Everything falls apart

There are days when the kids ask me to help them with their 6th grade Math homework, that I am puzzled at how I ever managed to graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree. If long division is a struggle for me now, derivatives, and differential equations may as well be hieroglyphics scrawled across a page. No, my engineering degree is a testament to the elasticity of the human brain. Stretch it often enough in any one direction and you can expand its volume. Let it sit still and it will shrivel until it is the size and shape of a raisin.

It amazes me that once upon a time my brain was more trained in the complexities of science, and mathematical logic, than it was intuition and cognition. How could it have been so different? Did the fact that my neurons flowed through other portions of my brain effect my personality, or change the core of who I am? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I should have seen it coming. The indications were there even during the height of my engineering studies. The clues were written in my textbook:

“Like all other physical laws used in classical thermodynamics, the second law cannot be proved but is a statement of observed phenomena.” – Howell & Buckius, Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, (1987) pg. 183

I can remember the effect that the 2nd law of thermodynamics had upon me at the time. I began to realize the presence of entropy all around me, yet it took me another 2 years to come to a full understanding of them.

Science is the application of mathematical logic to explain the way that the world operates. Every equation we learned for determining strength, stress, or motion included a small fudge factor to account for losses & friction. The problems we were given to solve required us to ignore the world around the problem, and focus on an arbitrary ideal system.

But no system is ideal, no process is completely reversible. The world is non-linear.

By the end of my senior year I was pointing it out to class mates with incredulity. “This is bullshit. You cannot leave out the effects of friction and losses on these problems. You cannot isolate a system from the world around it for the simplification of calculating an answer.”

They looked at me and shrugged. “So what? Go along with it and get your diploma.” So I did.

But I knew the hollowness of it all. Logic could only approximate what actually happened around us. Reality often defies logic. We become so conditioned to ignoring the effects of chaos and loss that we block out their presence in our life, and pretend they do not exist. And when we are faced with events that do not fit into our neat definition of the world, we kick and cry like spoiled children.

Not fair! Not fair!

Life is not fair. Human behavior is not completely predictable. We are constantly choosing to do things that we know are illogical, that we know will lead to results that are not in our own best interest.

Emotion is not logic.

Love is not beholden to mathematics.No equation can determine when and why a lover will sacrifice themselves for another.

So I learned to not ignore intuition. We need it as much as reason and logic to function in this world.

This is why there are two halves to our brains.

This is what makes us human.

In the end, everything

falls

apart.

Advertisements

The Thermodynamics of Loneliness

The snow squeaks like Styrofoam underfoot as I climb the hill to my dorm after my shift at the Radio Station. Overhead, the stars are frozen in the midnight sky. I have no idea how cold it is, but I know when the snow squeals like this it’s below zero. I dig my hands deeper into the pockets of my wool coat, and try to pull my head down into it like a turtle.

All year I have been working this 11pm – 2am shift with my roommates, but tonight I flew solo. There was something peaceful, yet exciting, to cue up records in the silence of the studio then send them beaming out into the frozen darkness. Invisible waves of sound to bouncing off the ionosphere, and into the radios of total strangers. Tonight as I trudge home on the snow covered sidewalks my mind wanders.

I’m 3 years into the mechanical engineering program, and have become a hermit. My days and nights spent hunched over a desk beneath a yellow cone of light, scribbling hieroglyphics across tablets of paper. This left brain existence has tipped me off of balance. My dreams have become swirling fractals of color, dividing down again, and again into an infinity of inner space. During the daytime I scratch out formulas and equations to calculate the movement of bodies, but at night those bodies take on a life of their own, impervious to my attempts to deconstruct them. Ones and zeros multiplying through the synapses of my brain, as I chase after them trying to decipher their meanings.

The second law of thermodynamics has taught me that work can be pulled from a body only when that body interacts with another at lower temperature. But out here in the night air my body leaks its heat away into the void and what am I accomplishing? I think ahead to the empty bed that awaits me, and wonder what calculations are necessary to reverse the entropy of loneliness. I dream of a body that awaits me there, her breath rising in the cold of the room. I can feel her warmth as I slip beneath the blankets. What laws of thermodynamics can explain love? Electric sparks flow up and down my spine as human touch connects  us, and heat begins to flow.

