by Alexander Alekseenko
I’m going to tell a story of my love to the band Nirvana. So I’ve been listening to some of the most mainstream hits by Nirvana when I was a kid, just like everyone else did, you know. Smells like teen spirit, rape me, heart shaped box etc. And never thought that the story behind the front man’s life would get so deep into me. My friend Alina is a big Nirvana fan, so I was listening to it a lot, and at some point I got into it so hard that I wanted to know more. So I’ve read a couple of biographical books about the band and Kurt himself, listened to all b-sides and rare recordings, watched almost all footage one can find. I ended up being a huge fan of the work Kurt did and Nirvana has became one of the few band that I can’t skip when shuffle plays it in my ipod or anywhere else.
This picture is taken at a Nirvana’s cover party dedicated to Kurt’s bday and hosted by a local night club. I was a bit buzzed and headed to the bar to have a drink and this guy was standing in front of me wearing a Cobain hoodie and his hair was lying on it like it was Kurt’s. It was surreal.
by Corinna Spencer
When I was a little girl I loved the cream box that sat up high, just out of reach. It had an embossed pattern of swirling leaves, it was heavy to lift, probably.
I have distant memories, but they may not be true, of peeking inside and carefully opening the book that lay inside the beautiful box. Gently turning each heavy page and then each piece of silky tissue paper.
Of course now that I am older, and I own the box and it still sits up high just out of reach, I can look at it anytime I please.
And I do, often. My parents, on their wedding day.
by Chelsea Fagan
I had a high-school sweetheart. I don’t know how many of you did, but it’s something I’d heartily recommend if you’re still in the age group to have one. I also had a middle-school sweetheart, though that relationship mostly consisted of holding hands and playing GTA III while his mother brought us Kool-Aid. At the time, of course, it was extremely serious and difficult and riddled with 13-year-old drama. There were a lot of accusations of kissing another girl at the spring dance and not meeting each other at the Royal Farms to walk home from school together. However, despite the tumultuous road we walked, we were certain that we would end up married one day, if only we could make it through those 9th grade honors courses together. As it turned out, we didn’t even make it through the summer before high school—he got a new bicycle and clearly bigger things were happening for him.
And then, after the pathway had been cleared up for someone with the potential to one day get a learner’s permit, I got a high-school sweetheart. As those of you who had one will know, it is the strangest combination of a deep, consuming, almost unhealthy love, and all of the levity and humor of publicly going through puberty. You don’t know where you are, you certainly don’t know who you are, and this “love” that you have found becomes a buoy in an incredibly heavy storm. There is an overwhelming feeling that everyone is falling in love, everyone is in on some secret club you’re not a part of, and if you don’t find love yourself—there are only so many song quotes you can put on your blog to compensate.
So you find someone, and you settle into a cozy little imitation of what you think relationships should be. You have all of the movies, books, and Yellowcard songs you could ever need to tell you what love looks like—what shape and color it is, at least—and now it’s up to you to reconstruct it. You will start fights over a chicken nugget at lunch, freak out about who is going to pick you up from the dance, and profess undying loyalty at all of two weeks into the relationship. It’s cute, of course, because none of it has any real consequence. Unless, of course, you become a Teen Mom™, in which case you can just get your own show on MTV and live off the residuals into your mid-sixties. Either way, for the most part, it’s a pretty light-hearted affair, a high school sweetheart.
Everything is a sort of pantomime of intimacy and sincerity, and like the dog blissfully piloting the plane, we have no idea what’s going on. Strangely, though, these relationships—no matter how absurd when reflected upon with even a few months’ worth of maturity and growth—can echo for a long time. There is a certain soft spot we hold for this time, the other person, and everything we clumsily did together. I still wonder what my high school sweetheart is doing and, though I have no romantic interest in him, get upset at the thought that another girl would be doing anything to hurt him. When I heard, throughout the years since we’ve split, that someone with the capacity to do serious emotional damage (unlike me, who was capable of inflicting a scratch at most in the scheme of things), I got extremely angry. Protective. It was almost like, having seen me at the formative, awkward moments of my life and loving me anyway, he became a member of extended family. Hell, even my mother still asks about him.
And this can’t be said for other people I’ve been with since, even if the relationships ended on the best of notes. For some reason, though the relationships themselves were surely comprised of things more sincere and of greater emotional depth than the arguments and make-ups I carried out in the locker banks, they haven’t rippled through time quite as easily. I suppose it’s a time in your life when your are so impressionable, so fragile, so desperate to be accepted and appreciated for who you are that the idea of someone loving you makes you forever grateful. I think about the girl I was at 15, 16, 17—how insecure, acne-riddled, and inconsistent—and feel I owe my high school sweetheart a thank you for letting me know that I was good enough in some way. Sure, we have the love of friends and family, but when you’re just discovering what sexuality and romance even are, it’s essential to get your membership in the “dating” and “love” clubs.
