I met the Artist in the Spring of 1997 when I was 21, and she was 16. Her name was Melissa, and her and boyfriend at the time used to come into my work at TLA Video in Marlton and rent indie films and discuss music and pop culture. I took an immediate liking to her and I think her boyfriend took an immediate liking to me, and invited me with them to go see the Violent Femmes concert somewhere at a small club in north Jersey.
Now, I loved the Violent Femmes, but I also had a an attraction to Melissa that I knew from the start was taboo. First of all, she had a boyfriend, second of all, she was really young, extremely beautiful and had these big stunning blue eyes, big lips, and maybe it was some spell she put over me but I was immediately attracted to her for some cosmic reason. She kind of resembled Sally from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” minus the stitching and the fact that Sally was a puppet. In fact, her nickname in high school was “Nightmare” for this reason specifically. I knew that there was an odd attraction to her, and that maybe her boyfriend didn’t see it, so I decided to go to the show with her, her boyfriend, and a few other high school kids. I mean, I was either the cool older guy, or the lame weird guy for hanging out with high school kids who couldn’t vote or legally order an alcoholic beverage yet.
I remember the club had a cage around the bar that you could only access if you were over 21. So there I was, inside the cage not drinking anything alcoholic because I didn’t start drinking for another 5 years, looking out at the Violent Femmes singing one of my favorite tunes, “Add it Up.” I looked over at Melissa and smiled, and she looked back at me and laughed because I must have looked like fool being on the other side of the fence, literally. Melissa’s boyfriend had a station wagon, and at the end of the show we all piled into it and started driving back to South Jersey. Somehow, I ended up sitting in the way back of the car in the extra seat that faced the opposite direction of the driver with Melissa sitting next to me.
As it got dark, it took all of my will power not to touch this gorgeous girl sitting practically on top of me in the way way back seat of a station wagon as her boyfriend drove us back to Marlton. Thing is though, I did kind of touch her, and she did kind of touch me. No kissing, just grabbing of things and intense eye contact, but believe me, it was enough for me to realize I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing and that even though I may not have know it then, this event would eventually come back to haunt me 3 and a half years later when I would find out exactly what was meant by the phrase “you get what you deserve.”
For the next few weeks, I hung out a little more with Melissa and the gang, but eventually that all stopped when I guess the guilt got to her and she told her boyfriend about what had happened in the back of his car that night. He was pretty mad, and rightfully so. I mean I hooked up with his girlfriend 8 feet away from where he was. He hated me, and I deserved to be hated, and that was pretty much the last time I saw her for awhile.
It was mid August of 1998, and I was working at T.G.I. Friday’s as a server. One night the hostess came up to me and told me there were two girls at the front who wanted to see me. Here I am thinking what girls would come to see me at Friday’s? I wasn’t dating anyone, and my mom and sister definitely wouldn’t just pop in out of nowhere. As I made my way down the stairs to the first floor of the restaurant, I saw Melissa and her friend staring straight at me. What the hell was she doing here? I started to wonder if this was a set-up and was her boyfriend was going to pop out of the phone booth and hit me across the head with a lead pipe because of what happened last year? Also, I was not prepared for such a rendezvous as I was wearing my goofy Friday’s uniform which at the time was a red and white striped shirt, suspenders, and a stupid hat that COULD NOT be a baseball hat as those hats were a violation of the uniform code.
“Hi. What are you doing here?” I asked Melissa.
“I wanted to see you.” She replied.
“I broke up with Brandon…well, I’m going to break up with him.”
What the fuck? Is she for real? Is she setting up her next boyfriend before breaking up with her current one? I guess she planned this out pretty well. I mean, I appreciate that she is coming here to tell me this, but what does that mean for me?
Truth is, I still thought about her a lot. I know it had been almost two years since that night at the Violent Femmes show, but I had run into her a couple times at shows, & the AMC movie theater. Sadly, we never talked. God forbid Brandon saw us talking, he’d probably freak the fuck out.
“Ok.” I said. “Well, let me know when you do break up with him. In the meantime here’s my pager number.” (PAGERS!!!)
I gave Melissa my beeper number, and with that I went back to work, confused and slightly interested. I think a day went by and I was at a house party when she beeped me and I knew it was her because we all had codes back then that we would leave on each other’s beepers. Mine was 11, and Melissa’s was 108 which had something to do with a song, or a band, or the album title for a band whose name escapes me now. Anyway, I called her back, she told me she broke up with Brandon, she was single now, apparently had an agenda, and this is how I started to date Melissa for the next year or so.
Melissa and I lived in the same neighborhood in Marlton called Kings Grant. It was really convenient when I drove home at 3 in the morning from her place and only had to travel a half mile. We spent every single day with each other for the first few months, and like any couple who got together when we were young, my social status and hanging out with my guy friends took a backseat to hanging out with Melissa. She was Italian, gorgeous, and she had a really close relationship with her Mom who liked me from the start and who would allow me to stay over at her place until the wee hours of the morning.
