30 songs in 30 days: day 20
day 20 – a song that you listen to when you’re angry: Liz Phair: “Fuck and Run”
Tuesday night, after my interview, I went out to dinner with my friend SR, who works at the place I was interviewing. She and I have been friends for 20 years. We talked a little shop, but mostly we caught up with each others’ lives, as we only tend to see each other at conferences when she’s always working. SR ended a long relationship a year or so ago and is trying to get serious about dating. She travels a lot for her job and has found it hard to have a social life and she’s starting to miss it. She was asking about how I met Mr. Spy, and out came the whole story.
Mr. Spy and I met on a blind date in 1994. His ex-boss S was a friend of mine. I met her when I was playing pit orchestra in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia, Ltd. My first year of grad school. S was one of the soloists. Orchestra and singers didn’t mingle much, but someone introduced us because we’d both gone to the same college (S graduated 7 or 8 years before me, so we didn’t overlap there). We’ve been friends since and are in a book group together. A few years after we met, I came home from the library to find a whole lot of messages on my machine. The first one was from S. “Hi,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind, but I gave your number to a cute guy who came into my office today.” Beep. I hit stop. She did what? I hit play again. The rest of the messages were from the cute guy in question. Long, rambling, hilarious messages that finally came around to asking me out. I called him back and we talked for a while. We met a week or so later in a cafe near my house. We had some coffee and talked for a while and decided to walk to another place for ice cream. Then he dropped me back at my apartment, whereupon I discovered that somewhere along the way I had lost my keys. Oops. Fortunately, my friend J, who was also my next door neighbor with a window over the entrance door, had been watching to check out the guy. She buzzed me in and I made it home.
Our second date wasn’t for another couple of weeks. First he was heading out of town to a conference, and then I was. Mr. Spy went all out for date # 2. He bought tickets to the Joffrey’s production of Swan Lake (this was before the Joffrey was in residence in Chicago) – first row balcony, the best place from which to watch dance – and took me to dinner in Greek Town. After the ballet, as we headed back to his car to go to dinner, he discovered he’d locked his keys inside. To make matters worse, it was in one of those lots where you drive your car in and block everybody else. Fortunately, with the help of $20 slipped to a man who wandered up and offered to break into the car for us, we were on our way. Mr. Spy was so embarrassed by this that I thought he’d never call me again. So for the third date, I asked him out. We went bowling – he registered us as “Serbia” and “Croatia” and I wondered why it had never occurred to me to use a pseudonym at a bowling alley – and to an animation film festival. And so it went for nearly a year.
I don’t know what it was exactly. Maybe it was all the weddings I got invited to that summer that made him nervous. But he seemed to think that I was ready to settle down and he wasn’t. He broke up with me. I was completely blindsided. Had he given me cues that I missed? I was pissed. I emptied all my things out of his apartment while yelling at him. I went back to my apartment and moped.
The next day, I had an appointment to see an apartment. I was starting a new job and was looking to change neighborhoods. That morning, the person showing me the apartment called and asked if she could change the time so she could show it to someone else at the same time. When I got there, the someone else turned out to be Mr. Spy. It couldn’t have been more awkward. The apartment was awful. Squalid and inhabited by snarling pit bulls locked in the laundry room while we were there. When we were done I turned to head back to my car but Mr. Spy asked if I wanted to get a drink. I didn’t, but I said yes anyway. I didn’t have anything left to say. We sat there uncomfortably with our drinks not saying much and then I drove home.
A couple of weeks later, I drove to my mom and dad’s for some R&R and brought only one CD: Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.
When you’ve just broken up with someone, Exile in Guyville is an excellent album to play at top volume, particularly if you’re mad as hell and singing along. And the very best song for this purpose is this one [Note: lyrics are not work/kid safe]:
Sometimes some good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon cursing is the cure for what ails you. I played the CD all the way to my parents’ house 3 hours away, and all the way back again when it was time to go home. By then I felt better.
It was 6 months before I heard from Mr. Spy again. He called me around Christmas and said he’d bought me a present. I was dating someone else by that point, an architect who was a fantastically nice and funny guy, but a terrible kisser. I told Mr. Spy that I didn’t want to see him, but I must not have sounded like I meant it, because he kept asking and finally I gave in. He came over with a copy of the new Jayhawks album, Tomorrow the Green Grass. I said thank you and he left. I put the CD on and hit play.
I called Mr. Spy. “Why’d you buy me a present?” I asked.
“Because I was having a miserable winter and I was thinking about you and I thought you’d like it.”
“Okay,” I said. “Bye.”
Sometime after that, I was home on a Saturday Night watching “Defending Your Life” (Albert Brooks/Meryl Streep). The phone rang.
“There’s a movie on I think you would like.”
“I’m already watching it.”
We sat on the phone and watched the movie together. The following week he asked me out to dinner. Before our date, I broke up with the architect.
A year or two later, I finally did move to another neighborhood, one a little closer to his. The commute across the city was starting to get to me and I could never find my shoes. This time, our relationship did not implode. Four years after that, we moved in together. A couple of weeks before we did, Mr. Spy and I were supposed to go out to dinner. He was going to meet me at my office. I had to run an errand right before he was to arrive. I came out of my building and saw him pacing around in front of it.
“Why didn’t you just come up?” I asked him.
“I didn’t want to bother you.” He looked nervous.
We went to dinner at our favorite restaurant in the middle of Lincoln Park. Afterwards he asked if I wanted to take a walk. We headed to the garden next to the conservatory and sat on a bench. Then he got down on one knee, took a black velvet box out of his pocket and asked me to marry him.
By the time we got married, we’d been together, give or take the six months I spent with Liz Phair, for seven years. Seven years sounds lucky. Now it’s been more like eighteen. That sounds lucky too.
I don’t listen to “Fuck and Run” or anything off of Exile in Guyville much anymore. I still like the music, but I don’t have much cause to sing it at the top of my lungs. And it’s just not as fun when you don’t sing along.
What songs do you listen to when you’re angry?