Robert Smith and the Hormones by Abigail Lalonde
Her bedroom was in the basement. Four straight walls assembled for her older brother who had moved out. So she took it. DIY eighties basement bedrooms are generally windowless, as was this one. I also had a windowless room. What was once a skylight gave way to a sealed ceiling with a new roof that no longer leaked curse words from my father’s mouth with every rainstorm. Sure, probably unsafe, but like most of the eighties, no one questioned it. We didn’t wear helmets. We didn’t wear seat belts, and we didn’t question fire exit strategies. In fact, we relished in the ability to darken our rooms to nothing.
I’m not sure which one of us discovered The Cure first. Probably her, but we both had the older brother influence, plus I had MTV. We had been through many musical phases together—the whatever your parents listen to phase, the teenybopper boy band/mall girl phase, the learn your roots classic rock phase, etc., but we settled on the music that made us feel something the most. And then we never left.
I found myself staying over at Jen’s house most weekends. Her house allowed for more freedom, she was older, and she had a pool. Without question, at some point during every sleepover, we would conduct our ritual. With one person in charge of darkness, the other would press play on Side A of Disintegration (because tapes, duh), then we’d meet in the middle of the room. There is a good seventeen seconds of silence before “Plainsong” begins. That is the exact amount of time needed to stretch two lithe teenage bodies onto the ground and allow them to sink into the shag of the carpet. The music crashed down upon us at a volume that said we were young enough to not fear hearing loss. We had time.
“Pictures of You” made us feel like everything was okay, like Robert Smith himself was our best friend—another teenage girl dealing with zits and divorce and rage. The music mimicked our existence—longing—even if we didn’t know what for. The feeling that came with listening to those songs in the dark, it was friendly, like a hug. The kind of hug you want when you can’t stop crying, but you don’t want to stop crying. And sometimes we did cry, in the dark, side by side, but alone. It filled up something in us; something we didn’t even know was missing. It burned its way into our memory. There’s a reason that movies have soundtracks—because life has a soundtrack. Music holds memory in the beat, the personal experience inserted into each cymbal crash, each lyric. It stops becoming about the song, but instead about the way the song and the life fit together.
Some songs are fleeting, some stick with you for life. The ones that stick, they hit hard the first time. They are a knife to the gut. They touch that nerve, the one you’ve been protecting or nursing. But they also provide a level of comfort, opening a wound just to nurse it back to health. Despite how many times we sank into her basement floor it never got old. And of course the lyrics, the lyrics we hoped a boy would one day hear and decide to put on a mixtape for us, or play for us on a boombox outside of our non-existent windows. The lyrics we didn’t fully understand because we weren’t yet broken.
I always thought I’d look back on those songs as the songs of boys, heartbreak, and love. Instead I look back on them as a time capsule to a friendship. I’m still friends with Jen twenty-seven years later, but that was the time in our lives when we were closest. On that floor, in that fire hazard of a bedroom. Just us, Robert Smith, and all those hormones.
About the Author:
Abigail Lalonde holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. She is the Social Media Editor at Literary Mama. Her work has been featured in Sanitarium Magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry, Crack the Spine, and Yellow Chair Review. She lives with her husband, daughter, and three cats in Philadelphia. Her spirit animal is a combination of a goth teenager and Holly Golightly (from the book, not the movie. Don’t be silly).