 

Cities in Dust

I woke to steel gray skies this morning, and the first few flakes of snow sifting down like dust from the heavens. By the time I was out of the shower the snow had increased until the street and steps were already covered in white. Remember that post I wrote about Spring arriving at last? Yeah, not so much. Winter is like that last guest at the party. Everyone else has gone home, the dishes are in the sink, the bottle of wine is empty, and you keep stretching your arms above your head and yawning, but they just don’t get the hint.

Remind me not to invite Winter to anymore parties.

After dropping the kids at school, I slipped a CD into the car stereo, and began inching my way to work on the snow covered roads. As the first notes of the song began to play, I began to drift away to a far and distant time…

It was October 1988, and we were headed to Montreal on a whim. The only three friends I had with any musical taste had decided at the last moment to make the 2 hour drive from Potsdam through the leafless, windy St. Lawrence valley to see Siouxsie & The Banshees at the St. Denis theater. Looking out the window of the car at the darkened landscape, the lights of industries along the river glimmered like distant constellations. The headlights of passing cars caused our dim reflections to flare briefly into light. Montreal always felt like stepping through the looking glass.

Stepping through the glass doors of the posh and ornate old theater only added to sense of displacement. In our hiking boots, long hair, and flannel shirts we stood out among a lobby full of people dressed in black. The Goths looked at us as if we had walked in on their conversation, scowling with contempt at our lack of conformity to their rebellious fashion. The irony was not lost on me.

We bought what tickets were left at the box office, and settled into our seats in the last row of the lower level, beneath the overhang of the balcony. I’d never seen a band in such baroque surroundings before, but when the lights went up, and Siouxsie Sioux stepped on stage dressed like Marlene Dietrich in the Blue Angel, I couldn’t imagine seeing her anywhere else. I was mesmerized. She prowled the stage like a cat, toying with the audience, and holding the eyes of 4,000 people transfixed. There may have been a band, and other people in attendance that night, but for the next 2 hours it felt for all the world like it was her and I alone in a theater in Weimar Berlin. For the first time I truly understood the meaning of femme fatale.

Only music has the ability to lift your soul out of your body, and transport it to a place so far from reality. As the snow falls outside my office window, I turn again to music to take me away. Shhh… listen.

siouxsie

 In the sharp gust of love
My memory stirred
When time wreathed a rose
A garland of shame
Its thorn my only delight
War torn, afraid to speak
We dare to breathe
Majestic
Imperial
A bridge of sighs
Solitude sails
In a wave of forgiveness
On angels’ wings

Reach out your hands
Don’t turn your back
Don’t walk away
How in the world
Can I wish for this?
Never to be torn apart
Close to you
‘Til the last beat
Of my heart

At the close of day
The sunset cloaks
These words in shadowplay
Here and now, long and loud
My heart cries out
And the naked bone of an echo says
Don’t walk away

Reach out your hands
I’m just a step away
How in the world
Can I wish for this?
Never to be torn apart
Close to you
‘Til the last beat
Of my heart

How in the world
Can I wish for this?
Never to be torn apart
‘Til the last beat
‘Til the last fleeting beat
Of my heart

siouxsie

The Monkey Wrench Gang Rides Again

Last night God turned on the air conditioning, and a strong northwest wind blew our humidity away. Today is one of those lovely, comfortable days that makes Minnesota summers a wonderful payoff for suffering through a Minnesota winter. I’ve worked in a lot of different cities during my travels, and while I don’t have any scientific data to back me up, I’d have to say that the Twin Cities has some of the cleanest air of any metropolitan area. In fact, despite the dire predictions of looming environmental disaster, I would have to say that our air, water, and land seems less polluted today than it did 30 years ago.

Of course, there’s more to environmental assessment than visual appearances, and while I can’t say for certain that our environment is in better shape now than it was 30 years ago, I think it is safe to say that we are much more aware of the environment than we were then. Personally, I think our environmental awareness began with the crying Indian commercial. Say what you want about Iron Eyes Cody (aka Espera Oscar de Corti) but the man had a big effect on me, and countless others. Next to Louis Prima, he’s probably one of the best known Sicilian American’s from Louisiana.

