Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: Us
Definitive Version: None
I suppose a haunting song, like this song, ought to have a somewhat haunted story attached to it, and so this one does.
Us, which might be my most highly anticipated—and long-awaited—album of my life, came out just weeks if not days before my split with Jenna in October 1992. Consequently, it became the soundtrack—one of them anyway—of that fall, in which I spent much of my time resembling a beached whale in my apartment. Even though I knew the relationship likely would be short-term, it’s demise still hurt.
But what’s any injury without a little insult attached? At about the same time that Jenna and I split, a co-worker from the backshop at The Journal, Brooke, was getting married. Before the split, Jenna was going to go with me. I thought this might be the thing that helped to take our relationship a step beyond where it was, and I was excited to go.
After the split, I had zero interest in going—zero. Let’s face it: Any wedding ceremony would’ve been counter to my mood anyway, but I don’t think there would’ve been able to think of anything else other than … Jenna was going to be here with me.
I gave Brooke my regrets, saying I wasn’t coming because my date had backed out, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Brooke kept at me, telling me at one time that there would be “a lot of hot girls” at the wedding.
In retrospect, maybe I should have gone with that in mind. At the time, however, my head and heart weren’t in it. Besides, I had gotten a better offer subsequently—driving to Chicago to help my sister move into her new apartment. It was the same weekend as Brooke’s wedding. Perfect. I went to Chicago, which I recounted more than a year ago.
When I got back, I found out that Brooke decided—and told everyone—that I didn’t go to her wedding, because I didn’t want to see her get married, because I carried a torch for her. What the Hell?
Brooke and I had a little history—emphasis on very little. I had gone to her place a couple of times to hang out, and I helped her and a friend move into a home she rented. She also took me to Saginaw once to see this really crappy cover band, which I also mentioned. They did Alive by Pearl Jam, which was the first time I ever heard that song, so it was memorable for that reason.
Nothing happened, and nothing was going to happen. At the Saginaw show, Brooke introduced me to her new boyfriend—the guy she ended up marrying months later—who was a tech for the cover band in question. There might have been something between us if we had hooked up a year before, but that moment long had passed.
For most of the past year, I instead had been busy obsessing about another woman. Brooke was right about one thing: I WAS carrying a torch, but not for her. It was for the woman who I had briefly and let slip between my fingers.
Seeing Brooke get married? I couldn’t have cared less about that. But that wasn’t the narrative that was being floated about my absence, even though I told Brooke specifically why I wasn’t going to go to her wedding. Brooke and I had almost no contact after that, but it wasn’t because I was mad at her. I didn’t care enough to be mad at her. I had bigger fish to fry—beached-whale size fish.