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Worldwide Ace » Foreign Exchange – Part I

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Foreign Exchange – Part I

5 February, 2009 (22:49) | Unlucky 13, Women

Image by CloudDust.

“Music was invented to confirm human loneliness.”
-Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

The above is a quote from Lawrence Durrell. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything else by him. I’m not even sure who he is or was. That wouldn’t be quite so embarrassing if it weren’t the quote situated next to my picture in my senior yearbook.

“Let’s do it again,” Alf said. His name was really Aaron, but given his big nose and stocky build, it was an apt nickname that he had taken to. “I really like that one.”

“Yeah, it’s good,” agreed [Nick].

SIDE NOTE: I pride myself on having an impeccable memory. I love the little details and minutiae of events and experiences. Despite this, I seem to lose bits no matter how hard I try. Though I remember the famous falling out I eventually had with the hub of my first serious failure of a college band, his name has completely slipped from my mind. For the remainder of this tale (or until I remember and go back and edit it), we shall call him Nick.

“Thanks,” I replied.

The song, which was still untitled, was far too reminiscent of Dispatch’s “The General” for me to be truly happy with it, but it was easy enough to play, and given Nick’s lack of talent on the guitar, that was a necessity. Plus, the lyrics had been inspired by Nick’s on again and off again relationship with this total bitch of a girl.

“Start us off, Alf,” announced Nick.

As we played through the song for the third time that night, a crowd began to form. Alf was a great pianist. He was no Ben Folds, but he was good enough to get applause. It certainly helped that there just happened to be a piano in the lobby of the Sterns West dormitory.

Despite having played in bands through high school, I still suffered from incredible stage fright. While we played, I would stare at my fingers not because I didn’t know where I was putting them, but so I wouldn’t notice the crowd. When I got really into the music, I would just close my eyes.

We hit the bridge and I heard a whistle from the audience. My eyes snapped open and I found them focused on a slender brunette with long straight hair and icy blue eyes. She smiled dreamily from the elevator door.

“C’mon, Ben!” Nick yelled. I had stopped playing without even realizing, watching the doors close with her behind them. A couple of the people massed around us were snickering and people were wandering off. “Dammit! They were digging it.”

I caught up into the song and we finished strong, but I was done for the night. I simply couldn’t quite focus again after my mental lapse.

I don’t believe in true love or soul mates, let alone love at first sight. That instant pang is certainly attraction and very likely lust, but love is deeper than that. Love requires knowing someone truly and accepting even the darkest corners of their being. Love is unconditional while lust and attraction are conditional, only there while supplies last. That striking girl was the closest I’ve come to that instantaneous love at first sight myth. Her image felt burned onto the back of my eyelids.

My freshman year, I was stuck on the seventh floor of Sterns East. Alf was in Darley South and Nick was in Stern West. Between us, we covered three quarters of the Williams Village towers at CU.

Because it was so far from campus and the hill, Williams Village bred its own little community. Dorm rooms hosted parties instead of frat houses and people treated each other like family, which was more than you could say for the on-campus dorms.

I was hoping we would be ready to play live by the night of Nick’s party, but we were far from ready. I was probably naive to think we’d ever be, being such a ragtag collection of talent. But the party went off none-the-less.

I was sipping on a beer, chatting with a few random people, telling jokes and trying my damnedest to be the life of a party that was never destined to revolve around me when I felt a tap at my shoulder. I stopped mid-sentence and turned around.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Anika.” Her azure gaze met mine and ended any charade I was in the midst of perpetrating. “You were one of the guys playing downstairs, right? The bass player.”

“Yeah. I’m Ben.” I’m sure the people listening to my joke were pissed that I disappeared into the kitchen of the suite to grab her a beer without ever delivering a punchline, but by the time I returned and we had retreated to Nick’s bedroom to chat in quiet, everyone was busy laughing and chatting without me.

musicloveWhen I arrived at college, I felt certain of only two things: that there were a lot of stupid people who aren’t deserving of a college education I would be forced to interact with, and that I would meet the woman I would marry and music would play an important part in that.

It was amazing how much we had in common. We both had been to Switzerland and loved it, me with my family and her as an exchange student. We both loved Cake and the Cardigans and had a soft spot for European-style dance music like Jamiroquai. We both loved gummy bears.

Ok, fine, I didn’t really care for gummy bears. But I enjoyed them enough that I agreed for that more point of compatibility it offered me. If I had been completely honest, we didn’t have that much in common outside of our love of music. To me, that was enough of a spark to start with.

For over an hour, we sat there talking until Nick walked in and asked us to leave. He grabbed his guitar and began serenading another girl as I closed the door behind me. I saw Nick’s kind-of-ex seething in the crowd, staring at the door. As soon as Anika smiled at me, I completely forgot them.

“I should probably get to bed. I have to run in the morning,” Anika said to me.

“Oh, that’s cool,” I replied.

“Why don’t you swing by with a CD of some of those bands you mentioned. We can trade music.”

“Sure. I’d like that.” My heart fluttered at the prospect.

“I live one floor down from Nick. Catch you around.” She smiled as she disappeared into the hallway. I was already planning out what tracks to burn as the door clicked shut and I was swept back into the party.

In high school, I truly believed that any time I felt any kind of emotional pain or anguish, it came out as music. I wrote a song about my mom’s alcoholism and another about a girl who I felt betrayed me (though that wasn’t really the case at all). At every turn, my anguish and angst came flowing out in my poorly executed music. That’s why I chose my senior quote the way I did.

Little did I realize that as much as music exists “to confirm human loneliness,” as Durrell said, it also exists to confirm human connection. And though I didn’t run off and write a love song to my latest crush, for the first time in my life, I felt I could.

Music is only love looking for words.”
– Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

To Be Continued in
Foreign Exchange – Part II
Foreign Exchange – Part III
Foreign Exchange – Part IV,
and Foreign Exchange – Part V.