Last night, I went to the Tractor Tavern’s annual New Wave Cover Band Night: Love Vigilantes (the New Order band), For the Masses (Depeche Mode), and This Charming Band (Morrissey/The Smiths). It was, frankly, epic. There was a light that will never go out, and people were people on a Blue Monday. I’d been chatting up this charming man throughout the evening, and sometime during “Never Let Me Down Again,” we began spontaneously choreographing little moves.
And that’s when I missed Amy.
I believe Amy played the flute briefly, but this post isn’t about how she practiced music. It’s about how WE “practiced” music together, and why we failed, as friends.
In this case, “practice” doesn’t refer to the honing of skills through repetition; it refers to a state of being, a way of living, like the practice of yoga or the practice of non-violence. Music was a religion for Amy and me. We made each other tapes with obscure songs on them—she would hold the recorder near the record player to capture Bobby Bare’s “Skip a Rope,” and I would hold the recorder near the television to capture bits of dialogue from Singles to put in between songs. We cruised the one mile you could cruise of our town for hours, listening to Erasure and making up elaborate synchronized arm movements we could both do, even while the other was driving. We did that so much. And when I first saw Depeche Mode, on the Songs of Faith and Devotion tour, it was with her. And when he sang the line “I’m taking a ride with my best friend,” we pointed to each other.
And then, in graduate school, she dumped me.
I’ve tried to write about this before. It was the first post I ever made on this blog. We were at least in Facebook contact at that point, but after that post, it seems, it was really over. I would say that it hurt her, but I wouldn’t say I knew anything about Amy anymore by then.
This past quarter, I taught creative non-fiction for the first time, and we talked a lot about the stories you aren’t ready to write. We’d listened to a This American Life piece on “Petty Tyrants,” which, unsurprisingly, generated a lot of what is called “revenge prose” from students, as they wrote their own pieces. “Revenge prose” is when, no matter what the author says is the emotional core of the piece, the reader can tell that the real goal of the piece is to get back at someone, to make them look bad and their own selves look better. “If you feel like you’re trying to defend something or prove something,” I said, one day, “you’re probably not ready to write it.”
I said it because I’d been thinking about the Amy piece, how I hadn’t been trying to get back at her, but how I had been trying both to defend myself and to prove something to myself. I’d been trying to defend myself from my own need for the conversation that never happened after she told us we weren’t best friends anymore. She felt there was nothing more to say—she’d just wanted to say it and seemed ok continuing our friendship in a different form, although she would no longer be pointing at ME during “Never Let Me Down.” So, I wrote a piece in lieu of that conversation. I didn’t even ever think she’d read it. I don’t think it’s mean—I still think what is most clear in that piece is that I still don’t feel clear, that I still don’t understand why we couldn’t talk to each other anymore. But there I go—proving something again. Trying to prove that I tried: to understand, to communicate, but the attempt was clumsy, incomplete, unchoreographed and out of sync.
The charming guy at the show was there with his own best friend, it turns out. “I can’t tell you how much I love that guy,” he shouted during “Enjoy the Silence.” Yes, I remember that: the wordless sense of belonging with your best friend, the way your very bodies would turn in unison towards the same lights and dance the same steps. I have a weird medallion from the Songs of Faith and Devotion show—it’s metal, with the astronaut from one of their videos on it. I keep it in a box with other broken things I don’t seem to want to let go of. Maybe I’ll give it to him and accept that while I may not enjoy it, this story is always going to end in silence.