The problematic thing about an international public health emergency that forces the closure of schools, restaurants, and social events, aside from the fact that I’ve been rotting away at home and can’t even find solace in the slim chance that I might be able to go to Glastonbury over the summer since both Glastonbury and London and my study abroad program are likely cancelled, is the fact that I can’t even listen to music in peace anymore. I’ve always found it interesting, the way we are conditioned to associate certain memories with music and how they evoke the same emotional and conscious response every time, but never have I found it so infuriating. So many songs in my Spotify library have such distinct moments written across them that it becomes impossible to listen to practically anything without wondering, with the utmost confusion, where did my freshman year go?
Lover dropped while I was digging holes to defecate in and hating my life in the Appalachian wilderness, so I did not get to hear the album first hand. But I did the moment I got my lovely T-Mobile 4G LTE network back, and on the bus from New Hampshire to Connecticut I heard it and fell asleep. The standout from the album, and what absolutely should have been the lead single, was Cruel Summer, a song that combines everything I loved from the likes of New Romantics and Getaway Car. Now, it reminds me of Camp Yale So. Damn. Much. When I listen to it I can hear my own yearning in those early college days, the hope for some exquisite chance encounter to befall upon me, the days in New Haven when it was warm enough for shorts — I can feel the breeze blowing by my legs. It makes me think of lying in the Silliman courtyard, walking down Wall Street for another info session, going to Starbucks to get a venti water and keeping the cup for the whole month because it had a straw, sitting in the common room of people whose world views you weren’t sure aligned with yours and yet, at that moment, you were just happy to be there. Cruel Summer is inclusion and strangeness, excitement and fear, hope and the aftermath when bubbles of hope are popped one by one.
Though written about wanting someone back, California is when sadness seeps through the semi-permeable membrane you’ve built to guard yourself. “You’re scared to win, scared to lose. I’ve heard the war was over if you really choose” reminds me of the light drizzles that occupied New Haven’s winter, and walking down Hillhouse in midst of the rain without an umbrella. The moments when nostalgia rushes to my head and says: California, In-N-Out, Sprouts, Brown Cow, Sharetea, they melted with academic burdens that seem like nothing in retrospect, but were suffocating at the time, in Lana’s slow murmuring.
I had been anticipating this release for more than a month, ever since hearing the 10 second clip in Cats promotion — a movie I was actually hoping to see but never did because I got scared after reading the reviews. Well, at least the song turned out to be great and made me cry that Friday at 1 A.M. In the coming weeks I blasted the song in the common room so many times that all my suite mates grew tired of it. Today it still gives me chills, especially the “I never knew I’d love this world they’ve let me into” moment, which makes me think of all the internship rejections I received, in addition to wondering about spending the summer in London, which is no longer happening so idk who I was kidding.
When I first discovered Heard It In A Past Life I thought I found a gem: Maggie Rogers’s debut was sensational and genuine. Now when I listen to it I see New York. I see the time we ate hot pot and got Boba Guys on the TD sponsored trip, and how we had to scuffle our way through the Times Square crowd to catch the bus. I see the Old Navy in Midtown, the Ding Tea, and the Shake Shack in Grand Central. I think of that one night in New York, when I was planning on staying at NYU until I learned about their stupid policy regarding overnight guests, at which point I decided I would take a 1-hour subway ride uptown at 1 A.M. and completely embarrass myself by entering my friend’s apartment complex, looking assured about where I’m headed because I did not want to interact with the lobby staff, and walking into a random elevator that, as it turns out, did not go to his floor. There was also no signal in the building, so I had to wander around the third floor for 30 minutes before I found another elevator. I woke up the next morning at 7, and sat down at a nearby Starbucks thinking: “Wow, this must be what college is like.”
Another time, after briefly stopping by the NYU Weinstein lounge where Chinese international students were playing mafia until 3 A.M., I walked to the 8th Street Station to get to JFK for my 8 A.M. flight. There was not a single soul in the station, so instead of waiting on the empty, eerie platform for the N train which never came, I dragged my suitcases up the stairs into the rain. It was cold. I was alone. My bags were drenched. But I enjoyed having the streets to myself — it felt regal, and I liked how the lights were blurred by downpour, then reflected by puddles, then shattered by droplets hitting the surface. Light On reminds me of the rain that night.
If the World Was Ending
I love the first line of the song “I was distracted and in traffic, I didn’t feel it when the earthquake happened” because I don’t feel earthquakes when I’m in cars, except for that one time when I did, after which I drove to Urban Outfitters and got boba. The song makes me think of staying at friends’ suite until late, watching them dance to Super Bass, eating McDonald’s and getting stomach cramps afterwards. Now, although my freshman year is in shambles, school is shut down, borders are closed, I still don’t want to forget anything that happened because it was one of those remarkable moments in time when everything felt exciting; and here’s a customary Taylor Swift quote: “We’re all really sad that this is ending, but we’re really happy because of what it was.”
With the death toll becoming more and more “just a number,” the hysterical shopping for toilet paper, the staying at home and not getting Chick-fil-A or tofu for months to come, I reckon it feels pretty much like the end of the world. But trust, though I might not be able to get out of my house arrest to stay the night, that it will be fine — corona is not down for forever anyway.