Saturday's Hold Steady show @ BC:
I spent my senior year in high school wearing black turtlenecks, dating a guy I didn't like very much but who was in a punK band who's style was a sunglasses-and-neckties combo, and writing "dangerous" missives about classmates I hated during study hall in a leatherette journal. And trying to learn to love MxPx. And copying Robert S's AP English vocab homework.
The very last day of school, I climbed into this kid Nick's red Escort, joining a handful of people I still talked to at that point. Just a chlorine-soaked summer away from leaving forever, or so I really believed in my sloppy teenage heart. (A few days earlier, I had been at my former BFF's house for some sort of team sports/school booster meeting [do these even still exist???], and her mom n her had started talking about how exciting College was going to be, what with the sororities and parties and boyz and no curfeeeeewwww and omg my little girl's growing-up-blahisms. And her mom turned to me and was all "AREN'T YOU SO EXCITED?!?!?!?" and I looked at her total stony-faced and said "I'm going to study hard and not waste my parents money." And the entire dining room of teens-n-parents fell silent, you could actually hear the accompanying soundtrack/album-needle screech, and they all went back to throwing handfuls of glitter into booster club packages and curling gift ribbon and shit. I've always felt kind of bad for that, esp. since it was hypocritical and I stayed up way past bedtime and I think failed math that first year, I was a liar; and also that particular mom was always nice to me and it was not necessary to be a total bitch to her, even if I was 17 and everyone is a total bitch when they're 17.)
So we were in the back of this hatchback and going nowhere in particular, I had picked up my paycheck the day before, and didn't have to work that day. So we went to the Party Bridge. Which, as recent high school grads (15 minutes prior) was totes lame and for Sophomores but whatever. We'd hit Taco Bell afterwards and pretend like all this never happened.
Has there ever been a lame-er name for a teenage hangout than "The Party Bridge?" It sounds like a Christian Youth Center (close - ours was actually called "the Cave" and featured earnest trying-to-be-cool twenty-something employees/pastors named Cliff, and afterschool concerts of x-edged bands, before we even knew what straightedge really was.) I tried googling "the Party Bridge" and all that came up was some MySpace memes and a Wikipedia entry on Wayne Crookes.
The Party Bridge* - a... bridge...out in rural-ish Loudoun. I'm sure it's long gone, or at least surrounded by townhomes at this point, so I don't feel like I'm breaking Teen Code and giving away a giant secret to Old Square Bloggers. You went to the Party Bridge to jump off the Party Bridge. That was about it - sometimes people brought their older sister's hidden stash of Beast, but for the most part, you went to jump into the creek below. The Bridge was just low enough to not get hurt, and just high enough to feel truly lawless. Also, the cops showed up every 20 minutes or so to bust up the entire Jump Op 3000, so - thrilling illicit anticipation! Potential neck-breaking death with every leap! Or at least a sprained ankle!
One much needed piece of information prior to jumping- if the cops came while you were still in the water, you grabbed onto one of the cement supports and held on like a water koala or something while you treaded, hiding behind it as the authorities gathered everyone up and took names and called frustrated parents at their desks trying to finish up client calls. You, the treader, escaped Scot free.
I think we were there all of .25 seconds before the cops showed up. We had just parked off the gravel road in the woods, and S. and I headed down the banks to see who had already jumped and was in the creek.
We sat on the banks and watched as this really nast kid Ben - who I remember because he was just BAD ASSNESS. He was my age, but certainly hadn't finished high school that day, nor ever. The fact that he was wasting time jumping off some pansy ass suburban bridge when he had more important things to do; like copious amounts of meth and knocking up 15 year olds and robbing his dad's business; just kind of floored me.
So the cops are up on the bridge bustin' chops and collarin' keedz, and us two girls are sitting on the bank watching Ben tread water and hide behind the pillar. A choice - do you walk up the bank and get busted? Do you wait under the bridge with the trolls and the dead fish and Ben? Do you risk having the cops come down and see Ben's reflection in the water, and then you become the girls who Got Ben Busted Again and rish having yr car keyed at Nick's house some summer night? Do you just sit there, paralyzed with unexplainable youth joy, waiting for your heart to explode from the ridiculously minor yet somehow breathtaking situation you have found yrself in?
In the few moments that followed: Nick & his Escort may or may not have abandoned us under the bridge when the cops told him to get out of there (I can't remember), and I think Ben winked at us, and my Chucks filled with mud seep, and once we found Nick again he drove us home, talking the entire time about his first sexual experience with another girl he had just offered a ride home, and my head nearly burst open with anticipation- that soon, I didn't have to be here anymore and I could maybe, MAYBE, go get arrested with pure abandon in some other town for a minimum of four years as long as I kept my grades up, and arrested not for jumping off some shit-ancient train trestle. At the very least, an open container charge. Something, anything.
I'm not from Minneapolis, but you catch my drift. Hearts exploding, heads bursting open.
* "Also covered with poison ivy." - S.