The Five Women I Fell in Love with in the 90s by Jennifer Austin

The Grunge Theatre Major, 1991-1994

         You loved Shakespeare and Sinead O’Connor. We acted out scenes from Macbeth, Buried Child, and Long Days Journey Into Night.  You convinced me to dye my hair purple. I ended up loving it. We drove around in your Nissan convertible singing Pearl Jam at the top of our lungs. We sat up all night waiting for “Alive” to play on MTV. You sat on the floor of our apartment in the lotus position, rocking back and forth, singing along. I sang along, too. You got a job at SPAC in Saratoga Springs and met Eddie Vedder. You drove him back to his hotel and you said you had an amazing conversation, but you wouldn’t give me the details.  It felt like cheating. You scored back stage passes for Lollapalooza ’92 in Massachusetts. You had a way of getting anything you wanted. Of course, you took me with you. 

         I talked to Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers after I watched him walk through the food line backstage. He filled his plate with peas. All I could say was, “Looks good.” He glanced at me with a puzzled expression, brows furrowed. You would’ve come up with something brilliant and sexy to say.  You would’ve tossed your long blonde hair over your shoulder and flashed that coy smile of yours.

         I gasped when Chris Cornell from Soundgarden walked up the hill to the outdoor pavilion backstage, his long, curly black hair twirling in the summer breeze. My heart pounded.

         “Go talk to him,” you said.

         But I couldn’t. You would have found a way. 

         We held our breath when Al Jourgensen from Ministry walked over to where we stood under a tarp backstage. He towered over us, dressed in all black, leather pants, fringed cowboy hat, holding a bottle of Jack. You squeezed my arm, hard, with both hands.

         That is when I fell in love with you. 

 

The Feminist Indie-Rock Rebel, 1994-1997

         You got a dragonfly tattooed on your breast plate. You were wild. I made you listen to PJ Harvey. You fell in love with her, too.  You rubbed your body up and down against a wall, holding an imaginary microphone, singing “Rid of Me.”

        You talked about women’s rights while running your fingers through your spiky blonde hair and downing shots of whiskey.

         I ran an open-mic at the wine bar where we worked in Albany, New York and you read feminist poems. A few lines from one went something like: “You think you can come at me with your perfect penis. Well, I’ve got news. I’d rather fuck a corpse than you.”  The crowd roared. You curtsied instead of taking a bow.

         You drank too much. So did I. You made out with men and women, and so did I, but we never locked lips.

         You cried a lot. In the middle of the street, at four in the morning, you screamed that you were walking to the hospital. Instead, we walked home to our cockroach-infested apartment. Holding a mason jar with a cockroach trapped inside, you dragged me by the arm into the hall to our landlord’s front door.  You left the jar on his welcome mat. 

         That is when I fell in love with you. 

 

The Pot-Smoking Dancer, 1997-1998

         You measured a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s to make sure you only ate one serving on the rare occasion that you ate ice cream at all. You had to wear tights and a leotard in front of people on stage. You explained that’s why you were conscious about your body and what you put into it. Most of the time, you kept your light brown hair pulled back in a bun, a ponytail, or hanging out of a clip.   

         You grabbed my hands and we ballroom danced around the room. Your posture was impeccable. You hugged me hello and goodbye.  No one ever did that before. 

         You put cement blocks for us to stand on in the bathtub when the drain was broken and the tub filled up with dirty water.  When my mother visited, she showed us that we had just forgotten to release the drain plug. We laughed about how dumb we were, standing for weeks on blocks in the shower.

         You smoked bongs and sang “Tomorrow” in your Annie voice.

         You watched Mallrats over and over on Saturday mornings. You yanked me by the arm to sit on the couch and watch with you. You said that you were in love with Jay, of Jay and Silent Bob, and that you would marry him in a heartbeat.

         That is when I fell in love with you. 

 

 

The Vegetarian Waitress, 1997-1999

         You drank all the wine in the apartment.  You stood at the sink and ate raw tofu out of the carton.

         Often, you coincidentally looked at the clock at 11:11 and 1:11, both am and pm. You speculated that you must’ve been born at one of those times. It made you sad that you didn’t know the actual time of your birth. You didn’t know your biological father and it haunted you.

         You drank too much tequila and wine to forget.

         We worked together at a Mexican cafe. You were my favorite waitress when I first started. You sang Chic’s “Le Freak” when the cafe got swamped with customers. Your red hair was always falling in your face in messy, curly tendrils.  After our shifts, you sat with me and we drank Coronas and Cuervo Gold.

         You could tell when I was getting upset. One day after our shift, you grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me back and forth, and looked into my eyes.

          “Jennifer, you’re fine.  You’re amazing,” you said. 

        That is when I fell in love with you. 

 

The Yogini Bartender, 1999-2002

         You wore men’s Adidas striped soccer socks with mini-skirts. You purposely let spit dribble down your chin until I cried from laughing so hard. You sprawled out on the floor of the apartment to do sit-ups and then you rolled over on your side, elbow on the floor to prop up your head with your hand, and asked me about the meaning of life.

         You introduced me to yoga and talked constantly about Warrior II pose and how many sun salutations you could do in a row.

         You opened a bottle of Dom Perignon—a gift from one of your many boyfriends—for us to drink on a Tuesday afternoon. Your dog curled up in a ball between us on the couch. You painted the walls of the bathroom Pepto-Bismol pink. When you sat with your legs crossed, one always bounced. You were restless. Always in motion.

         We worked at a busy bar together, and you always played the Pixies and Beck. You sang “This Monkey’s Gone To Heaven” and danced to “Sexx Laws.” You poured shots for us behind the bar. We tossed them back and laughed at the hipsters who couldn’t hold their liquor, the girls who fell off bar stools, and the cool guys who staggered to the bathroom to puke. You checked your pin-straight, bleach-blonde hair in the mirror behind the liquor bottles, making duck face the entire time.

         Sometimes, you grabbed my hand at the end of the night, your palm clammy from washing dirty glasses. You held on a little longer than you should have. We laced our fingers together and swung our connected arms.

         That is when I fell in love with you. 


Jennifer Austin's work has appeared in Metroland and Nailed Magazine. Jennifer’s one-act plays, Bitter Brunch and Exit, have been produced as staged readings at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. She is an editor at Pine Hills Review.