The first time I heard a John Mayer song I was getting ready for school sophomore year and watching music videos on VH1. I immediately liked the laid back aesthetic of the No Such Thing video — and I was in high school, what was not to like about the concept of returning to this place one day much more victorious than I was managing to be in the moment? I don’t usually love songs the first time I hear them, but I thought there was something special about him. A short interview played after the music video, he talked about how he admired Stevie Ray Vaughn, who I didn’t know about, but seemed like a good person to admire. I ordered a white John Mayer concert t-shirt from the internet and wore it to soccer practice as often as I could get away with it.
Later that fall the No Such Thing single had become a gigantic hit and one day I was out at the practice soccer fields in my town. There were maybe 7 girls in various piles in my car and we drove in circles around the park with the windows down yelling I’m gonna run through the halls of my high school, I’m gonna scream at the top of my lungs.
A few years later I go to college and make friends with the cool kids in my dorm who only listen to classic rock. I tell them I love John Mayer and I can tell they think it’s dorky. I say I think it’s the kind of music I will relate to my entire life, like I will be middle-aged and still relate to everything he wrote on Room for Squares (and now I am actually middle-aged and I can report that I still relate to everything he wrote on Room for Squares). I work for my dad some nights, alone in his office after he has gone I always watch the Canadian TV channel “The N” where I’ve fallen in love with Degrassi. They play music videos on the commercial breaks and I hope every break they choose John’s new song Bigger than my Body because it makes me feel hopeful about how much better life is going to be when I am out of school and in my career.
I drive to my mom’s house some weekends after class and it’s always Why Georgia playing in my car from a CD I burned and wrote in black Sharpie “a mix to have a quarter life crisis to”.
After college I move into my first apartment in Minneapolis and lay in bed listening to City Love and smile every time I remember that this is my life now. We close the tab // split a cab // and call each other up when we get home // falling asleep to the sound of sirens.
John and I go through a rough time. He’s being written about on gossip sites a lot, he’s being an asshole, he’s dating hot famous girls. People don’t like him anymore. Taylor Swift writes a song about him that hurts his feelings (Dear John) that I listen to when I want to be mad at the older guy I am seeing who frustratingly echoes the purpose of the song: possessing the rare ability to understand matters of the heart, but being more interested in superficial shit—if only temporarily. John leaves New York and the kind of public life that doesn’t involve his music. The older guy leaves Minnesota and the kind of life that includes me.
Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone.
I start working at Thought Catalog and meet a girl who tells me she had sex with John once and I believe her because that’s the kind of thing that is totally believable about this girl in particular. I make her write an article about it which turns into 12 Things About The Time I Slept With John Mayer. I read it and feel like a kid who wasn’t invited to the birthday party everyone else was. I didn’t know I was supposed to be in a league where people were actually sleeping with famous celebrities who were hot, but like, also people who singularly seemed to understand parts of you that not only do most people not get — they don’t seem concerned about how important it is, either.
I go to New York a few years later and stay in a small studio apartment with one of my best friends. We walk around Williamsburg late at night eating ice cream. We burn tea lights and fall asleep talking. We wake up and work in bed for hours and then get dressed every day listening to Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.
It’s a Saturday night last year and I have just started seeing a new guy. He is at a club with his friends for an event they planned before I met him. There was a half-hearted invitation I turned down. I didn’t want to be too much. I spend the night laying on my stomach on the floor of the first apartment in Minneapolis I have been able to afford to live in alone. I write poems in my journal hoping a few are good enough to include in the poetry book I am working on. I listen to Love Song For No One a bunch of times and think about this guy and how I used to listen to this song a decade ago and feel like it was only a matter of time before I met someone and that would be that.
I’m tired of being alone, so hurry up and get here.
So much time has passed and nothing has changed—except that it seems sadder now to be so incomplete. I don’t think I’m supposed to feel like my whole life is in front of me anymore. I think I’m supposed to have chipped away at some of that.
It’s tonight and I’m watching John’s concert, Live at the Nokia Theatre, on YouTube. I’m thinking a lot lately about In Your Atmosphere and what it means for me. For a long time LA seemed the inevitable place at the end of the road. There’s a Kerouac element to it, LA is in the air—everyone is going to LA. LA means specific things about the kind of life and career I want and I feel myself steering away from that towards something quieter—which against all rational thinking, feels more robust anyway.
I don’t think I’m gonna go to LA anymore.
So much of John’s music is about what is ahead of me but I don’t know that I want life to keep getting bigger and better anymore.
I’m not sure that I really ever could.