Bleed American

2001-Freshman Year

“I’m not alone, ‘cause the TV’s on, yeah. I’m not crazy, ‘cause I take the right pills every day…” blared out of the cheap, stock speakers, while I sang along in my head.

“Owen!” his mother yelled, urging him to turn it down.

His mother was right to turn down the volume as the music became distorted—a sign of damaging the speakers. However, I would have rather waited until the song had ended before yelling. Even though people consider it “uncool” to listen to a band before seeing them live, listening to the first single from Jimmy Eat World’s new CD had my blood rushing in a fury throughout my body, making my heart beat straight out of my chest. Stupid rules, such as ‘not wearing the band’s t-shirt while seeing them live‘ were thrown out the window onto Loop One as Owen and I headed downtown—the “cool”-list creators had already taken us off their list with his mother driving us, but she would only drop us off.

As I sat in the backseat, silent, his mother grilled me with question after question, in which I’d answer as briefly as possible— Who are your parents? Where do you live? What do you like to do? As harmless as they were, I still felt under interrogation. If there were a question I could answer with a mere nod and an “Uh huh,” I’d do just that. The quick pace of my beating heart had quit resulting from the loud music playing, along with the excitement of being unsupervised downtown, but from a fear I would never get over.

Talking to other kid’s parents had always been a nightmare growing up. Even through high school, I never became comfortable in any situation involving the exchange of words between them and I. Whether it be an easy, brief introduction or an all-out conversation, I’m plagued by the incessant thoughts of, ‘Hi, I’m fucking your daughter,’ or ‘You can trust me, I’m only doing drugs with your kid.’

The older I got, the more I saw how comfortable my friends could speak with other parents, even while they were stoned. It swept away the assurance of thinking all kids were like this, along with other anxiety-driven thoughts I believed I had shared. My well of loneliness grew deeper.

The moon had lit up the night sky above as we hurried inside the venue. Thanks to the barrage of questions thrown at me in the car, Owen’s mother had us cruising just below the speed limit, making us late for the opening band. I was familiar with them, having purchased their CD. But this was back when I would buy an entire album for only one song I’d listen to repeatedly.

We walked into the main stage area of Emo’s as the guitarist was wailing away on a solo that would end the song, and the set. He looked like he could be Dave Grohl’s twin. For a minute, I thought he was the long-haired frontman for the Foo Fighters; the legendary drummer of Nirvana. I screamed and jumped as high as my non-athletic, ninth grade body could jump, naively thinking he would recognize me from two years before. Foo fighters had opened for The Red Hot Chili Peppers while I was in seventh grade—another show I’d attend with Owen. They had been the first band (that I was a fan of) I’d seen live, stealing away my live show-virgin card. The disappointment that came from realizing it wasn’t him had me feeling duped; like they had tricked me. I felt like an idiot.

I let that tiny misunderstanding throw a dark cloud over the crowd while we all stood there waiting for the band we came to see.

Back then, I was not a fan of The Strokes, when they blew up in America faster than the World Trade Towers—which had happened just months before—too soon?, with their single, “Last Night.” Though, with jolts of pain being sent up to my brain, telling me to sit-the-fuck- down I couldn’t stop gazing at the crowd, especially this one guy, in particular. He had drooping eyes, like he had been born in a bong, and a mouth that would close. It was the stereotypical “stoner”-look. With that Stroke’s song playing, and this guy stoned out of his mind, I thought, This is our generation. This is My generation. I t was something I was a part of, and nobody could take that away.

As my legs were about to give, the band finally came out. It was Jimmy Eat World opening with their single we had blared in the car; a song that everyone my age could relate to… “Bleed American.”

That night, I fell in love with that band, the music, the people, the atmosphere, live shows, everything; including myself. If only I had held onto and kept that love…


Leave a Reply