I still feel guilty for littering

By the time I went to college in the mid 80’s, environmentalism was mainstream. In fact, Clarkson even offered a major in Civil & Environmental Engineering. When I enrolled at Clarkson my major was “Undecided Engineering”, which really didn’t mean much as all first year engineering students took the same core courses regardless of their specialty (Mechanical, Civil, Chemical, Electrical). For a while I flirted with the idea of majoring in Civil and Environmental, but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine what type of job that would actually entail, other than working construction. In the end, I chose the mechanical route as it offered the most variety of different industries and fields (Automotive, Aerospace, Power Generation, etc…) I was always the pragmatist, even at 19. I guess I get that from my Father.

While I didn’t choose environmentalism as a vocation, I did flirt with it as an ideology for a few years. (all the cool kids were doing it). One of my roommates at the time was a Civil & Environmental Engineering major, and given the fact that he was also prone to looking for a fight, activism seemed like a natural outlet for his anti-authoritarian streak. During the fall of 1989, our senior year, Chris came home one Friday afternoon and announced that he was heading to an Earth First! Rendezvous in the Adirondacks. Clarkson being Clarkson, there never was much entertainment to be had on a weekend, so Scott and I jumped at the chance to go camping and tagged along. And so late one Friday afternoon in October of 1989, we headed south down Route 56 in Chris’ VW GTI, with a tent, some sleeping bags, 2 cases of Genny Cream, and a pound of bacon. (If that ain’t the definition of a guys weekend, I don’t know what is)

My kind of green revolution

I had never heard much about Earth First! other than their penchant for “Monkey Wrenching”. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Monkey Wrench”, it originates with the book “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by Edward Abbey. In the novel, Abbey’s hero’s and heroine’s fight against the forces of corporatism, and big industry. They resort to destroying bulldozers, and equipment in order to save the red rock canyons of Utah. As novels go it’s nothing special, but Abbey is a patron saint of environmentalists, cranks, and “don’t tread on me” localists everywhere, so the monkey wrenching idea kind of caught on, and life began to imitate art.

Now Scott and I were no radicals, and the extent of our environmental involvement amounted to recycling, but a weekend in the mountains is nothing to say no to. So we went along for the ride. Arriving at the rendezvous site, south of Tupper Lake, we found tents, Subaru wagons, and VW microbus’ scattered about and knew that we were either in the right place, or the Grateful Dead were playing somewhere nearby.

As movement’s go, Earth First! is a little to the left of Trotsky politically. There was no real “membership” list, and the organization is about as close to a true anarchist organization as you will probably find. The folks scattered about in the woods around the place typically fell into one of two archetypes. Scary looking, bearded rednecks, and patchouli smelling dreadlocked hippies. To say that we three college boys stood out a little is an understatement.

We found a spot a little off into the woods from the main group, and I have to say that even Chris seemed to have some reservations. We needn’t have been worried though, when darkness came the campfire was lit, and people began wandering in out of the woods to sit around it, and talk and sing. One of the great things about hippies is that they usually carry musical instruments with them, and one of the great things about rednecks, is liquor is usually not too far away. It made for an entertaining evening. I’m sure most of the folks sitting around the fire figured us to be undercover FBI agents, or narcs, but they didn’t seem to have any problem sharing their beer. Over the course of the night, the discussion turned to the Earth First! agenda for the north east region. While the details are a little fuzzy, the jist of their plan was to advocate for the depopulation of large swaths of the United States, to be converted into wilderness areas where nature would be left to flourish without the impediment of evil humanity. The biggest discussion point seemed to be which parts of which states would be included in these green zones. No one seemed to get too hung up on the logistics of convincing millions of people to pack up and move somewhere else.

