siren songs

show of hands: how many of yall have seen an affair to remember? (if you haven’t, don’t. it sucks.) how many have seen sleepless in seattle? (if you haven’t, and you’re single, that film will make you depressed as shit. don’t watch it alone, don’t drink adult beverages while you watch cause that could just make you more depressed, and do have some ice cream on hand. do watch it. it’s good).

i ask because i’m working on a particular chapter of my manuscript that involves my gals and their viewing of the former of the two films. two of them love it. one of them doesn’t. the viewing comes at a fairly crucial point in the story. i’ve got the thing broken down into thirds, and this particular chapter falls right around the conclusion of the second third. the gal who doesn’t like it is about to crumple under the weight of all the bullshit in her head, unbeknownst to the other two.

after they’ve left, she burns some sad songs to a cd and goes for a drive (my girl’s old school, okay?) because she’s upset and needs to cry. her friends, unknowingly, have put an idea in her head, more bullshit onto the heap, and a good jag would be helpful. only she can’t cry. she should be able to because yall, the tunes on that cd, they’re pretty sad shit:

the chain (live from webster hall). ingrid michaelson. be ok.
do what you have to do. sarah mclachlan. surfacing.
vienna. the fray. how to save a life.
gravity. sara bareilles. little voice.
every rose has its thorn. poison. open up and say ahh.
ashes and wine. a fine frenzy. one cell in the sea.
doughnut song. tori amos. boys for pele.
happiness. abra moore. strangest places.
almost lover. a fine frenzy. one cell in the sea.
sullivan street. counting crows. august and everything after.
nothingman. pearl jam. vitalogy.
tear in your hand. tori amos. little earthquakes.
with or without you. u2. the joshua tree.
sometime around midnight. the airborne toxic event’s self-titled album.
roads. portishead. dummy.
bend and not break. dashboard confessional. a mark, a mission, a brand, a scar.
reason why. rachael yamagata. happenstance.

i wanna talk to yall today about the second one by tori amos, tear in your hand. first of all, that song’s on one of the best albums ever recorded, and if you don’t own it, i must insist that you stop reading this and go do whatever it is you do when you buy music and get it now. thanks. (you should get baker baker from under the pink, too. and that album by a fine frenzy. and that song by ingrid michaelson.)
the album was released in nineteen ninety-two. i was nineteen. i read, just today actually, an article in rolling stone in which amos offers a track-by-track guide to the songs released then. in that she said tear in your hand was nostalgic, about separating from family and high-school friends. but for me, i’ve always seen it as a really good song about a break-up: you don’t know the power that you have with that tear in your hand. 

for twenty-four years i’ve thought, erroneously, that the tear might’ve been the man’s, and that he was both sad and convinced that ending things had to be done, and that the girl was rendered powerless by the sight. even after i’d endured heartbreak, i still thought this. 
the other day i was listening to this song because whenever a scene involves music i make myself listen to it to help me get the thing right, to immerse myself in whatever my character might be feeling.
i was driving. i think i was coming back from a writing session at pappadeaux’s when a memory surfaced. it involves that electrical engineer i’d mentioned in this post (he’s in this one, too, by the way).
i wouldn’t’ve thought of it, except that i’ve dreamed of him twice in the past month. people aren’t often in my dreams. he’s never been in them, not even when we were dating. not even after i’d ruined things. never. in fourteen years. that’s how long it’s been. that’s how much the bastard impressed me. but then again, i’m a supremely impressionable gal. anyway. i’m confident that had i not had those dreams, this memory would never have been stirred so well.
when i was a kid, i cried in school in front of my classmates. it was pathetic. eventually i learned how to rein it in until i could hide somewhere to get it out. i hid a lot. since grade school i think the only time i’ve been unable to keep the tears at bay in front of other men, excluding those in my family, was with him. in that second post, the one referenced in the parentheses, i mentioned that i couldn’t let him see me cry. i’m talking about ugly cry, yall. full on misery.
but… we were laying (lying? i can never fucking remember) on his sofa, and he was telling me how much he liked me and enjoyed spending time with me, but… i knew what he was saying. i heard it. i understood it. i was in one hundred percent complete agreement with him on it. he wasn’t ready for serious, and he felt we were headed in that direction. i wasn’t ready for it either. i was perfectly content with how things were because i could go home at the end of the night. (dammit. he’s in this one, too.) i was listening, but all the hideous things were swirling around inside my head. one tear fell onto his shirt. one. so i sat up, wiped my face. told him i needed a kleenex. he went to get one, only he didn’t have any, so he brought back a bit of bathroom tissue. i wiped my eyes. he was crouching before me, so his eyes, that gorgeous green, were level with mine. he gave me this hint of a smile, took the tissue and said he was going to frame it and call it jenn’s tears. i got the hell out of there.
that song of tori’s was ten years old at the time. it took me another fourteen to really understand it. i’m a writer. i’m supposed to pick up on this shit pretty quick. and yall, i pray i never know that power again.

3 responses to “siren songs”

  1. I have two songs that if I listen to the lyrics and feel the music, they can always make me cry and feel and bring back memories…
    Tonight I Want to Cry by Keith Urban. Don't judge. Read the lyrics.
    I Can't Make You Love Me – George Michael's version. I'm getting chills just typing this and thinking about that song.

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