Just Another Sad Love Song: The Soundtrack to My Love Life

September 4, 2012  |  

It was Toni Braxton, who once sang:

Just another sad love song,

Racking my brain like crazy

Yes I’m all torn up

Be it fast or slow,

It doesn’t let go or shake me

And it’s all because of you…


Music is probably as old as language itself. It invades every facet of life, managing to evoke all sorts of emotional reactions and in many instances, causing physical expression (i.e. dancing).  And if the melody is vibrating on the right frequencies, particularly at the right time, music can send reward signals to our brains, which can make us feel stronger, play on our fears or totally jack with our perception of time.

Music also has an uncanny ability to bring memories we thought were long forgotten to the forefront. We all have them; songs that remind us of the good times and the not so good times. In some instances, it is the whole song; most times it is just a verse. Even if you are not a fan of that particular artist, when that song comes on, you are instantly transformed into that intimate moment when you and a former love shared a pleasurable experience. Or if you happened to have been jaded by a particular experience, the song becomes just another painful reminder. In that case, you opted to change the station.

I begin to take the long way home
Just so I can be alone
To think of how to say
My heart’s here to stay
Hey, I’m in love with you
I think the world of you
So won’t you please, please be mine?
Oh, please be mine…

Troop’s “All I Do is Think of You reminds me of my first crush. For the sake of this vignette, let’s call him Tony. I was a freshman in high school; Tony was a senior. We would see each other daily at our adjacent cafeteria tables in the lunchroom – or should I say I would see him as he didn’t really notice me. He had a high-top fade, big bulgy eyes and rocked the latest in stonewash jean sets. I knew little about this dude other than his first name but I was convinced I was in love. I spent my lunch period staring at the perfect way the fade of his haircut merged into the big mass of hair and gushing about how beautiful he was to my girlfriends, none of whom understood what I found attractive about him. “He looks like he has down syndrome,” said one of my more brutally honest girlfriends. I didn’t care though, I thought he was fly. When I was at home, suppose to be engaged homework, I instead found myself immersed in day dreaming about what it would be like to be his girlfriend. Although the Troop song came out years before I was in high school, it became our unofficial-official song.  My walkman became a shrine to him, as I was frequently rewinding the song, which I felt described our situation perfectly.  Just like Troop, I too couldn’t wait to get to school each day and wait for him to pass my way. And yes, I too would take the long way home from school, just so I could be alone with my thoughts of him. That was until one of my girlfriends got tired of me talking over him and decided to tell Tony that I was feeling him. He laughed. And not like “oh I’m only laughing at how flattered I am.” No, I’m talking about an obnoxious, tummy holding, finger-pointing, hearty laugh, which echoed throughout the lunch room.  In a matters of seconds, which felt like an eternity, my crush had crushed me. Now every time I hear that song I think about how some Kid N Play knockoff destroyed my young and impressionable self esteem.

No if you’re ever wondering
About the way I’m feeling
Well baby boy there ain’t no question
Just to be around you is a blessing
Sick and tired of trying to save the world
I just want to spend my time being your girl
And what you’re givin’ me
Makes me know that we’ll be alright…

I used to have an adverse reaction to Justin Timberlake’s Until the End of Time,” featuring Beyonce. Maybe it had something to do with the local radio station playing it ad nauseum or maybe the idea of the overexposed Timberlake combined with the more overly exposed Beyonce was just too much for my psyche. It was probably the latter. Nevertheless, that became our jam. Our being Tariq (name withheld to protect the innocent) and I. He was a struggling actor; I had just started my job as a community organizer. We had been in a relationship for about a year. One day I was driving him home. We had a long day of running errands, shopping and hanging out, just talking. He was mulling over quitting acting for more financially secure work. I was emotionally and mentally drained from my job, which required me to “empower” a community, steeped deep in violence, apathy and government bureaucracy. As melancholy as we were individually, it seemed that we always took comfort in being able to escape from the world whenever we were together. Anyway, we were in the car, riding through raining streets, sitting silent and content in just being an each other company when Until the End of Time came on the radio. Without any prompting we both began singing this song at the top of our lungs – riffs and all. After the song was over, I leaned over to him and said, “This should be our song.” He looked at me, scrounged up his face and said, “Nawh, I hate this song.” Although we are no longer together when I hear that song, I think about that car ride home and I smile.

I’m a stubborn girl
You’re a stubborn guy
Could be why we fight all the time
If it’s not your way
Then it must be mine
Can’t communicate
Can’t even compromise…

From 2007 to 2009, Floerty’s “Feelings would become the soundtrack to my love life. Just the one song – on repeat. For the sake of this particular story, let’s call him Sam. Sam and I met volunteering at a community event. We shared a mutual acquaintance who introduced us to each other. She thought we shared common interest in the community and had hoped we would work together. Instead we shared a common interest in each other and ended up hooking up later that night. It should have been just a one night stand. But we kept partaking in each other for several months thereafter. I should have kept my feelings to myself. Rarely does anything good come out of situations based solely around sex.  But I let it slip from my lips that I wanted more. He said he couldn’t do it. He just wasn’t in a place at that moment for a relationship. He just wanted to be friends. I couldn’t accept that. So I would spend two long, tortuous years being loved by him while also being pushed away. He was the one that broke my spirits. I couldn’t eat or sleep. My hair was falling out from stress and I honestly felt like I might have been going crazy.

I remember once I had been driving around all night. I don’t know where I was going but being alone in the house, with nothing but my own thoughts, was too much for me. I wanted to see him and him to see me. I called him. He didn’t answer so I called him I’m estimating 24 more times until he finally picked up. I was on the phone crying and begging. He got angry, called me crazy and then said something totally contradictory. He said, “Isn’t it obvious that I really like you too?” No, it was not obvious. What was obvious was that you didn’t know what you wanted. Or you did but were too scared to do it. But I was caught up and stuck around for longer than I should, thinking that I could help him make up his mind. After a while, my love for him, and his continued rejection of me, turned into resentment. And only then did I learn to let go and move on.

I’d seen him recently. I was walking my dog down the street when he pulled beside me in his truck. He began small talking me, inquiring about what I’d been up too. I kept my answers short, all the while Boyz 2 Men’s “Doin’ Just Fine was playing on repeat on my internal record player. Defeated and almost apologetically, he said, “I just wanted to see how you were doing and tell you that you really look nice. I miss you.” Heavy sigh.  I never once doubted that in his own twisted, perverted way, he cared for me. Truth is we both were crazy as hell and neither of us were truly ready for anything. But that’s what happens when you catch feelings.

There are many more songs which I could offer tributes up to both happy and less than happy moments in my life. In fact, I’m sure of it that most of you have a few songs that remind you of that special, or not so special, someone in your life. Truth of the matter is that each experience has a sacred song, and every instant in time has a tune. We are just living breathing soundtracks, waiting for an harmoniously voice and melody to start, “strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words…”

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