My head feels like a baked potato fresh out of the oven; my brains are the fluffy white spuds inside. For hours, I’ve done my best Tony Robbins impression, psyching myself up to stand and reach for the Low-Carb Monster resting on my desk.
When I finally find the courage to move, I nearly collapse into the pile of used tissues and Sprite bottles littering the ground.
I sip the Monster. Feel my strength returning. Turn on iTunes in an attempt to raise my phlegm-soaked spirits.
Cruel as it can be, the Universe doles out small doses of justice from time to time, and as terrible as it feels to be sick, it’s almost worth it for the rush of endorphins that flood my body at the crest of a flu.
Emotions bubble to the surface, pushing hairs stiff, waving a cool chill over my feverish flesh. I find comfort in repetition. Especially on bad days. I wrap myself in a warm blanket of familiarity, watching old movies, listening to old albums, anything new feeling alien and draining, but sickness has made me brave, so I click on a band I’ve never heard of and travel back through time.
School was where I learned that emotions are dangerous. Smiling, laughing, crying, any outward expression of feelings was an invitation to be bullied. On the bus, I did everything in my power to look straight ahead and make my face into a stone. I didn’t want people asking me, what are you smiling about? What’s so funny? My safety was directly related to the horizontal orientation of my lips and eyes. Everything was a fight. My clothes, my hair, my music, my race, it was all open for interpretation, and it could be interpreted as wrong. It was rough in middle school, and it got even worse in high school. My classmates didn’t want to get to know me. They wanted to find out my weaknesses and exploit them.
At least, that’s what I thought before I joined Mr. Collin’s class.
Adventures is a new band. “Supersonic Home” is the last song on their album of the same name. This was what music sounded like when I was 15. Hearing it now takes me back to my creative writing class with my favorite teacher. Imagine Kevin James if he was 5’5’’ and liked to rap, freestyling about Temescal Canyon High School’s wrestling team at pep rallies. Officially, it was a class about creative writing, but in reality it was a class about creativity. The assignment every week was to turn something in. Anything we wanted, a painting, a poem, a video, sculptures, people did all kinds of things, made skits, collaborated. Some played acoustic guitar and sang. Mind-blowing. It didn’t seem like school. No textbook, no tests, the class wasn’t about learning what the teacher wanted to teach; it was about teaching the rest of the class about yourself. The structure of the class was weird enough, but the people were the thing that shocked me the most. I was the only sophomore in the class. Everyone else was a senior, and they were the strangest people I had ever met.
They didn’t seem interested in dissecting me, criticizing my every layer of existence like it held a hidden treasure. They smiled and cried. They loved things and weren’t afraid to brag about it. Their goal in life wasn’t to be invulnerable. They just wanted to be happy, and if that made them easy targets, so be it. They were flaming-hot Cheeto-eating fat-asses, goths, nerds, queers, anime-watching wimps, girls who didn’t wear make-up, people who didn’t give a shit.
I never knew people like them even existed.
They were what I needed.
Jenny was the first friend I made in the class. She was part of the local music scene. If there was a club for the local hardcore bands, she would have been the one taking the minutes. I was obsessed with music, and she had a story for every band I could think of. She saw DieRadioDie before they broke up, the only good emo band in Lake Elsinore. She’d been to all the classic shows at the Showcase Theatre and Chain Reaction. Zao, Poison the Well, Bleeding Through, you name it, she was there and had the hoodie to prove it. I had just started really caring about music, and I was fucking impressed. She was short and fat. Her boyfriend was a tall shredded stud. I looked up to her. I had a crush on her boyfriend’s little sister, Ashley. She was an identical twin with Amy, but I liked Ashley because she was meaner. I thought being able to tell them apart would impress her. She hated me. Her hair was strawberry blonde and her eyeballs were all I thought about for a year. All my favorite songs were about failed love, so our situation made perfect sense.
Adventures makes me think back to that time. Back then, it would take me 8 hours to download a new song from Saves the Day or The Beautiful Mistake. Many nights I’d stay up just listening to the same 3 songs on repeat. There was something different about this music than all the other rock I’d heard growing up. Something amateurish and desperate about it that made it seem current and relevant.
I knew the voices in these songs.
I heard them in the record stores or waiting in line for shows.
It was punk, but it wasn’t vulgar.
It was sweet, but it wasn’t commercialized.
It was honest and vulnerable in a way that bands on MTV never could be. It was easy to make fun of. That’s what I loved about it.
It reminded me of the people in my creative writing class.