When you live with a song long enough, it becomes part of your memory-scape. In our BRAND NEW COLUMN One Song, One Story, our writers share a song, and the story it evokes in them.
You put so much thought into getting ready, painfully putting the details into place. You wear the perfect shade of matte red lipstick, not the kind you can pick up from a CVS aisle–the real kind, the kind that requires you to forego the weekly pack of cigarettes. The cheap ones invariably dissipate into an unseemly pink after a smoke and a cup of coffee. He notices. Cigarettes don’t matter anymore, you have a brand new addiction. A pastime more fulfilling than smoking on the stoop, watching drunk college kids fumble down Christopher St over the weekends with the sixty-something Cyprian security guard and his unsolicited advice about men. You don’t need advice now, you are eighteen. He opens the door, you climb into the cab, head to a bar on Bowery to meet his friends. You, of course, at eighteen, don’t go to real bars with three-part drinks and spacious settings. You go to the dives, the godawful midtown Irish pubs your friends drag you to every Thursday night, the little holes in the wall on Essex. So, you’re stopped at the door. The bouncer looks at your ID, then your face, and then at the ID again. He slyly snickers, asks you to head back home. At eighteen, a five year difference is a divide. The guy you came with disappears through the doors, into the bar. He glances at you through the glass walls, sad. He shrugs. Somehow he’s guilty, but no, not sorry. You stand outside, waiting. He doesn’t come back. He’s going to stay. You feel like every kind of fool. It starts to rain. And you can’t find a cab. The rain drops on your lips, turns scarlet into crimson. Crimson fades into blush, the same shade of humiliation that permeates your cheeks. You begin to wish you’d bought that pack of Marlboros instead. Drenched, you begin the descent home, stilettos in hand. Sometimes, getting ready is the best part.
Nobody understands this. Nobody understands growing up through these excruciating, silly, subtle indignities of romance better than Mandy Moore’s “Gardenia.” “Gardenia” understands neglect. It knows what it’s like to get caught up in what you’re regretting. It relates to having spent a year, maybe two, sorting through the trivial indignities that metamorphose into significant embarrassment. It recognizes the art of apology for someone else’s mistakes. And after running away from confrontation, after having cemented words in songs instead of misplacing them in forgetful conversation, everything you lost suddenly seems different.
The collective songwriting efforts of Mandy Moore and Chantal Kreviazuk become, to a broken heart, a vehicle to carry its own narrative. When the brief respite a few hours of sleep provides you from misery fades into morning, when the same, unending day ensues, when there’s no one to call, and all you hope is to disappear perfectly into absence–their absence–it is then that the song finds you. The lyrics claw into your soul, the earthy G chord takes root inside of you, anchors itself in your guts. It rips you into a million pieces. And just when you thought there was nothing left in you, there it is again. You choke up, your body screams into tears. You are hurting, but you are alive.
Well, this is how everybody gets found.