As hard as it is to be the person who stays, it’s also hard to be the person who leaves.
It’s hard to be the estranged daughter. The ex-girlfriend. The former boss. The old classmate. The long lost best friend.
So it would be truly nice, a real kindness, if people could remember that for one minute out of every day. While you’re wallowing in self-pity and vacuous hatred, all I ask is put on a pair of my shoes. Today they are maroon Converses without laces, worn pretty well, with scuffs on the side. They are not the shoes of a murderous person who wants your life to suck and all your efforts to fail. They are just the shoes of a person who made a choice–and unfortunately for whatever reason you were not in it. They are the shoes of someone who is tired of being vilified by people she’s moved on from.
I have this really weird memory that “One Headlight” always brings back whenever I hear it.
I’m in the car. We’re driving by a cemetery and there are tall poplars lining the road. I have this thing when I go by a cemetery where I hold my breath, because I’m really young and I’m scared if I don’t we’ll die. I don’t know why I started doing it, but I’ve done it for years and now I’m furiously trying to hold my breath and it’s a really long stretch of road. “One Headlight” is playing. It’s eerily beautiful, full of a lot of metaphors and despair. My dad starts explaining the origin of the song and points out lines to listen to. It’s a deep song, he says. He starts with the opening line: “They said she died easy of a broken heart disease, I listened through the cemetery trees.” He explains it’s the funeral of someone and the song writer’s point of view is the man. He tells me how rich the imagery is. I stop listening to him–and the song–because I’m trying so hard to hold my breath. Finally I let it all out, the cemetery goes on forever and lines both sides of the road. I wonder briefly if we’ll all die, like the woman in the song, because I didn’t hold my breath. We don’t, the car moves past the cemetery and its endless poplars, and the Wallflowers keep singing. I grew up a bit that day, because I learned that superstitions are just superstitions and cemeteries are just plots of land where we bury dead bodies.
But I still catch myself holding my breath sometimes when I go by a cemetery.