This week’s Musical Memoir comes from Crystalina! I met Crystalina via being a part of a few message boards and a crew of blogger girls back in 2001 (to the best of our recollection anyway… these details get hazy over the years). She no longer actively blogs, but I was so excited when she responded via Twitter to my call for guest posts, and even more excited when I received her submission. She’s an amazing writer and I totally think she needs to start blogging again. You all should encourage her! I’m very pleased to present you with Crystalina’s musical memoir inspired by Poe’s “Trigger Happy Jack.”
Senior year was the first in which I looked for elements of my life in the literature we read, save a few Emily Dickinson poems I studied for my junior-year research paper. I’d always been an English geek – setting the curve on the final, editing everybody else’s papers – but it took AP English and those trendy-at-the-time dialectical journals for literature to come alive, as cheesy as that sounds. To say this changed my life in ways I wouldn’t understand for at least a decade would be a gross understatement.
It would also be far too generous of me to skip over the fact that another reason the literature hit me so hard that year was because of a boy. Dane was my dark-haired, blue-eyed, troubled ex who had stolen my heart the summer before, battered it, and given it back to me so as not to “corrupt” me with his evil side. Of course, when senior year began a couple of weeks after our break-up, we reconnected for a fucked-up pseudo-relationship that would last most of the year. He was, I realized as we read Wuthering Heights, my Heathcliff, a thought I refrained from sharing during our daily literature circles but which drove me more deeply into my infatuation.
Even as he shared with me his plan to kill nearly everyone on earth through biological warfare (I was to be the sole female on his illustrious Council of Nine) and showed me the cleaver he carried in his car and used to kill small animals, I fell for him. He was mysterious, sorely broken, and entirely manipulative. He fancied fair-skinned blondes (which I was) and was both frustrated by and enamored with my goodness. We spent hours on the phone discussing everything from his plans for world domination to my issues with my parents. My sister, after having spent an evening on a triple-date with us, told me she hated him and if he was in, she was out on future outings, something that baffled me at the time but did nothing to deter me.
That spring, after deciding not to take me to prom (mostly because he knew I wouldn’t sleep with him), he re-introduced me to Josh, one of his best friends. Josh was nice, intelligent, hilarious, and cute. I accepted his invitation to prom and went on a couple of dates, but I was still tethered to my Heathcliff, and subsequently, pushed Josh away.
During Spring Break, while spending time with my sister and our friend Lisa, Dane called me, needing me to drive him to his car that was at the shop in the next city over. I jumped at the chance, leaving Lisa and my sister behind, my sister scowling at my decision. Dane acted frustrated that I hadn’t committed to Josh yet, but as we waited for his car to be finished, we danced in the parking lot and examined one another’s scars on our hands in a rare moment of gentleness. As I drove the thirty-five minutes home alone, I was happy and conflicted, aware that I had dropped everything, once again, to do whatever Dane wished. And while I was still in the afterglow of the experience, something felt off, and I couldn’t quite get Josh off my mind.
When I returned home, I laid on my bed and listened to Lisa’s Poe CD she’d left behind, “Trigger-Happy Jack” on repeat for ages, belting out the lines that seemed to be written about Dane, feeling the music in that way that only heartache can make possible: But he underestimates my mind / I know he’s messing with my head / My only weakness is / I can’t believe the guy could be entirely dead / Can’t talk to a psycho like a normal human being [...] And I hate myself just enough to want him. Somewhere around the tenth repeat, the fog that had taken up residence in my brain began to dissipate, and I marveled at the truth of her words. My sister prompted me to write out all of the things that made Dane a psycho I couldn’t talk to like a “normal human being.” Once I began, it seemed the list was endless. All of those Heathcliff-like qualities stared back at me in their cruelty and ugliness, no longer romantic and dreamy.
The combination of music, literature, and writing freed me (and continues to free me from the bonds of my chemically imbalanced mind on a regular basis some fifteen years later) in that moment. Because I am far luckier than I deserve, when I asked him back out a few days later, Josh gave me another chance. We recently celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary (our young, crazy marriage is another story for another time).
Crystalina is a sarcastic English teacher by day and a lapsed blogger (who swears she’s coming back), playwright (ok, she has had a single one-act produced), and in-the-car vocalist by night. One day, she may start acting like a “real” grown-up, but she sincerely hopes not.