Sell the kids for food
Weather changes moods
Spring is here again – Nirvana – In Bloom
Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old – Nirvana, Serve The Servants
Saturday morning school time. There is something about Saturdays; class always feels easier, less complicated, more down-to-earth. Maybe it’s because we only have Biology and the Biology teacher is really laid back and friendly. One of those teachers who doesn’t make you want to cry whenever he asks you a question, who is kind and understands that not everyone is scientifically oriented. The opposite of my Maths teacher who is a sarcastic piece of shit who spends his time pretending he is a teenager (he skateboards to work for heaven’s sake) and making all the real teenagers feel like they are little cockroaches that he enjoys squashing for entertainment. I have never liked Maths, but he just makes me want to skip all of his classes. Or spend them in the Infirmary, which is my usual trick.
Saturday mornings in spring in Grenoble are usually lovely. Early April, the air smells like spring, fresher, lighter and sunny. The whole atmosphere in the city is brighter and happier. The daffodils are blooming on all of the street corners and the days are getting longer. When it’s light when I leave school I just feel so much happier. The anticipation of everything that is coming up is also helping my mental lightness. Ever since my mother and her husband have decided to get a divorce life at home has changed. I can wear what I want, and even got a few pairs of jeans that actually fit nicely. I know I shouldn’t brag, but I am wearing the men’s smallest size jeans. I still don’t have boobs or hips, but ever since Kate Moss became famous and someone told me I have a body like Twiggy I don’t mind as much. Maybe I am one of those late bloomers, but in the end I don’t really mind. It’s not like anyone can see much of my body beneath my large flannel shirts, oversized jumpers and long hair. My favourite jumper is the one my grandfather used to always wear. My mother gave it to me when she came back from his funeral. Huge, soft and and off-white. I can still see him wearing it when he was working, making amazing things out of pieces of wood. It comforts me to wear it. I love my large white shirts, stolen from my stepfather. Ever since the divorce is happening I am being treated like an adult. I am not going to complain about it, it’s strange, and I feel there is too much pressure on me, because everyone keeps talking to me about it all. They left a few months ago, the stepfather and my brother, and are in India now. My stepfather writes to me all the time, and I feel like never writing back, but I know I have to. My mother lets us do what we want now. Dress in the way we want and come back home when we want, as long as we let her know where we are and who we are with.
I spend most of my days hanging out with my best friend, talking about our crushes, making fun of most of the people in our school and singing Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Hole songs. I know every single Nirvana song off by heart, I am madly in love with Kurt Cobain and I wish he were my father. Or my husband. Or that he would just save me from this place where I am growing up. He understands what is going through my head, he understands what it is like to come from a broken family. He understands what it is like to be around parents who don’t care, who aren’t there, who are addicted and abusive and unkind. He understands what it is like to feel like an outcast at school, to feel ugly and unloved and that you will never fit in. He speaks to me directly when he sings. Finally there is music out there that is actually making sense to me. My best friend and I are still treated like outcasts, especially when we start talking about Nirvana and Kurt, but I really couldn’t care less anymore! My school folders are covered in band graffiti and song lyrics, my Doc Martens are black with purple laces and scuffed. I burn holes in my jeans and smoke cigarettes in the courtyard during breaks. If I am going to be an outcast, might as well do it in the coolest way possible… Although I really am not smoking to be cool. I thought it would be fun to try one of my mother’s cigarettes and was pretty much hooked on them from the first puff. They help me hide from everyone, the screen of smoke is a haze behind which I can observe and laugh at others. That one girl who never even bothered to talk to me for the three years we were in the same class now wants me to make her a mix tape. The other girl who comes from a rich family and who always looked down on my clothes has now bought the same type of school folders as me and has been adding band names on the front. The other day I asked her what she thought Pretty on the Inside and she looked at me blankly. Boring.
Use just once and destroy, invasion of our privacy – Nirvana, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
That day was just a normal Saturday. I was actually excited to get to school because I had taped a copy of Sonic Youth’s Dirty for my best friend and couldn’t wait for her to hear it. I was still getting into it myself, some of the songs were too distorted for me, but it was really growing on me. I walked into the courtyard, with my usual fear/excitement/anger/happiness that I always had walking into school. I was wondering if I would bump into him and pretend to ignore him while internally swooning over how good-looking he was when I saw my best friend. I knew something was wrong as soon as I saw her. I stopped in my tracks and asked her what was wrong…
“Did you listen to the radio this morning??”
