I Want You To Notice When I’m Not Around
On initial listen, the one that started it all didn’t impress her much. She was sitting on her then downstairs neighbors’ ratty plaid couch. Her on again/off again boyfriend had just moved out of their place and moved in with them so he could continue haunting The Girl. Normally, she would’ve found this arrangement hilarious but being The Girl was not a role she was used to playing and yet, there she was, doing it. Terribly. Sadness and giggles in equal dolorous measures.
The neighbors were identical twins and in true cliched form they were total opposites. What a crazy pair! One was excitable and sweet, his hair a black mess of curls, friendly and sensitive, a little prone to tears. The other, hair slicked back into a perpetually moist ponytail, was deeper voiced, solemn and snarky. He seemed more assured than his twin but was nowhere near as fun. They were good music conversationalists though and introduced her to Low and other candlelit bathtub classics of the 4AD ilk.
That day Twin #1, we’ll call him K, had just gone to see this new band and was raving about them. Serendipitously, their video came on. She laughed. This is The Air That I Breathe! The Hollies? Seriously? Can’t you hear it? They did not. She focused on the singer and his well-lit cheekbones. He kept pushing out his lips in a Jagger-esque pout, getting them to hit the light just so. She disliked him instantly. Even when he sang that money note on the word run! and it was clear dude could SAAAANG. She put him in her mental hate vault and listened while K talked about dynamics, that dude’s voice, the guitarist that looked like a praying mantis with a fringe of black hair and his well placed bombs of jih! jank! JIH! JANK! Yeah, it was the kind of musical joke she liked but at the time she couldn’t laugh. Not then anyway.
That summer that song came back to haunt her. It was playing on the radio when The Boy called her at her mom’s house to tell her that he fucked the hostess at the Somerville Pizzeria Uno but even though it was good, he still loved her, far away in New York her, he was almost sure. It played at the supermarket on the corner of Broadway and McLean as she bought lemons and lettuce. It played at Tower Records on 68th St. where she was working for the Summer alphabetizing PAR to RUN. It played on her headphones as she slowly ate her single meal of Combos everyday. Her mother would turn it up at home and say, Conozco está canción, es igual a otra. Cual?
At first it was too much, all those repetitions, but then it changed. She heard the song differently; the way the piano came in at the end, bringing civility with it, resignation and a little bit of church-calm. She wound up seeing an interview with that band, Radiohead, and that voice, Thom Yorke. Without the lighting and the pout, he was just a pocket-sized smartypants with a nervous just-under-the-surface rage. Trying to smile but his sharp and wary eyes kept giving him away. She liked him more than that well lit video dude. Fine, she said, I give.
PS: See also: this guy is like, like uh, he’s down on himself