Our first morning together was during our final days in Amsterdam. Our elation at a new-found connection was mixed with the dark reality that our time was limited. Weeks of metaphorically dancing around each other—coy looks, soft touches—had finally come to fruition, but wrenchingly it all seemed too late. In seven days we would be gone.
But that morning I was trying to ignore those thoughts. At her behest I put on some music, first Cat Powers’s The Greatest in a rather vain attempt to look suave and sensitive. She didn’t seem impressed, so instead I placed my favourites playlist on shuffle, as we tried to soak in our first and ultimately final minutes together. Some Supergrass, followed by Camera Obscura—she approved of their upbeat flavor. Success.
Next was Ryan Adams’s “New York, New York.” Although this derivative classic has become synonymous with the power of New Yorkers to rebuild, at its heart is a tale of a mixed up lover trying to find meaning amidst a metropolis. “I’ll always love you though New York” is as much a paean to lost love as it is a potential tourism slogan. Nevertheless, my girl wasn’t paying that much attention to the lyrics, attracted more by the song’s relentless acoustic strum. I however felt a bittersweet tinge in my gut as Adams sung “Had myself a lover who was finer than gold / But I’ve been broken and busted up since.”
That joyous morning soon ended and we tumbled recklessly through our passionate final days. There was an intensity to our shared experience, spurred on by our mutual affection and an eye on the clock.
My little flame quickly became fascinated by Wilco, curious about my glowing comments to friends and strangers about the new record Sky Blue Sky. In true Wilco fashion, she had actually downloaded the new album. All because of me. I’m always eager to pontificate about music, but in this case her interest melted my heart. Lying together on her bed, the beautiful melodies of Sky Blue Sky provided the backdrop to our infatuation.
By this stage, “Side with the Seeds”—the record’s peerless triumph—had already come to signify my half-year in Amsterdam: the cathartic instrumental crescendos were a musical evocation of my most intense adventures, whilst the gorgeous verses matched the poignant memories of new friends in remarkable places. The song is a powerful experience. The best music, much like the best moments in a life actually lived, will leave you in a tailspin.
I was utterly, irretrievably, smitten with this girl. However, I was unable to forget the bitter truth that time was short. Each ecstatic moment spent together would eventually throw me further into the abyss. Rationally, I knew that I should back off to avoid the future heartache. But the idealistic, romantic, side of me—the part of me that I like—knew that I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Jeff Tweedy’s final words in “Side with the Seeds” are “I’ll side with you / If you side with me”: I took a similar chance. I’ve never regretted the move.
Fast forward to now and I have returned to the dark reality of Sydney. I miss my sweetheart terribly. Just like Ryan Adams, I am struggling to “say farewell to the city and the love of my life / As we left before we had to go.” I look upon the world through a different paradigm. The future seems less certain than it did before. I have learned to survive with the reality of our separation, but surviving is not living. Moreover, suppressing my sorrow also confuses me. If the pain diminishes, have my feelings for the girl similarly faded? This question does not remain unanswered for long, for when I am engulfed by moments—waves—of sadness, they come with the welcome realisation that I still feel for her.
There are other truths in my life: the most important being that this girl and I will be reunited. I am not sure of when, or how, or where, but we will be together once more. This realization is liberating. As Tweedy sings, “embracing our situation is our only chance to be free.”
Another certainty is that the stunning music of “Side with the Seeds” will forever remain a part of me. I will never forget its effect. The song will encapsulate my time in Amsterdam and the gamble I took with that amazing girl. The song’s payoff is damningly short, just as was my time with my little flame, but this makes the experience no less wondrous, passionate, or unforgettable.