Part IV: Or rather, "Part III Was Too Freakin’ Long, So I Split It In Half."

Nine Inch Nails’ “We’re In This Together Now” + My Husband


(Below is a rare live performance video – of an extremely low shot quality – of the song. If you’re a NIN fan, you know that this is unusual. Trent Reznor doesn’t perform this one live very often, probably because it’s vocally pretty challenging to do live, and his live shows are already pretty much the physical equivalent of the Crossfit Games.)
Oh, this song. This song. I always say that if people really wanted to pick an appropriate first dance for their wedding receptions, they’d either take turns slapping each other to this song, or they’d do some really dramatic, YouTube-ready choreographed thing to U2’s “With or Without You,” cause let me tell you one thing: The wedding is not the end of the movie. The wedding is the beginning of the war. If we really wanted to save peoples’ bank accounts from being raped and pillaged by some wedding planner, we’d just go ahead and tell newly engaged couples like it REALLY is: “Buy a flipping helmet and stock up on alcohol.”

For Jonathan and I, especially after the last few months, this song rings truer than ever. I remember hearing this song for the first time well over a decade ago and thinking “Wow, that’s a heavy kind of love.” I remember well-intended words of advice from some women close to me – in my mind, ill-advised instruction to surrender – that if I didn’t shape up and stop being so difficult, no man would ever want to marry me. And then hearing this song and thinking “F that…I’m not going to go easier on some guy because he doesn’t have the balls to deal with me. I’m going to test the hell out of every man who comes into my life, so that when it’s all said and done, I have only the strongest one, or none at all.”

So I guess in a weird, roundabout sort of way, that means I didn’t settle? I definitely tried out some really bad fits in terms of guys in my life. When I met Jonathan, I was more jaded than ever when it came to love and the pursuit of it (totally not special or unusual at all, since I’m fairly certain most women in their early 20s have learned by then that dating is like playing first-generation “Duck Hunt” using a wooden kitchen spoon). So jaded in fact that I played the part of the nice girl on the first date, knowing full-well that within the week, he’d discover that I cussed like a sailor, listened to metal, and had some serious, deep wounds from the guys that came before. But he didn’t flinch. Even now that we’ve been through bigger challenges than we ever imagined possible, he still maintains that this song perfectly captures us. Because Reznor’s lyrics here capture what the reality of life does to love. Taylor Swift has a song where she says “Life makes love look hard.” Well, duh, T-Swift…you don’t even know yet, honey. This song is about two people who realize that it really is them against the world, and that there are invaders ready to pounce at any moment. They get in your head, your heart, and they try to pick you apart. This song details two people – lovers, friends, both, who knows? – who have realized that they’ve lost the innocence in their own relationship.

I remember the time that I told Jonathan, sitting in a booth at a Mexican restaurant several years ago, that I wanted a divorce. I didn’t mean it, and we were both angry and saying things we didn’t mean, and it was just the thing that came out. And I know somewhere, some self-righteous person is reading this and saying “Well, I would NEVER say that to MY husband/wife…”

Well, yaknowwhat, Self Righteous Reader? I guess it’s a good thing this blog isn’t about you, then!

Note: I will be doing at least one entire installment of this Musical Autobiography series on Nine Inch Nails, so if you know me at all and are surprised at how brief I’m keeping the NIN mentions, don’t be disappointed. It is coming.

Anyways, back to Reznor’s screeching declaration of devotion, “We’re In This Together.” Read through the lyrics in their entirety:

I’ve become impossible
holding on to when
when everything seemed to matter more
the two of us
all used and beaten up
watching fate as it flows down the path we
have chose

you and me
we’re in this together now
none of them can stop us now
we will make it through somehow
you and me
if the world should break in two
until the very end of me
until the very end of you

awake to the sound as they peel apart the skin
they pick and they pull
trying to get their fingers in
well they’ve got to kill what we’ve found
well they’ve got to hate what they fear
well they’ve got to make it go away
well they’ve got to make it disappear

the farther I fall I’m beside you
as lost as I get I will find you
the deeper the wound I’m inside you
for ever and ever I’m a part of

you and me
we’re in this together now
none of them can stop us now
we will make it through somehow
you and me
if the world should break in two
until the very end of me
until the very end of you

all that we were is gone we have to hold on
when all our hope is gone we have to hold on
all that we were is gone but we can hold on

you and me
we’re in this together now
none of them can stop us now
we will make it through somehow
you and me
even after everything
you’re the queen and I’m the king
nothing else means anything

