Even now, I spend half my time sugarcoating — or at least, working hard to keep the darkest parts of my experience and self just far enough beneath the surface of my writing that they don’t frighten anybody away. As someone with a deeply unhealthy share of violence in my life, I admire art which holds its wounds close, which refuses to hand over its darkness. Which can also just be a beautiful story. A good one. The first forty times I heard “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon, I didn’t realize there was any darkness at all, and that made me love it even more.
Then the realization started. As small and simple as the lyrics, the ache in my chest which blossomed chanting, screaming along on the five, weaving between sun-stained evergreens in my violently purple Volkswagen Jetta:
I won’t lose it I won’t lose it I won’t lose it I won’t lose it I won’t lose it
Hold it steady hold it steady hold it steady hold it steady hold it steady
I was facing what felt impossible: settling into a new home, new state, new self after college. Twenty-three years old and already two men with clenched fists in the rearview. The ridiculous paradox of still being in love with someone who once made me fear for my life. The reconciliation of intimate detail, beauty, and loss, wondering which memories, which present-day experiences, were real, and which were the product of gaslighting and post-traumatic stress.
When I come home, when I come home, oh, I hear you washing in the shower
Mirages of you, mirages of you, even steam pouring through the crack at the floor
That unspoken: I miss _______.
Person after person kept calling me strong. And people love to tell you that when you’ve been through something they can’t fathom, something they don’t want to talk about: you’re not only strong but brave. A survivor. Invincible. When all I wanted was to name the implicit contradiction, I was simultaneously desperate to embody the praise. I wanted to believe myself as tough as I kept being told I was, because if I could do that, be a superhero, a survivor, maybe I wouldn’t lose it. Maybe I could hold steady long enough to actually heal. I’d find myself taking the longest-possible way home, singing:
I CAN LIFT A CAR! I CAN LIFT A CAR! I CAN LIFT A CAR! UP! ALL BY MYSELF!
I can live through the thing.
I can life a car UP! I can lift a car UP!
Because of course I can. Like the narrator of this song which hides its wounds but bleeds and bleeds and bleeds if given the chance.
I felt like I could lift a car, too, because I could fill my hurt body with sound, blast that song till my speakers fuzzed out, scream. Remember my deep, desperate sadness. My fear. My weak. My confused. My, still, love.
In my infinite, total, unstoppable badass. I lived.
About the author: Olive Andrews is from Ottawa, ON and is a Creative Writing undergrad at Concordia University. They are the 2018 winner of the Gabriel Safdie award in poetry. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Plasma Dolphin, The Veg, Metatron #Micrometa, Dreamers Creative Writing, PRISM international, and more. They live in Montreal, QC.
Gunpowder and Sky (after Aimee Mann) by E. Kristin Anderson
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About the author: E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas. A Connecticut College alumna with a B.A. in classical studies, Kristin’s work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Texas Review, The Pinch, Barrelhouse Online, Puerto del Sol, and FreezeRay Poetry. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press) and is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray Pray Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time she worked the night shift at The New Yorker. Find her online at EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter at @ek_anderson.
There’s this backbone throughout the series “Killing Eve” that holds dark plot lines and risky, love-hate relationships together. It’s chilling. Surprisingly, it’s not childlike, sociopathic Villanelle. It’s not Eve, who desperately seeks to understand a killer but is allured by how Villanelle carries herself. The song, “Xpectations,” by Unloved is a major feature of the overall show. It acts as the soundtrack’s spine: alluded to from season to season.
I watched “Killing Eve” twice. The first time I enjoyed playful, surprising scenarios. The music tempted me. It was as entrancing as the scenes; slipping around corners, flirting, leading into secret spaces, making decisions under the influence of infatuation. I decided to watch the series again to pay attention to the seductive tunes. “Xpectations” is the song we encounter in the first scene of the show that introduces us to Villanelle, her unconventional style and lack of empathy. “Xpectations” appears in end credits, but parts of the song reappear to remind us it is always there: every other song a derivation of it.
