Songs in the key of life.


All I Want, by Kodaline. 

We were at the river. At our spot. It wasn’t much; a thin spit of rocky beach that you reached by fording across a waist-deep stretch of river, shoes in hand and backpack on back. Feet slipping on the mossy rocks, the push of the river’s current against your legs both gentle and yet innately powerful; a father’s hand cradling his newborn’s head.

It wasn’t much but it was ours.

We spread out an old sleeping bag to diffuse the angles and harshness of the rocks underneath. We sat and watched the river plod by, endlessly. Sometimes when you see things that will endure long past you, you get a negative feeling, a feeling of your smallness and temporariness. Not so with the river and its flow; its enduring nature was a source of great comfort: you worrying about how the world will go on without you, and the world turning and smiling at you, and saying that it would be all right.

Wind whistling through the high leaves on the other side of the river, limbs undulating like the arms of worshippers at a holy service. Eddies swirl lazily along the edge nearest us. She dips her toes in and turns to me and smiles and oh god, I’m falling again.

Save for the wind and the water and the small birds dipping and diving into and out of the river, we are alone. We make love there, on my dusty old sleeping bag. I don’t use “make love” lightly or meaninglessly; I have loved two women in this world, and she was one of them, and when we came together, it was with a different connection than simply just fucking. You know what I’m talking about. Even though you are an awkward construction of limbs and hips and heart and mouth, you fit together perfectly, with a satisfying click of fitting the last piece into a jigsaw puzzle that you’ve spent your whole life building.

After, spent, we lay next to each other. I had brought my wireless speaker because I love having a soundtrack to my life everywhere I go. Music is not a distraction but an amplification of life. This song came on, this perfect song, and as I lay there, the warmth of her body still fading from my skin, the heat of the sun on my back, the water gurgling past just feet away and the wind sighing through the trees – nature working to create its own song to fill in the occasional silences of the song coming from the speaker – as I lay there, and the song built into a glorious crescendo (from 3:30 – 4:30 if you’re listening along) I felt completely and complexly satisfied, all needs and urges and insecurities and distractions for a moment all silenced, lulled to sleep by melody.

Sometimes I catch myself staring into the mirror, or staring at the ceiling at night in my bed, and this feeling hits me, this feeling that none of this is real. That I somehow died that moment at the river; my heart stopped, or the world itself decided to stop turning, and it all ended right there, along that rocky bank, and all of what has passed since then has been my mind’s last fevered dream, some sort of death throe where it creates an illusion that is just simultaneously shitty and wonderful enough to pass for reality so that I won’t realize that I am dead, so that it can continue on in this illusion, and thus maintain some approximation of life.

And then I catch myself thinking that if that is true – that if that day at the river was my last day – then that is perfectly, wonderfully all right.

And if that wasn’t my last day, and if one day I will lay in my real twilight hour, I feel assured that this moment at the river will be one of the last moments I think of. And if I have the mind and muscles to do so, I will smile.

Wherever you are, R, thank you for being a part of that moment with me.



Light splays.
On her skin it plays.
Curtain-diffused and rainbow-stained
inside the warmth, outside the rain.

Time stalls.
Halting all in all.
Edges curl like a photograph
I trace her curves, she starts to laugh.

Trees sigh.
For our ears they vie.
The forest rustles, leaves shake free
deaf to all, asleep in our tree.

Where then?
Does she start, I end?
The same place, if one could measure
where the present meets the future.

Songs in the key of life. 

Inside out, by Spoon. 

We lay naked in bed, my arm under her neck, her head on my chest. It was late, and we were talking about music. I asked her what she was currently grooving on now; I find this question so much more answerable and discussable than the generic “what music do you like?” She told me how the latest Spoon album had been on repeat for her, and that one of the songs specifically was her jam. In her excitement, she took out her iPhone, opened Spotify, and queued the song.

It starts slowly, ethereal tones, with a subtle tone on every second and fourth beat, and then, about thirty seconds in, suddenly, wonderfully, the full song kicks in. It feels like an opening, the blooming of a pastel flower in a warm spring morning. The beat is simple but driving, the bass and drums coordinating together to create a sound that is simply impossible not to nod your head to.

I loved it, and I loved that she loved it. Hell, maybe the latter was why the former.

Now every time I hear that song, I think of her, and us, and our first epic date: drinks in the covered patio of a dive-y downtown bar, bass heart-beating into our feet and up through our bodies, meeting up with her friend and her friend’s date at the next bar, playing pool and drinking and laughing, the four of us almost giddy with the unspoken fact that all of us would be getting laid that night. The staggering journey to a hotel a mile away, and, because her friend hadn’t planned on walking and was wearing uncomfortable heels, the nostalgic humor of her saying, over and over, “are we there yet?”, which ended when her date hoisted her onto his back, and that look on her face as she nuzzled her head against his shoulder, my mind taking special care to snapshot that moment of pure, contented bliss. The way my date held my hand and also my arm and lingered close to me, our steps moving in time with each other effortlessly.

The way she and I came together in the hotel room, the bland anonymity of the room contrasting fiercely with the intimacy and ferocity that we shared.

The moment when I kissed her, and I thought the words “she tasted like cigarettes” in Forrest Gump’s drawling, inarticulate voice.

The moment where you realize that there is nowhere else you’d rather be and no one else you’d rather be with, and how that thought births happiness in places in you that had long been unreached; an explorer’s flashlight in the dark of a long sealed tomb.

Not long after, she texted me to tell me that she had met someone and was head over heels. I texted her back and congratulated her, and told her that if there was anyone who deserved love and happiness, it was her, and I meant it. And though I knew we weren’t “the ones” for each other, and though I had kept her at arm’s length because I still doubted the ability of my wounded heart to love, I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholy over it all, a feeling most approximated by the saying “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”

I do still love the song, both because it is a wonderful song, and because it reminds me of our (brief) time together. Wherever you are, C, and whoever you are with, I hope you are happy.