foreign language is required to graduate from high
school in Washington. I had taken Spanish in junior
high, but was at the time (my sophomore year) infatuated
with Asian culture and anime and stuff so I decided
to take Japanese, the most insane language on earth.
head was half-shaved, I was a total disheveled new
wave punk, and I was completely committed to not giving
a shit. So, in keeping with the "image," I was a dick
to everybody I met. The Japanese teacher, Mrs. Raffety,
had a habit of pairing people off arbitrarily, following
no logic or reason. I often was paired with a freshman
girl named Anna, and my notorious reticience around
girls combined with my punk assholishness resulted
in our failing a lot of group projects. Anyways, I
sort of realized what an asshole I was, and on the
last day of class gritted my teeth, squared my shoulders
and apologized to her.
that started one of the major unrealized catastrophes
of my teenagerhood.
next semester, she dropped Japanese for Spanish, while
I soldiered on in the class, attempting to wise up
and pass, which I did. However, she turned up in the
Biology class that I was T.A.ing for easy Science
credit. It was nice to see her.A few days into the
class, she wrote me a note, in wide, girly handwriting,
just basically saying how cool it was that I had apologized
to her, and that not many guys would do that, which
was I guess true.
I wrote, or rather drew her a cartoon note back, just
basically saying thanks.
turned out to be pretty rad; open-minded, a little
nuts, a good photographer. Notes went both ways.
began exchanging notes daily; she would write hers
during the day, in her classes, and give it to me
in 5th period Biology; I would take it home, sit down
at my drawing table and respond. The notes accumulated,
along with photographs, tapes and other stuff, eventually
filling a shoebox. She confessed, vented and rhapsodized
to me, and I, in my usual half-veiled metaphorical
pussy way, did the same.Now Iím a slow thinker, and
an even slower courter, but it was seeping itís way
into my head that hey, this girl might just like me.
At this point I was a sour sixteen and had never been
kissed, so I was understandably confused by what to
do about it.
this confusion was shot to shit when, in a note, she
told me sheíd met a really cool guy.
heís a smoker," she wrote, "and Iíve heard kissing
a smoker is like licking an ashtray."
I wrote back, "I wouldnít know. Iíve never kissed
guy didnít work out, I breathed an inaudible sigh
of relief, until she, like girls uncountable both
before and after, developed something of a crush on
Jacob, my best friend. This distressed me more than
the other guy; at my slow, glacial pace, I was really
working into a bond with her. We had a lot in common.
And now Jacob.
as long as I had known him, Jacob exerted some kind
of pull on girls; maybe it was his hip, parentless
lifestyle. Maybe it was his moustache. I didn't know.
All I knew isthat I liked Anna a lot, and I didn't
want to see her endup like all the other girls he'd
I wrote, in my next note, just in passing, how Jacob
had been doing cocaine since he was five, and smoked
pot all the time, &c, &c. All true, of course, as
lying was simply not an option, but calculated to
produce a specific effect. She broke down crying,
determined to find him, find out if it was true. I
sat with her, on the steps by Alder street, Anna crying
into her hands.
broke our friendship forever.
notes are lost now; whether Anna still has hers, I
couldnít tell you. She took a photograph of me, half-bald,
tucked up fetally in front of a wall, covered with
face away from the camera.