When you live with a song long enough, it becomes part of your memory-scape. In our column One Song, One Story, our writers share a song, and the story it evokes in them.
On the corner of Broome and Delancey is a terrible two-part dive where terrible “print is dead!”start-up yuppies come to play pool terribly. The bartender writes terrible ebooks by day and always has the Spotify Radio for The Black Keys turned on, for he believes curating playlists is a “terrible waste of time.” Tonight they’re playing that tired MGMT song that probably wasn’t too terrible to begin with but is ruined forever by Urban Outfitters and overplay at bars just like this one.
I only come here when my regular place is closed. My regular place being the hole in the wall two blocks down, where dead-end jobs-withholding thirty-somethings come to fill up their emptiness night by night. I wouldn’t be here, or at my regular place, for that matter, if they weren’t a block radius from where I live, or if where I live wasn’t a shared studio in the armpit of Chinatown. But here I am, on an as-if, kind-of date, wishing they were playing something else. Anything else.
A terrible heaviness comes over me. A text: “they’re playing that MGMT song.” Is he here? Tipped by my ponderousness, I recline stealthily from my chair to catch a glimpse of the bar table. I recognize ‘him’ from his back and complain about a terrible draft so I can switch places with As-If, Kind-Of Date. I feel uncomfortable, inflicted with a gashing, misplaced guilt carried over from the year before: the time when ‘he’ told me, in the terrible, half-joking candor of two beers, that he couldn’t decide whether he hated me or was obsessed with me. He rounded off with an uneasy laugh and an “oh wait, those categories aren’t mutually exclusive.” ‘No’ is an unforgiving word but to be hated for not liking someone back, for not reciprocating an urgent and erratic love where love is simply not there, is cruel. I didn’t want a flash of negative knowledge, I didn’t want for my inquisition to encourage him. I never asked why. Instead, I ceased all contact.
As-If, Kind-Of Date picks up on my desperate urge to be invisible. A sinking feeling, accompanied by an unsuitable thrill. The hook, the chemical synths of the song chide me, inducing an incurable fugue-like state. Stifled by the stickiness of the moment, my zeal to arrive is equaled by my terrible, choking anxiety to get away.
I type up a reply, forgetting what I write with the hit of the ‘send’ button. The song discorporates. I hear the words dismantle: “The water is warm/ But it’s sending me shivers.”
I stagger to the bathroom, stare in the mirror, examining my decisions in the fog of the glass. I make it past the terrible pool-playing yuppies, past the bar table. Out the door. And never back.