Thank You to My High School Crush
A Moment 30 Years in the Making: Graffiti on the Iron Bridge
I took the black Sharpie pen from his outstretched hand, unsure of what I should write.
He had come prepared. It hadn’t even occurred to me to make my mark.
I was too busy reveling in being in Manchester. On the trip of a lifetime.
Hesitantly, I wrote my first name, handing back the marker to my tour guide.
Unwittingly my journey started because of a haircut.
He was just a regular shaggy blonde haired, blue-eyed guy that I barely noticed. Until he got that haircut.
He was 17 and I was 16.
Yes, indeed. My journey to Manchester was 30 years in the making.
And all because he got a haircut. His features transformed with that new ‘do. Suddenly his cheekbones were defined and his blue eyes brightened.
I was too shy to talk to him. But I was a sucker for good hair and strong cheekbones. So I silently noticed him from afar in art class during the spring semester of my sophomore year.
A lot transpired between that haircut in 1988 and my standing on the Iron Bridge, made famous by the Smiths’ “Still Ill,” in Manchester in 2018.
My junior year (and his senior year) I had a challenging school schedule. After the first week, I dropped a class to pick up an extra study hall.
That single decision would profoundly impact not just my junior year but my life.
I strolled into the study hall scanning for any familiar faces. Who should be there? My blonde crush.
I summoned up the courage to say hello and found a nearby seat. He and I would spend every 6th period for the rest of the school year in those red auditorium seats.
In those early afternoon hours, we unknowingly were forging a friendship of a lifetime over music (particularly the Smiths and Morrissey), mundane high school subjects, and unspoken things like the final throes of my parents’ marriage as well as his own issues.
But, mostly? We shared music, sarcasm, and laughter.
He influenced my musical taste as much as anyone has in my life.
I went by his house after he graduated. I’m sure I had the urge to kiss him, but I never acted on that. I never told him how I felt.
He told me he had something for me. He grabbed a shabby silver-ish ring and thrust it into my hand. He didn’t say much, just that he wanted me to have it. It wasn’t even made of real metal. It was already starting to chip. And it was definitely too large.
But I cherished that ring.
In fact…I still have it.
To anyone else it would be worthless.
I’m no romantic. But I am sentimental.
That scrap belongs with me.
He moved away to attend college in another town. We stayed in touch, but it wasn’t easy during those pre-Internet days.
Eventually I drove down to see him over spring break of my freshman year at FSU.
More music, more laughter. I was as enamored with him as I’d ever been.
We ended up alone, listening to the Smiths (natch).
Three years after that haircut, two and half years since that fateful decision to add that study hall, countless hours of time spent together being silly, and lots of time spent apart while we were in different cities.
It all culminated in his leaning in to kiss me for the first time as “Back to the Old House” played.
I had to return to FSU. He had a girlfriend.
Life went on as it always had.
But our lives would intersect again. And again. And again.
I stood on the Iron Bridge a bit longer, taking in its history.
And suddenly I knew what to write!
I asked for the black pen once more.
Underneath my name, I added in lower case letters “back to the old house.”
I grabbed a picture and sent the shot to my one-time crush.
Yes, we’re still friends and have stayed in touch.
We’ve had an agreement in place for decades: we will always be friends.
Our attraction hasn’t waned. There are some people that you are attracted to, no? It’s beyond physical. It’s not rational. I suppose it’s that unquantifiable “chemistry.” You don’t have to act on that chemistry, but it’s there. It exists.
And I knew he would appreciate the gesture. Something so small, but my way of thanking him, acknowledging him.
In that moment my mind miraculously landed on the perfect memory and the perfect person to honor.
Visiting Manchester was a celebration of my life’s soundtrack. The music that resonates with me the most. (Of course, there are many other 80’s alternative groups that aren’t from Manchester. I speak of Manchester literally and figuratively.)
And it was also a celebration of all my friends who have shared that music with me over all these decades. Music is such a shared love!
My crude signature and those five words, the title of a seemingly random Smiths song, simply add to all the other graffiti on the iconic bridge. My small imprint will mean nothing to all the people who walk by.
But my graffiti means everything to me.
Thank you to the Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Oasis, Stone Roses. To what the Manchester/Madchester scene stands for.
And my eternal thanks to Chris. You may not have been physically standing on that bridge with me. But I would have never gotten there without you.
Bonnie had the pleasure of taking a two-week solo trip to the UK and France in July, 2018. Frankly, she would have appreciated having a friend or beau join her, but that was not in the cards. The trip was filled with music, art, fashion, gardens, history, and architecture. A highlight of the trip was touring Manchester and the surrounding area for its 80’s alternative/Britpop music history. It is not an exaggeration to say that seeing the old haunts of the Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Oasis, Stone Roses, and others was a dream come true.
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