[this is an excerpt from “Talking to Girls (and One Boy) About Counting Crows,” from Reckless Chants #20; more information about the zine is available here, and it can be ordered here.]
In autumn of 2006, I fell in love with a girl. A woman. I would drive the two hours from my city to hers just to be near her. She seemed like everything I’d ever wanted. We’d both raised ourselves with punk rock ideals and covered ourselves with tattoos, and both were now more into a generally ‘bohemian’ lifestyle, art and music and folk magic. (“I can’t wear moonstones anymore,” she told me, once, “cos every time I do, I get knocked up.” “I can’t have (PiV) sex in motels anymore,” I said, “for the same reason.”) So we had all this in common, but we were also very different. Counterparts; counterpoints, if you will. She was short, I was tall; she was curvy, I was less so; she was a brunette, I a redhead. She played guitar, I played accordion. (That’s why we met; she found me online and sent me a message that read: “I need an accordion player. For my band, I mean.”) She was into belly dance, I was into burlesque and circus. I was all about rushing around the world having adventures; she was more interested in making her own town and home interesting and beautiful. We were both writers, though at that point, she hadn’t written anything other than songs and journal entries in years — “I stopped writing when I stopped dreaming,” she told me, and I’ll be goddamned if that isn’t one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. (Once, when I didn’t get to see her for two whole weeks, I sent her a postcard. On it, I quoted a passage from a story of mine: My dearest dear, without dreaming, where would we be? If I have to do the dreaming for the both of us now, I will. I will dream you a pair of wings, feathered and silky as a new bride’s bed, so you can fly yourself up up and away from this place, this life.)
I fell in love with her instantly, crushingly. She had a line from an ee cummings poem tattooed on her. She smelled like jasmine. She gave me a charm bracelet, a piece of a railroad track, and a love for opera. I fell in love with her apartment, too — the walls were painted a dusty yellow, it was full of old books and peacock feathers, and there were always interesting people popping by to drink lapsang souchong and do magic tricks or discuss Proust. I was in love with her, and her apartment, and I stayed with her as often as I could. We never kissed. There were so many moments of almost… We slept in her small bed, together, curled around each other, and my hands on her small waist would tremble with the nearness of beauty, and I never really slept at all, just lay awake, watching the way the moonlight made her dark hair glow, wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to kiss her. She took me around to the bars and cafes and art galleries in her town, introducing me to all her friends and telling them all about me, about how amazing I was, about how she wanted to kiss me, and I’d blush, but we still didn’t kiss. I’m not entirely sure why we never just went for it. Maybe because we both had other romantic entanglements (because we were both that sort of woman) and didn’t want to complicate each other’s lives further. Maybe because we were afraid: I think she may have been even more afraid than I was. I was afraid of making the first move, and of potentially ruining our friendship, but I think her fear was of truly letting someone into her lonely world. Despite all her friends and lovers, she was so, so, lonely, she held people at a distance, and I think she knew she couldn’t do that with me, and it scared her.
I had made her a mix soon after we met, because that’s what I do, make mixes for friends and lovers, for potential friends and almost-lovers. It was full of cabaret and circus punk, which is what I was listening to pretty exclusively at the time. A month or so later, she made a mix for me. “It’s not as fun or sexy as the one you made,” she apologized. “It’s mostly…sad-girl music.” I assured her that I liked sad-girl music. I glanced at the track listing, and noticed that Counting Crows were on it — “Wow, you like Counting Crows?” “Yes…” “Me too! Most people give me shit for listening to them.” “Same here. The track I put on the mix is probably my favorite song of theirs.” “Want to know what my favorite Counting Crows song is?” “It’s “Raining in Baltimore,” right?” “How did you know?” “Because it mentions the circus, and trains. And there’s an accordion in it.” She understood me so well.
A couple weeks later, I decided it was now or never when it came to me and her. There was an event coming up in her town that we were both attending, and I decided I’d ask her to be my date for the evening. I figured if she was my date, I’d have no excuse not to kiss her. So I wrote her an email, and asked her out, officially. There was no turning back. She responded within a couple hours — and told me that she already had a date for that night. The worst part of it was, she also told me that if I’d sent the email just a day earlier, she wouldn’t have accepted that other person’s invitation, and she would have said ‘yes’ to mine. I was a day too late.
I hadn’t cried over anyone I was in love with in nearly two years. But after I read her email, I put in the mix she’d made me, and put her favorite Counting Crows song, “Colorblind,” on repeat. I listened, over and over again, to that piano-ballad loneliness, and I bawled.
I am covered in skin No one gets to come in Pull me out from inside I am folded and unfolded and unfolding I am colorblind Coffee black and egg white Pull me out from inside I am ready
I am fine