Friday, March 11, 2005

It's the 70's in My Head

I decided to go further into that nostalgia experience that happens when a song takes me back. Here's the moment I referred to in my last post, “slo-mo”:

I’m sitting in a northside café with a man who’s in love with me but with whom I’ve failed to fall in love. I’m feeling vague guilt for having this cruel lunch with him, even though I’m only doing it because I keep thinking I should give him another chance, and give me another chance to fall for him and get this right. He’s paying the check as I sit with my mostly eaten raspberry cheesecake in front of me. I can’t deny anymore that this isn’t the guy for me, no matter how much he likes me, no matter how well he treats me and no matter how much I wish he were the guy for me.

I’ve noticed the decades-old music this café plays, but none of the songs evokes much in me until one does. The melody comes through first, the whispery tenor voice, the lyrics almost hushed as they describe this incredible woman the guy can’t stop thinking about. Every muscle is stilled as I pause to identify it. Could that be..yeah, it is..that’s that song I used to like so much when I was very young, the one I never knew the name to (sorry). Now I’m barely breathing as my inner vision floods with the sight of my parents’ living room where I used to sit or lie with headphones and listen to music for hours. Sunlight from a 1980 sun pours onto their 1970’s shag carpet and I’m 12 years old and I’m lost in this song, in this music of older people who are living exciting, romantic, shimmery lives to which I can only aspire. I’m 12 years old and I lose myself in the light, airy, love song, wondering if one day I’ll be beautiful enough to inspire such over-heated infatuation. I’m captivated by the upbeat mellowness of the music, the devotion of the tenor voice, the obsessive romance of the lyrics. I imagine what the singer looks like and the image blends with that of the dream man I plan to look for as soon as I’m old enough: he’ll have dark hair, adoring yet teasing eyes, gentle hands, a wicked sense of humor. My Hawkeye, my Holy Grail, my hero who’ll be out there looking for me, dreaming of me, unable to stop thinking of me or writing songs about me until we meet and fall in love and he’ll be everything I want and I’ll be everything he wants and we’ll make out forever. I’m sure that’s how my life will go. I’m absolutely sure. This is my prayer and my reason for living as I breathe in the dusty shag carpet air and push REWIND so I can listen again...

The sunny melody fades and I’m back in the northside café. I’m 38 1/2 years old and there’s no dream man in sight and I’m way past the age at which I was supposed to meet him and fall in love and it’s raining outside. The familiar sense of failure washes over me and in my mind’s eye I glance apologetically back at the 12-year-old and feel guilty of not making the dream come true, guilty of not being found by the guy, guilty of somehow not being at the right place at the right time where he must have been waiting, where he undoubtedly met someone else.

My Failure Guy of 2005 comes back to the table and escorts me out of the café. I shuffle to the front door feeling stunned by how sharply reality differs from that golden shag-carpet dream. What did I do wrong? How could I have so completely failed myself when the vision was so clear and the dream so simple?

Footnote:
Once again I’m awed by the facility of the Internet. After 26 years I finally know what song it is. Here’s a link to the title, recording artist and lyrics for “Save It For a Rainy Day.” It’s by Stephen Bishop. Of course it’s by Stephen Bishop. Who else had that bubble gum, pre-John Mayer, whispery style? Do you remember the love theme from the Dustin Hoffman movie
Tootsie, "It Might Be You?" I used to love that song. That was Stephen Bishop, too. You can download the songs at (among other websites) Apple iTunes.

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