We usually have a small clock-radio playing lightly in our bedroom at all times, dialed in on some inoffensive station that plays more “classic” Top 40 with the occasional current hit sprinkled in for good measure. Basically, it’s dentist office tunes, where one minute you might be blessed with some deeply nostalgic Depeche Mode track, and then just as quickly annoyed by some Miley Cyrus shit-song. I just like not knowing what I’m going to walk into each time I enter throughout the day (and sometimes I can even hear what’s playing from downstairs, prompting me to scream over the TV “ooh it’s my jam!” to which Henry scowls, “How can you HEAR that?!”).
All of this is to say that I was awoken one morning last week by the opening acapella pining of Tonic’s “If You Could Only See” and with tears spurting out of my eyes, I was suddenly drop-kicked back to 1997, the autumn after senior year, sitting in a lobby of the McKeesport YWCA waiting to take my GED test because yes, I was a high school drop out. There was only a month or so left of senior year, I was in a shitty relationship with a psychopath, I had zero support or understanding from my family, I had been grieving my grandfather’s death for over a year with no reprieve, and my mental state was largely ignored. Back then, as a 17-year-old brat, I chocked my decision up to rebelling, trying to get a rise from parents who didn’t pay attention to me. It wasn’t drugs, I wasn’t a teen mom, I wasn’t failing (I was on the fucking honor roll lol) – I just made a stupid, knee-jerk, stubborn decision to not get out of bed anymore because being in those halls made me feel like I was going to scream. I would realize later on that I had a sort of mental breakdown and my ability to make “normal people” decisions had taken a back seat. I was literally lost.
Choices were made, amigos and chingus.
Fast forward a few months: my friend Christy, who knew that I was better than that, urged me to get my GED so that I could at least get a job. I had nothing else to do – all of my friends had gone away to college and I was just toiling around with Psycho Mike, on the verge of making the leap from rich suburban girl to legit white trash. So, why not? Let’s GED this bitch up.
And that’s how I wound up in the McKeesport YWCA, striking up conversation with a super cute and hilarious guy whom I felt SO STRONGLY was The One but now I can’t even remember his name. Dante? Damien? All I remember is that he was super into computers (“I like taking them apart and putting them back together,” he said and I thought this was dumbest yet most interesting thing ever, like OMG can I watch?) and planned on going to school for that, and he lived in the nearby town of Dravosburg.
The GED test was spread out over two evenings, and we both arrived too early on each evening, hanging out in the lobby and talking before the doors to the testing room opened up. On both nights, we were the first to finish (I might have giddily rushed through it so that I would have more time to talk to him) and I remember distinctly sitting in this alcove/balcony area during the breaks we were allotted each night, and he even chivalrously sat with me while I waited for my ride after the testing was over, talking like we had known each other forever. He gave me his number, and when Psycho Mike picked me up after the second night of the testing was over, Mike was of course enraged to find me talking to another guy. I remember stopping at Firehouse Videos that night on the way home m to rent Dario Argento movies, and then having a huge argument in the basement of my parent’s house. I didn’t even care because meeting the new guy was a sign: I had incentive to dump Psycho Mike. Because in my stupid high school drop-out brain, having a rebound guy was better incentive than, I dunno, protecting myself from further abuse?! Teenagers are so FUCKING DUMB.
But then I couldn’t find GED dude’s number! And I hadn’t given him mine! I even called my friend Justin who also lived in Dravsoburg and asked him if he knew him, told him the whole Shakespearean dilemma, and could he locate this guy? Could he give him my number? Dravosburg is small, right?!
Justin said he would see what he could do, which was nothing because at the end of the day, we may have been “friends” but we were also “exes” and he wasn’t on board with pimping me out I guess.
So I never talked to that guy again, but I thought about him occasionally for the next several years, particularly anytime I would hear that Tonic song, which was popular at that time and for whatever reason, I associated it with him.
I did end up, obviously, dumping Psycho Mike but it wouldn’t be until another 6 months or so. And what would have happened if I hadn’t lost that guy’s number? How would that have changed the trajectory of my life? Would I have still met Henry? SO MANY QUESTIONS!
Hilariously (but not), several years later, now with Henry as my boyfriend, I had decided to go to college. In order to enroll at Pitt, I needed my high school transcript which made me so fucking nervous because I had never seen them and wasn’t really looking forward to taking that awkward and painful stroll down memory lane. I had to pick up the transcripts in person and I can remember bursting into tears in the parking lot afterward – I had actually graduated high school. After all of that, all of the passive-aggressive shaming my dad put me through, the childish bullying I endured any time I ran into enemies from high school*, the hassle of going to McKeesport and taking the GED exam, I had been a high school graduate that whole time. I remember back then, a friend telling me that there was a seat saved for me at commencements but I didn’t believe it then. I guess it was true.
*[Notably, the time I was at Denny’s with my friend Brian and that broad Cinn I mentioned recently, and two dumb bitches I hated more than anyone (I didn’t know about Trump yet) stood next to my booth in order and plunked quarters into the Claw Machine. “I’m really good at this,” Mindy said theatrically and extra-loud, as though her cunt friend Christine wasn’t standing RIGHT NEXT TO HER. “I went to college.” At this, they both collapsed into red neck chortles. OH BURN. So you went to college to learn a skill that requires you spend $1.00 on a 5 cent plushie? COOL!]
Anyway, both of those bitches are miserable and basic.
I was a mess in 1997: I was suicidal, directionless, hopeless, I saw no future for myself. So I chose some controversial paths, but those paths miraculously spilled me out into a pretty good spot in life. I made my own awesome family, I have a handful of loyal and amazing friends, and I have a decent job which maybe I’m not passionate about but that decent job affords me to focus my free time on things I AM passionate about. I dunno, I think I’ve done ok for myself in spite of some abysmal choices.
If I could only see all of that back in 1997.
LOL, see also: deep thoughts inspired by an ok song.