ILLUSTRATION BY JEN/ WORDS BY LAURA JANE
I posted the first installment of my ongoing 10 Bob Dylan songs proj back in August; this round was supposed to include the other 5, but instead I got stuck on Queen Jane Approximately. 6 down 4 to go!
On a Monday afternoon in the middle of high summer, my boyfriend came over to my apartment for the first time. He sent me the text “I’m here,” and I opened my front door expecting to see him on my porch but I couldn’t see him. I was afraid that he wasn’t there and it was all a mean prank. I looked around, and found him out on the sidewalk, leaning against a lamp-post, or maybe fire hydrant, in front of the house next door. He was wearing shorts.
I waved to him. We kissed hello. The day was quiet, and it was awkward, but it was sweet that it was awkward and I knew that when I was remembering it I’d remember it as being sweet. We were still unsure of how best to show one another that we cared. I led him up to my bedroom and I wanted to show him every single thing I owned. I wanted to explain to him the story of how I came to own all of it, and in intense detail, at that. I’d told him some of the stories in my head already, but in real life I couldn’t make them interesting, or even stories. I picked up an 8-track of All Things Must Pass and said, “This is an 8-track of All Things Must Pass.”
I led him to my kitchen. “This is my couch-nook,” I said, and pointed to my couch-nook. In my head I’d imagined myself telling him all these snazzy one-liners about how “It’s always 1972 in my couch-nook,” and/or “Nothing says ‘I’m a chill person’ like putting a couch in your kitchen,” but instead I just kind of mumbled “I think it looks really seventies,” and then I put on the first Syd Barrett record, which was dusty. All the dust from the record got caught on the needle and it sounded as scratchy and faraway as if it were broadcasting forward in time from a hundred years ago.
I felt like I was the Syd Barrett record and my nerves were the dust on the needle. I delivered a small and shaky monologue that was mostly just facts about Syd Barrett’s life. I stupidly asked my boyfriend, “You know the band Pink Floyd?”
He said, “Yes,” and we laughed. He wasn’t my boyfriend yet, just a guy I wanted to be in a relationship with who “didn’t really want to be in a relationship right now.” Side A of The Madcap Laughs finished and I couldn’t be bothered to flip or switch it. We kissed in silence. That afternoon was the hottest last summer got, and he kissed me so hard it got my hair wet. My hair was literally soaking wet, from a tiny bit spit but 98% sweat, and my body was covered in little shrapnels of dry grey skin, little eraser crumbs. My mascara got rubbed off my eyes and was now somewhere, nowhere. I asked him, “Do you think I’m pretty?”- I can't help myself, I really can't- and he said “Very, very pretty”- almost gravely.
Every time ten minutes passed I felt like puking. It was a quarter to three and I had to work at four. I opened my eyes as wide as they’ll go and said, “I’m willing to be ten minutes late!”
I felt like a very professional lady: he was shy at the beginning, and we needed a bracket of time for him to come visit that wasn’t the night. And this had been my only available opening: Monday, 1:45 PM. And I could tell when I told it to him, the way he smiled, that he liked it about me, what a square I am. One forty five.
We stood in front of a mirror and laughed at my hair. It had turned into one giant dreadlock. I asked him, “Can you believe hair does this?” and made the dreadlock stand on its end. He laughed so hard- he has one of those whole-souled laughs that makes you feel like you’re much funnier than you are. I scooped the whole dreadlock into a hair-tie and twisted it into a knot. I colored the insides of my eyelids with a black crayon.
“Eyeliner is a good trick,” I told him, “It tricks people into thinking you put more effort into your appearance than you actually did.”
I was wearing my Low End Theory t-shirt, which I cut up with scissors.
“You’re wearing that to work?” he asked.
Yes, I'd been planning on it, but “No,” I said, and grabbed a plain black v-neck t-shirt out of my closet. I found a big fat gold necklace and shoved them both into my bag. My boyfriend walked me to the subway and we kissed goodbye. The insides of our mouths were as hot as the weather.
I memorized the taste of his spit and tongue that day. It became a thing I was able to think about, a sense-memory I could call to mind if I was bored. I still do it, all the time. Stand around, space out, conjure up the taste of his mouth. Every time I kiss him I just fall into it. I get so sad when I realize I can’t smell him on my skin.
