Music has never held me. Instead of instigating a feeling, I think it becomes a substitute for one. An emotional crutch we latch on to, and use to limp through new experiences with phantom limbs that aren’t missing. Injuries and cuts opened on a stereo or dance floor, lyrics hummed along because they are remembered, and what masochist doesn’t like a little salt in their wounds?
“Ohhhhhhh my God! Remember Justin!? This was Justin’s song,” She said, fumbling a Malibu between her fingers and awkward dance moves.
A lull goes over the eyes and her head hangs while the rest of her body doesn’t, a one way trip down misery lane to whoever this Justin is or was.
And I can’t relate. There can be a song playing in the bar or my car radio, but it doesn’t ever remind me of someone specifically. Instead, I’m flung back to that narrow stretch from when I first heard it, fully equipped with all the baggage of that era. Mr. Jones and me danced silence down to the morning, counting pigeons from my window sill and wondering what strange and amazing people my young heart had yet to meet. Swiped left on the wrong people and my twenties stumbled me into a Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Haunting delis and libraries for any beer or book that might be a means of escape. So brash and full of myself, but empty, like a silhouette. Trying to find who I was, not realizing I’d always been him.
“I hope he’s alright,” She said. “I haven’t seen in him since February.”
Then I met May in June, and my Springsteen started in July. Nothing but a Hungry Heart living out his Glory Days, champagne out of wine glasses and half-assed attempts at the adult version of being romantic on a college budget. Ten dollar bottles of wine and Save Tonight on repeat. Lost my virginity to Buddy Holly in Sara’s basement that one Summer, the same one You Give Love A Bad Name became an anthem and self explanatory. Learned about lust and the sweet pangs of loving someone from a distance, so the rest of that year I took a incredible joy in destroying myself with drugs and sex over and over again.
“You know he sang this to me at Crissy’s birthday party, right?”
So music doesn’t do it for me. It’s terrible, a conceited self reflection we’ve all decided to be alright with. Regrets made public with a chorus you can scream in a room full of strangers without appearing all too crazy. Much better than the alternative, having to face and put to words the way someone once made you feel. Skip the song, put away the salt and show your wounds and bruises. Explain just how you got them, even if they aren’t finished healing.
“Do you miss him?” I asked, opening the subject.
“Fuck that asshole,” She said flatly.
And kept dancing along to the music.