A Song That Reminds Me of Somewhere | If You’re Looking for Something Lifelike
It was cold there, that late in the winter and that close to the water. I didn’t expect the first time I ever saw seagulls to be concurrent with a snowfall; I’d always associated them with warmer climates and those beaches that I still had not ever visited. Yet there they were, wheeling through the air in their presumably inexorable search for food, occasionally blowing out of existence when the wind gusted and threw a blast of snow across the scene.
I was huddled in the tunnel under the pedestrian bridge in the park at East End Avenue. It was the only place I could go to get away from my house, not the most wonderful place in the world at the time.
I hadn’t yet grown accustomed to living in a city where I was actually exposed to the weather. I didn’t own an umbrella yet, something I managed to regret every time it rained hard. I only had a scarf because I’d received one as a gift, and a hat because they’d given them out at Domino’s in the winter time when I was delivering for them. Most crucially for me under that bridge, though, I didn’t have any gloves.
I palmed my CD player and thrust my hands deep into my pockets, hoping to keep them warm long enough for the storm inside to blow over so I could go back home. I sat; I must have looked for all the world like a scared, cold kid to every passerby. I was 21, older than I’d ever been, and now I’m even older, and I thought I was dealing with the situation in as adult a way as I was going to manage.
I didn’t want to go wait inside the coffee shop where I worked, even though it wasn’t far. I, for some reason possibly related to my pride, felt it was a better idea to stay close to home and let myself suffer. Maybe I wanted to be a martyr. Maybe I wanted to prove a point. That was never going to work, something disastrously easy to see in hindsight.
I put on “Hustle Rose” by Metric and moved to the melody line of the vocal, trying to keep warm to its repetition and rhythm. The third or fourth time through, I started to get more cognizant of the song’s component parts, the keyboard or organ or whatever line that traced the vocal in the background of the opening, the complex changes engineered by altering the song’s instrumentation, things I’d learned to notice by spending almost all my time around and among musicians for as long as I’d had the slightest shred of independence.
It was clear in retrospect that I should have tried harder at music myself.
Emily Haines sings “throw me a bone” and I can follow her wherever she wants to go. I hadn’t heard of Metric before a random unexpected instant message from a friend of mine earlier that fall had implored me to look them up. We weren’t quite to the torrenting stage yet; I must’ve downloaded their EP and first full length from a peer to peer network, back before those became so laughably archaic that the record labels figured out how to beat them.
I hadn’t heard of them, sure, but no mixtape I made that winter didn’t have a Metric song on it, and since the only things I could afford to give for gifts over those first far from home holidays were mixes, I used most of the songs they had at the time. It was obviously love at first sight.
I dared to expose the bare pale skin of my hand to the biting cold so I could tap a few buttons on my CD player and set the song to repeat; there were other songs that day, but none of them mattered.
None of them mattered.
I wonder if I knew even then that I was imprinting a memory on my mind, defining a moment of my life, embossing one of those things that would come to explain what New York is to me into the flat stock of my life. I don’t think I did; I wasn’t that smart.
I imagine I was just cold and lonely and alone in a city I barely knew aside from a few too many nights spent at a gay bar with $10 all you can drink on Thursdays and a few too many regrets that didn’t involve nearly enough bad decisions.
I imagine I just hoped it would get better.