With Yuliya Monte
Yuliya Monte's second album, The Momentary Affair of St. Dare and Mme. Caution is what I'm listening to--I'm sitting on my fire escape on one of the hottest days of this summer so far. My cigarette was just lit and two drags into it, I give out one big sigh of relief, I guess I've been waiting to get here since I woke up this morning. Break Up with Me in Helvetica is the song currently playing and Yuliya's bluesy voice, thick like tree sap yet delicate like moth wings arrives at my favorite line, "I wouldn't feel so lonely if only you were my only." Her voice almost cracking, almost breaking open when she reaches the O in the first "only". I smile and my view of the South Bronx isn't too bad for the blush of sunset, and the far off reminder of Manhattan, raising buildings like volunteering arms announcing participation.
I left work early and got home late enough to miss Daphne, whose cigarette butt still warmly bowed into the living room ashtray. I couldn't stand to hear her voice today, Yuliya can tell me everything she can't, I wouldn't feel so lonely if only you were my only, that was all I was willing to listen to. If its wrong, won't you break your back right to show me 'cause I wouldn't feel so lonely if only you were my only...
I wonder about that line as I stare into the promise of evening, slowly swallowing the sky. Its Tuesday, so Daphne is at the gym and I have the place to myself for about a good three hours. The song ends, I push one button twice, it plays again. My phone is in the bedroom, just inside the window, it rings twice and then stops, a persistent red light blinks.
In my opinion, Yuliya could mean one of two things by this line. One: I wouldn't feel so lonely if only you were my only - I wouldn't be so alone if you were enough for me, if I could be satisfied with just you. Who knows what satisfaction is--I mean, maybe its just a word, an idea thats empty, endlessly empty but despite its abysmal nature retains definition. One that could be learned, recited, rehearsed, repeated, taught, placed in a sentence, coupled with adjectives and nouns, made subjects for thesis papers and themes for novels and scripts; it could be used in campaigns, on t-shirts, bumper stickers--Everyone can say it but no one can practice it, like immortality. Strange how the loneliest people are usually the ones surrounded. If only you were my only; but I have many "onlys" so many that among them all, I lost one person I couldn't do without--Needle in a haystack I guess. Yuliya Monte has written a song in which I could see an impression of that person.
Two: I wouldn't feel so lonely if only you were my only - I wouldn't feel so alone if you were the only failure I've experienced; if you were the only person who didn't want to be with me.
Which do I choose? The song ends, I press one button twice. I'm on my second cigarette, the view on the fire escape oversees a backyard, beyond the backyard, a cliff drops into the adjacent avenue. Cars pass, young kids walk and lights change; a summer day feels the first refreshment of breeze--I think of Daphne.
I'm almost finished with the fire escape and I feel like a shower. I reach through the window for my phone, but before I press one button to view my messages I stop and so does the song. I decide to listen one last time before heading in.