Melissa was an artist and she had this amazing quality to be able to immerse herself in the process of creating something out of nothing. I respected that, and it kind of made me want to do something artistic myself. At the time, my friends and I were running an underground fanzine called Jr. Skeptic which reported the ongoings of the punk rock scene in South Jersey. We would interview bands that came to Philly or Jersey to play shows, write articles about life, review some really good and some really terrible music, and we were slightly known in the town as being the older kids who knew what was cool, even though the whole idea behind punk rock was to avoid the mainstream vision of what was actually popular and cool. Basically, we ended up being cool though no fault of our own.
Melissa and I never fought with each other. Almost every night after working at Fridays, I would make my way over to her house and her and her mom and I would smoke cigarettes, eat food, and talk shit on people. Those two loved to gossip, and to be honest, so did I. Her mom used to take us out to dinner at the Medport diner after her shift and she would always pay for me to eat. She even helped me get a job working with her at her textile plant in Berlin organizing documents and filing away invoices. It was totally boring work, but I appreciated it, even though I eventually quit working there and started at another restaurant.
I was definitely in love with Melissa. She was the first girl I truly fell for that didn’t hinge upon the fact that I realized I loved her after I had lost her, or when it was too late. She introduced me to a way of thinking and a credo that I still believe in today even though at the time I might have scoffed at the notion she presented that “Everything happens for a reason.” She checked her horoscope daily and did my astrological chart for me and I was astonished at how accurate it was. I spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with her and her family in Philly, I was friends with her Dad whom none of her ex boyfriends could make a claim to because he didn’t like them and he was a menacing six foot three Italian ex bodyguard for Mike Tyson with a distrustful attitude and an impending look on his face that made you never want to hurt his daughter for fear of getting your legs broken.
Things were sailing along quite smoothly for the two of us. I had dated her for over four months straight which at the time was the longest relationship I had ever been in. I normally wasn’t the relationship type, but Melissa changed all of that and turned me into a long haired, beard wearing softy who cuddled with his girlfriend on the couch and held her hand everywhere we went. She loved me, hated the fact that I smoked pot, and I guess at some level I knew this but chose to ignore it from time to time and perhaps that ignorance would eventually piss her off, but it wasn’t THAT big of a deal, was it?
Yep, we were happy and in a great relationship, but when it came to our sex life, the truth is it was pretty much non-existent. That’s not true, it existed, but on some what of an adolescent level. Why? Because only one of us had had actual sex at this point in our lives, and it wasn’t her. Melissa was a virgin and I knew this from the start. I had dated virgins before, but I was 23 going on 24 at the time and I had had sex with a handful or two of girls before I dated her and I really enjoyed sex.
Don’t get me wrong, Melissa was a great kisser and she gave killer hand jobs…. probably because of all the practice she got over the last 5 years or so while she was jerking guys off instead of having sex with them. What about getting some head you might ask? Well, thing is, she wasn’t really big on blow jobs either. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times she blew me over the course of our relationship. Come to think of it, I can count on one finger how many times she blew me, and even then it was only an attempt to blow me and not a full on BJ where the end result was an orgasmic experience on my end. Did this bother me? Not really, but it was definitely a hot topic so to speak in our relationship for a good solid 9 months.
Look, I’ll be totally honest here. I did at one point tell Melissa that my intention was to eventually consummate our relationship and if that was never going to happen, I needed to know so I could figure out if I wanted to continue being with her without the ability to have sex. A guy can only receive so many hand jobs in a years time without eventually wanting to know what it’s like to actually be inside of his girlfriend, instead of just being gripped like the handlebars on a bicycle on a regular basis. It’s not like I gave her an ultimatum and said, “fuck me or else I’ll break up with you,” but I guarantee you that’s probably how she remembers it.
There were a few other things about us that made me realize that perhaps we were a mis-matched couple and starting to grow apart. At a New Year’s Eve party in 1998, I got stoned fifteen minutes before midnight and came back to the party high as a kite because I didn’t really drink alcohol at the time. Melissa took one look at me and my bloodshot eyes and utterly gave me the cold shoulder all the way into 1999. I never could understand her hatred for smoking pot. I mean, I had just turned 23, I had a good job, I loved her, and at the end of the night I didn’t puke up all the Captain Morgan I drank and made her drive me home with a splitting headache like most kids my age. In fact, I could still drive us home while I was stoned because at the very least I’d be cruising under the 35 mile an hour speed limit on Main street.