The next morning, the Earth Firsters convened for “roll call”. This amounted to the Northeast regional leader calling out the names of the different “clans”, each one named for a different animal, and the clans responding by making the noise of said animal. Watching grown men wiggling about on their hands and knees barking like seals was a little too surreal for us. When the groups split up for “class” sessions on such finer points of monkey wrenching as tree spiking, and bulldozer disabling, we decided it was time for a nice little hike. So Chris, Scott and I grabbed our backpacks with our homework (we were still students after all) and found a nice clearing in the woods where we could sit, and read. It was a glorious fall afternoon in the Adirondacks. The leaves were ablaze with color, and the sky was deep cerulean blue. We passed the afternoon hanging out, doing homework and talking, and when evening came we joined the group around the campfire for another night of singing and drinking. Freaks or not, cold beer and a roaring campfire is hard to turn down.

The next morning, as most of the Earth Firsters were heading on to Lake Placid to take part in a protest, we packed up our tent and made the drive back up to Potsdam. Our beer gone, and our bacon devoured, it was back to reality. I have to say it was quite the cultural experience. It taught me that no matter how much “Mother Earth” might suffer, deep down, I could never be an environmentalist. I liked personal hygiene too much, and I could never stop pining over girls long enough to get that worked up about saving the Earth. Always the pragmatist I knew that my future lay elsewhere. In less than 12 months I was traveling the country working at coal plants, serving “the man” as just another cog in the military-industrial-complex. I’m sure that somewhere in a file in Washington is a grainy spy photo of me standing around the fire that night, with my name, social security number, and personal information written on the back. Someday I might have to send off a letter and request a framed copy of it.

Smash your head against the punk rock

Ask any kid preparing to leave for their first year of college, and they will attest to the importance of choosing the right posters to hang in your dorm room. After all, these will be the cover art to your new identity, so you need to make sure you impress. Needless to say, my Beatles and Rush posters failed to make an impression, other than confirming what people could pretty much guess by looking at me. Loser.

Luckily for me, my roommate more than made up for my pedestrian J.C. Penney tastes with his Lou Reed poster. In fact, when he showed up for orientation, the last kid on the floor to arrive, and came striding into the room with his dirty blond hair, f-you attitude, and 6’-4” presence I nearly peed myself. WTF did I get myself into? Little did I know a door had been opened into a whole other world of music.

Chris was, and still is, one of the biggest pains in the ass you could ever meet. He’s one of those people who goes out of his way to piss you off, and yet you still come away liking him for some reason you can never quite figure out. He was into bands that I had never even heard of, or knew existed. But he came with a stereo, a huge collection of tapes and CD’s, and all the things that I couldn’t afford, like a car, and a fridge. Despite his attitude, and personal crusade to offend as many people as humanly possible, he took me under his wing, and adopted me. We were roommates after all, and nothing would change that, so we might as well get along. And while I didn’t embrace The Exploited, or G.B.H. or any of his hardcore, I did take a liking to Husker Du, and some of his more accessible punk.

Bob Mould and the Flying V, a whirling, sonic, hurricane of angst
Bob Mould and the Flying V, a whirling, sonic, hurricane of angst

By the second semester I had made other friendships, with less ornery kids, who also stretched me musically. From Scott I was introduced to REM, and The Replacements. Scott and I bonded at the end of the first semester, as we studied together for finals. When Chris announced that he was leaving at the end of the year to either enlist in the Army Rangers, or attend Villanova (I forget which) it was Scott whom I planned to room with.

Before they were Rock Stars-TM
Before they were Rock Stars-TM

It was during the 2nd semester that Chris joined the college radio station, and took the training to be a D.J. At first he went alone for his shift, but soon Scott and I began to accompany him to get access to the stacks of records at the station. WTSC 91.1 was, and still is, a true open format college station catering to college rock. It was a ramshackle affair, with each D.J. having a 3 hour shift to basically play whatever they wanted, although we were strongly encouraged to play from the red file of new releases. By sophomore year (Chris had returned after all) the show began to fall more and more to Scott and I. Don’t tell the FCC, but we never had no training, and basically made it up as we went. But with a transmitter range of about 5 miles, and a shift from 11pm – 2 am on a Thursday night, what harm could we really do?

