5 Songs For A Man I Used To Know
The Cornflakes Song – Dick Prall ft. Glen Phillips
I moved to your bed with a tight knot of air clenched in my lungs, unconsciously constricting my own air supply. I was hoping that dear god you wanted me there because, man, that’s where I wanted to be. I asked you what side of the bed you slept on. You smiled broadly (Hallelujah! Success!) and the knot unclenched. Your comforter was fluffy and blue.
Between periodic checks of your housemate as she slumped, blonde and bedraggled, over the toilet in the bathroom, you would come and first sit, then lay on the bed with me. The first couple of times you tousled my hair. Then you softly scratched my stomach. I slowly latched my fingers on to yours, desperately fearing that you would pull away, but instead you completed the knot our fingers made. Your nails were clean and mine were tiled in chipped red polish. I rested my head on your stomach. You smelled like mentholated cigarettes and a hot shower.
Once you put your housemate to bed, you offered me some pajamas — a light pink Fraggle Rock t-shirt and black sweatpants. Fraggle Rock was my favorite childhood television show and I don’t think any other shirt would have made me feel as comfortable. The theme song played in my head “Down at Fraggle Rock! (clap clap) Down at Fraggle Rock!” I could only smile.
We laid down to bed, our legs and arms braided together. I loved the way your newly buzzed hair tickled my fingertips. We slept, and you labeled these “my” pajamas at your house, though I only wore them once more.
I didn’t eat cornflakes with you that morning, but you massaged the back of my neck as we sat on the big red couch in your living room watching Top Gear on BBC America.
Oh My Lover – PJ Harvey
I made myself a cranberry and vodka in my friend’s apartment one night, light on the cranberry. Through a thin, hazy veil of Smirnoff, red plastic cup still in my hand, I said to you, “I’m gonna have another one of these, then I’m gonna start trying to make out with you. Okay?”
“Okay.” You nodded like a student learning from a tutor. I slinked off and poured myself another watery, red concoction. I downed it fast, wanting the liquid courage to take effect fast so I could press you against the wall outside the apartment and kiss you many, many times.
While waiting for said courage, the unexpected, sticky warmth of the mid-September air teased my face through an open window. Vodka slowly pumped into my bloodstream and pinked my cheeks with another layer of warmth. I sat on your knee, your arm around my hips, your hand on my thigh. The more coherent part of my brain leapt for joy that you were touching me, too.
A few minutes later, I kissed your unshaven cheek, salty like the rim of a margarita glass. You looked at me and smiled, making fireworks with your fingers on my knee. Shockwaves danced through my hips. We left and closed the door behind us.
The hallway was dimly lit, probably because of the combination of bad fluorescent lighting and brown carpeting, but the lack of atmosphere didn’t stop me from doing as I originally intended.
Walking back to your room, I stripped off a layer of clothing, tossing it to the floor and peeking impishly over my shoulder for you to follow. Once your blue sheets were beneath us, you bit my bottom lip lightly. The soft pressure ignited my hips. Excitement traveled up through my spine out of my mouth where I emitted a quick but deep, uncontrollable sigh, gasping for air because part of my body had just deliciously died. While I would only let you kiss me that night, don’t you know it was alright.
Get It While You Can – Janis Joplin
Early November, driving on the highway, we were talking about blues music. Darkness bit the asphalt in front of us and you made some crack about how Janis Joplin was just a drug-addled chick who became famous because she overdosed.
“Actually, I think of her as an excellent blues singer.” You, the musician, were nonplussed and I smirked to myself. I loved arguing about music with you because you were sexy when you really believed something, gesturing passionately and widening your eyes so much that they sparkled.?
“Okay, make me a mix with dead blues musicians on it, put some Janis Joplin on there, and I’ll listen to it,” you said.
You shifted gears. You drove like you were finger-painting, digits pressed lightly on the wheel, drawing waves on invisible paper.
“Get it While You Can” used to help me remember that we were just having fun, just getting it while we could, and I imagine Janis would have been proud. “Ain’t no shame in that, honey!” I could hear her say. You were here in the present, and that’s all that really mattered.
I wanted to lean over and kiss you for no reason, but I didn’t want to mess with you while you were driving on twisty, unfamiliar roads. I waited until later in the parking lot when I grabbed you by the lapels of your black leather jacket, pressing my own passionate youth into your lips. Your hand slithered into the small of my back. Get it while you can, indeed.
You Know What – N*E*R*D*
Sometimes if I’m nervous on the telephone my throat closes up and my voice gets all squeaky and little-girl-y. I always wanted to talk to you more, but could never find the right things to say, each sentence punctuated by “But yeah, so…” “Oh, hey…” or some inane question I didn’t really care about the answer to. I never wanted you to feel obligated to me, either.
“Oh, and did you get a chance to listen to that mix yet?”
“Some of it. That N*E*R*D* song is hot. I can’t get the beat out of my head. It’s great.”
It was Thursday and I wouldn’t be seeing you that weekend because you were going to get lap dances with a friend’s bachelor party caravan. I was genuinely excited for you because you had never been to a strip club before. I asked you to make me proud, and you laughed and said you would.
“Okay, well, yeah, that’s it, but have a good weekend!”
“Hey, yeah, you too.” I heard you smiling into the phone and I felt like less of an idiot.
I wondered when I would get a chance to hang out with you again—you’d be away this weekend, then the next weekend you’d be dancing, then it was Thanksgiving, then you’d be going home.
“Thanks. And maybe I’ll see you when you get back.”
Merry Happy – Kate Nash
You said you didn’t want to see me anymore and I said okay. You said I was such a stoic. I said I yelp when I get a paper cut but I didn’t cry when my grandmother died. Did you want me to cry?
You didn’t break my heart, and I wouldn’t let you think that you did.
“You’re so comfortable and I’m so awkward. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Can’t we start over?” You were only half-joking.
“Okay,” I said and began fake bawling into my sleeve and you laughed.
After that we argued about music for an hour. Things were going to be okay, we really would be friends. And I liked that a whole lot more than losing you from my life completely, as if you had never been there.
A month later I felt something. I felt numb, like I had shut myself off. I took down pictures of us because I couldn’t stand not feeling anything when I looked at you. I could’ve spent a long time with you, maybe because I really liked you, or maybe because I never wanted you to hurt me.
I never wanted to be some faceless name on your long list of ladies twenty years from now. Originally, I was hoping that you’d look back and think to yourself, ‘Man, Elyssa was really cool. I’m glad I met her.’
But, no, you didn’t break my heart. You broke, like, my toe. When people’s hearts break, or bust open or whatever, they die. I just limped around for a while, and I healed eventually. It’s a funny thing about toes, though. Even after they heal, they’re never quite the same as they were before.
I’m glad it was just my toe, though. I only had to learn to walk again.
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You would have infinitives that you truly hold close to your heart and a couple of onomatopoeic mixtures of syllables that give music to your life. You would often be misunderstood, but you’d never be boring.
How terrible you used to be at holding your liquor, and the ridiculous combination of drinks you used to deem acceptable, such as Rikaloff and Hawaiian Punch served in a Nalgene.
Someone in your life (of yourself) douses their food with this bright-red hot sauce made from red chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, amongst a couple of other ingredients. It’s hard-to-miss, really.
I’ve been publishing an erratic and off-kilter R. Kelly Quote-of-the-Day Newsletter to gear up for his Black Panties album. This is what I’ve been sharing with a small group of friends for the past month.