Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No Heroics, Please

I wanted to take her somewhere else. The first couple of times it was my old downtown neighborhood, The Commodore, Maya’s, walking down Yamhill or Morrison to the waterfront, walking up Everett with me complaining: “This Pearl District bullshit didn’t exist when I lived here” or some similarly stupid observation about the passing of time. So we went to the eastside, to Hawthorne. We went up the street and down, nothing that exciting. We went into a pub that was trying to be both fancy and hip and ordered beers. We drank a few beers, got tipsy. Phoenix came on the sound system. This was a while before their music started playing on the radio. I pointed the song out to her and she said she liked it. We bored of the place, and I suggested we walk next door to the record store, pick up a copy of the Phoenix CD, and drive to this place up on the west hills that I hadn’t shown her. We got in her car, put the CD in and played it loud. I screamed directions over the music and we somehow found Council Crest Park, high above the Portland skyline. By the time we got there we had almost sobered up. But it was late in the day and the soft angled light and view of the city kept us light-headed. Full of love, we stayed for a while and wanted to linger longer but we both had things to do the next day, so we took turns hiding in an enormous cedar to piss, then got back in the car for the long drive back. We played the first few songs of the CD over and over on the way back, laughing at the seeming senselessness of the lyrics but enjoying the music immensely just the same. As is my wont on the freeway, I kept getting distracted by the skid mark of tires as they veered off the road and stopped before cracked concrete or bent metal. Those tire marks were a kind of writing, telling stories of ruin. At the time, I failed to interpret properly the narratives before me.

When she broke up with me, Phoenix was on heavy rotation on the radio. Hearing the first few bars of “Lisztomania” or “1901” made me miserable and I couldn’t change the station fast enough. One time I left one of those songs on long enough that my eyes welled with tears before I changed it. After a long while hearing Phoenix on the radio only made me a little sad. I could feel my heart contract but the feeling wasn’t strong enough to make me change the station. Eventually, I felt okay when they came on the radio. Not good, not sad, just okay. These days, Phoenix reminds me of that trip and that it was fun, even if what followed it wasn’t.

What I have never felt is that sense of triumph that Katy Perry sings about in “Roar.” When she sings, “I went from zero to my own hero,” that sentiment is lost on me. But let’s be honest, she’s a famous, ambitious person whose personality was forged through very public successes and failures. I’m obviously not that kind of person. Nonetheless, I don’t believe her, as I wouldn’t believe anyone else who claims to have been made stronger by heartbreak. All that roaring silliness is what you tell other people to hide the fact that after a broken heart you don’t want to feel like “a fighter, dancing through the fire,” you just want to go back to feeling normal.