Those late night shifts were a blast. Having access to the new vinyl gave us a chance to listen and experiment with whatever we wanted without spending a dime. We bootlegged music from the back, and made mix tapes. Music was never as much fun for me as it was then. Outside of our little cocoon, the music industry plodded on churning out krep like Phil Collins, Debbie Gibson, and Guns ’n Roses, but we could have cared less. Instead we were streaming REM-The Replacements-Husker Du-The Feelies-Dumptruck-The Connells-The Smiths-Big Dipper-Big Black-Throwing Muses-Billy Bragg-Dinosaur Jr.-Guadalcanal Diary-fIREHOSE-The Jesus and Mary Chain-Superchunk and The Pixies out into the frozen night. Trapped in the solitude of the North Country, we had music, and cheap beer to entertain us, and precious few coeds to distract us. Not that we wouldn’t have minded a little distraction. God, how I wished for a distraction. Instead I alternated between inward self loathing, and outward contempt for the world. Still do, really. Punk Rock was right in my wheel house.

It doesn't get any more earnest than St. Billy Bragg
It doesn’t get any more earnest than St. Billy Bragg

If I ever write that great American novel, it will take place in the North Country. There, my stand in, will come of age as he chases unattainable girls, and continually self destructs despite his best efforts to get out of his own way. In the movie version, my stand in (think a young John Cusack) will stumble through the self inflicted trials of Job, in pursuit of that illusory muse (think a young Catherine Zeta-Jones) to a soundtrack made up of these bands.

We’re talking “Top Five”…

Weezer, before there was a Weezer
Weezer, before there was a Weezer
Then God is Seven! Then God is Seven!
Then God is Seven! Then God is Seven!
If Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, and Truman Capote started a band...
If Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Truman Capote started a band…
Levi Stubbs' tears run down his face...
Levi Stubbs’ tears run down his face…
Husker Du - Warehouse, Songs and Stories (If this is selling out, where do I get in line?)
Husker Du – Warehouse, Songs and Stories

Stay tuned for Part 3 Tomorrow – When Mr. 20 Prospect Sells Out

My head told my heart, “Let love grow”, but my heart told my head, “This time no”

The water cascaded down over the rocks, white with foam as it churned in whorls and eddies. I sat in the sunshine along the West Branch of the St. Regis River, sipping on my cheap beer, trying my best not to think about her, and failing miserably. My friend Tommy climbed the rocks along the falls, and I looked up at his silhouette in the bright April sunshine, mathematically determining if the drop were high enough, and the water deep enough to jump. In the end I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and another beer seemed infinitely more productive than suicide.

The river roared with the fresh snow melt of the Adirondacks, as the temperature soared, and my soul warmed to the alcohol. Surely, this would heal me; an escape from class, and responsibility, to spend a few hours sitting amongst the grandeur of nature trying not to think about her. It wasn’t working. I’m not sure why I ever thought it would. I clung to my thoughts of her the way a drowning man does to a life preserver. Yet her memory was only a rock pulling me deeper into the icy darkness inside my head.

There beneath the glorious spring sunshine, all of nature seemed to be in order. The sun rose and set, water flowed downhill, and the birds waited downstream for unlucky fish. Yet here I was alone while somewhere in this little town she was with him. A six foot plus, fraternity boy, who had become the embodiment of everything I hated in this world. How could this be? How could a just God allow such unnatural things to occur?

I leaned back upon the bed of pine needles, and pictured her eyes, oh Lord, her eyes. I could never forget them. Wide spaced, almond shaped, their brown depths consumed me. The sound of the cascading water was broken only by the cry of gulls circling above.

When the time came, we hiked back to the car through the dappled light of the pine woods. I dropped Tommy off at his apartment, and thanked him for the company. It was still afternoon, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone, so I drove aimlessly around town. The warm weather brought everyone outside for the first time in months. Windows were open, and music was playing, and everywhere was the long lost sight of human flesh, a color as rare as green in the wintertime.

I held my breath, hoping to see her out walking somewhere, and dreading it at the same time. When I did finally find her car parked out in front of campus, my heart started racing, and I felt sick to my stomach. I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. How the mere sight of a blue Plymouth K-car could create such pain. If only I’d have studied biology instead of engineering, perhaps I could explain it. Instead I turned around and headed back out to our apartment in the country.