The lingering mood in “Xpectations” connects to the 1960s French/international pop and similar dreamy music played (it’s not shocking that a Cigarettes After Sex song shows up). These songs were made for those with bedroom eyes who fall into rabbit holes of intrigue like Eve. More songs by Unloved play across episodes and act as a musical score. Viewers find familiarity in those tracks courtesy of “Xpectations.” Listening to each song is like hearing a whisper and turning around to find a cool breath of air.
“Killing Eve” isn’t for everyone, is violent, and the interplay between Eve and Villanelle can be confusing. “Xpectations” reflects this idea beautifully as it exemplifies things we say when we try to convince ourselves we are not backing down or giving in…
I’ll never give into your… your reflection…
Stop, where you are. I’m yours to love. I’m yours to hate. Isn’t that one and the same…
But then we dare to do the opposite — momentarily become spineless.
If I Buy Her Candy, Will She Know Who I Am? by Harmony Cox
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About the author: Harmony Cox is a Midwestern essayist, humorist, and storyteller. She writes about intersections between feminism, pop culture, and personal experience. Her work has appeared in Narratively, Longreads, McSweeneys, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. Her writing has been selected for Narratively’s Top Ten of 2018, Story Club’s Story of the Month, and other honors. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and is a frequent featured performer at local open mics and literary events. She loves dogs, coffee, and writing things for you- yes, especially you.
Last weekend, one of my good friends and co-workers was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was an avid rider, and he spent a lot of weekends on large group trips with riders who had his same bike. The day before, at lunch, he had told me he’d be riding through my hometown on this ride, which would start in Long Beach and end in Riverside, where I grew up. When he mentioned riding through the Ortegas, I commented on their reputation for being dangerous. But I never thought that those winding roads would take my friend, and I still can’t believe that this would be one of our final conversations.
I’m having a hard time coming to grips with this tragic loss. It still doesn’t feel real.
Freeman was one of those rare people that I instantly clicked with. As you might have guessed from his passion for motorcycles, he had an adventurous spirit. But you probably wouldn’t guess it from his typical day-to-day demeanor, which was as chill and as laid back as a person could be. He was also undeniably and effortlessly cool. His impeccable style was evident in everything from his wardrobe, to his car, to his home decor, which I only caught glimpses of via his Instagram stories. Freeman was easy to talk to, commiserate with, and joke with. He made every gathering more fun, and I always enjoyed being around him.
He was an incredibly talented front end software engineer, and he had just been promoted to a senior position the week prior. For the majority of the time I knew him, Freeman was single, but he had just started a relationship with a woman he met in China, the country of his birth, at the beginning of 2020. He was so excited about their future together, and was already excitedly sharing his plans for getting her over to the U.S.
Freeman and I, along with another colleague, made nearly daily trips to the Starbucks up the street from our office. He’d order a double espresso, with a hearty splash of almond milk. Freeman was a fellow music lover, and had even owned a record store where he hosted warehouse parties a few years prior to my meeting him. He loved lo-fi house music and soft rock, and I’m so grateful I can still listen to his carefully curated playlists on Spotify. A couple of his favorite songs were “Lady in Red” and the slowed down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, but his go-to karaoke tracks were “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” and “My Heart Will Go On.” We sang that last one together almost a year ago at a karaoke party I hosted, and I’ll treasure that video forever.
It is heartbreaking to know that Freeman would have gone on to do so many more amazing things if his life hadn’t been cut short by this tragic accident, but I do take solace in knowing that, while he was here, he lived with passion and intention. He did what he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it, and he made so many lives — including mine — richer while he was here.
I didn’t get to say goodbye on this plane of existence, but I am grateful that I did get to give Freeman a goodbye hug in an incredibly vivid & beautiful dream I had exactly one week after he left us.
I’ll miss you, Freeman. I hope we get to catch up again one day.
