O Positive - Say Goodbye
“It’s the last day of middle school, and you couldn’t even wash your hair?”
I climbed into the front seat of Mom’s car, shrugging with a studied nonchalance that I could never quite summon when I needed it. “Wasn’t worth it,” I said out of the side of my mouth as I snapped the seatbelt shut.
School had let out early, and Mom had picked me up to take me out to lunch before letting me go home for the rest of the day. I found myself in my usual stance in the front seat, resting my cheek against the seatbelt and gazing out the side window. The two mulleted boys from my homeroom threw a Frisbee around on the front lawn, almost beaning a kid in the head.
Mom stretched out her arm and rested her wrist on the top of my seat. She tapped out a rhythm against the headrest supports. “My little baby’s going to high school,” she trilled.
“Not for a few months,” I shot back.
“High school will be better for you. There are more kids with your interests. People grow up, and you’ll find your – “
“Mom!” I interrupted. My ears were trained to the sound of a familiar riff. I lunged to the radio dial and turned it up a little louder.
“Sitting in for Mark Parenteau, this is Albert O-Positive,” the afternoon DJ intoned over the opening notes to “Say Goodbye”.
“YOUR GUYS,” my mom chimed in excitedly.
Albert O. was giving away tickets to see O Pos play with Mechanical Shark Head at the Edible Rex in Billerica to lucky caller number five. Even if cell phones existed in 1991, Edible Rex was an hour’s drive from my sleepy burg, and I sensed the bouncers would not have taken kindly to a scrappy fourteen-year-old seeking entrance. After a moment, the DJ just shut up and let the music play.
Mom and I were both quiet as the song began. The lyrics – “say goodbye to the past/you know these memories were never meant to last” – seemed prescient as Osterberg Junior High shrank in the rearview. I mouthed the words and swayed along with the pinging melody.
A fine coating of dust had formed on my O Positive tape collection. I told myself I was eagerly awaiting their next album, and I didn’t want to get sick of them. Though I tried my hardest, I wasn’t able to follow up my story on Boston’s finest with anything that felt like another “get”, and much of my eighth-grade year felt like a letdown after my interview with Dave hit the stands. If I was really honest with myself, I still felt a little embarrassed at making a bad impression on the band by being an awkward teenager. Meanwhile, the kids at school didn’t pay much attention to the budding Ellen Willis in their midst. Doing interviews was still the only way to get people to talk to me.
All those thoughts ran through my head until they became white noise. The lapse in conversation made me feel a special kind of alone that isn’t really alone…I was in the car with my song, a kind of bespoke aural security blanket that helped me get through some tough times.
Mom’s car glided to a stop at a red light. I looked out the window and saw a group of girls from my school. Erica, my school-appointed bestie in fourth grade, tread on the sidewalk closest to our car. For a split second we made eye contact, but when the walk light came on her gaze slid over me and she started crossing the street with her friends.
Mom shifted gears, then tapped me on the knee. “Your time will come,” she said. A moment passed, and she added, “I’m proud of you.” The light turned green and we were off.