"The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the teacup opens A lane to the land of the dead."

-W.H. Auden

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I remember - though I'm not really sure why - August 8, 1988. It was said to be a special day. 8-8-88, you see, a magic number of sorts, at least according to the tabloids my mother left strewn around the house.

I'd never thought of eights as particularly lucky though, and perhaps this is why I felt a blankness or  blandness in the day, or maybe emptiness is a better word. As if you are waiting for something to happen, though you're certain it won't and it doesn't, after all.

I remember my room, with its sheer pink curtains that would blow in the breeze, though in my memory that day is still and quiet. I had the curtains, though, and flowered wallpaper, a subscription to Sassy magazine, a set of benders, a stereo, and a subtle but gnawing sense of unease.

Nearly 30 years later, this is easy to explain. History has shown us the course things would take. The artifice of the Reagan 80's were about to be over, were already over, really, although we didn't quite know it yet. Only if you already lived on the fringes you would know it, and I was just a schoolgirl then who didn't quite understand. You know things before you know them, though, the way I knew that 8-8-88 was no magic number. The lives we were told we wanted would not quite work out that way. For those already marginalized, the future would be the same and worse.

Looking back, it's hard to say what I thought. My mind was preoccupied.The unease was (for me, then) like a faint smell you can't quite trace. The proverbial rat, before the stench of decay becomes unmistakable.

If it was not that day, it was another just like it that I happened to see the cover for Nothing's Shocking. It was a review in one magazine or another. Maybe it was Sassy, maybe it was Rolling Stone. Wherever it was, it intrigued me in a way I find it difficult to describe today. It was not shocking (as the title suggested) but indicative of something that could not be spoken.

Nearly 30 years later, history lets me see it in full - the flaming twins suggesting, in a dream-like way, the darkness that was coming, that weird black pall that hung over the Bush I years like so much riot smoke. By the mid 90's despair and drugs would would have many more in their grasp, but by then we had Grunge. It was the natural result.

It occurs to me now - and why I think of it this August - this unique image stays with me because it was a symbol, the first hint of the zeitgeist that would overwhelm us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment