The party was at Dave’s house. Well, his parents’ house – most of us couldn’t afford an apartment without a cosigner, let alone a 4 bedroom two-storey.
The occasion was our first Christmas break from university, December 1991. The attendees were only those from our graduating class at Oakville Trafalgar High School. Although we still made new friends in our respective first semesters, we still had connections to the people we’d spent up to five years with.
As it happened, it was both the first “high school” party I was ever invited to – outside the onzaine’s events, and the one wrap party for West Side Story that we put on a few months earlier – and my last. Aside from a handful of people I knew to be there – otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone, myself – I don’t recall all whom where there. But it was a lot of people, almost at that point of where, were we in a typical Hollywood “coming of age” movie, things would start going south and damage occurred.
Somehow, though, we’d all become adults. By legal definition, I’d been an adult for almost a year and a half. But more than the legality seemed to come the actual self-recognition. We were there to mingle, we acted responsibly. All of us were of drinking age by this point, and it showed with more than a few of them (first semesters can be very sloppy, depending on your school … and college, if you happen to be in one). Dave, as I recall, was a bit redder than I had remembered him. But we kept it contained.
I doubt any of us realized it at the time that we were … older. (“Stupid”) High school was now behind us and we were all faced with our first challenges of true self-support – no-one was there to get us up in the morning, make sure we ate, showered, dressed, got to school, do our homework, go to bed at a reasonable hour. We were free to be utterly irresponsible, if that was the route we wanted to go. We were also wholly responsible for our mistakes (such as not studying enough, and then getting a massive 12% of my first calculus midterm).
Despite not drinking (I was one of the very few; I wouldn’t drink for a few years to come), I recall very little of the party. I think I had fun, I’m not entirely sure. My first semester at university was a challenge on many levels – away from home for an extended time, away from my friends, having to integrate with an entirely new group, finding out that for all my self-lauded intelligence that I was decided not in the top half of the class, and still recoiling from my emotional issues – and being at the party likely resurfaced a few issues from months earlier.
And yet the only thing I completely remember was hearing the opening notes to Little Bones. The song had been on the airwaves for about a year, Road Apples having been released at the beginning of the year, but for some reason, I became attached to the stereo where it played.
More than likely – again, I can’t remember specifically, though I do recall my general behaviour – I sank into the background, listening. I suspect others in the onzaine (that I knew to be there) came by to make sure I was okay. I was trapped in that dichotomy between “men don’t cry” and being wholly overwhelmed.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, music became a sort of parachute, a soft landing when I was struggling with thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t otherwise process. And that might be why I became enthralled with The Tragically Hip: music that was engaging, and lyrics that you could literally lose yourself in. It would be a love affair I would retain right until the bitter, sad end, and for years to follow.