Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chris Maher on "(Everywhere I Look) I See Your Face"

Justin, buddy, I know it feels, when your mind is playin' tricks on you, only lettin' you see one face. How do you cope?

The old you would've reached out for pack of smokes, but you swore those off after things got good. Now you feel destructive. You still drink, but you haven't left the house for days and the well's run dry: You've polished off the Jack, had the last of your burgundy, and now the cream's gone bad so no more White Russians.

You can't call your friends, they're sick of hearing you talk about her. You think maybe you should sip on some tea or take a Tylenol PM, try gettin' some sleep, but you know she haunts your dreams, too. So you prepare for another sleepless night.

You find an old, half-filled lighter on the kitchen table, grab that blue candle, and you go sit by the radiator, your window cracked, letting in the cold night air. You nervously flick the lighter as the candle wick burns. Blue ghosts dance on your ceiling. Your thoughts dance, too. Like Dylan's Johanna or Hank's whoever, you just can't get her off of your mind.

You recall that foolish optimism, just after she'd told you she was leaving, when you assumed the two of you would mend fences. You likened yourself to George Harrison, or whoever it was who wrote that song the he covered in the 1980s: You had your mind set on her and no matter how much money and time you'd have to spend, you were gonna get her back. But that naive dream was shattered when she let that little friend of hers take off her party dress. She's probably moved in with him by now. You have no idea. You don't want to know.

After that, it was hard to pick up the pieces: You'd ride the L train to the G train and the G train to the F train, and wonder, "How could she run away from me?" You'd go out to all the parties, looking for a little fun, but all you'd find was a darkened corner. One gray afternoon, as you were washing your clothes down, a girl at the laundromat invited you out for a drink. You went, wore a nice clean shirt, but after your second whiskey sour, you realized you had nothing in common with her and you left the bar feeling worse than before.

You wrote some songs about it. "(Everywhere I Look) I See Your Face" was one of 'em. You started going to movies by yourself. You grew a beard. You bought self-help books. You learned about wine. You dressed in black and read Camus. You got political. You treated yourself to dinner more often than your paltry income allowed. You did all the things you could do to pretend she didn't exist. But none of it worked.

Every time you spied a pair of sweethearts walking by together, you'd imagine it was her with her new boyfriend. You'd think: "How can I even try? Hearing them, seeing them, in the state I'm in?" You'd pass that small cafe where the two of you used dance at night. You'd think: "I was born to love her." And when your thoughts drifted that way, you'd know that the cold, wild wind wasn't far behind, that it wouldn't be long before it'd blow you right back inside.

So, as you sit by the radiator, those thoughts spinning 'round your brain like a dusty 45, the candle wax pools and those blue ghosts get bigger and bigger, their dance slower and slower. Your head grows heavy, your sight gets blurry and your ears start to ring. You decide you've got lie down. You shut the window, blow out the candle and crawl off to bed.

Early the next morning, the bright sun wakes you and you stumble into the kitchen only to find that you're out of coffee. You can skip your evenin' liquor but you can't skip your mornin' caffeine fix. So you throw on your jacket and walk to the nearest coffee house. On the street, you pull your scarf like a noose to keep out the cold. You can see your breath.

When you reach the coffee place, you admire a string of white Christmas lights hung up in the window and you walk inside. At the counter, you order a red-eye, grab a copy of a free weekly and take a seat. As you wait for your coffee, you see a couple having an argument at the other side of the cafe. You can't hear what they're sayin' but they look miserable. Stuck, unhappy.

Then it hits you: Love is war and you don't wanna fight anymore. You aren't jealous of 'em. You're free. Free to do whatever you want to, whenever you want to. You don't owe any bit of yourself to anyone. The front door opens and you see a girl walk in. You look at her face and its her own, not the face your mind's been stuck on for who-knows-how-long. You look around the cafŽ. You see more unique faces.

The barista calls out your order, you grab the paper cup and run out into the cold. You look up in the cloudless sky, take a deep breath and smile.

(Oh, wait, this song is about a girl you're crushin' on, not one you've already dated? Well, don't say I didn't warn ya!)

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