I had just moved to London and was desperately lonely. To make matters worse, I spent my days walking around in the rain listening to Joan Baez sing “Silver Dagger” on repeat, feeling sorry for myself.
Then I met you.
On our first date, you invited all your friends to dinner. I showed up and thought, “Maybe I got this wrong? Maybe this is just a friend thing.” There was your pretentious philosopher/musician friend who thought he was the shit because he once opened for Belle and Sebastian. He asked me (it was less like a question and more like a test) what kind of music I liked. I almost rolled my eyes. Who even asks that anymore? I told him if I was stuck on a desert island it would have to be Simon and Garfunkel and Pavement for ever and ever. He turned to you and said, “This bird’s all right.” I passed the first exam.
We all went dancing and you and I tried a little too hard to prove we were both great dancers and therefore going to be really good at sex later. Nonetheless we found that our bodies fit pretty well together during Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.” After watching us another friend sidled up to you and whispered in your ear, “Looks like you found your perfect dancing partner.”
Two weeks later I had practically moved in with you. In the morning you would bring me a cup of tea in bed and we would listen to Joan as Police Woman, singing at the top of our lungs, “The Birds of Prey are Mating!” Once you told me, in the cheesiest of moments, that I reminded you of a “Dirty Whirlwind.” I was beyond flattered, and totally smitten.
You claimed that being English was the reason you knew nothing about the Pixies, and I claimed that being an American was why I has never even heard of Blur. And so for that first year together I decided I would make myself fall in love with Jarvis Cocker and all his pervy wardrobe-hiding ways. I used to whisper in your ear when we were falling asleep, “Oh, I want to take you home. I want to give you children. You might be my girlfriend. Yeah.” We’d laugh and laugh, and plan our entire lives together. Though you never learned the subtle but important difference between Surfer Rosa and Doolittle—a small but telling red flag.
I spent a year with you in London, pretending to understand your mother’s obsession with Morissey, listening to the worst Ibiza trance music played everywhere, and popping into the Macbeth pub to hear the latest indie bad XL Records was interested in.
I was homesick.
I missed America. I missed Kanye West and David Byrne. I missed sweating on a dance floor while grinding my pelvis against someone else. I missed dirty Florida noise music, and I missed sitting in Prospect Park to hear whatever was playing at Celebrate Brooklyn.
My best friend died back in the States and I couldn’t afford to get home for the funeral. I thought about her endlessly. I thought about when we were twenty years old, mostly drunk, wandering around San Francisco and singing, always singing.
Save me, save me, save me from this squeeze.
I got a big fat mama trying to break me.
And I love to live so pleasantly,
Live this life of luxury,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
In the summertime
In the summertime
In the summertime
I had to go home. I had to go home. I had to go home. You would come to visit, I said. We would make it work, I promised. You could get a job in the states. My English friends (your friends really) made me a mix tape shaped like a cheeseburger as a going away present. It was full of Leonard Cohen and Dolly Parton. I was ready to go back.
You did come visit, just like I promised. I couldn’t wait for you to meet all my friends. I wanted you to see me in my own element. I threw a party with friends from high school, college, San Francisco, even that year in Paris—anyone that found themselves in New York was at that bar in the backyard garden. You naively confessed that you hadn’t ever listened to Stevie Nicks. Everyone stopped talking and looked at you shocked. Then someone, I think it was Rebecca, started singing “Landslide.” The whole garden joined in spontaneously. When I left you at the airport that last time you said, “Please don’t sing Stevie with anyone else.”
Then we broke up.
You were away I kissed someone. I kissed someone else. It was innocent—just a kiss. But even though I couldn’t conjure up the memory of the face that belonged to that kiss I could remember the song that was playing in the background. George Michael’s “I’m Never Gonna Dance Again.” For weeks after I heard that song everywhere—in the elevator, on the phone when I was on hold, in stores I walked into, and in my head playing on a loop over and over again.
We had to break up, because even though I didn’t take that kiss any further, all I wanted to do was hear that song again. And I wanted more—different songs too.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For months (maybe even years) all I heard was you. You were hidden in melodies and lyrics, radio stations and old CD’s. I even went through a phase of listening to Bright Eyes. Specifically “Boomerang.” Though I didn’t want to get back together with you, I also didn’t want to feel this way either.
A friend took me to a Robyn concert to try to cheer me up, and I cried through the whole thing. Even Robyn seemed profoundly sad.
Then after a particularity hard New Year’s Eve, when I couldn’t even manage to fake enthusiasm for “Magic Man,” my favorite song, I woke up to find my roommates dancing in the living room. They were listening to this new hot band Vampire Weekend. The song was “Diplomat’s Son.” They motioned for me to join in, and suddenly I remembered that I liked to dance. I remembered that I liked dancing before I even met you, and that I had always been good at it, with or without you. I thought of the lyrics to the song, and how they related to my life. Just my life. Not my life with you. I smiled and started to sway my hips.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface