Three Memories

17 Mar

1. It’s a grey, dreary Saturday afternoon in early August, 1997. I’m at my friend Liz’s apartment; she’s throwing me a party for my fifteenth birthday. It’s not a big party – more of a get-together, really, with a handful of friends sitting around on Liz’s living room floor. Somebody has brought the obligatory cake, and there are gifts, too, but those are beside the point.

My real birthday present is that Liz has somehow convinced her mother to rent Trainspotting for us. Not only that, but her mother has actually left us alone to watch it.

I have been dying to see this movie ever since it came out the year before. I own the soundtrack (well, I own a taped copy of the soundtrack that my friend made for me). I have postcards showing scenes from the movie stuck on my wall. I’ve cut out every interview with Ewan MacGregor that I can find and pinned them to my bulletin board. My friend Emily somehow saw Trainspotting in theatres (in spite of the fact that she was too young for its R rating), and I’ve made her give me a play-by-play of all of its scenes.

I am so fucking ready for this.

I sit there and watch the fuck out of that movie, my fingers dug deep into the grey pile of the living room carpet. I drink in everything, even, maybe especially, the things that I don’t understand. I don’t flinch away from the achingly awful, sometimes sickening parts that I later won’t be able to watch as an adult. I watch this movie like I’ll be writing a final exam in which 100% of my grade is based on a essay regarding Mark Renton and his life choices.

I am fifteen. I am a virgin. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette, never mind fucking around with heroin. I don’t cut class. I don’t break my curfew. I try so hard to be good.

But in my whole life I have never had something speak to me the way Mark Renton’s opening monologue does:

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons.

Because already I know that I’m not going to choose any of those things. I don’t know what I want in life, but the list of things that I don’t want is long and involved. I’m fifteen, so compromise doesn’t yet exist.

I am going to take the fucking world by storm, and I am not going betray any of my values along the way.

2. It’s a bright spring day in 2003. I have recently sort of, maybe started dating my friend. We have been on one, maybe two dates, but we haven’t kissed yet. He comes over to my house and we watch my favourite movie, The Red Violin. I lean against him and put my head first on his shoulder, then on his lap. I am so tentative, so nervous.

I am so in love with him.

Afterwards, he walks me back to the Dalhousie campus. I have to go work at the school call centre, where we try to convince alumni to donate money to the university. We end up wandering over to the stairs leading up to the Grad House (a misnomer of a pub where undergrad students are totally welcome) and I stand on the second step, so that I’m the same height as him.

Suddenly, he leans in and kisses me, then grabs me and spins me around until we’re both dizzy and giggling.

“Well, that makes things less awkward,” he says.

I bury my face in the front of his coat. I can’t stop smiling. In that moment, everything is sharply, painfully perfect. It doesn’t matter that in a little over two months’ time we will end up lost in a blind alley of shortcoming and fears and hurt feelings. It doesn’t matter that our friendship will end, not even with a bang, but slowly, painfully, spluttering and gasping to its death over the course of the next two years. It doesn’t matter that he will break my heart, not just once, but over and over.

It doesn’t matter, because even if someone had told me all of the awful things that were to come, I still wouldn’t have traded that one wonderful moment for a calmer, happier, but ultimately emptier world.

3. It’s a hot, sunny summer day in 2004. I am wearing a brown tank top and a skirt that my aunt bought me for my birthday. The skirt, which hits just below the knee, is cream with a brick-red pattern of swirls on it; it’s made of jersey cotton, which means that it moves with and clings to my body in the best way possible. The waistband is a thick elastic, in the same brick-red colour, and it dips down into a v in the front. I love the cut of this waistband an unreasonable amount.

I am walking next to Citadel Hill in Halifax. I have my discman in my purse, and I’m listening to my roommate’s copy of Hawksley Workman’s (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves. Specifically, I am listening to Striptease. The sun is hot on my face and shoulders. My hair hangs long, dusty, tangled down my back. I am swaying my hips, wiggling my shoulders.

For the first time in a long time I feel perfectly at home in my body. I feel sexy, in a dirty, earthy way. I feel like someone who might be desirable.

I look down and notice that my skirt has slipped enough to show off the top of my black thong. I barely pause for long enough to hike my skirt back up, and then I keep going.

renton_tracks

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14 Responses to “Three Memories”

  1. Andie March 17, 2013 at 4:04 am #

    What a lovely post. I especially love that you referenced both Trainspotting (my favorite movie as a teen) AND Hawksley Workman, who is simply amazing.

    • bellejarblog March 22, 2013 at 1:11 am #

      You clearly have good taste! And thank you 🙂

  2. charlotteporter9 March 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I absolutely LOVE this post. One of the best I’ve read. Very thought provoking in a quiet and tender way. Sigh……

  3. Julia March 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I love how you included details like the way you were listening to a Discman. This really spoke to me, especially as someone who is part of that generation and has similar memories. Coming-of-age memories never seem to lose their vividness. So great.

  4. termsmom March 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Loved this post! I saw a movie, WAY BACK, that made my 15 year old self want to be a hippie; a runaway, free-loving, flower selling, yep, pot smoking hippie girl. I was sure I was heading to San Fransisco!! I’m closer now to that space than I ever was, and it’s been 40 years. Sometimes, change takes time.

  5. eteal March 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Beautiful, authentic. thank you for this as I swim thru my mail and get happily sidetracked by the beautiful tern of phrase. I love the cut of your words..though not unreasonably. ( though perhaps pretentiously…..).

  6. Ray Sharp March 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    YOU are a really good writer!

  7. Abigail March 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I’ve been reading your blog while pumping breastmilk for the past 15 minutes or so, and I’m loving it. (Trying to type this with one hand!!!) I was struck by what you wrote about being unable to watch parts of Trainspotting now, as an adult — I’ve been experiencing a similar phenomenon since becoming a mother a few months ago. Things pierce me much more deeply and easily than they used to. I seem to have less armor now. Ah, but now the bag is full of milk and back to work I must go… :/

  8. Katie March 23, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    This was just beautifully written.

    And now I need to watch Trainspotting again.

  9. Kate MacDonald March 30, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    I just stumbled across your blog from a random post I saw on Facebook. Strangely, I’m also from Halifax and also used to work at the alumni call centre for extra coin during my years at Dalhousie. And I’m also a “closet” writer, who is both envious and enchanted by your skills.

    • bellejarblog March 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Whoa crazy! And thank you!

      Ahhhh the call centre. Good times. Good times.

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