“Dive bar on the East Side, where you at?”
Back up against a wall, in more ways than one, as I watched the band tear down and put guitars away with the delicacy that you lay someone down in bed. Each one had a rightful home it’d rest easy in until the next city or town, the next show that would find someone else in the audience enthralled by the power of three chords and the truth.
A crowd of maybe 75. Songs that’d played loudly over an Apple TV years before I got to hear them sung over a microphone and what felt like directly to me.
There’s a power and delicacy in songwriting that is so reflective of romantic relationships. You start with a slow intro, the beat drops, the chorus comes in with a subtle nod to impactful presence, and then somehow you find yourself right back where you started. That relationships are cyclical is a fact, that we barely talk about their cycles is the truth.
We’re scared to acknowledge that not every day with a partner feels sturdy. We fall apart with the ease of a Jenga tower because falling apart and coming back together, over and over again, that’s the definition of a relationship. Some falls are less dramatic than others, but they ultimately all contribute to the same reality that with the growth of individuals comes the growth of how the relationship looks and feels. And yet for a relationship to change and morph, especially in our twenties, feels like the biggest failure.
We cheat ourselves out of the possibility of growth and learning because we’re too busy forcing love to look like a single thing and punishing ourselves when it reminds us it has a pulse of its own. We say it needs to be the relationship that never breaks. So we forgo learning about the becoming. We say it needs to be the partner who reads our mind. So we forgo learning how to speak our needs. We say it needs to be independence at all costs. So we forgo learning how to surrender to knowing what support during our hardest moments feels like.
“Your love is a fire and I need the burn. I know I’m a liar, I don’t deserve you,” she sings in a song. I think I know what she means. It’s less heat of the moment and more warmth in your heart. It’s the reality that I’ll never be the same person I am today, ever again, tomorrow I’ll be different because each day builds me out more and more. I’m not looking for a partner who will only love me at a resting place, I want one who will like that growth is inevitable and a reason to love me.
When the facade of a life that’s perfectly kept up slips away and in its place we’re left with two broken people who are just grateful that they have their person to sit next to while they figure this life thing out, it's what makes up our favorite songs. Nothing less, nothing more.
She sings, “Every time that I order my coffee black, your memory keeps coming back in a double tall breve latte, two pumps, classic.”
I think of coffee shop dates and knees bumping. The most intimate and delicate of moments.
She sings, “Like I was baptized by the fire in your kiss. No, I've never, ever, ever felt like this.”
I think of that friend who told me about that kiss and how it changed it all. How delicacy was born from a moment of spontaneity. How life would happen and test the foundation. Over and over and over again.
She sings, “No, we’re not promised tomorrow, so I’m going to love you, like I’m going to lose you.”
And, well, we make decisions when we’re in love that are so out of touch with reality but so in touch with our own hearts. It’s how we know we’re in love. It’s the bravery that teaches us how to use our hearts for more than just pumping blood.
There comes a moment, usually when you're knee deep in the messiness that is loving someone other than the person you see in the mirror, when you realize that empirical evidence will never have a place in love. It just is. You just are.
The memory of her singing some of the songs that have seen me through heartbreaks and falling in love moments, it feels bittersweet because 3 minutes atop of 3 minutes atop of 3 minutes eventually found me up against the wall, sitting with only the noise of the bar to listen to as I watched the band break down the set.
It’s all so delicate - the balance, the feelings, the person on the either end of your smile in the middle of a kiss. It's never as pretty as it is in the most well-written love songs, but it can be as real as the most specific of lyrics.
Before You Called Me Baby. It was a different world.