This is not the song that Justin Bieber listens to when he gets his feelings hurt by bluuuuuh nobodyfingcares. This is so past all that. One of those types of things that the only way you really, truly grasp it is to have lived it. No, this is the song that a really stubborn, really driven man listens to when he is hopelessly in love with a hellacious woman like myself. This is the song of someone who has been sliced up by life, limbs thrown in so many different directions, only for each piece to crawl back to the only real love ever known and try to coalesce itself back into somewhat of a functioning human being. And this is why it’s pretty much “our song” (I know, that’s SUCH an uplifting thought). Because we’re the folks who fight in the driveway and then drive away with one finger sticking up out of the driver’s side door (all the way around the corner and aaaaaall the way down the road).

Note: We don’t do this in front of our toddler. Just the neighbors. I’m totally kidding (maybe).

Nope, we love hard, we fight hard, we throw things, we yell so loud it could break windows, and we’re still here. Is it dysfunctional? Yeah, I guess a little bit. But it’s our dysfunction. And we’re in it together.

Nick Drake’s “Place To Be” / “River Man” + The Lake House

I cheated a little bit. See, I actually have entire playlists devoted to this beautiful place. However, those playlists may or may not include “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffett, and let’s just be honest, there’s absolutely nothing profound about that song. You sing it, on the dock, with your dad and brother, after downing a double bacon cheeseburger from Tater Creek Grill (which has since burned down *sniffle* *tear*), with the Miller Lite (IN A CAN and you don’t freaking deviate from that), at sundown, because the fish are fickle and they f-ing like it that way – and that’s just the rules. Don’t question it.

But really, the lake house is about a lot more for me. You have to spend a weekend there alone in the wintertime to see this side of it. You have to watch the oak leaves fall, watch the gators disappear into the warmer burrows of the wildlife refuge, and drape the dock in Christmas lights for no reason other than your own enjoyment. In winter, I will set up on the end of the dock with pillows, blankets, my laptop, and a mug of hot coffee and just write to my heart’s content. You have to watch a line of black birds, seemingly miles long, file into the water’s surface, just in front of the house – for a few moments lending you the position of pastor to a congregation of another species entirely. The solitude fostered in these sights and experiences is worth just as much as (perhaps more than) the warmth of family and friends and summertime. I think especially as I learn more about the history of the lake itself and I learn more about my grandfather and his all-out obsession with fishing and being outdoors, it just takes on this whole other life. It represents a snapshot of history, I think. Fully 80% of my grandfather’s letters home during both World War II and the Korean War contained some mention of fishing Lake Marion and how much he missed it. He would seek out little fishing holes along his travels through Europe, complaining about how the trout just didn’t have the same dirty taste as Lake Marion catfish.

Nick Drake has this style that I just adore. It’s really a tragedy that he died so young and lived such a tortured life. My grandfather died young, too – and just about as suddenly as Drake, but not from self-inflicted causes like Drake. Dying young blows. I know some people find a certain romanticism in that kind of end, but you know what I’d like much better? My would-be 87-year old grandfather meeting my little boy and listening to his own son play one of these songs on the dock while we all fish together. I’d like that so much better.

In the case of “River Man,” this song inspired a collection of stories I’ve been working on (“Cormorant Line,” discussed here and here). Yes, I know a lake is not a river, but while we’re on the technicalities, Lake Marion was actually flooded into an existing river bed during its creation after the New Deal. And it is an exceptional feat of human engineering. I’m all about the cure for cancer, people living on Mars, and flying cars, but to me, that lake is one of our greatest creations – and it was fashioned from more sweat, blood, and determination than it was from sheer technology.

(I’m pretty sure I saw one of those birds take a poo midway through this video. Hilarious.)

In the case of “Place to Be,” I just find the song to be so warm and assuring. When I walk into that lake house, whether I am greeted by 15 precious faces of the ones I love the most, or simply by the warmth of the sun shining across the water, I feel home. That is my place to just be. The song “Place to Be” actually describes the darkening of a soul over the course of life, the loss of innocence and the responsibilities and pains that result from growing older and learning more about yourself and about people in general. Maybe that’s something I’ve always struggled with, but when I listen to the way Drake arranged all those notes and all those words, it just makes me thankful.

Probably weird, but I never claimed to be anything else, now did I?

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