

Richard finally figured me out, I think. We remained pen pals for a while and he sent me the best packages. I grew to love the music he loved, Starflyer 59, the Prayer Chain. He gave me the jump start into the christian indie that would eventually lead me to Greenville. Funny how paths are changed because of such small things like a mix tape and a late night conversation.

I came back to the moment, Andy was laughing and gesturing at a couple of compilations I forgot I had owned. Andy was a treasure. I was a senior in High School. He was in 8th grade, had traveled over with the Beecher City scholar bowl team to help them out. We talked of music alot that day and exchanged addresses. We'd go on writing each other until the summer came when I'd be free to drive the back roads to Beecher and we'd sit for hours in his basement bedroom, listening to music and creating things. That summer we made a heart shaped box and covered it with articles of bands we liked, pictures, lyrics. We filled it with mix tapes and books, an ugly hat, some drawings, every moment that we could possibly place into that box... He was an unusual boy. He painted 7 foot tall Grateful Dead bears cartwheeling around the wall of his room. He made me listen to Southern Culture on the Skids. I can still see his slight form in the tall white room, arms turned and jumping back and forth, dancing to the music. God, he made me laugh

"Yo ye Pharaohs, let us walk
Through this barren desert, in search of truth
And some pointy boots, and maybe a few snack crackers....."

When I moved back from college and started working for Disk Jockey Records, we spent almost every night sitting in a booth in the Effingham Denny's, drinking coffee and whiling the hours away deep in conversation. I would write, compiling my book of bad poetry, he would draw. We would take day trips to St. Louis, get coffee at the Grind, pillage Vintage Vinyl, run through Forest Park, go to shows. Over the next three years, I watched him grow up, fall in love, and we grew apart. Right before I moved away he came to me with a paper bag. It contained the contents of our heart shaped box. I took it without question and stored it in my own little box of memories.

No comments: