I’ve been involved with someone for the past year. Our relationship started because of a song. Our relationship was about songs, songs were about us, about her, about me. Songs and bands help me to rationalize my self-image, who I see myself as when functioning within anything that veers into the category of romance. That’s more like a conclusion. I should start from the beginning.
Last August I moved from my house of 14 years into an apartment. My house was (and still is) being remodeled, so the move was reasonable and I understood it. That didn’t mean that I didn’t struggle with it. I was primed to start senior year, a time of change to say the least. With uncertainties lying in the form of questions about my future (where will I go to school, will I get accepted to the school’s music program, will I miss my childhood friends, what the fuck am I going to do on my own?), yet another stability had disappeared. This drew me to a choice lyric from the Built to Spill song “Big Dipper”: “He thought an Albertson’s stir fry dinner would make his apartment a home”. It felt right, fitting. A bit sarcastic, a great line from a great song and a classic band. Facebook post, because, duh, I am a member of the networking generation. A “like” appears, I know her from camp. A comment is made, and an inquiry into her soul is launched. Is there a girl honestly this cool? Built to Spill? Really? A perusal of the profile. A full fledged leap of faith for someone like me, devoid of the capacity to fully embrace another in the form of a girlfriend. Hooking up is about the extent of my lovelife prior to this, I’ve had a girlfriend of two weeks and nothing more. I love my friends, I like devoting my time to personal pursuits and to relationships that I am sure will be there months and years down the line. With that said, I stumble upon the quotations section of her profile and am taken aback. I find a quote from the Rob Sheffield novel Love is a Mixtape, the very same quote that remains on my profile to this day: “I need some new sounds to remember. I’ve been stuck in my little isolation chamber for so long I’m spinning through the same sounds I’ve been hearing in my head all my life. If I go on this way, I’ll get old too fast, without remembering any more sounds than I already know now. The only one who remembers any of my sounds is me. How do you turn down the volume on your personal-drama earphones and learn how to listen to other people? How do you jump off one moving train, marked Yourself, and jump onto a train moving in the opposite direction marked Everybody Else? I loved a Modern Lovers song called, ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste’, and I didn’t want to waste mine.”
I had read this book in July and this passage resonated. I placed it as one of my quotations, perhaps bizarrely hoping to attract someone who is at this same point in their life. The sheer magnitude of this common post shook me. What are the chances that someone else, let alone an attractive, intelligent, artsy girl who knows Built to Spill well enough to recognize an obscure quote from one of their obscure songs would have the same exact passage on her profile? This commonality was enough to spark an instant swap of numbers and texts. It didn’t matter that she was two years younger, she seemed mature and insightful. Music taste in spades. An artist.
I asked her to be my girlfriend in December. She says it was her favorite month of last year because of this. At my grandparents house in San Francisco, I lay in bed late texting. How else are we expected to communicate in this day and age? We had too much in common, we idealized each other too much. Painting perfect pictures of ourselves is probably what doomed us. It’s hard not to find a girl who paints scenes from Iceland while listening to Sigur Ros and discussing plans to elope to the country attractive. We talked about Miles Davis. Miles Davis is one of my favorite musicians. His ‘Sketches of Spain’ is perhaps the greatest jazz record of all time. It’s my favorite. She likes it too. But not seeing her hurt me. It hurt us.
We made plans to see each other. She lives twenty minutes away. It wasn’t the distance that scared me away, but the idea of committing to an idea so uncertain. I was not about to be that college kid dating a high school girl, as I feared would happen once a connection was nurtured. I was worried that if we did in fact see each other, I would be in for the long hall. This is foolish, of course, but the stars just seemed aligned. This is the stuff of movies.
