Sometimes a new song comes on the radio and before you can really explain the reason why, you recognize the artist who made it. The sound is familiar, it evokes a memory or an experience, but it remains beyond the level of full cognition. It is like when you are on a trip and you step out of the car and you can tell by the taste and texture of the wind that you are near the sea. Or like in late summer, when it is still hot and the days are sort of long. Before the leaves have begun to show and before the sunlight shifts to that angle that makes you feel hopeless, there will be a feeling in the air, a cool note at the end of a warm breeze that is like the shadow of heat (if that makes any sense), that makes you realize that summer won’t last forever. Yesterday, I had that feeling when I heard The Airborne Toxic Event’s “Timeless” for the first time.
This song has a stone-cold-close-your eyes-and-clench-your-fist-then-throw-it-into-the-sky-and-sing-along sensibility that I usually find off-putting. But this band has a soft spot in my heart. One of my favorite memories of the recent past is the image of a very pretty redheaded woman sitting in my lap drunkenly singing along to “Changing,” the band’s last single. She loved that song. One very late night we were up listening to music on the computer—lame, I know, but it happens more often than we want to admit—and she insisted that we needed to hear this song right away. She put it on, dropped on my lap, and proceeded to feel the fuck out of that song. She seemed so happy to be singing that it made me happy as well. I let her down often and maybe that’s why I remember this scene with such affection: I mostly made her unhappy but this one time I knew that she was happy. That woman was far too pretty and far too nice to have wasted so much of her time with a good for nothing like me. But life draws up its own rules, doesn’t it?
And life is the topic of “Timeless.” In particular, the feeling that life is about loss and that if only life lasted long enough then we would be spared the pain of having to say goodbye to the people that we love. If we were just endless, the song posits, then we would never have to part from anyone we care for. It’s a lovely thought. It’s the thought of someone who has lost people that are irreplaceable. I think, however, that while life, like love and language, seems like something there is not enough of, at another level it also feels, like love and language, like something there is too much of. Life is too short but it also lasts too long. We want to go on loving the people that we love forever. But life lasts long enough to make a mockery of the things we love, to make the things we care for seem insignificant. Life lasts long enough to make us happy and then take away our happiness, and this happens over and over again. I’m glad that we are not timeless. I’m glad to know that while life does not guarantee our happiness forever it also makes sure that the bad stuff doesn’t last forever either.