Yesterday, in the car. Driving to a friend’s party, in a far-flung part of town, trying to convince my guest that her oncoming migraine was nothing to be embarrassed about as I turned down the stereo, playing 12 Desperate Straight Lines. Your can’t control your brain, I tried to assure her. Everybody knows it. Other people have dealt with migraines, too. All I wanted was for her to feel better.
Sometimes, a moment isn’t right for the moment. Sometimes, an album comes along and blows your mind with its specificity of emotions, which you know you needed before or will need later, but not then. Not that day.
Telekinesis’s 12 Desperate Straight Lines was one of those, a tremendous breakup album by a favorite local band, which happened to be released the day after the Valentine’s Day I nailed most of all, in the middle of my relationship that lasted longest. Even then, when I was sure our problems were minor and our future was bright, I knew at first listen that this was an album I’d return to if—nay, when—she broke my heart.
I did. Later.
The most heartbreaking song on it at first listen was the finale, “Gotta Get It Right Now,” a paean to the particular kind of neuroticism that I was just starting getting over, the early-to-mid-20s fear that you’re wasting your would-be wild years in a state of non-debauchery. I had finally come to grips with the idea that just because all the people I went to high school with were marrying and multiplying didn’t mean I had to do so as well, especially not yet. Four years earlier, the song would have felt like a lifeline, but instead, it felt like digging up an old Livejournal entry and facepalming.
But it had a bouncy beat, so there was that.
Today, talking to the friend of a girl, in a bar where I’d never been, which had recently taken over the space of a bar where I’d been before, years ago, while getting over a different girl. Across the room, across the bar, was the boy she’d been dating, or maybe just fucking, for the last two months. On her wrist, a watch she’d stolen from him; on her face, a scowl she’d developed over his actions. She had feelings, she confessed, and worried that he didn’t, a fear exacerbated by the way he’d introduced her to another of his friends earlier in the afternoon. She fumed. She raged. We talked.
When she admitted her uncertainty at how to proceed, I advocated the now-or-never approach, giving her the kind of real talk I wished my friends would have been wise enough to give me when I was her age. Two months? He either has feelings or he doesn’t at this point, and if it’s the latter, that’s unlikely to change. It’ll hurt to walk away now, but that ache will likely grow with time.
Her face lit up as I told her this, as did that of her friend, sitting on the stool between us. That’s what all her girls had told her, she said, but she was relieved to hear it from a guy. I shrugged. Two blocks away, the city’s PrideFest raged. Gender identities, and the associated schools of thought, aren’t as rigid as they used to be.
We kept talking, right until I had to literally dash out the door, but the gist was this: You can’t control your heart, I told her. You can only choose how to react to it. And as I said my farewell before running away, all I wanted was for her to feel better.