More than 10 years ago I walked into a Club Monaco on the Upper East Side. Historically, I had avoided the neighborhood on principal, but after a resident in psychiatry at New York Presbyterian started seeing me several times a week it became familiar territory. Post session, I often needed to walk for a while before heading underground towards Brooklyn. My walks took me past Club Monaco and various other retail establishments I couldn’t afford. Often I would slip inside. I still wear half a dozen threadbare long sleeve waffle weaves I collected from an American Apparel during that time.
Therapy sucked. Dr. Petrini was asking a lot of hard questions. Good questions. Zeke still says Petrini saved my life. But I hated him. Both of them actually. I hated everyone. I hated the hard questions. I hated Petrini and had an extremely inappropriate crush on him simultaneously. An anger crush. I hated the crush. I seethed with hate. While Zeke and Petrini were prime targets, I bore the brunt of my hatred. I tried to walk off some of the rage. Or at least walk with some of the rage.
I would wander into stores that stocked clothing I could barely squeeze into. The monster dose of Zoloft I was on, higher than the recommended daily, caused me to balloon in size as it helped me gain control of my mind.
The sales racks were past the bank of registers in Club Monaco. The rear of the store, by the dressing rooms, was a fitting place for those of us who couldn’t pay full price, who actually couldn’t afford the sales price for the knock offs of knock offs either. A horrible military green was the color of the season. I filled my arms with drab extra larges and approached the sylph who manned the dressing rooms. She murmured encouragement as she unlocked a door for me. I struggled to heave the clothing, none of which I actually liked, over my girth.
It was a triumphant experience for me. It gave me permission to hate myself, and provided validation that I was a physically repulsive freak. I felt the eyes of the staff on me. Their pity and disgust was a hair shirt I was proud to endure. I loved feeling so worthless. I loved being right about myself.
Nothing fit. Another victory for self-hatred. I shuffled into my clothes and carefully restocked everything I tried on. Because damn it, no one would be able to say that the fat girl wasn’t conscientious.
As I made my way through the store and towards the street the piped in song suddenly chipped through my embarrassment and shame. Blackbird. I stopped. Swung into the raised section in the middle of the store filled with expensive winter coats and handbags. Aimlessly moved among them.
Yes, it was Blackbird, but an electronic cover. As a rule, I am not a fan of electronic music. As a rule, covers are not my thing. Seriously, who fucks with the Beatles? Who has the hutzpah to think they have something significant to say about Blackbird? Blackbird.
And yet. I felt the song in my bones. It traveled up my chest and neck until it burned the back of my throat at the same time tears burned in my eyes. My whole body was filled with this song. I felt real and right and comfortable because of the strange electronic version of a song I loved with my whole heart.
I spun around and headed towards the registers. There was a bored kid behind the counter, his eyeliner impeccable.
“Who is covering Blackbird?” I asked him.
He looked at me blankly. “What?”
“Blackbird” I pointed above to indicate the music, “Blackbird, who is covering it? What band?”
“Oh, the song?”
“Yeah, who is doing the cover?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know this song.”
It was my turn to look at him blankly. “It’s Blackbird. The Beatles? It is a Beatles song.”
We stared at each other. He obviously thought I was crazy, and he was correct about that. But I didn’t care. I looked at him and I felt….pity. This kid didn’t know The Beatles. “Can you find out who is singing it?”
He was annoyed, but turned to the stereo system. “Eros” he bit out, ready to be done with me.
For years I have been trying to make the perfect mix. A handful of songs are on nearly each version: Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, Temptation by New Order, Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, Punk Rock Girl by The Dead Milkmen. Blackbird by Eros has been on the list for more than a decade. A cover by a band that doesn’t seem to exist beyond this one song. But the song did what music is supposed to do. It reached me at a time when I was broken.
Another awesome family portrait from Ellie Leonardsmith Photography.