My early 20's were spend trying not to hate Europe for stealing my boyfriend from me. It was pretty lame.
Edith Piaf - "Milord"
My boyfriend and I try to get back together even though deep down we both know this is never going to be a success. He's been in Paris pretending to be the world's loneliest boy while paying his rent with high fashion runway gigs. The guy actually got scouted while hung over and eating a McDonald's hamburger. What an asshole.
Meanwhile, I am living in Vancouver getting into my band. I am always bruised, tired and it is just what I need. I am dating jerks that don't even like me but I don't care because I'm guest starring in threesomes and other drug-addled, post-party things. I'm a freaking zombie. Waitress by (late) day and zombie by night. I write in my journal and destroy my credit card ordering records on eBay.
My boyfriend moves back to Vancouver and we decide to go out again because, I guess, that's what we know. My zombie curse is lifted. Along with many new ideas and obsessions he's gathered in Europe, his greatest is with Edith Piaf and he plays "Milord" over and over. He tries to get me to love the song as much as he does but I can't because that song is the reason we can no longer be together. That song is his love for Paris, for adventure, for loneliness and freedom. It means so much more than just pretty French phrases sung with rolled "r"'s about men and tables. I'm not supposed to like that song. If liked that song, it would ruin everything for him. Plus, while he's falling in love with Paris, I'm falling in love with a guy I work with who plays the drums.
So, my boyfriend goes back Paris. He's happy. We do not speak for a long time but that is always for the best. We eventually get back together a third time, but that's a whole other song.
Young Marble Giants - "Brand New Life"
I'm sitting on the train going from Utrecht to Amsterdam with my French friend Charlotte.
Charlotte has become my involuntary life partner for the last six months because we live together in a city where we do not speak the language. Plus, we are both studying feminist theory and she smokes as often as I do. She is a master thief, so I haven't paid for lipstick since I met her. We spend every moment together, and when she is not around I feel home sick. We have another friend named Katrien who completes our witchy pack. We make homemade soup, drink wine and spend our Sunday afternoons sitting on the canal dissecting the theories of Rosi Bradotti, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir. Eventually, we get exhausted of that because it's just SOOO quaint, so we resort to rating random men who walk past us on a scale of one to ten. After a few weeks we decide that Dutch men in our town are, for the most part, ugly jocks. The game turns vicious and instead of looking for hot guys, we hunt out the ugly ones. We are scouting zeroes. We are that bored. We decide it's easier to be gay in this town and turn our sights the opposite direction.
On the train, Charlotte sits across from me with my headphones on. She's become obsessed with a band I introduced to her called Young Marble Giants. I'm watching her try to lip sync along but her English is rocky so she's only catching a small portion of the words. The rest of the time she purses her red lips and fake whistles. She looks so happy. The dark sky behind the glass acts as a mirror for her sing-a-long. I have taught Charlotte a lot of new English words and phrases and when she uses them she carries my accent. She says words like "stupid" or "asshole" just like I do with the first vowel drawn out to annoying lengths. I realize that even through our tiny language barriers, I would be very, very lonely without Charlotte in this privileged student life. And I am much too typical right now to face loneliness.
The Smiths - "Hand in Glove"
The tiny photo room in the basement of the all-female design office I work for is my sanctuary. Some days I can get away with being down here for hours without talking to any of my coworkers. Every so often I am joined in the basement by an old Asian pattern maker who smiles as casually as she passes gas. But my "photo studio" has a big door that locks and I take my precious time shooting stock product photos for the company's website.
I don't know shit about photography but I have figured out how to use the fancy camera my boss gave me. "I trust you and your abilities," she said to me as she chucked me the camera and scattered into her office. Looking back, I'm pretty sure the website was not her top priority.
I love being alone in that photo room. I have a Walkman and one cassette tape by The Smiths. I listen to it over and over. Morrissey sings and I listen. I really feel The Smiths like any person who has been rejected by their first "true love" feels The Smiths. I make all Morrissey's lyrics apply to my exact situation. Every word Morrissey says is my pain. He is my trauma. When Morrissey sings about London I think of my ex-boyfriend who dumped me for another country, for modeling, for single-boy-lonely-traveling-heart-freedom and I feel sick to my stomach. Sometimes I vomit. Actually, I vomit a lot. I can not hold down anything, not even coffee. I leave a restaurant with my coworkers and immediately vomit on the street. I eventually see a doctor. He puts me in a giant space age machine, makes me swallow a weird liquid and x-rays me to trace the problem. There is nothing physically wrong with me, so it's psychological. It's heart break. It's SO dramatic. (Give me a break.)
When I am in the photo studio, I unhinge the clasps on boring leather purses and knot motherly scarves through foggy eyes. I totally hate myself for being so emotional. It's hard to take a sharp photo when you are crying, but I need Morrissey to keep hanging out with me. I need a partner to encourage me to selfishly revel in my break-up like a big baby. Morrissey is the only one melodramatic enough to do the job so I keep him on repeat for months and months until I finally start to get over myself. Then, I put Morrissey away for a long time.
Previously: Part Three