Soulswap Bedroom Youthsong ’93 A+

by Oz Davidson

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When I was 13 years old I knew this girl
Ashley Burger
She was my first kiss
7th grade shop class
It was pitiful
I had no sense of pace
I was a skinny, squirrelly young scrote with no attention span
Braces
3 cowlicks at war with themselves
An unhealthy obsession with Where’s Waldo and gerbil cages

She had very large breasts for a girl her age
She slept on a mattress on the floor
In oversized ill fitting Judds T-shirts
Her dad reupholstered furniture and struck fear in the hearts of adolescent men
But despite all that
We started going out
To the soundtrack of early nineties jams
And the weirdest thing happened one day
I remember spending nights on the phone with her
Talking endlessly
For hours
Until morning
About nothing
In whispers and quick hang-ups when we thought our folks had picked up the receiver to eavesdrop
Hands on phones for the call back
Into the first ring we’d answer
‘What are you doing?’
‘Nothing, what are YOU doing?’
For hours

One night we both fell asleep on the phone with each other
And I remember waking up to the sound of a light bulb popping
*SNAP!
And you’ll never believe me
And you never have to
But when I woke up
I WAS HER.

Maybe it was a mix up with the phone company
Or someone walked over God’s grave

But after thinking I was dead
Trapped in a dream
That I was in a coma
Or had a multiple personality disorder or rampant schizophrenia
After that initial wave
I put on her clothes
I stared at her reflection in the mirror
I did not try to apply make-up.

I told her father I was sick
And stayed in her room all day
Knowing at any minute her folks would find me out
And I’d be carted of to juvenile hall.

I read her diaries
She really liked me
It made me feel good.

She was quite an artist
She had multiple elaborate pencil portraits of Garth Brooks
She had given me one before that I had failed to hang on my wall
And I found her hands could call to mind
The strokes
I could draw
Where before I couldn’t
Due to some mysterious muscle memory.

That night
She rang me for our nightly chat
She too had stayed home and read my diaries
Only to find bad poetry and half finished Nintendo game ideas in there
We were so scared
So young so vulnerable
We comforted each other
We didn’t want to hang up
Until we both fell asleep
On both ends of the receiver.

When I woke up the next day
I was myself again.

We broke up a few weeks later
And fell into different cliques
I watched her
As she watched me
Surreptitiously
Along the years
Through weight ups and downs
Bad hairstyle decisions
She was married
Had two children
Became a cake decorator
Her husband’s name was Hirschberger
That’s right she traded her last name of Burger
For Hirschberger
But he was a nice enough guy, I suppose.

Then sometimes it’s like an acid flashback
When the veil thins I get a quiver in my right eye
At the sound of a popping bulb
I am cast back to this episode of my life
With complete emotional recall
Crystalline sense memory
The smell of Ashley Burger’s cheap laundry detergent strong in my sinus
The Garth Brooks portraits
That midnight purple front of panic I felt that morning
I quite like it when it happens
Because it shakes me back to life
When I have gone many days subconscious and deceived by the viscous drama of being alive on the earth.

But the aftertaste is hard on the body
The price you pay for having such sensations amplified
I am left discouraged
Hollowed out, answerless
At the foot of the mountain
Knowing we won’t be allowed a late night phone call
A sing along to “Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm…”
Or Ace of Base, and to
Assemble the pieces of this once bizarre exchange
For many many lifetimes yet.

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