When I got home I lay on the mattress on my bedroom floor, staring up at the ceiling, wondering how I was going to make it through another night. I went to the fridge, and stared at the emptiness before I opened another beer. I had already lost 20 pounds since September, the result of living on $20 a week, and not knowing how to cook, so another night without food wouldn’t make much difference.

Outside the light began to fade, and the shadows deepened. I sat at my desk, and pulled out the journal for my creative writing class. If I couldn’t see her with my eyes, I would see her with my pen. I wrote until the room went dark, the world shrinking around me until there was just the cone of lamplight on the desk. I hoped the ink would capture her. I hoped that it would make permanent what had already slipped through my fingers. Instead the cans began to pile up, until my writing became illegible, scrawled like a foreign language across the page until the words disappeared into scribbled lines, the ink flowing down the page like the water down the falls. When my eyes finally closed, I hoped that they would never open again.

Nature knows nothing as selfish as a boy in love.

Sheena is a Punk Rocker

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might think that I am still stinging from every girl that ever dumped me. However, that’s not the case. Most of my relationships never got far enough off the ground to crash and burn, and some of them I was even responsible for ending. So you see I’m not really hung up on every girl I’ve met, just the ones who read this blog. (Hi Mrs. 20 P!)

Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but even lonely, pathetic old me has broken up with someone. May Lord have pity on my soul, and may the record show that it wasn’t them. It was me.

No seriously. My bad.

The relationships we have in our teenage years are just spring training for the ones that really matter. If we are lucky, we commit all our errors during the preseason, and learn from them before opening day. Still, that doesn’t make the memory of beaning someone in the head any better. Of all the stupid, bonehead ways that I have found to hurt women, I think the one that I am most ashamed of, occurred during my Junior Year at Clarkson. I still wince thinking about it. So of course, I am going to share the story with you now. (Blogs were made for picking at scabs.)

She was a punk rock girl, and no, her name wasn’t Sheena. We met one night while we were at a bar to see a mutual friend play with his band. They weren’t much of a band, but in the frozen wasteland of the North Country, four guys banging out classic punk rock tunes was about as good as it got for live entertainment. Our only other option was the crappy 80’s dance tunes at the Bali Hai.

Their name was Wayneless, because the guy that was initially supposed to be their bassist, Wayne, never showed up for any practices or gigs. They never cut a CD, or went on tour. How they managed to convince one of the local bar owners to let them play is quite beyond me. But somehow they did, and so one Saturday night in early December of 1988, my friends and I dusted off our fake ID’s so we could get in to see Wayneless pound away at 3 chord punk tunes from The Buzzcocks, The Ramones, The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols, Killing Joke, and others.

Among the crowd there that night was the punk rock girl. I had seen her before at some of the parties that my friends hosted at their apartment in Woodstock Village. She hung out with another girl, and they were notable for being the only 2 girls on campus that even remotely looked like they were into punk rock. They were both about 5 foot tall and were always together, to the point that I just assumed they were dating. (She drove a Subaru, so cut me some slack here folks!)

So I was surprised when about half way through the night, as we sat next to each other on a bench between sets, that her knee started rubbing up against my thigh. At first I thought, she must have confused me with the table, so I scooted over to give her some room. About 30 seconds later, her knee was rubbing against my thigh again.

Now, I wasn’t the smoothest operator in the room, so it took a few minutes for this turn of events to sink in, but when it did I realized that for the first time in my life, a girl was actually hitting on me. I was at a total loss as to what I was supposed to do now. After all, this was a unique occurrence, and one that the good Sister’s at Notre Dame and St. Joseph’s never prepared me for. So I put my hand on her knee and started rubbing her leg. Before the last set was over, she had whispered into my ear to ask if I wanted to go home with her.

Now, I was beginning to suspect that she was part of an elaborate practical joke. However, none of my friends were smirking, or smiling, or even seemed to notice all the footsy going on under the table. My first thought was “Damn, I don’t have a toothbrush along, or even a change of clothes.” For the first time in my life, I finally understood why Mom always wanted to make sure I left the house wearing clean underwear. (Thanks Mom!)

