After Adam and I broke up, I had more or less exhausted the dating pool of our high school and was ready to branch out. My dating philosophy was misguided, but simple—sometimes it’s easy to think that when you’ve found someone passionate about the same bands you are, you’ve also found love. Alas, finding another New Romantic lover in my hometown—a New Jersey suburb that is noteworthy mainly for having an inordinate number of muscles tattooed with misspelled Italian clichés per capita—was a challenge. In order to meet someone with whom to swap spit and Lloyd Cole lyrics, my best friend, Jean, and I ventured to the likeliest breeding grounds of likeminded young men we could find: parties at northeastern colleges. Of course, this usually led only to desperate encounters with doughy, self-obsessed drummers and scores of aspiring horror-movie directors, but one night I thought I had hit the jackpot.
Matt* lived in a ramshackle college house outside of Philadelphia with a few other students from his small art school. He seemed pretty unremarkable at first—glasses, very furry beard and limbs, cute potbelly. My indifference toward him morphed into full-flung devotion when I noticed a huge Morrissey poster on the wall of his bedroom. Suddenly, I wanted to know everything about him, almost as if he were the Mozfather himself. While my friends played beer pong with his roommates, he and I hid upstairs in his room to interrogate each other about our favorite books, movies and, of course, Smiths songs. Since the “conversation” was really just us excitedly barking the names of every band on Sarah Records at each other, I determined that we were destined to be together.
When the discussion steered toward our own thoughts and feelings as opposed to simply reciting lyrics back and forth, it became significantly less thrilling. A large part of his seduction routine was dominated by the wince-inducing debut performance of a stand-up routine he was writing. “Do arsonists get off to news reports of burning buildings? Someone should make fire porn! Uh, funny stuff, r-right?” He asked me if I got it. I faltered, but then, when I looked at Morrissey’s face on the wall above his, I decided that I most certainly did. Our thighs touched briefly as we sat side by side on his plaid comforter. Right after we discovered we shared a birthday, he shoved his face into mine and lacquered it with an impressive layer of spit.
We made out for a good long time before I got bored. I suggested we go back downstairs, but he was tired and wanted to pass out. Since we weren’t about to drive home and sleeping arrangements at these parties were typically not much more sophisticated than a pillow on the cigarette-burned carpeting of someone’s living room, he told me that I could sleep next to him in his bed, no funny stuff. Because he was a Morrissey fan, I believed him—he even laid out gym shorts and a big shirt with, I kid you not, the Smiths’ first album cover on it for me. Swoon!
When the time came, I quietly changed into his clothes and felt my way to his bed. As I snuggled into his body and tried to shut my eyes, I caught a furry forearm to the face. Matt bolted upward, bellowing and screeching as if I were tearing out chunks of his generously distributed body hair. After a minute of panicking and trying to comfort him and quell his insanely loud, terrified zoo noises, I fled and joined Jean on the downstairs sofa. When I explained the situation, his friend said, through teary-eyed laughter: “Matt has night terrors. He probably dreamed you were some kind of burly horror-beast.” This isn’t exactly how you want a roomful of hot, intimidating “older boys,” as we called them in awestruck whispers, to see you when you’re an affection-starved high school senior.
After waking up with Jean’s toenails stuck to my cheek the next morning, I joined everyone else in the house to get stoned and eat away our hangovers at a diner nearby. When I smoke weed, my main thought patterns are made up of things like “AM I MOVING MY ARMS TOO WEIRD,” which isn’t even a real sentence. Add to this the presence of Matt, sitting directly across from me and avoiding all eye contact. Excruciating. I was still wearing his shirt, which he never reclaimed. I expected him to ask for it back before we left, but I think he was too mortified to even say goodbye. I still wear the shirt to bed all the time, next to my own Smiths poster this time.
* Matt’s is the only name in this story that’s been changed.