Sometimes I have a revelation and I understand why some of the cliche, some of the
idiom, of romance and heartbreak and bittersweet becomes as pervasive as it is. I
had occasion to travel back from my parents’ house in Pennyslvania to my place in
New York today.
It’s only about 200 miles in a straight line. But it’s 4 hours by train, and the
last two are spent riding backwards if you pick the seat I did. Rolling slowly
away from the place you grew up, while literally looking back at it all, makes for
a view that I suppose I’d find to be obvious and trite if it hadn’t struck me as
Maybe it was just the soundtrack. You’ve got the same songs, though the titles or
the singers might be different for you… I guess it didn’t hit me until Annie
Lennox started singing “Why”. In a particularly masochistic bit of bad luck, I had
two versions of the song, the album version and a heartbreaking solo vocal and
piano version she did a while ago.
And it brought back every heartbreak I’ve ever assauged with this song. I watched
town after town roll by, past places I used to visit when I had clients there in
my old company. When I’d drown myself in work in these little towns outside
Philadelphia so I wouldn’t have to picture what I did to make my first real
girlfriend become the first girl that I ever made cry.
None of it changes a decade later, I return to the same soundtrack today with
my last heartbreak still fresh enough to evoke tears that I just wish weren’t
this close to the surface… When I’ve cried so many tears while I was with a
woman that I have none left now that she’s gone.
Somehow we all pick the songs to cry to, and they’re all about the misery of the
singer. Never how well their life is going, but how they’ve been in the dumps
like me, how they know exactly what it’s like to have my heart ripped out like it
is right now. I moved on to a beautiful, delicate, subtle remix of P.M. Dawn’s
“Faith In You”, so smooth and gently uplifting that it makes their descent into
obscurity seem even more criminal. I wanted something with hope.
But I wouldn’t just pick an upbeat song in this mood; That wouldn’t fit the
process that I’ve begun. It’s a song with History, with Context, and while I
can’t pretend it has meaning, a bit more of its presence in the regrettable
episodes I keep rehashing in my head would certainly have imbued it with such.
I feel like my chest has been rubbed raw from opening my arms to hold onto
someone who was scratching and clawing so hard to get away. I want to never,
ever ever ever sigh and drop my head in recognition when Annie says “This boat
is sinking…” I want to be as innocent as I was the first time that I thought I
knew what a sad song was about. I want the last 4 years of my life back. I want
to be 21 again and as confident about my future as only the naive can be.
I want to not wallow again and not resort to the cliches that are draped over
every breakup that’s ever plagued man or woman in their mid-twenties. I suppose
I want the redemption and the salvation that are promised to me by the songs I’m
sure I’ll be listening to tomorrow… I want all the pain I’ve suffered and all
the pain I’ve inflicted to be undone. I want to be free. I want for Annie Lennox,
and me, to finally know Why.