Monday, August 8, 2011


Two or three o'clock in the morning, the rest of our friends would be asleep. No, that's too kind. They'd be passed out.

J and I would be the only ones awake. We weren't big drinkers. So after everyone else crashed, we'd walk through the house making sure each of them was propped up on their sides in case they threw up. John Bonham's death was still fresh in our minds. We didn't want anyone to choke to death in their own vomit, although no one ever threw up that I knew about. Walking the house was our measure of responsibility, teenage style.

Then we had the rest of the night to ourselves. I loved J, but not in a boyfriend sort of way. He had no interest in me as a girlfriend, although on a couple memorable occasions, we'd made out together with another guy. I jokingly called myself the pillow, the object they kept between them to keep it from being "gay."

When we were sure that no one would wake up to bother us, J and I took the Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, and Rush off the record player and put each album away with care. Then we put on the music we couldn't listen to with the rest of our friends.

Oh so quietly, so that the people in the other half of the duplex wouldn't call the military police on us, we'd listen to Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys, Pretenders, Oingo Boingo, The Ramones, and dance with frenzied abandon until we'd drop. It was how we exorcized our demons. We had more demons than anyone else we knew. They set us apart from our friends. They were our secret connection.

J didn't need the violence of punk as much as I did, the discordant noise and punishing drum rhythms and brutal lyrics but he put up with it for my sake, just like I put up with the country music he sometimes played. But only for me. I could put up with the rude remarks our friends made about my taste in music. He cared a little more about their judgment.

But what I remember most wasn't slam dancing with him in the living rooms of our friend's houses. It was the after. After my anger dripped out with my sweat, after the passion was spent, after we dropped onto the couch and turned to each other, grinning, as if we'd accomplished something grand.

Then he'd groan as he rose as if he were ancient. He'd amble over to the record player and pick a new soundtrack for the quiet hour. Sometimes, he put on the Eagles. Every time I hear an Eagles song, I think of his straw blond hair and deep blue eyes and hope that he lost his heart to someone who treated it with gentle care.

Other times, he'd turn off the lights and put on Since I Been Loving You by Led Zeppelin. He'd come back to the couch and we'd stretch out together, hanging on for dear life together in the darkness. The demons couldn't get you if your feet didn't touch the floor. We both agreed to that. We had our rituals to keep us safe, because we knew this was the most dangerous hour of the night, the long one.

We loved the bluesy riffs, the sparse anguish of Jimmy Page's guitar, the hurt in Robert Plant's voice. We understood every note and loved getting lost inside it.
Sometimes, we played that song over and over. Even when we didn't, the song hovered over us like a benevolent ghost in the silence. Since I Been Loving You was, and remains, the most perfect 'alone at three o'clock in the morning' song ever recorded, and J and I were pros at being lonely together.


  1. Kathleen,

    You've made this memory come alive.

    Thank you.

  2. Yes. As they say, sad songs say so much. :)