In 2001, Brian Vander Ark explained what the song means to him:
"When I was young I knew everything" - We all think we know everything at a young age. I thought I did. I realize I didn't know sh*t until I was 36.
"And she, a Punk who rarely took advice" - How many people do we know like that?
"Now I'm guilt-stricken, sobbing, with my head on the floor" - Something happened that caused this reaction, but I wouldn't want to give that away this early in the song, so let's throw in an some ambiguity:
"Stop a baby's breath, and a shoe full of rice, no" - First of all, forget the NO. Stop a baby's breath is just that. Abort the baby. A shoe full of rice is a result of a wedding. So - stop a baby's breath AND then you stop a wedding. She's pregnant, get her to abort, and then there's no wedding. And you know what?
"I can't be held responsible, cause she was touching her face" - When I wrote this song, The Divinyls had a song out called 'I Touch Myself
.' The TV was on, she was touching her face in the video. Very sexy. So, I can't be held responsible because she was trying to be sexy, trying to seduce me, etc.
"I won't be held responsible, she fell in love in the first place" - I didn't tell her to fall in love.
"For the life of me, I cannot remember what made us think that we were wise, and we'd never compromise" - What was I thinking back then? Who am I to put a girl though that? Why was I unable to compromise? Guilty feelings.
"For the life of me, I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins, we were merely freshmen" - We were just kids, let it go, we all make mistakes, etc.
"My best friend took a week's vacation to forget her" - He needed to get away because of what happened.
"His girl took a week's worth of Valium and slept" - This is why this song is not that strong literally - it's confusing. HIS girl is MY girl. The same girl that had the abortion has now killed herself.
"Now he's guilt-stricken, sobbing with his head on the floor, thinks about her now and how he never really wept he says" - He has the same guilty feelings that I do about the abortion and death.
"We tried to wash our hands of all of this, we never talk of our lacking relationships" - We rarely spoke after the incident - we just tried to forget it. We never spoke of her or the fact that we can't have a decent relationship with anyone since then.
"We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip" - No matter how careful you might be, there are other perils out there.
The girl is real, the abortion is real. The death is not. It's poetic license to make the story more interesting.