Hallowed Ground

Temperatures are above 50 degrees here for the first time in months, which means, I guess, that spring is just around the corner — and for some reason, this time of year always makes me think of the spring of 1990.

I’m not sure why, really. It wasn’t that great of a time for me; I was just about to turn 16, for one thing, which meant I took unimportant things way too seriously and willfully ignored the stuff I should have been paying attention to. Like, for instance, the fact that I was eyebrows deep in teenage love for one of my girlfriend’s best friends.

I had hound-dogged Jill for months before getting into a relationship with Cindy, but we were all in high school — a time when “being friends” is always the goal after someone breaks your heart — and even though it probably should have, our tangled pasts didn’t keep the three of us from spending a lot of time together. Similarly, no matter how hard I wished I was over Jill — or how strenuously I pushed her to date my best friend — it didn’t keep my feelings from slowly boiling to the surface. It was like a bad 90210 storyline, before 90210 existed.

And here’s the melodramatic sophomore year kicker: As winter ended and our classrooms filled with sleepy springtime sun during the post-lunch periods, Jill found out she was moving to another state. I was crushed — more than I could even admit to myself, and more than I would have been able to tell anyone even if I’d understood what I was feeling. And by the time I did understand it, she was gone. Jill was fundamentally out of reach even when we were in the same room, and I’m sure my attraction to her had a few fucked up roots; after her family packed up and moved away, she was an irresistible ghost. But that’s another story.

In Billboard terms, Jude Cole is a one-hit wonder, but on my stereo, his 1990 album A View from 3rd Street was a heavy rotation mainstay for most of the year, and its opening track, “Hallowed Ground,” always takes me right back to the way I felt then. Shimmering acoustic guitars descend over a gently insistent beat, and Cole’s husky voice tells the story:

Careless children, fresh as sin
I was your trouble and you were my friend
Sweet as rain on hallowed ground
And one endless summer that ended somehow

Is it a great song? No. And with that silly “play the blues, boy” tag at the end, it might not even be a good song. But it spoke to me during a time when I was learning about messy grown-up stuff like guilt, and bottomless longing, and how what your heart yearns for can sometimes be just about the last thing you want it to.

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