At work I changed into the t-shirt and necklace. I rolled up the sleeves of my t-shirt to make it a tank top; it looked liked a blouse. I wore black lace shorts and the strappy black clogs I wore to work every day of the summer.
I wore them until they broke. One shoe literally cracked in half.
I felt like I smelled like 98% sweat and 2% spit. I felt filthy and spacey. My busser and server showed up. They were both girls. “You look so good!” they enthused. I laughed, and looked in a mirror- it was strange, I’d never seen myself look like that before. I looked like a long and severe person who’d been sweatily making out for hours before work but didn’t look like I’d been sweatily making out for hours before work. I looked like I’d only ever drunk Prosecco and Perrier and had only ever eaten eggs that were either poached or hard-boiled. I looked like my father was the CFO of Citroen and my mother was the concept of a beach.
I spent the night racking up more twenty percent tips than I knew was possible.
“Is it because I look sexy?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Emily.
“When you look chill, people are more chill with their tips,” said Matt, which I thought was so funny, so easy and funny that I told him, “It seems like you’re in a really good place right now,” which might have seemed condescending if I’d told it to him as regular Laura, but I was something different that day.
The next day, a Tuesday, I was nothing if not a memory of his “Very, very pretty.” As I walked down the street, I felt like strangers could hear it, even see it: there’s a woman somebody told was pretty yesterday, and then there’s a woman a somebody told was “very, very pretty” yesterday- it’s a palpable difference. I was wearing a black shift dress, plain gold bracelet, my strappy black clogs, underwear, a bra, a slouchy red purse, mascara, and nothing else. It was the sexiest and most boring outfit I’d ever worn. But it was me! From that moment on I’d be black and red and gold forever.
I hadn’t been able to explain any of my possessions to him but the second we stepped out my front door I told him to look up at the canopy of green trees draped over my street and he looked up at them and then back at me and I knew he knew how beautiful they were, and I hoped so hard that we’d walk under the same leaves when they were orange and dying.
That week I was mostly just listening to Highway 61, over and over again. I like the song From A Buick 6 a lot, but I hate Ballad of a Thin Man. I hate it so much. I hate it when it shows up in Yer Blues, and I hate it as itself. So I skipped over it, and Queen Jane Approximately played.
I’d been listening to Queen Jane Approximately a couple days earlier, and I was thinking it’d make a really good First Song In A Movie, but only in the kind of movie where the movie starts out with a scene, and then the scene ends abruptly, and then you get the song and the opening credits. And that’s what happened to me: I don’t know which musicless scene my movie would have opened with, if it would have been my boyfriend in my bedroom or my eyeliner at work or whatever I might have done that morning, or it might have just been me getting ready and packing up my things into my bag for work, closing the front door behind me and walking out onto the street. But I knew as soon as that song started playing that it was the opening credits of a new part of my life, that I was living them as I was walking them, and that once the song was over I’d never get that feeling back.
And that was me, and now I’m still me, living in the movie. Four and a quarter months ago I walked through the opening credits, under those trees, and now I’m just wandering around somewhere inside of it. Right now, I’m probably a part of a montage: Protagonist, in green American Apparel running shorts and a Rolling Stones t-shirt, drinks a glass of Cava cut with Campari while writing about Bob Dylan having recently eaten Thai food. Tomorrow morning she’ll wake up and go to work and solve some problems. Yesterday she bought a jacket, a black trench from Club Monaco; it was three hundred bones and when I looked at the price I thought “Oh, what a good price!” because my job is good and my perspective’s changed and I’m a baller. I bought it and Queen Jane Approximately played in the background, as it does every time a career-oriented woman invests in a new item of clothing or apartment or piece of technology or man or dog. Or opens up a new line of credit, and especially when she buys a bottle of Dior Hypnotiq Poison and decides “Fuck it. I’m just gonna smell like that,” like cherry magic markers, like some sinister, rusted-over version of a pre-teen. The song starts off by talking about your mom being a bitch to you, your sister and father talking about what your life is like while you’re off living it, and The Flower Ladies, who “want back what they have lent you,” are obvious bitches and they’re wearing white, they’re wearing florals, paisleys, light blue, and you’re just like, “Yup, this is true. This is what my life is like. I’m an adult female,” grey as the city, grey as a city.