30 Albums, 30 Stories: Pretty Hate Machine


This November, I’m telling 30 stories about 30 albums. The albums on this list are not necessarily my favorite albums, but they are the ones that are instantly associated with a time and place. All of these albums represent a chapter of my life. This is the story of those albums, and by extension, the story of me, presented mostly chronologically.

Album 14: Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails.

For a former homeless teen prostitute, life settled into something along the lines of normal for a while. I had a job. I went to school. I spent as little time at home as possible. A normal day consisted of going to work, rushing to college night classes, rushing home to get changed and running out the door to go out. I’d get home in the wee hours, sleep for a few and do it all over again. It’s amazing the boundless energy one has when young. There’s no way I could keep up with that schedule today.

My past was already beyond sordid at the tender age of 18 and I tried to think of it as little as possible. Still, I had nightmares. I would wake up in a panic and not know where I was. Considering that I was homeless for six months, and before that, for an entire summer, a pedophile pulled me out of bed through a window by my ankles, is it any wonder that I’ve never been able to sleep?

I can always tell when I’ve been dreaming of the pedophile, because I wake up in a tiny fetal ball clutching my feet. I still do that. It never goes away. The homeless dreams usually involve being pinned down and unable to move. I wake up with the sheets tangled around me, but mostly uncovered. I am always so cold in those dreams. The Tales Of A Teenage Crackwhore chapter certainly didn’t help my PTSD any.

Anyway, drug-free in the abysmal suburbs that I hated with every fiber of my being (and still do), I was desperately clinging to some semblance of normal, which is ironic, since for my entire life up to that point, I had been raging against it. “Normal” was a bad word before, but I so desperately wanted it then. I wanted to sleep through the night in a warm bed without nightmares like normal people do, so I fashioned myself a normal life. It didn’t last all that long.

One night, I was out with some friends at a bar in Detroit. I was sitting at a table talking to a boy I liked when, suddenly, I was on the floor. I was embarrassed because I thought I had somehow fallen out of my chair. I quickly got up and sat down again. I will always remember the look of horror on his face. “What’s the matter?” He pointed a shaky finger at me, “You’re… bleeding!”

It’s amazing how hundreds of pounds of metal can fall on your head, denting your skull, and causing a geyser of blood to come shooting out of the top of your cranium like special effects in a bad horror movie, yet, I didn’t even notice. I thought I had just magically fallen out of my chair.

Someone ran to the bar to grab a huge pile of cocktail napkins, which quickly turned solid red. Someone ran to the bouncer, who patently refused to call an ambulance. “Bad for business.”

It’s also amazing how the person gushing blood from a dented skull can be the calm little center of the storm. I was the one who recommended that we drive to the hospital instead of standing around flailing arms in a panic, yelling at the bar staff. I was the one who asked if there was a towel or a tarp we could put on the seat, so as not to drench my friend’s upholstery with blood. I was the one sitting in the backseat, giving directions to Detroit Receiving Hospital, which was mercifully only a few blocks away; the same hospital where someone had dumped me at the front door when I overdosed. Small world. Never once did I lose consciousness, not until the next day.

Over five hours and five hundred stitches later, I left the hospital with my head bandaged like a turban. I wanted to drive home, but someone sensibly wouldn’t let me. I slept for the most of the next four days, probably due to pain killers, though I don’t really remember. My mom instantly became nursemaid. She was always at her best when we weren’t well.

Traumatic brain injuries are strange; they impact you in ways that wouldn’t even occur to you. When I woke up the next day, my whole face and neck were bruised and swollen. I had two black eyes, but it didn’t even hurt until a day or two later. Then, a pain came like being stung by a thousand bees over and over. The worst part was the dried blood. I wasn’t allowed to take a shower. Imagine walking around like this and not being able to wash it off. It was so itchy.

Somebody call the amberlamps! Carrie, 1976.
Somebody call the amberlamps!
Carrie, 1976.

I wrote about that night in detail here if you’re interested.

Favorite track:

This is the song that was playing when my life changed forever and I became a goldfish. Kind of a coincidence since my head did, in fact, have a 3.5″ hole in it.