December, 1998. I am 16, nearly 17. I am in my bedroom, stretched out on the floor. I run my fingers over the crusty spot on the carpet - it’s there because I once wrote the name of a crush on a scrap of paper and set it on fire. It was some half-assed teenage magic; I hoped it would send some of my intense crush energy into the universe and the universe would then beam it to my crush, and they would know I liked them without my having to tell them. It didn’t work - all it did was burn part of the carpet and make my mom angry. I am stretched out on the floor, running my fingers over the crusty spot on the carpet. My room smells like vanilla incense and dust and the fermented sweat-stink of dirty clothes. There is a cup of coffee growing cold on my desk, and I think about getting up to get it, but I stay on the floor. I am thinking about my current crush and I am listening to this song, the perfect crush song by my current favorite Chicago band: Dropjaw, by The Broadways. From those sweet guitar harmonies at the beginning, to the words - seems like another wasted day. Sometimes I think I think too much. My heart just seems to run away. I thought of you. And then it all blasts in - fuck the whole world - sloppy, beautiful, loud, punk rock crush perfection, before fading out again with that sweet guitar. I want to put it on a mix for my crush, but I know it would make my feelings so obvious, and I have convinced myself that there’s no way my crush will ever be interested in me - no way that beautiful, cool them could like ugly, dorky me. If I gave them a tape with that song on it, it would make my feelings so obvious, and it would scare them away, and then we wouldn’t even be able to be friends. But I have to do something with this intense crush energy, or it will destroy me. I will myself up off the floor. I move the tonearm, drop the needle into the groove, and hit play, and the song starts over again. I sit down at my desk, take a sip of cold coffee, and begin to write. Since I can’t just tell my crush how I feel, since I can’t make them a mix, since I don’t want to set my carpet on fire again, I’ll write about them cryptically in my zine. This piece is dedicated to my crush, I write. Even though they don’t know who they are.
December, 2014. I am 32, nearly 33. I am sitting at my desk, staring at the screen. I tap my fingers rapidly on the desk, trying to channel some of my nervous energy. I have just gotten a message from my crush, and I’m debating whether I should reply right away or wait a couple days so it doesn’t seem like all I do is sit around all day waiting to get messages from them. I feel ridiculous - we barely know each other, the message I got from them was in no way romantic or sexy - so why am I crushin’ so hard? Why does my stomach do a somersault every time I see: You have a new message from…? I fear that if I responded to their message right away, they’d somehow be able to sense the thoughts I’m having, so I decide to wait. I stare at the screen some more, look around the room. The Christmas tree next to my desk is twinkling, all white lights and shimmering garlands. The room smells like balsam fir incense and stale beer and coffee. There is a cup of coffee on my desk, growing cold. I take a sip, decide I need to hear some music. I’ve been going through the track lists of mixes I made as a teenager, and I made a playlist of songs that appeared frequently on mixes I made back then. I put it on shuffle. The second song, don’t it just figure, is Dropjaw. Fuck, it’s still the perfect crush song; it perfectly describes the way I am feeling, right this minute. I close my eyes and let the three-and-a-half minutes of music wash over me - sweet n’ loud, crushing. Every night I make a wish that I’ll see you tomorrow. I wish I could make a playlist for my crush and put this song on it, but it would make my feelings so obvious, and I have convinced myself that there’s no way my crush will ever be interested in me. But I have to do something with this intense crush energy, or it will destroy me. I highlight the song, hit play, and listen to it one more time. I open a new document on my computer. Since I can’t just tell my crush how I feel, since I can’t make them a playlist, since I don’t want to set the carpet on fire, I’ll write about them cryptically for a zine. So this piece - and that song - are dedicated to my crush. Even though they don’t know who they are.
-(Rust Belt) Jessie Lynn McMains; written in December 2014 for the Crush zine.