A love song inspired by a person I never loved.
I accidentally started a life in Asheville after a road trip mishap and a very odd hitchhiking experience. I moved into the basement of a hostel and found comfort in the transient nature of the ever-changing community of folks checking-in above me. The spontaneous nature of my life back then led to several casual hook-ups and short-term flings. I abruptly ended many of those because things felt “too real,” and there’s one person I think about often, although he was in no way, shape, or form the “one that got away,” I think about him because he is the one who I still find myself rooting for from afar. We stumbled into each other’s lives as wandering folks with an insatiable attraction to cozy porches and communal spaces. I’m going to use the term “relationship” very loosely because although there were a few times where I got lost in the moment, we were a collective mess that agreed we would never want to be together like that. So, we decided to become friends who sometimes slept together because that was the only kind of weight our shoulders could handle. We were both deeply troubled by an unshakable fear of commitment and an inability to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with other people.
Until recently, I approached these memories with a dismissive attitude. I remembered this as another late night hook-up, someone who stumbled home from the bar with me, and/or just another person to exist within the sheets with on the nights where loneliness felt unbearable. This ostensibly gritty relationship blossomed from a series of impulsive decisions on our independent journeys of chasing bliss and self-indulgent desires. It definitely wasn’t love in the romantic sense. However, it inspired the same enchanting curiosity, just without the obligation to stay.
Falling in love is the most dangerous decision a person can make, but we still yearn for it. We seek it out despite the risk that comes along with this level of vulnerability. We want to navigate the endless trails existing within other people. We embark into the uncharted territory of other humans to discover everything from how they like their morning coffee to how they like to be touched. I believe that everyone wants to be fluent in the intimate language of loving another. Sometimes I’ll catch a glance between two people and it feels voyeuristic, as if I’m witnessing something deeply intimate. Accidentally catching a glance between two people on the red line during rush hour still feels like you’re peeking through the blinds of their closed window. I’ll never understand their language, but I can still admire the beauty of it as an outsider. Recognizing the beauty and resilience of an unfamiliar language is still possible when you’re not fluent.
Jets to Brazil was his favorite band at the time. I heard this song for the first time while he was driving me back home one morning. This definitely wasn’t the first time being in his passenger seat, but it was the first time I noticed the copy of “Oh, The Places You‘ll Go!” in the pocket of the passenger side door. He said something along the lines of “don’t you dare make fun of me, this book is inspiring as f*” before going into a full lecture about how important it was to him. I found this little quirk to be so endearing, and this song became the soundtrack to the surprisingly supportive friendship we created.
We never saw a romantic life together and sometimes our connection felt a little callous and abrasive. We would share secrets at night after softening our inhibitions, and we balanced that vulnerability by challenging each other in the daylight. I made fun of his pigeon-toed walk, he made fun of my Kermit the Frog-like laugh. I called him out for being self-absorbed, he called me out for being relentlessly stubborn. There were definitely times where our friends thought we hated each other.
Some nights we would meet up after work, get a few $1.50 cans of Genesee, and talk about the dates we went on that week. Sometimes we talked about those dates the morning after drunkenly hooking up the night before. Sleeping with someone who was actively seeking an emotional connection elsewhere was comforting to me. Our shared battle with commitment made it easy for us to read between the lines when discussing the perils of our own independent dating lives. I called out his red flags, and he challenged my inclination to justify the red flags of those I dated. Sometimes we would take breaks when we wanted to explore the possibility of another person, and we would return when those situations didn’t work out. When he found himself in a relationship, I was beyond happy for him because it meant that overcoming the fear that brought us together was possible for me too.
There was one night where we found a ladder leading up to the roof of a bar overlooking the main area of town. The restaurant was doing some sort of construction so I’m assuming that leaving the ladder out was a total accident. We climbed up to see our city from a vantage point that none of us knew existed. I remember looking over the edge of the building with him while commenting on how beautiful the streetlights looked below, almost outshining the stars that twinkled above. We looked at each other and laughed about how much of a bad idea this was. What if someone took the ladder? What if we fell off? In hindsight, climbing up was definitely a bad idea, but it also allowed us to see the city we called home from an entirely different perspective. I’ll always be grateful for those couple of months. We both knew that we were terrible for each other in a romantic sense, so supported each other in the only way we knew how. By defending each other from the heartache of walking home alone.
Sweet Avenue will always be a love song to me. It’s a love song for all the people I never loved. My life may look a little different now — I’ve lived in the same city for 3 years, successfully quit smoking, and beer makes my stomach hurt, but I still embrace the nostalgia of it all. It’s a declaration of love for the intimacy hidden within the chaotic mess of morning-after car rides, memories of smoking cigarettes after last call, and all the other moments of destructive bliss.
Anyway, I’ve spent the past two hours writing this when I really should’ve been focused on a case study for my evening class so see ya.