de(tales): an ep for katie
Amy teaches at my alma mater, but we met in the great wide world of the internet, through a mutual friend. I had the (much-too-short) pleasure of meeting her in person at the Festival of Faith and Writing, and I found her just as lovely in person as she is in prose. Her writing consistently challenges me and makes me think, but also makes me laugh and nod along as she takes me on a wonderful journey. I hope that you'll enjoy going on this one as much as I did. Enjoy, friends.
Track One: Just Don’t Want Coffee -Caedmon’s Call (1997)
It’s 7:35 when I clatter down the stairs in Doc Martens and no make-up, my hair in one long braid still damp from last night’s shower. I choose an apple and a banana - lunch - and ask if you’re ready.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” you reply, wrinkling your nose. Your details are perfect, as always: your sticky notes color coded, your handwriting regular as a typeface, your mascara evenly applied and your shirt from American Eagle. I roll my eyes and head toward the garage.
You’d prefer almost anything, from the Dixie Chicks to MxPx, but it’s my Camry and my cassette deck, so you’ve had to make peace with my Caedmon’s Call tape. I love the way it begins:
Though I am small, I’ve seen things far beyond these city walls The land is flat and it rolls for miles I don’t know much, I know I’ve many places yet to see I know I’ve been here for a while.
From the acoustic guitar to the whiny vocals, it’s exactly how I feel about high school in the deep south: desperate for a wider world.
You thrive in it, though. At school, you’re Quinn and I’m Daria. You are friends with the cheerleaders and the pretty girls. You all obsess over crushes together and have sleepovers and pass notes in class, and I feel vaguely guilty -- it must be embarrassing for you to have a sister like me, bookish, quietly defiant, misanthropic, feminist. But I just can’t get myself to care about those superficial details.
Track Two: When U Love Somebody - Fruit Bats (2004)
I’ve hardly seen you at all in the last year, me sweating beatifically in Southeast Asia and you disoriented in Manhattan. Now we’re apart for the summer too. By July, my well-planned life is unraveling and I know it. You don’t know yet that sadness has set its sights on you as well.
Your handwriting, neat as ever, lines the yellow envelope sent from your summer camp to my brick halls. There’s a letter and a mix cd for me inside.
We’re both trying to figure out what to do with the boys we’ve fallen for. Yours has a girlfriend, always has; mine has just started seeing someone, too. You joke in your letter that “Lepine girls always get what we want,” but maybe this time we won’t. “Maybe that will be good for us,” I think philosophically, if not quite logically. “Maybe we need to have our hearts broken.”
I play the CD over and over, mostly songs from bands I’ve never heard before. “When you love somebody, bite your tongue, all you get is a mouthful of blood,” the Fruit Bats sing to rhythmic guitar and jangly hand-claps. As I listen, I compose an email back to you. “I don’t trust him,” I say. “You should just let him go.”
Of course you’re led by your heart, you never bite your tongue. You stay out all night, you fall right into love, you know I don’t approve, and you wonder in your journal if I’ll ever be proud of you. I’m Elinor Dashwood and you’re Marianne: I just want to protect you.
Caution leads me; I always bite my tongue, and pretend like it doesn’t hurt. The summer is salty and metallic for us both. At least it has a soundtrack. Track Three: Double Life - Conor Oberst (2014)
“So Conor’s ‘Double Life’ seems like a good theme song for you right now,” I text you from the kitchen, slicing tomatoes while my children pretend to be secret spies under the table.
my dream text”
you respond, winking at me with emoji. You’ve seen Conor Oberst in concert 21 times, and even walked down the aisle to one of his songs, but I’ve never shared the love. Later I put the song at the end of a playlist and mail you the link. You tell me it’s my best playlist yet, “not just because it has Conor on it,” and you play it over speakers in your Brooklyn backyard at dusk, grilling burgers with your friends (amazingly, the same girls from highschool!) at the end of summer. Maybe my taste in music isn’t as embarrassing as it once was.
I spent a week at your house in January, and it was perfect: you clorox the counters twice a day, never leave dishes overnight, and always hang up your coat. You love doing laundry, never neglect dentist’s visits, and still throw your whole heart open for your friends.
I still wear my hair in long, damp braids and leave my clothes in piles, misanthropically avoiding relationships with (shudder) people, abstractly wondering about the things far beyond my city walls, and judging people around me for caring about silly things.
But when I need to remember the truth, I call you. You know all the details, what I was wearing, what song was playing, who was there, which day of the week it was. I’ve started to believe those things aren’t superficial. Maybe they’re the whole point.
“I don’t remember getting here,” Conor sings. I don’t know exactly how we became what sisters are supposed to be, but it is a better life, on the other side. You bring the details and the heart, I’ll bring the big picture, we’ll make the playlist together.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.