Practice Rooms (A Musical History of Why We Failed): Jason and “Big Love”

“But Bryn,” some might say, “isn’t that what the whole blog is about?”

No. The whole blog is about music and intimacy.

But it occurred to me, as I was explaining to someone why I might be willing to give Fleetwood Mac a try, that I had the musical answers to some romantic questions raised by almost every boyfriend I’ve had. No need to tell me I’ll find love again, blah blah—I’m not just practicing what I preach. I’m watching how they practice. Because I’ve realized that the way they practice music is the sonorous foreshadowing of the problems we might have—the Hitchcock-like ominous violins building, just before the shower curtain is pulled back, and a vulnerable body is stabbed through the heart, among other places.

Let’s review:

Jason and “Big Love”

While I have never loved Fleetwood Mac, Jason did, and he converted me to at least really appreciating “Big Love.” Jason could belt it out like nobody’s business, but the Lindsay Buckingham guitar part is, by Jason’s own admission, a bitch. Fast, hard, and ever-changing in its rhythmic emphasis, the guitar murmurs intensely, a schizophrenic muttering on the bus, before it bursts, an intricate attack, and the chorus promises to leave your Stevie Nicks ass in search of REAL love. Big Love.

When Jason first saw Buckingham play that song live, he thought, “I’ll never be able to play that song.”

When Jason first met me, he was 19, and I was his 29 year-old grad assistant professor. When Jason and I fell in love, 11 years later, he was a wreck—a single father with a chronic illness, an addiction to multiple kinds of smoking, living at home, and still suffering, clearly, from the PTSD of his last, unhappy relationship with a narcissistic make-up artist. But we both (foolishly) thought, “But why can’t we be in love? We’ll just take it day by day.”

“But then I thought: Why can’t I learn how to play that song?” Jason told me, as he sat strumming it on my couch. “If I at least start practicing it, a little bit every day, I’ve got to be able to do it at some point, right?”

I loved him on that couch. I loved him everywhere.

We tried to date, despite the fact that he worked from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. and I worked among the living. I tried hard to accept that his smoking and his preference for Red Bull to real food were not deal-breakers. He tried to believe me when I said I believed in him.

After practicing the song for over year, Jason could still only play about halfway through. He could play it really well, really beautifully, but at some point, he’d have to stop, shaking out his cramping hand. “My arm gets tired,” he’d say to me, sheepishly putting down the guitar. “I just don’t have the strength.”

We fell in love so hard. “I can’t stop thinking about you as my wife,” he said one night at a party, pulling me aside and holding my face. Behind him, I saw a green flash—like a giant green light from the universe telling us “GO.” I later found out it was a meteorite. I saw both it and his face, lit up with its own celestial energy. He saw only me, his back to the cosmos.

Within a month, he’d stopped speaking to me, finding excuses not to come over, to leave my birthday party after two hours. At first, he blamed me. I’d said something cruel and cold that reminded him of the narcissist. I’d said it in response to a cruel and cold statement of his own. But eventually, when we broke up for good, he said it was not because we had been foolish but because our love had been real. “It’s TOO real,” he said. “And I’m not ready.”

The last time I heard him practice “Big Love,” Jason realized he had been playing the whole thing too fast–that, if he’d slowed it down, he was actually pretty good. “But it’ll still be awhile before I can play the whole thing,” he said.

Yes. I think it probably will.

Check back later this week for “Eli and the Bands He Couldn’t Quit.”

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