Love & Sex

Cassette From My Ex: “Something Sweet From NYC”

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Each day this week, Tools of Attraction will present a story from Cassettefrommyex.com, a celebration of lost loves and mixtapes from Jason Bitner, co-creator of Found Magazine. This month, Cassette From My Ex came out as a book — check it out here. Today’s entry comes from Fiona Mazel, writer and freelance editor whose work has appeared in such places as The New York TimesTin HouseBombThe Mississippi ReviewThe Village VoiceThe Boston Book Review and on salon.com.

"Something Sweet From NYC"

My first high-school boyfriend, we called him little John. I was 5’ 5” and so was he, give or take, only he was two years older, which made our lives discrepant in ways the inches between us could not. Before me, he’d been with a girl whose left breast could take eight of mine. She was sexy and zaftig, and I was a virgin. Ha, a virgin, I’m pretty sure I’d kissed only one boy by then, whose lips, incidentally, I can still feel today. I was fifteen, but already, I’d had my heart snapped twice. So for this older guy (he played lacrosse, wore combat boots and a bomber jacket, was, in short, anarchic, alienated, and thus: hot), I was not going to let it happen again. If I even got within striking distance, I was going to be whatever he wanted. I started watching “The Wonder Years” for news of how to give a hand job and when this information was unavailing, I sought example in the burlesque impresario Robin Byrd—friends and I would actually sing the show’s theme song, “Baby Let Me Bang Your Box,” out loud—only to find there was no interacting on the show. No states of arousal to study, no techniques to adopt. John and I started going out and I was terrified.

Fast-forward a year. I’d had a boyfriend for a whole year! I bumbled along, embarrassed myself, but it didn’t matter: this guy loved me. Given the heartwreck that has become my experience of romance since then, I’ve learned to put a premium on the people who, quite simply, love you.

In May of that year, my parents announced we were moving to Los Angeles. I’d had a party in our apartment a couple months before, which sent one kid to the hospital with kidney failure, so there was no trusting me to stay behind and finish out high school in New York. Me and John were doomed. I didn’t take it well, he took it worse. I tend to shut down when hurt seems lethal—think of the emergency switch on a reactor—but his method was to feel the hurt and express it. I was going to California. The first guy who ever loved me was not. He made me a mix tape. It was full of mainstream music that meant something to us, maybe because though he was troubled and struggling and I was—quite obviously—a little weird, our relationship was conventional as could be.

I listened to the tape all the time. I’d sit in French class at my new high school and stare at the girl who played Winnie on “The Wonder Years”—she really was in my French class—and think about talking to her after, but just putting on my headphones, instead.

Side A:

Led Zepplin: Going to California
RHCP: I Could Have Lied
Living Colour: Solace of You
Jane’s Addiction: Classic Girl
GnR: Knockin on Heaven’s Door
The Pixies: Wave of Mutilation
Sinead O’Connor: Jump in the River
Lenny Kravitz: All I Ever wanted
Jimi Hendrix: Angel
Pink Floyd: Wish U Were Here
The Allman Brothers Band: Little Martha

Side B:

Prince: Starfish + Coffee
Spin Doctors: Two Princes
Living Colour: Broken Hearts
Jimi Hendrix: Bold as Love
Allman Brothers: Seven Turns
GnR: Patience
Dire Straits: So Far Away
The Doors: The End

Listen to this mixtape at cassettefrommyex.com.