I spent the latter half of the year in post-grad aimless misery of the Dustin-Hoffman-at-the-bottom-of-a-swimming-pool variety. Granted, with less actual swimming pools and more soul-crushing retail hours in my hometown. I found myself, not for the first time, severely failing to live up to my alleged “potential”.
And something’s got me down
What it is, I cannot tell
So, some part of my brain has resorted to placing as much distance as it can from the trapped disappointment that I feel myself becoming.
I won’t be satisfied with anything I’ve earned
It’s my 23rd birthday. All I can think to do is see some random bands play downtown. When the day comes, I’m feeling strange and far away. My sister hands me a Jack and Coke and a handful of kids with X’s on their hands glance at me with slight envy. Jesus, was everyone at these shows always so young? Well, it wasn’t so long ago when I would go to classes with those X’s on my own hands and feel a bit of silly pride. So yeah, they were.
The front man is saying something, but I miss it. We had great spots before but lost them our journey to the bar. I wrinkle my nose at my drink. It isn’t even strong but the bitterness in nearly unbearable. I glance at the cute guy with the hair and the accent I had seen earlier. He’s practically nose-to-nose with some tiny thing. Her marked hand rests on his shoulder. Great.
Fear is just a part of love
The guitar picks up and the thump of the drums nearly brings me back to myself. My roommate takes my arm with a sudden revelation. “I know this song!” she calls over the crowd. I realize that — inexplicably — I do too. As I belt out the lyrics with my roommate, my sister, and her boyfriend I feel my hovering ghost connect back to me. Maybe I will float away again, honestly I am certain I will. This isn’t easy. But today I am here, with people who care about me and good music.
The first single from Local Natives’ 2019 record, Violet Street, opens with two urgent and dueling sounds: soft piano chords juxtaposed with a tight and rugged baseline. This balance of nervous energies catapults the listener into the theme of “When Am I Gonna Lose You.”
“Wait, when am I gonna lose you?
How will I let you slip through?
Careless or unkind?”
In a Consequence Of Sound Track by Track feature, guitarist, Ryan Hahn, speaks of how this track isn’t about a relationship near its ending, but rather the anxieties one might have about losing a relationship that is amazing and fulfilling. Inspired by a trip that lead singer, Taylor Rice, took with his then girlfriend to Big Sur (they’re now happily married), the driving beat of this song and the airy harmonies Local Natives brings us in their vocals gives the listener a feel for what it must be like to drive the California coast with someone you love and are afraid to lose.
As someone who is recently married and also suffers from terrible anxiety, “When Am I Gonna Lose You” is a beautiful track that expertly pinpoints tip-toeing the line between utter devotion and crippling fear. The things we love most are what can hurt us the greatest when they are lost. This overbearing desire is displayed perfectly in the bridge of this track, both by melody and by lyric.
“I remember you closing the shutters
And laying down by my side
And the light that was still slipping through
It was painting your body in stripes
I remember the trees tumbling down
Like an archangel choir
And the ocean was all we could see
And I knew that I wanted you”
What hits most beautifully about this bridge is that when we first enter it, the instruments and vocals are subdued but the bass can still be heard clear in the background, pulling us from one line to the next. In the finale of the first repetition, the string is cut and on the second repetition, the ‘archangel choir’ explodes and opens up the entire song.
Local Natives have always been an expert at layers and levels — vocally, lyrically, instrumentally — and “When Am I Gonna Lose You” is no exception to this standard. If you are looking for a song to pull you to tell the person you love that you love them, this is a track that will haunt you towards it again and again.
i haven’t seen endgame yet, but i’ve already read what happens at the end by Matt Mitchell
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About the author: Matt Mitchell is a writer from Ohio. His work appears in, or is forthcoming to, publications like BARNHOUSE, Gordon Square Review, Frontier Poetry, Homology Lit, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others. He’d love to talk to you about 1980s pop.