Everyone has their band—the one that both defies and defines all other music, the one that makes their heart do Olympic-level gymnastics when they hear it unexpectedly on the radio or at a restaurant, the one that they knew, immediately after being introduced by a friend or a blog or what have you, would be the subject of a lifelong kind of love. I found mine at the age of 12, sitting in my basement bedroom late one night, trawling the Internet for new music on a bare-bones, Pandora-like incarnation of Yahoo! Music. It allowed you to type in a band and listen to a radio station based on that preference. Since I was familiar with the Cure, I started there. A few songs in, the jangly, jumpy bullets of guitar that form the opening melody of the Smiths’ “This Charming Man” started up, and I sat in awed silence for a moment before picking up a black eyeliner pencil and drawing an enormous heart with the band’s name inside it on my wall. Though I moved out of that bedroom years ago, that name is still etched on my actual heart more indelibly. It’s also often printed outside of it—since that day, I’ve accumulated at least eight T-shirts which proclaim my love for the ultimate Pope of Mope and his saddo British band mates.
During that first year of my obsession, and for many afterward, I had the kind of girlfriend that is an essential part of growing up—the Rayanne to my Angela, the Kim Kelly to my Lindsay. Sonja and I bonded at an Evangelical teen group that we were later kicked out of for various reasons, not the least of which was our very vocal opposition to the youth pastor’s abstinence-touting sermons and diatribes against gay marriage. We both had curly hair that tangled its way down our backs, hers fiery orange and mine brown, which we promptly dyed every Rainbow Brite shade of the spectrum. For each birthday, we would make each other Smiths-laden mix CDs, with cartoons of us holding hands Sharpied onto them. We shared every piece of clothing we owned, including my first Smiths shirt, which became the object of many custody-based arguments. It was a knee-length black T-shirt emblazoned with the art for the band’s essential album The Queen Is Dead.
Everywhere we went, one of us could be seen in it, from shows at the local Knights of Columbus to group dates with greasy would-be dreamboats at the movies or the arcade. As with so many articles of clothing, that shirt was eventually lost in one of our overstuffed closets, which cascaded from floor to ceiling with dresses we made for each other in sewing class and shredded sneakers we had written “FUHGAWZ” on, Cobain-style.