I went to a small private Christian school for most of high school. My graduating class has fifteen people. I choice to go here for reasons that remain unclear to me although I am sure it is connected largely to it making my mom happy. I was a mess at sixteen. I had been living with my dad after leaving my mother's house. My stepmother didn't really like it and since my dad was on the road a great deal she was one who dealt with me. It was a dark time, and towards the end of my stay I spent a lot of time smoking and doing nothing—just staring into space and listening to music. School was hellish. I was unpopular. The only bright moment was a great teacher who did special advanced English classes with me. He was the one who introduced me to books that were more than escape. Towards the end of my stay, my dad hooked with a girl not much older than me, and my life at his place fell apart. My mom did not seem to really want me back unless I had some kind of conversion experience. I needed some place to go and being a Christian was what was going to give me that place. At the time though it was a real conversion experience, and I latched onto being a Christian with fervor.
Initially there were some doubts about me getting into the school. I was pretty wild, and the teachers there seemed to doubt my sincerity. But the principal let me in, and for a year I was a good Christian. However by my Jr. year I was having doubts about the whole Christian thing, and a summer mission trip to Haiti left me disillusioned. I started my senior year with these doubts which only grew as I expanded my circle of friends. My friend Jason dated a girl for a bit who was the first real "indie" girl I ever meet. She was older and we became friends and stayed friends even after she broke up with my friend Jason. She introduced me to R.E.M and foreign films. I liked hanging out with her and she opened up a new world for me. We sat around a lot, drinking coffee, talking about books and films. I realized there was this whole world filled with people who did not quite fit in to the mainstream. It was exciting.
At my school, there were few alternative kids. Most of the students were very into being Christian, and that meant no R movies and definitely no "secular" music. But there was kid named Kevin. He was two grades behind me, a skater. I'm not sure how we even started talking but I think it was over a discussion of "Pump Up the Volume." He was a hard person to have a conversation with as he was so invested in being odd. But we managed to have a few talks about music, and he introduced me to new music: Minor Threat, The Butthole Surfers. We were the only kids in the school that were different and because of that we latched onto each other. He was a skinny kid with floppy blonde hair, and he always seemed dirty. I remember his big controversy was masturbating in class. None of the teachers caught him but the rumor spread all over the school. When I asked him if it was true, he just grinned.
He was the first indie kid I ever had a small crush on but he was younger than me (in high school three years seems like a lot) and we were already entering the era when the pretty girls were becoming indie. He had a small following even in our tiny school not that he seemed to notice. Sometimes we'd bump into each other at the local library and I'd watch him skate with this friends. I was embarrassed by my attraction to him. He was someone different on a skateboard. Bold and graceful. Even when he wiped out. But he also seemed so young and vulnerable. I remember when we talked; he'd lean forward so that his hair would cover up his delicate features which had not developed into that hardness which seems to make male adulthood. I felt very old around him, and it wasn't really that three year age difference. Despite Kevin's attempts to be different, he was really an innocent kid like most of the kids I went to school with. At this point, I had recovered from heavy drinking and drug use. I was probably the only nonvirgin in the school. My past always kept me at a distance from the kids around me who were so naive compared to me. And Kevin despite what he thought was still one of those kids.
My school did not have a prom. Dancing was not Christian. Instead we had an awards banquet. Everyone dressed up, and went to eat a "nice" dinner at a restaurant. My last year I decided not to go. I had nothing to wear and felt done with the school at that point. Two of my friends talked me into it, as they knew I was getting a reward. I felt hypercritical receiving it as at this point I had decided I was done with Christianity. But I went, and smiled and thanked everyone. Later we ended up Kevin's house. We stood around in the dark, fooling around, being stupid, giddy that school was now done. Someone suggested a game of hide and seek in the dark which is really just a cover for overly shy kids to grope. I felt stupid, and out of place, too old for the game. I remember walking around, and finding Kevin behind a tall bush that abutted the house. He put his finger to his lips, and then pulled me in. We crouched there facing each other, and there was that moment…that feeling that comes right before you kiss someone, or before they kiss you. Later, if the kiss never comes, you'll question the feeling, casting doubts on it. Our heads moved closer, and I got up and left.
That night, I regretted leaving. I had wanted to kiss him. He was only a boy but he also was someone who understood the increasing alienation I felt happening between my present and my future. He was beautiful and strange. But I also felt like that kiss would have destroyed something in each of us. Even now I can put a finger on why I felt this way. And part of me let my insecurity push him away. I was fat and pimply, and maybe he thought I'd be easy because of my past. I couldn't imagine this boy really wanting to kiss someone like me. He was too pretty for my world.
He signed my yearbook with "I'm only a minor threat."