Throughout middle school, I was obsessed with Metallica. I'm not embarassed about this fact at all. I am, however, VERY embarassed about the type of Metallica fan I was. You see, Metallica is one of those bands whose entire discography is filled eqally with albums that are hits and misses. I was unfortunately one of those rabid hyper-fans that was drooling over everything they'd ever done, including the absolutely abysmal "Garage, Inc." It was that bad.
Around the peak of my obsession, Metallica released their album "St. Anger." For those of you that don't know what this means in relation to the Metallica canon (if you will), I'd like you to think of your favorite band or musician that has more than five albums out. Now think of that artist's most generic, shitty, uninspired album (as a whole). That's what this album is for Metallica. Except this album was made during a period in their career where every member of the band wanted to kill one another in the most violent way imaginable (as shown by the sub-par-but-still-worth-a-watch documentary "Some Kind of Monster"). Even more, the entire band was fresh from famously suing Napster, after which bassist Jason Newstead left (for an unrelated reason). Their minds were probably on other things while recording this.
Regardless, I worshipped anything these four horsemen decided to hammer out, and listened to the album incessantly with my terrible blue Walkman CD player and ill-fitting headphones that made the loud parts (i.e., the whole album) sound like it was playing through a tin can. But I didn't care, terrible-sounding Metallica was better than no Metallica at all. After playing the album dozens of times, a certain song on the album stuck out to me more than most. Entitled "Sweet Amber," the song seemed to be about a girl that was pretending to be a kind person, or something. Anyways, I thought the song was badass.
Aside #1: I was so obsessed with this album that I still remember that "Sweet Amber" was track number eight on "St. Anger." Despite the fact that you may not believe me, as I'm writing this, I am nowhere near an internet connection, nor do I have this album on my laptop or anywhere nearby.
The summer after the album was released, I was spending a weekend at my dad's house when he and the neighbors threw a sort of impromptu block party. Friends invited friends, and soon people that we had never met were showing up.
Aside #2: I know that saying that strangers were at this party makes it seem like things got out of control, but I assure you, they didn't. This was a party of adults, not college students.
I was hanging out with the group of kids that were around my age, sitting on our next-door neighbor's front porch. J.T., the large, greasy, bespectacled mouth-breather that was the son of the house's owner (and my best friend at the time), was petting one of his many dogs, talking to a boy named Richard that lived a few houses farther down the street. Sitting next to Richard was a skinny, brown eyed, brown-haired girl that I would later find out was his cousin. I was sitting in a wooden rocking chair adjacent to her side of the couch that she and her kin were on, trying not to stare at her. I was still, of course, at the age where I was completely unaware of how to flirt with girls, avoiding her glances and subsequent smiles by feigning a weirdly creepy fascination with another one of the house's smaller dogs that was sitting on my lap. The two sons of the neighbors on the other side of my dad's house, Cody and Austin, were sitting on a pair of fold-out lawn chairs, eating chips.
After a few minutes, the four other males on the porch decided to go into the house to get drinks, leaving Richard's cousin and I alone and sitting less than three feet away from one another. Anyone that has ever been remotely social at any point in their life knows that forced, awkward social interaction was inevitable at this point. So it happened. And it wasn't that bad. She was easy to talk to, and laughed at my jokes interjected into our polite preteen small-talk.
Aside #3: Looking back, I'm not sure if she was laughing at my shitty jokes or the fact that my voice was shaking as I was telling them. Either way, she found it charming, and I was obviously far too inexperienced to tell the difference.
I looked inside during a lull in our banter, and saw that the four boys had decided to sit in the living room and play Gamecube. Opting to not join them, the girl and I decided to walk over to my dad's house to get some food. On the short walk over, we continued to talk to one another, talking about unimportant and benign things. Though I was not good at reading most signals, I was picking up strong flirtatious vibes from her. She'd gone from laughing at my aforementioned "shitty jokes" to adorably giggling at even the most muted of my responses. I had an admirer, it seemed. This realization only propelled my interest for her, and she jumped from "cute girl" to "the girl I'll tell my friends about after the summer's over."
We entered my dad's backyard to find a large group of people milling around a grill, my dad's friend Bob making cheeseburgers for the crowd. We each requested one, and put our condiments on our respective patties while standing side-by-side in the warm garage. This was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me at this point in time, and I didn't know how to react. After anxiously eating while standing in the humid space, she grabbed me by the hand and lead me to her father's truck, parked outside my dad's house. She opened the back hatch, and we climbed in. Sitting indian-style next to each other, we both looked up at the still-darkening sky in silence.
"You're not like anyone I've met before," she said, still looking up.
I wish I could say that I swept her off of her feet and suavely shot back a witty retort that made her fall madly in love with me, but I did nothing of the sort. As far as I can recall, we sat there in silence after this admittance, too afraid to talk any more. Before I knew it, she was bustled into Richard's parent's van, leaving me with nothing but a bruised heart and her first name: Amber.
I never saw her again, or really ever talked to Richard as far as I remember. But to this day I can't even listen to Metallica without thinking of that sweet girl Amber that I met when I was a kid.