and I was in tears before I realized what was happening. Where this familiar tune had struck me last. Perhaps the spine. California.

Should’ve seen it coming when the whole band picked up their acoustic instruments. But who would blame me? I switched streaming platforms a year ago. That song was left behind. In the left behind. Along with most of Mitski & Spring Awakening. I still go back occasionally, because my past self is foreign to me and I am now the kind of person that enjoys meeting strangers, apparently.

who’d you save if your best mate and me are drowning?
I’d save my friend, cuz you are like a monk seal.

The sobs, in their instinctive pawing, had kicked in like autoimmunity. Shoot-bang from the eardrums to the heart, missing the brain entirely. And what had pulled the trigger? The first don’t be afraid, yeah I will wait. A mattress. Whichever earphones I had used back then. (I lost them, and now I have red ones. Or maybe I broke them. Too much is slipping from my mind.) I felt like a Rupi Kaur poem and wanted it to stop.

It did. So I contemplated the moisture now uncomfortably sticking the top of my mask to my cheekbones. And finally enjoyed the music, transported safely back to the stone and light of the concert hall. Their rendition of the song was somewhat muted, a sparser arrangement compared to the recording. I couldn’t help but notice the emptiness between the notes. The love was still there; just not as confident.

I stared out, dumb and blank, through the rest of the song. No twitching finger or tapping foot, no wandering brain. I am a frequent criminal. I kill the past in the process of romanticizing it. Some songs are forever ruined and that’s that.

I’d shaken my head to the drums and rocked my chest to the bass. I’d put down my phone and dutifully enjoyed the moment. It was the best concert I’d ever been to; I’d lost myself temporarily. I was exhausted. Spent. Hanging by a thread, stapled together. Choking on responsibility, so sick of playing adult, so ready to go back. Spinning. Fantasizing about marking my passing years with albums, too. I wanted to pound and howl and shred and then curl up but decided I’d let the rock band do that.

Don’t be afraid, yeah I will stay.
Hide your little spot with my ring finger.

Even in that moment, caught between wiping my tears and leaving them be, I understood where the strange dissonance was coming from. The newest album was too optimistic. The messaging of the whole tour was not something I could relate to in the moment. It was born of a different world, and I was all out of love.