College was a love affair, one growing more passionate with each passing year.
Or, as you say at the end of your education, God has had a love affair with you. He pursued and pursued. For 18 years He pursued. Only at the end of your freshman year did you give in and let Him have you.
So go to that year. To your first night with a girl. To her dorm room. And as she tells you to put it on you begin to pray. For the first time, you earnestly call upon God.
Because you are afraid. The fear fills you. This, you think, could be the end of your life.
“Please God,” you plead as she kisses your neck and tugs at you. “I don’t want to get her pregnant. Please, help me.”
And so He does. He gives to you an excuse, finds for you a way out of her room. And as you go up the stairs pulling up your jeans you tell Him you are His. You spend the next five years of your life believing everyone on earth will go to heaven or to hell.
Besides God, in college you get into music.
As a junior high boy your first CDs were Four, The Batman Forever Soundtrack, Cracked Rear View, and mostly because of “Be My Lover,” La Bouche’s Sweet Dreams.
Your first tapes were Rhythm Nation, Londonbeat’s “I’ve Been Thinking About You” and M.C. Hammer’s “Pray.”
In high school, the first bands you loved were Weezer, Dave Matthews Band and Pearl Jam. Not Minutemen, Jesus Lizard, Pavement.
With God’s help, though, in college you get into more interesting music.
First, it’s Supertones and W’s and even “punk stuff” like MxPx. Though you love Five Iron Frenzy the most. They lead you to Starflyer 59, who you consider genius, and Joy Electric, who, you say, is genius, and Danielson because Daniel Smith is, as you tell others, a genius.
You learn about these bands by reading a Christian music magazine which is the same one you apply to be an intern at the summer between your junior and senior year and, like another miracle from God, you get the gig.
So you live in Austin in the year of 2002. Young and healthy and at the brink of everything you struggle to not watch porn and feel guilt when you do.
There is one good thing.
You meet a man, the managing editor at the magazine, and he tells you about the novels of Ayn Rand, the rumors surrounding Jennifer Knapp, and how Brandon Ebel used to get blow jobs under his desk from the future wife of a prominent alt Christian musician. But the most important thing your managing editor tells you about that summer is a website. It’s called Pitchforkmedia.com.
”Shit’s pretty hipster,” he tells you, “but they got it right about the new Fugazi record.”
So leave Texas with that knowledge and begin to work at a group home in Nebraska. There, you live in the same house as delinquent teenagers.
‘Houseparenting,’ they call it. And it is terrifying and exhausting but when the kids are at school you go to your off-duty house and write for Pitchforkmedia. Because you’ve been accepted. Ryan Schreiber himself sent the email.
Also, it should be noted more than anything, besides living with delinquent teens, being in love with god and writing for Pitchforkmedia, you have fallen for one of your coworkers.
A volleyball player, almost as tall as you, with straight brown hair, she smirks when she smiles. God must have sent her. You believe this more than anything you have ever believed, or maybe ever will.
Though, you learn after you tell her a shade of what you feel, she does not. At least that’s what you sense, with what’s left of your sense.
Still you still work at the group home and hope every moment you take breath that the two of you will marry someday, and also you write for Pitchforkmedia.
Of course, they do not use your stories very much because you have a tendency to write about Christian bands. But when they do, it’s so great. People on the internet even talk about you.
Like when ‘Patti’ on her LiveJournal writes, “Well, i hate to break it to you, but your reviews have pretty much no credibility, mr. jeffrey ellinger.” She will be annoyed, according to her ‘current mood.’
You keep writing anyway. You write a story about Planes Mistaken For Stars. You write a story about Nina Nastasia. And mostly you can’t eat or sleep, and you pray constantly.
Sometimes for three or four hours a day. Prayers she would one day be your wife. Every second in her presence is like holding your breath.
And you sense, like something before you were born, that God would not have put her in front of you in a town of a 1000 people working at a group home of 10 people if she was not supposed to be something.
Then, like yet another miracle, near the end of the summer the two of you go on a date. (You have just enough sense not to call it that). You go to Carlos O’ Kelly’s in Grand Island, Nebraska. You eat chips and talk about her family then you take her to see Ron Burgundy.
But you hardly watch.
Instead you linger on the image of her eyes and mouth in the darkened theater. The way they lit up, the way she smirked, this has to be.
When the summer ends weeks later, you get an email from a Pitchforkmedia editor. This is the end of it…
…here’s the cold, hard numbers: I’ve got about 25 samples that Ryan just forwarded me for potential newswriters. There are more than 75 (!!) stories on the news board that have either never run or were never claimed. RADIOHEAD was never claimed. BJORK was never claimed. ENON was never claimed. These are potential headliners!? Jonah, Kevin, and I do not post these for our own amusement or so that you have your own private news source to peruse. I don’t want to see another whiny post about how tinymixtapes.com is kicking our ass all over the map until you get your own asses in gear and writing like you give a fuck.
With that, you’re done with newswriting for Pitchforkmedia. It never changed her mind. It never changed the mind of God, who you believe is in charge of every mind. So you quit. (Years later, it will seem strange you didn’t capitalize any words in your resignation email)
Very soon after that, you quit the group home. She’s left, and everything there reminds you of her. So you pack up your bulky computer and your books on dating and head back to live with your parents at the age of 24.
A month goes by. Her memory overwhelms you. You begin to think of moving to where she lives. To stave off the desire of driving to her parent’s house and camping in her front lawn you send a mix CD and flowers and quilting tools to her new job at a library.
A few weeks later, she replies in an email. At first she thanks you for the flowers and the CD and the quilting tools. After that she says…
…When I was in (Small Nebraska Town) I often felt like you based your happiness on how you and I interacted.
That is just an assumption I made based on what I saw, and I don’t know if that is true or not.
But I don’t want you to find your happiness in me. You won’t find it there. The only thing that is fulfilling in life is a personal relationship with God.
Every person will let you down in life. God is the only stable, constant, eternal thing that can bring you lasting joy.
We’ve talked about that before. Listen to your brother-in-law and forget about me, and spend time getting to know God better.
I think it is best we don’t correspond. Please don’t contact me anymore.
And that is what it’s like to write for Pitchfork.