I was 9 years old when Metallica released, “Kill ‘em All”, its first album. I started noticing Metallica t-shirts a few years after that. And I couldn’t help also noticing that people with whom I didn’t want to cross paths usually wore those t-shirts. In fact, though I had no proof, I was fairly certain that in order to be a true fan of the band, and to have permission to wear shirts sanctioned by the band, one must first eat the liver of his or her younger sibling.
By the time they released “Metallica”, I was 17 and no longer afraid of the band nor its fans. Sug and I were in St. Cloud, visiting a friend of his who was a year older than us, and in college, the first time I heard “Enter Sandman.” We were at a party in the basement of a house appropriately nicknamed, The Pit. The basement was unfinished, except for the floors, which were unfortunately carpeted. The carpet, I learned, is what gave the house its nickname. It was soggy, sated with spilled beer and chew spit and who knows what else. A pit. In one corner of the basement, behind dog-kennel fencing, was the stereo. I don’t know exactly how big the speakers back there were; they were big enough, at any rate, that I was hopeful they would serve as heart defibulators, if needed.
I was standing directly in front of those speakers, with my back against the fence, when “Enter Sandman” erupted. It felt like someone punched me in a kidney. I shit in my pants. A girl a few feet in front of me collapsed. I don’t know what happened to her but, since she was not wearing a HAZMAT suit, I assume she died within a couple days. The lights next door flickered, plaster fell from the ceiling; the seismographs at the University sprang to life. I regained my composure and stayed at the epicenter until the cops shut the party down.
The hearing loss I suffered as a result of that night outlasted my hangover. Still, as soon as I was able, I went out and bought that CD.
These were my thoughts this morning when “Enter Sandman” came on the radio during our commute to preschool and as I turned it up just a bit and taught my daughter how to bang her head.