wake up the dawn and ask her why / by laurel

I'm not sure exactly how we got there, littering the front porch of a ground-level corner unit where the ghetto funnels to the sea. Drifters on either side of jail time floated past us, mingling with wafting christmas music, a toxic cocktail of circumstance and season.

There we were, exhaling the vapor of black cloves and looking terribly sophisticated. We leaned on our haunches. We affected an impervious air. We crouched behind those treacly whorls of smoke, squinting through veils of invention. A question occurred to me right then; just who, exactly, taught us all how to smoke? We played it off like we knew, like we'd been doing it forever. I could see it in our posturing and fluttering eyelids and mouths--agape slightly, wanton, undersexed--assuming the stance that we were simply spent, when in reality we never were.

It was like a grand charade, us being 'adults,' smoking (socially only, dahling), and me (not smoking), eventually leaning too heavily on a bush and snickering.

Later we regaled each other with stories of first loves, firsts crushes, first kisses.

Mine was at a party, I was twelve and terribly grown up. We sat on the couch, his arm like dead weight over the expanse of my shoulders, limp and unbecoming. But that's how it was done. I felt that in the moment, there in my friend's basement, that we should also kiss. It seemed to be the right thing to do. Cranking my head around like an owl, we were kissing. We had crossed over the great divide separating the Haves and the Have Nots.

It was warm and flat, and I was not sure how long to linger. It turns out, once you get there, there's not much to do except experience the sensation of two faces pressed together, touching. We were immoble vestiges of guilelessness. Lip locked. Or at least lips leaning.

There were no fluids, no heads bobbing or fingers raked through unwashed hair, just...

Half a second later it was over. I considered briefly that I should do it again, that we should press faces again. I vaguely remember we did, three more times, but not without some thoughtful contemplation in between. I wouldn't call it a let down, not in the way that some people are let down by bumps and missed mouths and wagging tongues. It was what it was. I was aware that perhaps it wasn't all there was.

Back at the party, music and chatter clung to our limbs like humidity. The merriment rendered some of us helpless; sagging heavily against armrests, still pondering and plundering through conversations. I felt like a kid again at a junior high party, playing a role, rolling with the punches, punch drunk with love, lovesick and tired. A song was playing, I don't remember which one, but in my head it was by Oasis or Weezer or Goo Goo Dolls or Better Than Ezra.

In the same way that pop music bore down on my emotions with all the veracity of a mack truck when I was twelve, so again I find myself laminating my experience in the gleaming film of "Champagne Supernova" (or something similar. After all, reconnaissance renders all songs interchangeable).

There is an angst that swirls above and beyond the music; a filigreed likeness to real emotion, yet somehow more (literally) slap-happy. If the "Why why whyyy's" smacked of reality back then, they'd surely like to punch me in the throat right now. In the end, it's not really so much about the music, or even the inarguable frustration of a second adolescence. Really, It's that the wheezing gasp of "The world's still spinning 'round, we don't know whyyyyy" as a personal anthem succinctly sums up my life with such irritating ease.

And it's annoying as hell.

In it exists the lousy truth of adolescence the first time around; the miserable powerlessness as played out against the dulcet whine of pop music. But I digress. The point is that when I came into the world as a teenager, cawing with mawkish vulnerability, I was met with the warm embrace of Oasis and I was understood only in reference to them, and them alone.

And now I am an adolescent again, fraught with the kind of insoluble, self-referencing irony that plagued me as a girl uncomfortable with new breasts. I can see it in the way I move, in the awkwardness and the longing. At the party, on the porch, pretending to smoke. At the party, on the couch, pretending to kiss.

What really gets me is this: The frightening knowledge (the kind that only comes with age) that Oasis (or any other pop confection, no matter how prolific) can't understand me the way I swore up and down they could--that in the end, it's just a sham created to unite the disparate throngs of adolescence and fuse them into a single, impenetrable target market.

But we aren't kids anymore.

Not for all our brilliant disguises, not for all the cloves in the world. We aren't kids anymore.