Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon stroked his scruffy beard. We’d been standing in the kitchen for several hours now.
“What if, like,” he said, deep in thought, “You had a feeling – right? – that took over ALL THE OTHER FEELINGS? Like, a MegaFeeling. You know how they have giant squids, yeah? Well, what if you had a feeling that was like that?”
I swilled my beer around the bottom of the empty bottle. It was warm now.
“What if,” Justin continued, “Like, that MegaFeeling was an emotion? What if you felt so much that you just – like – died? What if you liked a girl so much you died? Or had a sweater that was so comfy that you died? Or had a really great hat or something? Like, what then? What if that happened? What if – are you with me?”
“Ok, so, what if you had a t-shirt that was made of so much cottonpoly blend that it was so snuggly that you just died? What if you had a beard just the right mix of masculine and non-threatening that a girl touched it and then she died?”
“Can I have another beer, Justin?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure, but,” he said, pulling another Fat Tire beer out from the tattered minifridge behind him – he was like that, he had his own personal stash of Fat Tire and you had to talk to him to get any of it, “do you understand what I’m saying? What if, like, you sung in such a good falsetto that you killed everyone in the room with a… MegaFeeling?”
I nodded again, and closed my eyes just long enough to think the entire thought, that, as cool as it was; when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver corners you at a party kinda drunk and wants to talk about feelings, there’s no way out. You just have to sit and listen.
Later, at the Wendy’s drive-through, we sat and waited for our food. Justin was busy debobbling his sweater, singing along to the last chorus of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” on KOOL 105 (Good Talk, Great Oldies, KOOL 105).
“Do you ever wonder where chicken nuggets come from?” he said, staring at the roof of the car.
“No,” I said definitively.
“I used to call my ex-girlfriend nugget,” he said, going back to debobbling his sweater. He stared intently at it, “I’ve called all my girlfriends food we enjoy together. I had a girlfriend called Taco once. And one I called Bahn Mi.”
“She was Asian,” he said, nodding towards me.
“Anyway,” he continued, “There’s nothing like getting in a fight with a girl and then she leaves and you run out onto the front porch after her yelling “PIZZA! BABY, PIZZA!” The neighbors think you’re weird.”
The car in front of us moved ahead. We were now second in line. The moment could not come soon enough.
“Have you ever been to Calgary?” he asked.
“Justin,” I snapped at him, before thinking twice, “Nevermind. Just, nevermind. I’m… I’m just not in the mood to talk right now.”
“To talk?” he mewed.
“Yes, to talk,” I said.
We sat in silence as Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks” played dimly on the radio. I leaned forward and turned up the volume. The song played out, and it took forever for the person ahead of us to move, I remember thinking. As the song faded out, Justin reached out and turned down the volume again.
“Are you mad?” he asked.
I looked at him. It was tough, with his scraggly unkempt hair sitting atop his head like cotton candy on a particularly sad water ballon, to hate the man. He was a nice guy – an excellent guy all things considered – but a terrible, awful roommate. Perhaps it was because I was within such close proximity of him all the time. Perhaps it was because his voice was angelic in that it sounded like that of an angel doing an impression of another angel that the original angel didn’t care much for. Perhaps it was both of those things.
“No, Justin. I’m not mad. Sorry I snapped,” I said.
“It’s OK, brother,” he said, and smiled.
“And, uh, I was thinking, I was gonna sublet my room, I think, I don’t know, dude…” I let the thought trail off. The car ahead of us moved forward, and we collected our meal.
The entire drive back he talked about the different kinds of birds he saw when he’d gone to Calgary, as if nothing had happened. He never once talked about me moving out. When I moved out, he stood in the driveway and waved wearing a salmon colored shirt and gray khakis, his hair flowing slightly in the wind, holding a cat under the crook of his right arm. For once, he looked happy, and as I waved back I thought to myself, there he goes, there goes Justin Vernon, Bon Iver, and that his pain was our pain, and that as he held up the mirror to our souls and that while it may take a certain if somewhat undefinable toll on him, he would be alright, I thought, and I drove away smiling.
It wasn’t until later that I realized the cat wasn’t even his.