Sure, it’s ridiculous looking back on your sweetheart sometimes, it’s funny to think of the immense mountains we were able to construct out of the most insignificant of molehills—but it’s beautiful. We were lucky enough to have found someone to grow with, to change with, and—perhaps most importantly—to be completely ourselves with. At 16, knowing someone sees your flaws and wants to be with you regardless is better than winning the lottery. He will always have given me that, no matter what may happen later in life. And today, if you dare break his heart, I’ll break your kneecaps.
by Ryan Van Winkle
which is, of course, not the best idea
if you are using only your back. Because
the wall is too large and while you often feel
small, you are not an ant
able to shoulder twenty times your frame.
So, you will need something else and maybe
it is your art, just wood and canvas and old
chipped paint. A glowing two by four
from the police barricade and something of a door
you father saved, the painted canvases of friends
and Dawn’s teeth, all of Dawn’s teeth could hold
up a wall if you know what
I mean, didn’t we call her from behind your father’s door
to whisper nobody was going to love her pimples
and curly fried hair because didn’t we first love
her pimples and curly fried hair
at the chalkboard, over the paper mache, her red
and white neck, like our own peckers bursting
for free and didn’t we think we could hold a wall
with her a long time, could fuck
while holding a wall, could do your taxes and feed birds
from sanctuary below the wall, camp with your children
and raise a little tree for Christmas. That wall would halo glow
and so maybe you need
to palette a love too, a mural
strong enough for a wall.
by Mardi Zeunert
My first love. Clothes.
I think it started with the boots I got for my third birthday. Yes, how could you not fall in love. White, shiny, lacey love. Standing tall and proud on my 3rd birthday. What a groover my mum must have been in the 70’s to buy me such gorgeous boots and sew such a pretty dress. Oh, and a dolly vardon cake. Very cool for that time too. No homemade cakes for me.
It surprises me really, looking back. I love that I look at this photo and now see my daughter. Unfortunately the boots are long gone, and she is more happy in mismatched plastic shoes and a Tinkerbell fairy outfit. She loves clothes. She loves to be different. Love.
by Moira Madden
I almost blurted out that your eyes looked like honey, I was completely clueless that you are just as sweet and twice as antiseptic to wounds I didn’t know I had.
You are here and unafraid. I say “No, tell it to me like a story so I can see it in my mind,” and you do not flinch. Staring at my ceiling it doesn’t matter how many floors are above me, I could see the sky and I could see the stars. My roommates are partying a few feet away and screaming, so I’m not listening to my mind screaming, even so everything is screaming shivers on my skin.
I got in the car with my friends that night and did that thing I do where I dance to get this ghost off of my back. Rainbow lights, cupcakes, Raspberry Beret. When they told me I was happy I believed them. I was blooming, and the girl next to me had never known me to be otherwise. She was in the same boat but she doesn’t know how not to drown, and interestingly enough, she is a real dancer.
Talking philosophy on my bed between commitments I am toying with the idea in my head. I make a conscious effort to look away.
Two weeks later our fingers were stuck together and we slept on my floor, the first time I had been on solid ground after spinning for months. I kissed you fearing you would break because I am still heavy inside and I walk into the shower repeating “fuck” to myself. You are my night, you are my morning, you are staying over and I’m trying to pretend I do this all the time.
We ride bikes and everything is honey colored just like those eyes and your smile is twice as sticky. For a second I think I’m trapped in it but I still run from you and cry because you’re real.
The heat of the moment has no effect on a girl who could wear down a glacier so I keep pausing to think and can only come up with “I feel so exposed” and you reply “Well, you are”.
Rain turns the city to shit and I am dirty like the sky, a cigarette and a hangover and I kissed another guy. On the curb I inhale smoke and exhale tears about every awful thing I’ve ever done. You hold me anyway. You hold me like you are protecting me from a rain of bullets, gumdrops, lemondrops, real rain. The coffee you bought me flushes down the drain.
I catch our reflection in a window later that night and see myself stomping, smoking, but healthier than I’ve been in years.
We drink wine with my mother and she welcomes you to my dark moods when I cry in the car after a beautiful day. I kiss you in a Wegman’s parking lot the next night and I can only see by streetlights and they’re spotlights, shots in the dark of my life and things look almost perfect.
A crazy man yells at me while I’m waiting for you outside the liquor store and again I’m trying to pretend I do this all the time.
I slept with you but couldn’t sleep, just listened to a dog barking downstairs. You drowsily explained that it was a puppy—it was probably far from home and just needed to get used to it here. I silently wept because how could you know I was in the same place in my own skin?
I throw up in the shower after I leave you that night and don’t remember calling you, but you came.
We whisper “I love you,” over and over. Something hard and bitter within me flows and feels, some nameless mystery within me snaps into place. Our ups fly high, and our downs crash hard with first love turbulence. When I’m back on the ground my tears are hot but so are the kisses, and they have boiled away wounds that I didn’t know I had.