In the spring of 1999, things started to come undone. I had moved into a two bedroom apartment in Maple Shade with a guy I worked with at Friday’s, and literally two weeks after I signed the lease, I got fired from my cushy $450 a week serving job, which in today’s world is the equivalent to being paid $715 a week. I know it wasn’t a lot of money, but my rent was cheap, and having “no income” a week doesn’t pay the bills. It was at this time that I started working with Melissa’s mom in that shitty textile plant which only lasted a month or so. I did some odd jobs here and there and eventually found myself working as a server at Carrabba’s Italian Grill a few miles down the road from my place. Crisis was kind of adverted, but a new challenging situation would then arise.
One night in June of 1999, the time finally came when Melissa had decided she would say goodbye to her V-Card. Now, I had talked with her about this for awhile, and even though she told me it’s what she wanted to do, I still felt that on some level she was doing it more to keep me around than because she actually wanted to do it. Regardless, her Mom was out of town, I came over to her apartment where Melissa had candles and incense burning and we started to do the deed. This is where things got weird…..
Not a minute into it her eyes grew large and she stared at me with a shocked and upsetting look on her face like a deer in headlights. Now, I know the first time is painful, but the next thing that happened totally threw me for a loop. She suddenly started crying in the middle of it. Like hysterically crying. Did I do something wrong? Was she in a lot of pain? I know it’s very possible that it hurts, but my dick isn’t THAT big, is it? I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless and I felt strange and I didn’t know how to react to this situation and it started to make me angry.
I wasn’t angry at her or anything like that, I just was angry at the situation because I wanted it to be perfect and now I felt helpless and confused. I felt like all of a sudden all of her past issues were coming to a head and being spewed out all over the bed on a night that was supposed to be a sexy and romantic moment in our relationship. I hated my life at that moment. I hated the fact that this was happening, I hated myself for pressuring her, and I hated the fact that this was not going the way I had planned and I didn’t know why. I don’t even think she knew why, or if she did, she never was going to tell me the truth. This was a bad idea, and after about fifteen minutes, she calmed down we put our clothes back on and we just sat there with almost nothing to say to each other.
Melissa and I didn’t attempt to have sex again for awhile, but she did attempt to smoke pot with me one night at my apartment, probably in a effort to see what it was all about and unfortunately that led to fifteen minutes of hysterical laughter interspersed with fifteen minutes of hysterical crying. This went on for what seemed like two hours.
“Are you ok?” I asked her as she blankly stared at my wall without saying a word.
She never answered, and she didn’t speak for a hundred and twenty minutes while I tried to get her to sober up by feeding her cheese and crackers with a side of diet coke. The reaction she had was so weird. I felt like I had a sick puppy on my hands and I was afraid to leave her for a minute and I just didn’t understand what the hell was going on. Needless to say, a few days later we broke up. I don’t know if it had to do with the last few weeks of experimental sex and drug use, or if it had to do with the fact that perhaps our thing had run it’s course. Just to be clear, I didn’t want to break up with her, but it’s something she felt she needed to do and she cut off communication with me for the next few weeks. That’s the one thing I did not appreciate about the way it ended. I had no idea how to fix this.
Look, I knew I wasn’t the best boyfriend in the world the last few months, and I’m sure the stress of me losing my job maybe put a strain on our relationship and perhaps there was some stigma that she couldn’t ignore when it came to the failed attempts at sex and weed smoking. Maybe she was pissed that when she went to college earlier that spring and had her own apartment in Philly I didn’t come by as much as I should have come by. Maybe she was pissed that instead of hanging out with her I was hanging out with my friends from work playing poker and getting stoned til 3am? Maybe she just had the foresight to see that this thing wasn’t going to get any better. I was really upset about it for awhile and I used to hang with my best friend, telling him how depressed I was and how I was lucky to have him there for me while I whined and complained about how much I missed Melissa…..or so I thought.
One night in early October of 1999 I drove over to my best friend’s house to watch a movie. As I pulled up, I took a look at the cars that were parked outside as that was the way to find out who was all over there. I didn’t see many, but the one car I saw that didn’t normally belong there belonged to Melissa.
Wait…. what the fuck was she doing hanging out at my best friend’s house watching a movie? It was as if I didn’t even need to go inside to get that answer, but I guess I felt like seeing it for myself because I went inside anyway. I walked in the back door into the downstairs den of my best friend’s parents house where I had spent the last six or seven years hanging out eating food, horsing around, and watching the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles. I looked on the couch and saw him sitting there, a few feet away from Melissa. I said hello, and he said hello back, but neither one of them made eye contact with me, and that’s when I knew exactly what was going on.
Wow. Karma is a bitch, and apparently I had been dating karma for the last year and a half. I only stayed a few minutes because the tension in that room was unbearable for me. I left that night knowing that my ex girlfriend and my best friend were about to start dating each other and there was nothing I could do about it. Now it was all out in the open and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t devastate me, but to be honest, it didn’t surprise me at all. I guess that’s what you get when you hook up with a girl three years earlier in the backseat of a car driven by her current boyfriend. In a way, life had come full circle and I was reaping what I sowed. I didn’t like it, but in hindsight I got what I deserved.
