I wake up with a mild hangover from a night spent drinking away feelings. I roll out of bed and assemble an outfit from the clothes on the floor. I’m in my car within a few minutes. I have a lot to do, and it’s early.
I turn on my car, and The Weeknd yells from the speakers: Pussy so good, had to save that shit for later.
My hand lunges for the volume knob. Nope, no way. No sexy, if not slightly demeaning, rap song this morning.
I turn on your playlist.
I didn’t mean it, when I said I didn’t love you so, Mariah Carey sings. I should have held on tight, I never shoulda let you go. I was stupid, I was foolish, I was lying to myself.
This is what I sang to myself two years ago, the night after we kissed, as I laid in bed thinking about you.
My stomach churns.
I have someone new in my life. Ironically, every time this happens, thoughts of you overshadow thoughts of them.
As Mariah fades out, gentle piano music fills the car. I usually skip this song, but today I choose to cut the wound deeper, grab a handful of salt and rub vigorously. I take a deep breath.
I make it to the chorus, and it’s over. This song is encompassing. This song gets me. This song rips me open. I don’t even like John Legend.
The tears come slow at first, then with vengeance.
‘Cause all of me, that dickhead croons, loves all of you.
That’s it. I don’t know what it is about that line. But it’s a notion so complex in its simplicity: It perfectly expresses how I feel about you.
And he continues.
Love all your curves. Uh huh.
And all your edges. Yep.
All your perfect imperfections. Totally.
Fuck you, John Legend.
At this point I’m merging onto C-470. This is unsafe. I’m surely crying too hard to be operating a motor vehicle. I take another deep breath and fumble for tissues in the glove box.
OK, no more.
I skip to our song — or at least the song I have deemed “our song.” It’s the one that played in my head after we kissed. We kissed only that one time. But it only had to be that one time. You must be a damn good kisser, because you sent my world into upheaval. It’s been two years, and I’m sobbing on my morning commute thinking of you. It’s been two years of platonic friendship, with shared calls that fill me with butterflies and texts that I dream up subtext for. Two years of overanalyzing every interaction we had during those six months we spent together. Two years of pining for you, when you probably will never love me back — at least in the way I wish you would.
Tonight you’re mine. Completely.
You give your love so sweetly.
On our last night together, you sweetly kissed me after I asked you to. I’d like to think our friendship paused as our lips touched.
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes.
At least I felt like, just for a moment, we were more than friends.
But will you still love me in the morning?
I didn’t know. And frankly, two years later I still don’t know.
The following morning, we reminisced about the time we spent together and how many great memories we had. “We did it all. We even made out!” you said with a laugh. I breathed a sigh of relief in knowing I didn’t spoil our friendship. You told me I was a good kisser, and we moved on to talking about something else. We ate breakfast and then said goodbye.
It’s two years later, and I still haven’t confessed my feelings to you. I worry about how you’ll receive them, and that fear holds me back.
So, I go on wondering, Will you still love me in the morning?
Anytime I wonder, I turn on your playlist.
A new song floods the car.
Let me go, I don’t want to be your hero.
It’s a harsh sentiment. Especially so high up on this playlist. But it’s sung so soothingly, as the guitar is strummed so lightly.
I don’t wanna be a part of your parade.
It’s a soft reminder for me: Let this person go. Don’t put them on a pedestal they didn’t ask to be on.
I hit the stretch of road where U.S. 6 gives way to Highway 93. The houses become sparse and as the road starts to curve, rise and dip, Ben Gibbard steps up.
I always forget this is on this playlist. And then I’m always greeted with the fuzzy comfort when I hear the opening chords.
And when I see you, I really see upside down.
This song made me emotional before you. It’s what I would play on the days where I felt like staring out a rainy window.
After you, the lines took on a new meaning.
But my brain knows better. It picks you up and turns you around. Turns you around. Turns you around.
I didn’t know I had feelings for you before that night.
I’m reaching for the phone, To call at 7:03 and on your machine. I slur a plea for you to come home. But I know it’s too late.
If I had known better, I would have given you a reason to stay. But I didn’t know, so I didn’t give…
This is the sweet spot of your playlist.
Mary Lambert should be known as ipecac for feelings. Whether it’s a happy song or a sad song, I’m crying. Oh yeah, I’m still crying half an hour later. I haven’t stopped yet.
She keeps me warm, Mary sings.
I miss your warmth. I miss your smile. I miss your presence. I miss the way you looked at me. I miss the good times we had and the bad times we had. I miss the way you made me feel. All of me misses all of you…
If only this playlist could be filled with the music we actually listened to together. Multiple nights a week, we’d be in your kitchen making drinks, as Sia belted out something about a chandelier or Lil’ Jon yelled at us to turn down. For what? We didn’t know.
But this is the playlist you get.
I hit next.
I could make you happy, I could make you love me, I could disappear completely, I could be your love song.
There it is. I could be the love of your life. I could be all you needed. I could be your everything. You already feel like mine.
If John Legend’s song is the dagger in the gut, this song is the excruciating twist of the blade.
I drive by Rocky Flats. We go to press today. I haven’t finished my arts story. It’s 6:45 a.m., and the sun is nowhere to be seen. I have to spend the day editing the paper. I can’t be in this hole of sorrow.
“Snap out of it,” I tell myself.
I need Kathleen Hanna. I need girl power fem rock. Bikini Kill might be too raw for my emotional state, but maybe, just maybe, Le Tigre will help.
The dancey rock pop infuses the car’s bad juju with positive vibes, as Kathleen, JD and Johanna remind me: You gotta keep on, keep on livin’.
This is helping me regain my composure. Thoughts of you fade out, and the day-to-day realities fade in.
I wipe away the tears as I pull into my parking space.
One day, I hope I won’t need your playlist. But I’m sure we’ll pick up where we left off when I drive home.