Remember the Proust Guy? I didn’t like him, and he’s no more appealing in retrospect, but he wasn’t wrong. Yes, yes, I have more or less put Proust on pause, because it’s hard for me to enjoy staring at my iPad over a physical book. Perhaps the Kindle, with its gentler light levels, will change that. But speaking of Amazon, they just had a deal where you could get three months of their streaming service for a dollar, and because I become incandescently angry when ad after ad on Spotify comes between me and the songs (“AT THE CORNER OF HAPPY AND HEALTHY, WE GET IT, JUST CUT TO THE GODDAMN CATCHPHRASE ALREADY”), I took the offer. I know, I know, I’m a traitor, a millennial walking right into the trap of “no I’m not going to keep lugging this zipper pouch of CDs around all my life; I’ll either never listen to that again or I’ll download it somehow” that they banked on. Spare me your hot takes.
But so, with this newly-widened music library now open to me, I immediately started seeking out songs I’d lost over time, and one thing led to another, and I ended up at “Closer To Fine.”
Damn. Damn. Hats off to you, Proust Guy. Young me had no goddamn idea how on-point this song would be, decades later.
Oh she thought she knew, sure. Who doesn’t? I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard this song, but I taped it from the radio onto a cassette, if that’s any indication. Even then, it was played as a flashback, since the song itself is almost as old as I am. It’s the first folk song I remember liking, for so many reasons — the brief familiar flicker of a hornpipe, the unlooked-for harmonies, the the way she bites off “clarity” like she’s mocking herself for thinking she might ever find it.
And it’s also the first song that led me to read an article (or maybe listen to an interview?) about a band, and to realize I wanted nothing to do with that kind of fandom. Something about the Lilith Fair, and fans rejecting them when they went for more instruments than just acoustic guitars, and worse, some fans turning on one of them when she turned out to be bi rather than gay or something? Fuck you, fans. Even as an as-far-as-I-knew-gay teenager, that curdled my tongue.
But even the in-person interviews, which again I now knew I could seek out, frustrated me. I don’t want you to simplify something that means so much to me to one night or a string of nights you had out with some friends at a bar, I thought. (I was, full disclosure, terribly dubious of the supposed merits of alcohol, as a kid.) I didn’t want to hear about how they came to write this or that line, or who it reminded them of, or who they dedicated it to, or even to hear how their voices changed when they sang it live here or there or over time. I wanted none of that extraneous detail that distracted from how the song, in its cut-and-dried, reproducible form, spoke to my solipsistic dumbass teenage self.
And it did! Oh, it did. But I took it in with so many corollaries.
I spent four years prostrated to the higher mind
got my papers and I was free
Yes, well, that won’t be me, I thought. Those four years were to be my freedom! And I did not anticipate having any qualms about being prostrate to any higher minds, since, free to study what I wished (as opposed to, say calculus), I couldn’t imagine anyone loving the things I did, and wanting to bring others to love them, to be disappointing. At their jobs, or as people, or as harbingers of wonder.
Oh you foolish, foolish child.
The best thing you’ve ever done for me
is to help me take my life less seriously
it’s only life after all
Good luck with that. Like everyone else (in the 90s and 00s? surely ever) I was told the most important thing in a mate was to find someone who could make you laugh. And I mean, I had no interest in finding a mate, at the time, but damn. You do realize you’re going to be in dark places even laughter can’t light up, right? You’re gonna need more than some wisecracking Puck at your side, girl. Someone who’ll drive you for hundreds of miles between brown mountains and the sea with your head burrowed into his side, no music on because any and all of it reminds you of your dead mom somehow. Laughter is great, but it is not always what you need. Sometimes you need silence and space. Get you someone who can give you that.
And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
Honey, you had no idea. You’re going to wear it not even like a blanket but like a cape, some great billowing red thing people should respect you for wearing, like Superman. You’ll flap it and it will make a snapping sound and everyone will be reminded of your loss and its creep in your blood, and they’ll become awkward and uneasy or just silent, which is the worst, because it’s what you said you wanted and it is not, in fact, enough.
There are zero things that are enough, because you don’t get her back; you don’t get to be fine. Just closer to it. And lo, even your puns will become so dark people don’t know if they should laugh or not.
The less I seek my source for some definitive…
Yep. Pretty much.