My uncertainties led me to withdraw all communication. I needed to right my head for a couple of months. I lost myself in my music, I focused on my solos for competition, my friends, and little else. Grades suffered, but my performance flourished. That could only hold me away for so long. Once it was over, once I had accomplished all I could have hoped to accomplish, I returned. I made her a mixtape. We talked. Made more plans but I couldn’t hold them. Our relationship switched from the idealist “hopelandish”, the made up language of Sigur Ros, to the moodiness of the Get Up Kids. A song by the Cribs seemed to fit me perfectly: “I’m a realist, I’m a romantic. I’m an indecisive piece of shit”. I couldn’t decide what I wanted out of our relationship, simultaneously leaving both of us in limbo. This state remained until August.
We both went to camp. A week of forced intimacy was what I dreaded, but also looked forward to. I wanted to see where it would take us. The xx’s songs, constant canvasses for the interplay between dual male/female lead singers, oozing with sexuality, were my nightly soundtrack. We kissed for the first time on Monday. A year later. I had not managed to gain the courage to put myself out there, to visit her, to see her. This was an exorcism of personal limitations of sorts. This continued until Wednesday when I decided that I didn’t know what I was doing. We talked for hours. I left her in a lurch. Communication ceased for the next couple of days. I needed my “basic space”.
Again, left to contemplate who I really am and what I really want, I turned to the Get Up Kids. The entire “Something to Write Home About” album seems to be about me and about us. The perfect remedy to our issues. In particular, the song “I’m a Loner Dottie, A Rebel” with it’s sustain cry of “I wanna try to make it right, but I don’t know if I caaaaaaaan” struck a chord. I went back and forth, and back again. I decided that I didn’t want to be with her. I did at camp, and stuck with it. I though more. I thought about life without her completely and it wasn’t something that I wanted. Back again. I decided to try, for a month, until school starts, to make it right. I scheduled a meeting at a coffee shop to talk things over.
I woke up regretting my decision. I was going to break it off. I didn’t. We talked for an hour. I said fuck it. We made out in her car. Black Keys on the stereo.
Really beginning our relationship in earnest seemed normal enough. She came over and we watched Netflix, showed each other music. I showed her the Morning Benders and she showed me the Macabees. Another Cribs song sprung to mind: “I know I said I needed some time alone, and I know I never seemed to pick up the phone, and I know you’ll see me with someone else, but you were always the one”. I was comfortable, content. Not ecstatic, but pleased.
She went out of town for a bit. I saw her at a mutual friend’s wedding next. Seeing two people so in love made me think that my relationship was so petty. They shared a first dance with my dear friend singing and playing the ukelele. It was beautiful. This was true devotion, what I was feeding myself was intimacy for the sake of intimacy, a relationship born out of not wanting to have wasted a year of time spent leading up to what would be just a single month together. I distanced myself. Of course I noticed new things about her that irritated me, so easy to pick out flaws. Too critical. My standards seem impossible. I shook myself out of it. How could I not? I was finally in a place that allowed me to have something not overly serious but something that could benefit me in ways that I had not experienced before for real. Hooking up is so fake, it is a quick fix, it isn’t ultimately satisfying. This could be, and was, beneficial for reasons that stretched beyond physical gratification. At the wedding, after many people had left, a friend and I sat singing favorite songs from the 90’s, he on guitar and the two of us on vocals. We sung “Big Dipper”. The cycle felt complete.
She broke up with me. Two days later, on facebook. Just as we had come together, she left in the same way. Maybe it was my fault, but facebook? Really? Who the fuck does that? I am not that hurt by it. I have come a long way as a person in the year that has passed since that initial conversation. I am ready for college and will be a music major. We are moving into our house in a week. As for me, as a boyfriend….I still have room to grow. I still need to learn how to be more reliable, to be more decisive. I do know where I am lacking, and I am working to right myself. I do know that I have the courage to break it off in person. College is a new world, a new group of people. I’m not shooting for personal reinvention, because the reinvention has already begun through her. This will be personal upgrade. Chris 2.0.
Life is cyclical, really. Our relationship was. Like the spin of a record, or a CD. As I lift the needle and reach for another LP, I’m eager to see if it’s grooves are scratched as well. I hope they’re smoother.