Thursday, October 01, 2009


What is it about a song on the radio that brings back the memory of something I hadn’t thought of in years?

I was driving to work the other day when the song “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails came on the radio. I sat there with my elbow propped against the door and tapping on the wheel with my thumbs as I listened.

The first time I heard the song was on a mix tape that my first post-college-just-moved-out-of-home-to-a-new-city boyfriend made for me. I met Marcus at one of my favorite bars, and we clicked right away. Marcus was in a “transitional” phase. He didn’t have a job and was living off the savings account he’d had since he was born. We talked on the phone a lot; we spent a lot of time together. Then he randomly ended it after a few weeks. He claimed to be depressed and wanted to be just friends.

I agreed to be just friends, because having him as a friend was way better than not having him at all. He made me the mix tape in a “Let’s be friends” gesture, and he recorded “Hurt” onto it as the ultimate depiction of his depressed and tortured soul. He told me some bullshit story about how he didn’t want to wreck the person that I am by getting me mixed up in his messed up life. He came to see me play at the open mic, where I played “Untouchable Face” by Ani DiFranco, and bravely stared at him through the whole thing.

At the time I ate the whole “I’m so depressed” thing up. I was convinced that he wasn’t depressed when he was with me, and I was helping him somehow. Until I learned about what was really torturing this guy’s soul. He came over to my apartment one night, and I made stuffed shells for dinner. He was telling me about a woman he’d just started seeing after he dumped me.

“The thing is,” he swallowed his mouthful of ricotta, “I don’t really like her that much.”

“Then why are you hanging out with her, then?” In my mind I asked him, “Yeah, here you are having a conversation about life with me, but you won’t call me your girlfriend? But you call that tramp your girlfriend? What the hell is the matter with you?”

“Because she knows how to please,” he replied in his deadpan honesty that I’d gotten so used to.

I rolled my eyes and said “Oh please, that’s not the only reason you’re hanging out with her.”

And I was right. He was a horrible boyfriend and a lousy friend. He was hanging out with that particular sex goddess because she didn’t challenge him to be a better person like I did. This is what caused Marcus’s “depression” and his acceptance of the song “Hurt” as his anthem—he just didn’t feel like working for something worthwhile.

A few weeks later I broke off our friendship. I couldn’t take his confiding in me about other women. I was liberated as I left his apartment. I barged in and said “I can’t be friends with you. I want to be more than friends and you don’t. This isn’t working for me. Goodbye.” Then I stormed out of his apartment just as fast as I’d barged in. He chased me down the stairs and asked me to talk to me. I silently continued down the narrow stairs, my knees were shaking.

Our paths crossed a few more times here and there in the months and years after that. We’d swap emails now and then, but it was always the same old thing with him and I quickly grew tired of hearing from him.

One night, after Todd and I moved in together I met him out for a beer. We had a very nice conversation that lasted very late into the night. At the end of the night he asked me if he could kiss me and I said, “Well, I live with my boyfriend. I’ve got a good thing going here. No thanks.” He shrugged and said “Fair enough.”

He tried to stay friends, and I made excuses. He’d invite me to parties at his apartment, and I’d write back with a simple “No thanks, we have plans.” It was after Todd and I had gotten engaged that he wrote to me to ask me how I was doing.

“Hi Marcus,” I wrote. “Life is really good. I am engaged, getting my Masters, and restoring a 41’ sailboat. Take care, Beej.”

After that I never heard from him again. I came across a picture of him when I googled him out of curiosity about a year ago. But other than that, I haven’t thought about that soap opera for more than a decade now. The mix tape has long been lost or thrown away.

But it all came flooding back, just from hearing that song. I wonder if he thinks of me when he hears that song by Ani DiFranco.

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Anonymous Taoist Biker said...

The Magic 8-Ball says "All signs point to yes."

October 2, 2009 at 7:32 AM  
Anonymous crisitunity said...

Really great thoughtful post.

The thing I find interesting is that from this perspective I can see virtually nothing good about Marcus at all. I'm sure he meant a lot to you, and perhaps still does in your memory, but he sounds in this post like a complete jerkwad who wasn't worth your time.

Don't know if that helps or hurts.

I still rush right back to times I had with Eric if I so much as think about a certain Cocteau Twins song.

October 2, 2009 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Crisitunity, you're absolutely right. And it's amazing how he means so little to me now, some 13 years later. It's just so funny how that damn song brings me right back there, though.

It was such a big deal back then. Now? Not so much.

October 2, 2009 at 8:22 PM  

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