Ryan Adams has been quintessential to me. His music has helped me through some of the roughest times of my life, and it’s accompanied me through some of the happiest times, too. And, his songs have been both muse and catalyst to my own writing. I have spent the better part of a year trying to make peace with the stories about him, and with what his music has meant to me. I don’t have any good answers. None.
It shouldn’t have hurt me the way it did – what he did – but it hurt. It hurt deep and hard and bad, even though the things said and done was not said or done about me. I know its an unhealthy kind of attachment having an artist mean so much, and that their personal life is just that. Personal. I know that if we removed every piece of art and artist, much less scientific invention, due to bad behavior and wrongdoings, well, we’d have a lot less of all of it. I know, too, that as a woman – a woman who has suffered sexual abuse, rape, trauma, and harassment – these kinds of actions feel unforgivable.
And I know I’m not ready to forgive, even if I wasn’t directly hurt (though it did hurt). But, what about the music?
Today is the first day I’ve listened – in full – to any of his music since it happened. It was accidental. “La Cienega Just Smiled” came on. It was on a playlist I was revisiting. Hell, he’s on so many playlists. Nearly every one of them since I first discovered his songs. It was bound to happen. And when it happened I started writing. I couldn’t help myself. The song – my second favorite of his – unlocked a memory that I had to write down.
“La Cienega Just Smiled” by Ryan Adams
from the album, Gold (2001)
So it got me thinking on all of it – again. What about the music?
I can’t erase what the music has meant. I don’t think I’d want to, even if I could. It would be like erasing parts of me. So, for right now, I’m putting a dividing line between the music and the man. I don’t know how long it will last. That wall. Maybe forever. Or maybe this time next week, next month, next year, I’ll go back to not being able to separate it all. I’ll go back to not being able to listen at all.
I don’t know.
All I know for sure is sometimes I still need to hear the music. Sometimes I need to hear that part of me that the music brings out. And today, albeit accidental, I needed to hear this song.
Back of my mind (I hold you close)
Sometimes I picture us meeting for a coffee,
corner of La Cienega,
at that coffee place that’s probably not there,
We’d sit across from each other,
recalling first days,
what it once meant.
“Is it too late?”,
as you grabbed hold of my hand.
For a moment I’d imagine we were different.
Not the stuff of now,
tethered to time,
You’d draw us a map of the city,
full of intersecting streets,
Each one a different place to hide.
That last one on the left,
with the burned-out street light that blinks sporadically,
every other night.
That’s where we’d meet.
That’s where I’d say:
“it’s never too late.”
Some nights I still cry at the thought of you.
Other nights I feel lucky we crossed paths at all.
Some days I wish I’d blink,
and you’d be here,
smiling crookedly as I turn to go,
“I’ll see you around”.
Like you mean it.
Like it meant anything,