“No, I didn’t have time, I was too busy finishing off this new mix tape I was making for our sleepover tonight!! What’s wrong??”
“You haven’t heard about Kurt??”
“Oh no, is he in hospital again? Did he overdose again? What happened??”
“He’s dead. He killed himself. With a gun. They found him this morning. He’s gone. Dead.”
“No. No. No. NO. It can’t be possible!!!”
I dropped my bag on the floor and burst into tears. Not my Kurt, the one male figure in my life who actually understood me, the one person who was going to save me from this. Another man who just abandoned me because he was too weak, too helpless, too depressed and too addicted to heroin to go on. Another man in my life who preferred to kill himself rather than stick around and see his kid grow up. I cried floods and floods of tears that day, and the next, and the next and the next. I listened to In Utero over and over again, looking for hidden hints between the already near-mystical lyrics. I smoked a lot of hash and contemplated on how it would be nice if I could join my father and Kurt and just leave it all behind me. I taped the recording of the last Nirvana concert ever when the radio played it in its entirety and listened to it on repeat in my room, sitting on the windowsill, smoking cigarette after cigarette and singing along to each song. Teenage angst was obviously not paying off too well for me.
Kurt’s death changed me. I went from a shy, slightly depressed, but slightly optimistic girl, trying to deal with a second divorce and the lack of a permanent, normal and stable father figure in her life, to an angry, sullen, annoyed and sarcastic teen, intent on pushing everyone’s buttons and obtaining answers about everything that was wrong in life. I didn’t trust anyone, especially not men, and wouldn’t listen to anyone when they told me how worried they were about me. If someone tried to talk to me my standard answer would be “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” and off I would stomp in my Doc Martens, Nirvana/Hole/Smashing Pumpkins/Alice in Chains/Metallica t-shirt and flannel shirt, cigarette in mouth, diary and pen in one hand and walkman in the other. My favourite pastimes became hanging out in parks and skipping class, reading dark poetry and listening to darker music. Men were still kept at arm’s length until I trusted them, the years of fear and mental and sometimes physical abuse gave me a sixth sense on how bad men were and how I should protect myself as much as possible. Blessing in disguise in some cases, as it probably saved me from a lot of unwanted sex and broken hearts in my earlier youth. Although not the type of blessing I would wish on anyone else.
I felt like I lost my father again. Another father. The real one was long gone, the step-father did his damage and left, and the one I thought would help patch me up gave up and abandoned me to deal with it all myself. Four albums, countless images and words and then an end. No more. A wife shouting to the crowds, a suicide note that made too much sense and a history of drugs that I knew only too well. How could I go on knowing that the ones I trusted most just didn’t care enough to go on?
“I miss you. You are always with those other girls now, and you never have time for me. I’m worried you aren’t studying anymore. You miss class a lot and I never know where you are when the teachers ask me. I can’t keep covering for you.”
“I miss you too, I don’t want you to cover for me. Just tell the truth, that you don’t know. But you can always join us if you like… We are usually playing music and singing in the park down the street. Drinking beer, smoking a joint if any of us can get our hands on some hash… I can introduce you to some cute guys with long hair…”
“Ok! I just need to get through this last month and so do you and then we are on holiday. You can’t fail now, this is the hardest year. Next year we will be allowed to take the classes we want to. The boys and the park will still be there. Just think about it… I miss laughing with my best friend. Even he misses you, I can tell, he always looks like he’s looking for you!”
“Ah him… Maybe one day I will have enough courage to talk to him… OK, I promise, I will go to every class until the end of the year. I passed everything anyway, just need to make it through. I love you!”
My best friend helped me through that month, but as you always do when you are in pain, you inflict pain on those who want to help, unwittingly. She was a great person and I was just too damaged. She was rebellious, but not self-destructive. And strong, strong enough to know that I would only bring her down if she followed me there. Our paths slowly drifted apart, me towards a self-hatred and love of falling down hard in order to pick myself up a little higher, her towards a life that she thought she needed to lead. Although she had many a surprise up her sleeve though, and would always make me smile with her pure will to discover life in ways that I had never thought. One of those friends you never forget.
Kurt changed my life for the better and gave me the independence to be myself, but he was only human in the end. And the day he decided to end his life changed mine forever. Or maybe he was just a catalyst for whatever was going to come…
Underneath the bridge
Tap has sprung a leak
And the animals I've trapped
All become my pets
And I'm living off of grass
And the drippings from the ceiling
It's okay to eat fish
'Cause they don't have any feelings – Nirvana, Something in the Way