Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
As dinosaur populations or Van Gogh, my love life up until now is divided into periods, and several of these periods directly correspond to a Sarah McLachlan song that could find a hole in the wall, a chink in the armor, and pierced to the heart of me such that for a time each lilt in her emotive soprano became a part of me, my blood made of guitar chords and piano keys.
I rather doubt I’m the only one.
Summer 1994 – “Possession”
I spend a summer studying acting and creative writing at Harvard, and the first weeks of this I spend keeping mostly to myself among my companions in Straus Hall A. I’ve convinced myself that I’m madly in love with Michelle, because I am 16 and I can convince myself that I am madly in love with a steam radiator if only the slightest chance existed that it might in some reality or another love me back.
I pine and imagine fantastic scenarios in which she not only notices that I am miles away in Cambridge, but genuinely misses seeing me around, and I write a letter professing love in that sweet, stupid way that only teenagers have, back when we believe we are hopeless romantics and later discover that we are far more the first part than the second.
And one day, I stop by Newbury Comics at the Garage, a popular campus mini-mall, and I pick up a copy of the “Possession” single on tape, being a song I heard briefly one morning through my clock radio and decided I really liked. I listen to little besides just this song for at least three weeks. I’m aware in time that the lyric “I’ll take your breath away” is not written as a promise to awe and amaze, that the song itself is as deceptively apropos an expression of ardor as The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” But I am not a stalker, nor am I a violent man, and when the letter from Michelle comes back saying you’re sweet but… I swallow the rejection whole.
I imagine that this quiet, wounded introspection makes me a mysterious individual to the others living in Straus A, but as the weeks whittle away and I realize the opportunities I’ve missed to make genuine friends, it becomes clearer that this only makes me a cagey bastard with a pair of headphones in his ears. And a small paper tape case in his fingers, depicting on its cover a captivating woman who sings to him at night when he can no longer tolerate the ambient noise of Harvard Square.
Spring 1995 – “Ice Cream”
Gabrielle likes ice cream and chocolate. In the dark of my bedroom, looking out the window at half moons in clear skies, I put this song on Repeat and fall asleep, believing that one day she will consider my love better than both, as I feel the mere possibility of her love already is for me.
Everyone here knows how to cry.
And it’s a long way down.
Winters 1997, 1998, 1999 – “Song for a Winter’s Night”
Winter is the cruelest of all seasons when one has faith only in one’s loneliness set in place in perpetuity throughout the universe. Sarah covers a Gordon Lightfoot song that I have never heard before and thereafter whose original version I never wish to hear.
Dim firelights and the thick sweaters of nonexistent loved ones, covering everything except for the face, the only thing I want to see during such hours. The song is warmth and liquid, like melted gold, and it shines in each needlessly melodramatic tear I weep for myself.
April 1998 – “Do What You Have To Do”
It has hammered home, at last, that although Meagen and I love each other, that she cannot love me in that way, and that I myself do not understand love beyond the sweet wonder of each other’s company. She remains 150 miles away, but it is not a physical distance that separates us, it is something more subtle and human than that. A dream dead of confusion. I sit at my desk in my dorm room, staring at the speakers of my CD player, and gently nod my head when Sarah explains the violence of existing for only you.
July 1999 – “I Love You”
I am standing on the pumpkin-colored carpeting in a small Palatine apartment, and through some form of unexplainable cosmic momentum, I find myself slow-dancing with a woman I’ve met only once before, a woman who for the past four years I had half-believed was a nonexistent hoax being perpetrated on me by my friend Amy.
“You should meet my friend Dana,” she had said. “I think the two of you would hit it off.”
Four years later, in this our second encounter, we are both filled with alcohol, I for the first time in my life, swaying and turning and generating static to the lament of this song, the second on Sarah’s new album Surfacing. Halfway through the song Dana breaks away from me, and for months after, I treasure this moment for all its fleetingness.
I had fallen in love with this woman hours before, after watching her perform a goofy song about an aggressive squirrel–her own composition–on her guitar.
It has been over four years since that moment, since our arms around each other and Sarah McLachlan singing, plaintively, that she forgot to tell you I love you.
I had not forgotten. I was afraid. Today I look at Dana, hold her hand in mine, and can’t begin to say it enough.