What came first, the music or the misery?
– Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
About the Mixtape project
Mixtape #1: Interpol, “NYC”
Mixtape #2: Violent Femmes, “Kiss Off”
Mixtape #3: Cyndi Lauper, “All Through the Night”
Mixtape #4: Towa Tei, “Technova
Mixtape #5: Teresa Teng, “The Moon Represents My Heart”
Mixtape #6: David Bowie, “Soul Love”
Mixtape #7: Modest Mouse, “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright”
Mixtape #8: Elvis Costello, “Beyond Belief”
Mixtape #9: Mountain Brothers, “Paperchase”
Mixtape #10: Don Gibson, “Born to Lose”
Mixtape #11: TV on the Radio, “Staring at the Sun”
Mixtape #12: ABBA, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”
Mixtape #13: Morphine, “Cure for Pain”
Mixtape #14: Beethoven, “‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto, No. 5, Op. 73, Second Movement”
Mixtape #15: The Replacements, “Sixteen Blue”
Pigeons, on a stranger’s rooftop in the Mission. I tiptoed around them with a girl I had just met. She whispered: “Did you ever have birds?”
Downstairs, the ex I was sleeping with, who was also sleeping with his other ex, who I’d met because my other ex had once slept with his other other ex, was passed out on the couch. He’d messaged me after I had gotten home from drinking with friends earlier, asking if I wanted to meet up. One day we were fighting and the next we were saying we missed each other. I wasn’t sure what we missed; it was like an addiction to junk food, or menthol cigarettes, something that made you ill, that didn’t even taste good. Maybe it was because we had gone through something significant together, that he, a near-stranger at the time, had been the one to see me break down while watching the World Trade Center collapse on the news while we were coming down off E. I hadn’t been able to get through to my father, who worked there, until six hours later.
Months later, we still couldn’t fully let each other go. An hour ago, when I was talking to another guy in the kitchen, he’d texted me six times in ten minutes to see where I was. It felt gratifying to turn him away, to have him be the desperate one.
Up on the rooftop my new friend and I smoked in the drizzle. We crouched down by the pigeons. “Whose do these belong to?” I asked. She said the name of someone I didn’t know, said something about training them. I told her about the birds I’d had as a kid, parakeets named Freddy and Bud and Max. They flew around our house, even stood on my shoulder. I remembered their sharp bird toenails poking into my skin. I pictured that house across the country and wondered what I was doing here, so far away.
It was raining in earnest now. Back downstairs the TV was on, a kid’s show, with an animated frog yelling, “vol-CA-no!” in a child’s voice. On the couch everyone had passed out. The animated frog’s shouts alternated with my ex’s snores.
It was 7:30 on a Sunday morning. I splurged on a cab ride back to my sublet, and the driver monologued about a guy he knew who got busted and another one who had died. I looked out the window at South Van Ness. The pigeons would fly over the wet rooftops, over the city, but they would always return home.