As much as I wished at the time that my teenage life was extraordinary, it was pretty middle-class typical. I grew up in the 80s and lived with my parents and younger sister in an average-size house on an oak-lined street in the D.C. suburbs. I went to high school, studied the usual high school stuff and had two best friends and a number of more casual friends. My one minor academic claim to fame, skipping second grade, had long since become a liability. A year is a big difference in high school, and my maturity level was always struggling to catch up to my older peers. The myriad extracurricular activities of my childhood and earlier adolescence – ballet, soccer, piano, Girl Scouts – had narrowed to ballet classes (which I attended obsessively, 6 days a week, in the genetically forlorn hope of becoming a professional) and church youth group (which I also attended obsessively, more because of the cute boys and non-school friends than a strong spiritual urge).
In short, a regular adolescence. Nothing to write home about.
And yet, in my fantasies, lovingly and faithfully recorded in my high school journals, I was something fabulous. Something original, sparkling, sophisticated. Something extra-special, with cherries and diamonds on top. I was a prima ballerina or an aspiring fashion designer, living la vie Boheme in a loft on the Lower East Side years before Rent. I dated/married/had affairs with rock stars and pouty British actors. Nothing half so glamorous and exciting was happening in my real life – heck, I didn’t even start dating ‘til senior year – but dangit, my life in my journals rivaled Dynasty.
Like many teenage ballerinas, I did a lot of interpretive dancing in my bedroom to my favorite songs. Most nights saw me taking a break from homework to flail around the room, trying to appear “deep” and “anguished” but mostly looking like someone with a bad stomach cramp. Usually I remembered to close my shades first, but one night 15-year-old me forgot, and as I staggered around the room to some 80s song or other, I noticed that my next-door neighbor was looking at me and smiling indulgently. Mortified, I rushed to close the blinds. Then I thought, what a great idea for a short story! But the reality was too pedestrian and embarrassing, so it became the following in my journal:
“Rio” was playing when she saw him. Saw him staring intently at her through the window. All of her jubilation vanished and self-consciousness began to ooze through her pores. She continued to dance around her somewhat messy room, but everything was being done for him, because of him…
Damn you, she thought, mouthing the words to the song. She dared not look in that direction for fear of catching his eye. Sitting down on her bed, she ventured a glance in his direction. He was still looking into her window intently, but holding a newspaper as though he was reading it.
She sighed. “Forever (Live & Die)” came on. She loved that song, and got up to dance to it. But it was no use. All her thoughts were concentrated on the unknown man in the second floor bedroom of the house next door.
Rather deflated, she stopped moving and left her room. In a few moments her mind was occupied with other things, and she forgot.
The next night it took her less time to remember that the man would be sitting there. She glanced quickly in his direction, and saw that his eyes were down, engrossed in his newspaper. But a few seconds after she’d glanced at him, he lifted his head to stare at her again.
Suddenly, inexplicably, she felt a dual emotion pass through her. The first was a sense of mystery, a shiver down her spine. Like somebody’s walking on my grave, she thought. She quivered involuntarily. The second feeling was that of bareness, like someone had ripped open her soul and was exposing it to the world, the universe, God.
She doubled over, as if in pain. Then the pain came. A searing flash from her forehead to her genitals. She screamed silently. There was no one to hear her except the man. In her agony she could feel him intruding on her being, her essence. It was too overwhelming, and her brain couldn’t understand it, this intrusion.
God help me, she whispered. God help me, please! It became a yell.
And God helped her. He stopped her heart and took her up to him, where there were no intrusions of that kind, nothing.
In the house next door, the man smiled to himself and continued to read his newspaper.
The headline read “Happy Halloween”…
Two thoughts: (1) Alexis Carrington in this situation would’ve gone next door, tossed her drink in his face, and ruined him and his entire family. (2) Jeez, she could’ve just closed the curtains.