The decade of the 1980's was a time of surreal magic for me and I've found myself experiencing strong, pleasant longings for that time of my life lately. It was not only a "coming of age" time for me, but a highly formative living reverie of feelings, sights and a profound sense of being unstoppable. Mixed with the coming winter and the still child-like anticipation of Christmas, the season awakened in me something that has lived in me every single day since. These sensations haunt me as I sit here. They comfort and call to me and leave me on the edge of tears at times.
Cold nights driving from my hometown to the city, eager to meet new friends, new loves and new experiences. Gone were my childhood friends, though I tried to keep them. My mind would dance with desire for new acquaintances, those with experiences they could share with me and make me a part. Always I would stop by at a mall on my way, happening in only to feel the time of the season as it approached: the smell of new clothes, the echoing hiss of winter pants legs as people walk by, the provocative smells passing by a cologne counter. I would see young men working behind counters and I would wonder if I would see them out in the city that night, amongst the lights and aromas of the nightlife and dance clubs, wondering what their lives were like and who they lived with...what their parents were like in their homes. Always in my car would be the presence of the radio, flowing with music that I would swear I would always remember as eternal sounds of that time, ushering me into my life but never to adulthood. As I write this my heart claws at my memory, reaching back to those nights and the almost holy sense of longing that pervaded those journeys to the city.
There were times of feeling part of something bigger, feeling like I belonged for the first time in my life. I fell in love and people fell in love with me. My heart sang out in those nights, singing that there could be joy in the world, that Christmas existed in people and the ominous theme that everything is a time, not a place. I would sing in my car, pretending that I was singing for these new people in these new places, and that I was appreciated, that I was talented. For the first time in my life people found me attractive, which was something I was not used to and which became an odd, irritating feeling I would never understand. It was a growth feeling and in the snows of those days my heart broke with the weight of lust and possibility. And for the first time I let myself open to others, trying to share that which had been impossible to impart for so many teenage years. With this I experienced the pain of heartbreak and the terrible realization that I could break the heart of another person. That realization would haunt my soul for years.
In those holiday seasons there was an almost cheerful sense of brotherhood as I threaded my life into the city. There was no predatory consciousness but the slow caress of sensual fellowship that comforted in the cold and did not seek to control. There were forever memorable people to this day remembered, eternally frozen in the years to a time and place, always 21 years old and strong even after intervening years. Slow snowflakes and the smell of ice with car exhaust heralded the succession from bar to bar, always bathed in warm lights and smiles, complaining of winter but wishing Christmas would last forever in our hearts. Our young hearts.
There were sweet times when a gentle greeting kiss was actually genuine. The hugs were warm in the cold and the naked sincerity of young adulthood surrounded everyone, following us through the daytimes, biding time until the night came. It was in those nights that the vestiges of our childhood anticipation of the season would mask itself with something more mature, though we all knew that it was still the kid in us waiting for Christmas morning...that feeling of new discovery and the secure knowledge that there was no school tomorrow. That was the sensation that fueled those nights: there would never be any school tomorrow...ever again.
We drank and danced and laughed long into the nights to the soundtrack of Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, a-ha, Roxette, Depeche Mode, the fledgling Madonna and more. Much more. The music of eternity surrounded us and bound us together in a moment, forever captured in light.
We were the We before the Me Generation.
We were young and powerful and some of us took this to the dormitories that we thought would launch our futures. We took the spirit of the time with us, trying to share it with new friends from strange places, but no one really understood where we came from and the camaraderie we had formed here in the city of our beginning.
There is no "But today..." to this. Anyone who recognizes what I have written above knows that the 80's were forever. The time when we got it right. So for the first time in years I am in the holiday spirit and all I can think about is the heartbreaking beauty of the beginning of discovery which, in my case, happened in the holiday times of the 80's. Certainly the places would change, college years loomed, but the city would always be Rochester. My snowy road to the beginning of manhood will always lead to there...in the night....in the cold...with the smell of new clothes and the bright lights...and smiles never forgotten.
And no one ever...is to blame.
Copyright 2014 by Andrew T. Durham