Needless to say, I eventually came around, and after stuttering, and stammering like an idiot, we put on our coats and excused ourselves. My friends looked puzzled. I’m sure they assumed that she had just ruptured an appendix, and I was taking her to the hospital.

Her apartment was just a few blocks down Market Street from the bar. She roomed with her girl friend in the upstairs of an old house that had been divided up into apartments. We held hands as we walked, and I had absolutely no idea what I should say to her. After all, I may be cheap, but I never considered myself “easy”. The thought of being picked up in a bar by a punk rock girl was slightly intimidating, not the least because until that evening I had assumed she was gay. What was she expecting when we got back to her apartment? Was I supposed to ask? Was I supposed to make the first move, or would she?

Well, I needn’t have worried. As soon as our coats were off we were sitting on the couch making out. Thankfully, making out was all that was required of me that night. (Stop! The Nun’s didn’t raise me to be that kind of boy!)

After the clock hit 4 am, I finally got up and excused myself and walked the six blocks back to my dorm. It was cold, I was sober, and all I could think was “What the hell just happened?” I had no idea how, or why we had ended up together. She wasn’t someone that I had ever looked at and been attracted to. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do next, so I climbed the steps to my dorm room, and slept on it.

In the morning I was just as confused. A little after lunch time the phone rang, and it was the punk rock girl. We talked for a bit, and before we hung up I asked her out for the following night. I had absolutely no idea what we would do on our date. In the end, it didn’t matter. We pretty much spent the night listening to music and making out on her couch again.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t there against my will. But I knew in my heart that I did not have any feelings for her, and that what I was doing was wrong, but I just did not know how to say no. Saying “no” to a girl is not something I ever thought I would need to worry about.

After the first date, I felt obligated to ask her out again.

After the second date, it became even more apparent, that aside from music, we didn’t really have anything  in common. She was Jewish, drove a Subaru, and lived in rural Vermont. I was a Catholic kid from po-dunk Western New York that shopped at J.C. Penney’s. I even discovered that she was in a sorority, which struck me as most irreconcilable difference between us.

During Christmas break she called me up, and told me that she was going to be in Rochester for the weekend, and wanted to know if we could get together and see a show. That night in some dive bar, watching some forgettable Ska band, she asked me to go to her Sorority Semi-Formal when we got back from the holidays. Like a fool I said yes.

Now I was getting really deep into it. I spent the holiday break shopping the after Christmas sale at Penney’s for a sport coat, a tie and dress pants. It had been 3 years since I had dressed up for anything, and none of those old high school clothes fit me anymore. So I settled on a Navy blue blazer, some grey flannel pants, and a pink and blue paisley tie with matching pink suspenders. (I thought she’d appreciate that I was comfortable enough with my sexuality to wear pink.)

The night of the dance, she asked me to pack a bag and plan on spending the night. The party was at the American Legion, just a few doors down from her apartment. I bought her a corsage, and picked her up, and even in her fancy gown, I wasn’t attracted to her. All night long, all I could think was “How am I going to do this? I don’t love this girl. I hardly even like this girl. When and how do I go about telling her?”

So I looked in the bottom of several bottles of Utica Club beer to see if I could find the answer. Alas, it wasn’t there. Instead I just got sloppy, embarrassingly drunk. We walked back to her apartment, and she climbed the stairs. My heart was pounding audibly inside my chest. She led me to her room. My mouth was dry, and I was sweating all over. She dimmed the lights. I started feeling light headed. We were half undressed, when I finally blurted out that I-wasn’t-ready-for-a-commitment-it-wasn’t-her-it-was-me-can-we-just-be-friends?, and every other excuse I could come up with. Then I got dressed, gathered up my overnight bag, and slunk home like some venomous reptile.

I managed to avoid her until late March, when we saw each other at a party. She was very cool about it, and we pretended that none of it had ever happened. My cheeks burned red with embarrassment the whole night.

In the end, there were two things that I learned from my short, failed relationship with the punk rock girl.

1.)    I look pretty good in pink suspenders.

2.)    You can’t fool your heart into doing something it doesn’t want to do.

Ever since then I have added those lessons to the rules I try to live by.

Well, except for the part about the suspenders.