I’m refactoring some code on my Covid-19 dashboard app and listening to an old Nine Inch Nails album “The Downward Spiral”. Odd to think of this album as “old”, as when it came out I was in Jr High. I remember copying Trent Reznor’s lyrics on pieces of paper and pseudo-anonymously slipping pieces of Trent’s poetry in her locker. Eventually someone told her I liked her and she passed a message back saying she liked me too.
But dear god I didn’t want her to know. I wanted her to feel the mysticism of Trent’s lyrics. I wanted to have a crush on someone and for them to not know. And now that she knew, I didn’t feel that way any more. I don’t know why I felt that way. It’s like the thrill wasn’t there. The challenge.
“Oh, she actually likes me too? Never mind. I’m not interested.”
Cringe aside, there were a lot of themes to the lyrics in this song that I didn’t understand. Such as Trent’s vile outlook on violent behavior and the pain he felt with losing loved ones or going through trauma. Sitting here, on my golden throne with studio speakers hearing his album remastered with near perfect clarity; here I am postulating about a man’s feelings from the early 90s. Back then I think I loved the edgy and dark tones because I didn’t understand them; because I pretended to understand because I wanted to feel deeper things than what an aspiring teenager could feel at the time.
I was listening to “hurt” and going through all of these old memories I had in Jr High. As the chorus crescendos, I remember back then of having this very, very stupid idea of what love was and all of these supposed “memories” I could have had with the girl I had a crush on. But now, as Trent Reznor wails “and you could have it all… my empire of dirt….” I think about new people this time.
The people I’ve let down. The people I’ve hurt. The loved ones I miss so terribly.
Sometimes I think about an old friend I had back then. Chris. Chris Allen. I was walking home from Jr High one day and as I proceeded along the elbow curve of the street, there was a grassy patch that lead to a cliff that oversaw a gully. And on this patch was a large gathering of kids around two who were about to get into a fight: Chris and a school bully.
As I trotted up to the crowd I could see them starting to get into it. A jab here. A haymaker there. A little bit of dancing around. And then BAM! Chris got socked right in the face and went down. The bully got on top of him and started to throw in a few more punches before Chris inevitably started crying. And who wants to keep pummeling a kid who’s crying?
As Chris got to his feet, he wiped his tears and put his glasses back on and yelled out to the crowd: “See!? This is why fighting doesn’t solve SHIT.” as if to declare some un-dodge-able gotcha. The bully stopped and made a sudden motion, stepping back toward Chris as if to say “What’s that you little punk? Did you want round two?” and Chris whimpered. The bully proceeded to walk off.
“What the fuck did you do!?” I said to him. “Proving a point” he replied. “Looks like you got your ass kicked.” I said back. He looked at me. Bleeding from his nose. Tears drying on his cheeks. He brushed me off and said he wanted to be alone as he gathered his things and headed toward his house. I went down into the gully, which was a shortcut to my house.
I looked him up on Facebook. He’s appears to now be a furry and is alone.
That beating must’ve really left a mark.