I’ve been listening to “Fade Into You” this morning, along with the rest of the blissful and lush album So Tonight That I Might See. I haven’t heard this song in several years and today it comes bearing memory, an unusually joyful one from the painful catalogue of high school.
When I was in my junior year, I became friends with a vivacious, spit-fire of a woman whom I will call L. Everything about her was quick and bright: her hair, her eyes, her heart, her mind. She had this incongruous laugh, throaty and knowing, like Anne Bancroft, and I remember thinking that if I didn’t become closer to a woman with such a laugh, I would likely regret it for some time.
One November evening she and I decided to travel to see American Beauty in the theater, despite the fact that it was snowing badly, and the only theater showing the film was a twenty minute car ride away. Like many younger people who saw that film, we were both struck dumb with what we felt was its profundity.
On the ride home, she put Mazzy Star on the radio and we sat silently listening “Fade Into You” for a bit before she began to speak at length about what the movie had made her feel. In the pitch dark of midnight, on a deserted highway, in an overheated compact car weaving on the slick snow slowly obscuring the road and the windshield, I listened to her hushed, excited overflow of fear and longing and delight. She laughed frequently at herself in her exuberance, but I did nothing but sit silently, resolved to act as a catalyst, to hold the space into which she felt she could speak.
I remember thinking on that ride that “this must be what contentment feels like.” Not the superficial knowing that the moment is not as bad as it could be otherwise, but the full, bone-deep knowing that everything, including the movement of the slight perspiration on the top of my lip in the humid car, was the most perfect manifestation of that moment out of all the possible. ”This wouldn’t be a bad time to go,” I thought as we continued to swerve on the road. ”I’m sat next to a brilliant, earnest, laughing creature who couldn’t be more alive if she tried right now. This is exactly what we are all meant to be, and at least I’ve seen it now.”
We did get home safely, and she went on to a college in Boston and I went to Smith. We never did have another moment like that night. Afterwards, the intimacy of it disconcerted her. We have not kept in touch, but she and that night have shaped the warp and weft of my understanding of joy.
So, this is for you , L. I hope that no matter where you are, there is someone there to listen in the night, in the cold of November, in the snow, in the shining space by your side, to your quietly delighted musings. I hope they sit silently and hold the space for you, knowing that what they receive is a pure and unadulterated gift.