Monthly Archives: February 2015

Valentine’s Day Writing Challenge–Day 5: My Best Friend’s Best Friend

The Song
“Love” by The Sundays

The Memory
This is not a memory about a lover at all. Instead, it is one of those myriad associations stored up in memory, a link that may seem weak and yet, in fact, makes me feel like there is an ever-stronger web of joy netting me into this life.

When I think of this song, I think of J.E. Johnson’s friend Tobias Becker. There are layers of removal from intimacy there: one of my college best friend’s high school best friends. I probably only ever hung out with Toby under ten times. I know he loved girls wearing sundresses and once made the most beautiful teapot in ceramics class–one with the face of Hermes on it. I know that now, he is happy, with many babies. What was always clear was that he was a gentle soul, and he loved this song, and I remember him singing his favorite line from it, unabashedly:

Well, if yoooooou
don’t have a clue about life
then I’m happy, happy, happy to say
neither have I
although I’m not going to shrug my shoulders and suck my thumb
Thiiiis time

Sometimes, people I adore move in and out of my life with a speed that should make me nauseated. As a teacher, I’m only just now getting used to the fact that students who bond with me during their four years (or even just in their first year) will probably disappear into the ether after graduation, our closeness like a B-12 booster for their growth.

Of course, the opposite is true, too: I maintain many, many deep connections with many, many people.

But part of Valentine’s Day for me is always about the time-lapse film of connections running through my head. It could feel like a string of losses. Or–and this is what I like more–it could feel like the end of Cinema Paradiso: a reel of all the good parts, spliced together, separate from their narratives but beautiful all alone.

The Sundays – Love

Valentine’s Day Writing Challenge–Day 4: Meow Meow Meow

The song
Made-up songs we sing to our cats.

The Memory
Alright, this isn’t really a memory, as much as it is a daily activity. And I do think I make up and sing more songs about Judy than any other cat I’ve ever had.

The most common one is a short ditty: “Judy / the Wonder Cat / not too tall and not too fat.”

The other morning, the first words out of my mouth were a spontaneous song to her, celebrating our differences: “You are made of furrrrrr / and I am made of skiiiiiiinnnnn / Your name is Judy, and my name, dear, is Bryn.”

Real love songs aren’t always good because they’re true or profound. They’re good because you want to sing them, to tell another living creature your heart fills with music because they are near.

Valentine’s Day Writing Challenge–Day 3: PJ Harvey and the Cosmos

The song
PJ Harvey’s “One Line”

The Memory
The night before I started my move to Missouri, the Final Ryan and I went to Golden Gardens beach. I did not know my move would be temporary, that I would not be able to stand being away from this city, much less this magical beach, which is scattered liberally with the glass hearts of others for the weeks after Valentine’s Day. He had already broken my own glass heart once that summer when he told me he wasn’t physically attracted to me and then, mysteriously, continued to want to be with me for the rest of my time. More mysteriously, although perhaps not, given my own fragile state, I let him.

We split a bottle of prosecco and an iPod, and in one of his more boyfriend-y moments, he put his sweatshirt on me, since the night was cool. We could hear another couple making out nearby us, and we couldn’t stop giggling. Then we were silent for a long time with the stars, and this song came on: “Do you remember the first kiss / stars shooting across the sky?”

I kid you not. We saw a shooting star. And Ryan, who was not as in love with me as I was with him, gasped, grabbed my arm and kissed me.

I called him the “Final” Ryan even at the time, not only because I’d dated too many Ryans in a row but because I knew, even if I didn’t want to know, that while I might see him again after I moved, this was really the end. I also knew he was syndecoche for all of Seattle. What I still don’t know is what I was for him.

Valentine’s Day Writing Challenge: Day Two–How 80’s Music Ruins Our Lives

Day 2
The Song: “For Just a Moment”–the Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire.

The Memory
This isn’t a love memory for me as much as it is a memory of driving. During high school, I took piano lessons thirty minutes away, in another town. There were no towns in between my town and that town. There was a feedlot and some scattered roadside farm houses. Every week, I would drive myself to piano and, since it was the early 90’s, I listened (on tape) to SO MANY love songs. I preferred sound tracks , in those days, and this love song, I would argue, is typical of the kind I favored: a song about lost love, nostalgia for a time gone by, or simply the pain of growing older, time passing as we speed towards death. (Others of its ilk included “Separate Lives” from White Nights and a song from a movie called Stealing Home, which I watched obsessively on HBO, every time it came on.)

I was 17. What did I know of love at all, much less love lost? I was always moving towards pre-emptive nostalgia, missing the thing before it had happened. Did all those songs prepare me for the worst or prepare me to let go too soon?

Valentine’s Day Week Writing Challenge: Day One

(A repost from a new project–see “These Arms Were Mine” in previous posts for a full version of the story.)

Valentine’s Day Week Writing Challenge: every day, I’ll give you a love song and a memory. If you have a memory associated with this song, please write a comment.

Day One
The Song
: “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding.

The Memory: I was a camp counselor at musical theater camp, and I’d been carrying on a destructive and illicit affair with a camper since I was a camper myself. I think I was 19 and he was 16 or something bad like that. I was trying to break away from this kryptonite-like attraction and had mostly successfully pushed him away that week. But at the camp dance, he walked up to me during this song and simply took me in his arms to dance. There was no divide for 3 minutes. The physical spell was so powerful that we both forgot about all the bewildered eyes upon us and sank into that song in a way I’ve never danced again.