Stupid All These Years
Last Saturday night I had plans with Blaise and Sarah Kelly to go to a party in Manhattan. We met at the Old Carriage Inn in Park Slope to have a drink before the party, but the people inside the Old Carriage Inn were people I have never seen outside of Tulsa circa 1997, people with cell phones clipped to their belts and M.C. Escher shirts tucked into their black jeans, people who karaoked Matchbox Twenty songs, so of course we never made it to the party and instead sat at the bar and people-watched until it closed at 3:30 am.
At one point, a girl got up to karaoke “Silent All These Years” by Tori Amos. I’m not sure what part of her brain told her this would be a good idea, but she got up there and belted it out, and the whole time I made this face. It reminded me of the summer I was fifteen, and how I would stand in front of my bedroom mirror, singing along to this very song myself, practicing my tortured expressions and making big troubled eyes, just in case, you know, there would come a moment in my burgeoning adult life when I would be called upon to emote someone to death.
I was not entirely sure what this song was actually about at age fifteen; I just knew it was about HAVING SOME FEELINGS and maybe some other people WERE NOT APPRECIATING THOSE FEELINGS, and probably a guy was involved. Also, Neil Gaiman. That pretty much summed up my life at fifteen, so I felt a real affinity with this song, and, sadly, with Tori Amos, so much so that I would spend my downtime at my summer job in the pool concesssion stand writing the lyrics on my shoes, my cut-offs, the book of sno-cone receipts; whatever was not bolted down or alive, really. I could not come up with my own words for my feelings, so I just wrote Tori’s, over and over again, sort of like tracing a drawing you really liked, still not entirely sure what either of us was feeling exactly, but painfully aware that whatever those feelings were, they were POTENT and SERIOUS and much deeper than anything any of the lifeguards had ever felt, ever, especially Jenni because she wore a pink ruffled bikini and that was against everything Tori and I stood for.
To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what this song is about, although I’m roughly aware it’s about a breakup, and that at one point she makes an allusion to maybe being pregnant. And I am ashamed to say that even though I was a smart girl and good with words and eventually got a college degree based on interpreting literature, I was not aware of the pregnant bit until the very moment that a cute lifeguard picked up my receipt pad, read the lyrics, and said, “Boy you best pray that I bleed real soon?” Then he looked at me, horrified, and walked out of my concession stand and life forever, while the words still hung in the air between us and the lightbulb over my head was just warming up to OH HEEEEEY THAT MEANS BLOOD LIKE MISSED PERIOD OH SHIT WAIT!
Unfortunately, this was not the first time in my life that I took on someone else’s words as my own mistranslated or misunderstood mantle. This is not a simple misheard lyric; this is not goinked up in Hennison. This is more like Science = Death.
I would not be fifteen again no matter how much you paid me.