Monday, July 29, 2013

No. 311 – Me and Sarah Jane

Performer: Genesis
Songwriter: Tony Banks
Original Release: Abacab
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: Three Sides Live, 1982

And now for the next stop on the post-breakup misery train …

My breakup with Beth also necessitated a change in plans. I’m not sure I mentioned this, but originally the plan was that during Spring Break at Northwestern in 1987, I was going to drive to Columbus, pick up Beth and take her back to Chicago. She invariably would stay with Lisi and Amy (wink, wink), and we’d have fun around the city.

Events, however, negated those plans, and the last thing I wanted to do was be in Columbus for a second longer than absolutely necessary. I’m not sure why I did this, but I felt as though I would need immediate cheering up. So I invited Scott to go to Chicago and hang out instead. I’d bring him home—as I would have with Beth—the next weekend.

It was a poor substitute, sure, but to no fault of Scott. Scott and I more or less did a lot of things that Beth and I were going to do. We went to the Hancock Tower and knocked around the Water Tower Place. I don’t recall that we went to any museums, but I remember we went to see a movie called Tin Men.

Did you see this? It was a drama about rival aluminum-siding salesmen in the early Sixties, and the plotline featured a turn where one of the salesmen seduces the other’s wife then calls him up to brag about it.

Well, gee, THIS is JUST what I need to see right now! Scott said later he thought I was going to walk out at that moment. I didn’t because Danny DeVito’s character’s reaction was priceless: He yells out, “GOOD!” and goes home and throws all her stuff out the window onto the front yard. I was cheering. It probably was one of the most cathartic moments I’ve ever had in a movie.

Aside from that I remember almost nothing about the time Scott and I were in Chicago. Oh yeah, I took a picture of Beth that I had—my favorite picture of her, where she’s in this smoking hot red dress on top of her father’s red Mustang—and burned it in the sink at my residence hall, or at least tried to. I’m sure I had to have been pretty miserable company for Scott.

When it was time to take Scott home, there was one more piece of business to which I needed to attend. That was boxing up everything Beth gave me, every little knickknack that meant something, all letters and pictures (but not the Baseball Encyclopedia she gave me for my 19th birthday, of course), and giving it back to her.

I took the large box over to Beth’s house, and she was, shall we say, less than happy to see me. It wasn’t a bad scene. We started to argue, but that quickly stopped, because neither of us wanted to go down that road. (She was alone in her house.)

Instead, finality set in. It was clear we weren’t going to get back together again, and this was it—the very end. Although it didn’t happen that way, it sure seemed as though this was the last time we’d ever see each other again. We had been together for nearly five years, but now it was over.

We both cried as I stood on her doorstep, she just inside the doorway, like seemingly all of our previous partings. I kissed her twice, just like after our first date—the perfect bookend—and we both said, “Goodbye.”

I don’t think I played this song on my Walkman every day after that, but it sure felt like it. The song hit all the right notes with me, and I always smiled to think that it was written by the nerdy keyboard player in the back, not the charismatic singer who wore his heart on his sleeve.

Only recently, however, I’ve seen indication that my interpretation of this song is completely wrong due to mishearing a few words. It doesn’t matter in the end, and it certainly doesn’t change the history of this song. Wherever I went in spring 1987, this song spoke to me: “Walking down the streets and finding nothing is the same.” I absolutely know what that feels like.

As I sat on the shore of Lake Michigan at night, contemplating what if anything my future held, the tide rose, yes, in the form of waves crashing on the rocks, but I stayed firm on the shore. My music anchored me, even as my life felt as though it were diving beneath the waves.

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