I dyed my hair black the next day and I took a shitty job at a restaurant called Prospector’s on 38 in Mt. Laurel and I tried to busy myself with work, and get the situation off my mind but it wasn’t helping me. Then one night in November of 1999, after I had spent the last few weeks crying myself to sleep writing sad bastard entries in my journal and wondering why it all happened, I got a call from my friend who told me he had something he wanted to show me, and for me to come over after work. When I got to his cousins house he handed me a white pill with a little Tweety bird on it.
“Here, take this. You’ll thank me for it later.” He said.
That was the first hit of ecstasy I ever did, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. There was something about doing X that night that changed my life forever. I let go of the anger and resentment I had towards my best friend and Melissa, and I started to envision a world where I wouldn’t let it bother me anymore. For the next few months my friends and I got caught up in the club scene and believe me, we did MORE than our share of tweety birds, mitsubishis, rolex, and double stacked ferraris during that time. I didn’t think about Melissa anymore and all I could do was create a place in my mind where I was able to live my life without her and my best friend in it.
Looking back now, that place in time had been filled with drugs, parties and late night trips to Atlantic City at 3 in the morning, but it still left me feeling empty. When I got arrested outside of Studio 6 in A.C. on April 1st 2000, everything in my life changed. I hadn’t talked to Melissa in awhile but she came over to see me the next day and her and her Mom and I went out to Applebee’s for dinner. I was cracked the fuck out. I probably looked like one of those kids you see on the MDMA episode of Drugs Inc., deshelved from spending the night in jail with his pupils dilated and a cold sweat dripping down my face. I was in a bad place, and even though this was the first time I had seen her in awhile, I knew that Melissa wasn’t going to save me. I had to do things on my own.
A few months later I sold my car and all of my belongings and I moved 3000 miles away to Seattle Washington, a city I had NEVER been to before, and I started a new life there where no one knew me. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I was so far enough away from New Jersey that I didn’t feel the pain every time I drove past a place that reminded me of her. I didn’t have the possessions that used to trigger a memory that no longer served me for good, and I made new friends and told them to call me Christian so at least in my mind I could think of myself as a healed soul living in the Pacific Northwest.
I lived there for two years, and it was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ll probably write a blog about that later. As for Melissa, we kept in contact for a bit and when I moved back to the east coast in 2002 I lived with her and her roommate in Philly for a few months, but it never went back to the way it was. We were just two different people. She was experimenting with pot and ecstasy at the time (how ironic) and I was trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. I eventually wound up here in L.A. and it was about a year later when Melissa and her roommate moved out to Hollywood as well. Why? I’ll never know.
You might be wondering if we ever got back together…but that never happened. She had a new agenda and that ended up being dating one of my friends I met out here, naturally. I can’t say I was surprised. I guess that just ended up being her thing in life….dating friends of the boyfriends she used date. She was a really good artist too, but that’s not how I remember her. I really wish it was.
I don’t talk to Melissa anymore. I think it’s been almost 7 years since the last time we spoke and to be honest, I wouldn’t even know what to say to her if I did see her. I hear she had an arts and crafts store in Haddonfield that closed down, and she is getting married to a guy I used to be in a band with back in the late 1990s. As for my best friend who she dated for years? We’re still good friends. I made up with him a couple years later and to be honest I don’t hold any ill will towards him at all. We joke about both dating her now and we even have a bet every year at the Super Bowl coin toss and the loser of the bet has to accept the fact that Melissa is their proverbial “girl” for the next year. Trust me, it’s not an honor. I was just at his wedding last year when he married the love of his life and we still text each other almost every day. I guess there is some truth to the phrase “Bros before Hos”
The time when I lost my ex girlfriend and my best friend within a month of each other really did suck, and it hurt….but instead of letting it define me in a negative way and making it the reason I hate women and don’t trust people ever again, I used it to be the catalyst to make a huge change in my life that may have had to happen to me to force me to get to where I’m at today. I’m extremely happy with what the future might bring in the next few months, even though I still haven’t figured out the relationship aspect of my life. I know it will come in time. Melissa really did affect me in a way that I will always remember and hold true to myself. I still check my horoscope every morning when I have my coffee, I still appreciate fine works of art and the sounds of indie rock when the moment strikes me, and the day after she broke up with me I started writing in a journal and I haven’t stopped writing for the last fifteen years. I just think to myself sometimes that maybe I needed to get my heart broken so that I could heal my mind. Everything happens for a reason, right? At least that’s the way I choose to look at it.
Her: 18 Me: 23