There’s a post I want to write about Julie. Until a week or so ago, she was 3,000 miles away. A week or so ago, she approached: she’s now about 100 miles away. In another week or two? She’ll be ten miles away. All that, of course, gets my mind spinning.
This post, though, isn’t about that Julie. It’s about another Julie.
Several lifetimes ago – so long ago that I can write about her without changing her name – my first true love was Julie. Julie was the prototype for my type. Tiny – under 5 feet, 90 pounds, curly dark hair and a Jewy nose, Julie and I were an omnipresent couple in our year together at college. Everyone was familiar with our over-the-top PDA – and with our over-the-top public fights. I had more breakups with Julie in our year “together” than I’ve had with all women in the more than three decades since.
We had four anthems, she and I. Or rather, I remember our relationship in four songs. When we finally broke up for good, in the fall of my 18th year, she left me with a mix tape (not a mixtape – those, actually, were different). I don’t remember the whole tape, but three of the songs on it will be forever hitched to Julie in my mind.
Lady in Red
This atrocious monstrosity used to be able to bring me to tears with just its opening chords. In the summer of our relationship – a summer I spent 7000 miles away from her, pining for her – this song haunted me in tiny restaurants in West Africa as I tried desperately not to think about her. I would sit nursing my 3rd, 4th, or 5th Flag, trying to forget her, being forced to recall her, as Chris deBurgh demonstrated something (I’m not sure what) about global culture by being ubiquitous in a village that had no electricity or running water.
I don’t know how or when this Elvis masterpiece entered our relationship lexicon, but it felt (and somehow, all these years later, still feels just a little bit) as if Elvis had written it about us.
You Can Leave Your Hat On
Sorry I missed you. I came by to say hi, but you were handcuffed to the bed.
My friend Steve left those words in dry-erase ink on the yellow “Memo” board hanging on my dorm room door. This was maybe a day or two after the first time Julie and I saw “9 1/2 weeks,” and were, um, inspired. Joe Cocker (and really, Kim Basinger) get the credit for several of my most potent and enduring fantasies.
I never was a big Brian Eno fan. Neither was Julie. But this song – probably just because of its title – has been my most durable relationship memento: the sands of time haven’t eroded even slightly its ability to return me to the hours I spent in the tiny guestroom I rented in a house on Capitol Hill SE, near Eastern Market, in Washington. In that room this song played on a loop as I was pining for Julie – Julie, whom I had dumped so many times always to return, but who had the good judgment to stand by her decision to dump me just that one time.