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JULY 14, 2016

We were watching “American Psycho” when I kissed him for the last time. In some ways, I felt like I was kissing Patrick Bateman but that I’d rewritten the script and found his heart in his hand, at least for the night. Or maybe I was kissing the Dude. “The Big Lebowski” was his favorite movie. He’d probably rather be the Dude, which is still gross. Then again, I sort of prefer remembering who he wanted to be, too. I hear him in Odd Future, Kid Cudi and the “Book of Mormon” soundtrack, of all things.

“Well I’ll be damned; here comes your ghost again.” Everyone is a little tenderhearted about the people that exit their lives. Goodbye doesn’t really exist anymore, not in the same way we all thought it would from the old romances. No “here’s looking at you, kid,” or “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” There’s just Jack, watching Ennis drive away not realizing it’d be the last time. Because there’ll always be a next time, won’t there?

I live in a place between delusion and memory. No matter how many times it happens, I’m always left holding the bag, with some ghost that vanished without leaving a notice.

She had pretty much outgrown me. Our relationship had always found her a bit more evolved than I could ever be. In desperation, I pored over the entire Gorillaz discography, hoping to find in Damon Albarn’s voice some semblance of hers. I ended up with neither, but instead in each song lay some Frankenstein of both. I hear her in Britney Spears, in Tom Waits and in Depeche Mode.

When people leave, what do you really have left to cling onto but the things they loved? Art and culture touch people’s lives in ways nothing else can. People get formed from the movies, the music, the shows they fall in love with. I often find myself investigating those relationships with media and art in my own relationships. How else can you learn about somebody but from the art that made the world make sense to them? Two-way relationships are insidious, complex and as difficult to navigate as they are impermeable from the outside observer. The one-sided, voyeuristic relationships we build with our favorite art, on the other hand, can be studied. If you tell me what you love, I can fantasize your place in it, imagine you experiencing it for the first time, contextualize it into my understanding of you.

My contempt for him and his bubblegum music taste was limitless. I was convinced his surface-level relationship with music was part and parcel of a larger self-absorbed flippancy deep in his character, to which I played victim. I hated the one hit wonders he’d put on repeat from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” finalists. I hated his watered-down substanceless pop and his ear candy ED-femme, as if my tastes were somehow more sophisticated. I still hate him with every Pussycat Dolls song and Marina and the Diamonds record in spite of myself.

It’s just my nature. I ruin love. No matter if I loved your music or condemned your tastes, those things carry the weight of memory when I’m left with them. Art may be an imitation of an imitation, but that imitation still holds a piece of you — some impression got left behind. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to listen to your favorite songs at risk of ruining myself over you all over again. Sometimes I watch your favorite movie on repeat late into the night, remembering how passionately you carried on about it.

I had my first kiss at his band’s concert. Now here he was, years later, some goofball that wanted to take me out. As much as I’d have liked him to stay human, the idea of him as the perfect piece to my life’s romantic narrative arc was intoxicating. I found myself listening to his Bandcamp all the time, learning the ins and outs of his albums like I thought I was learning him. I started hearing his music in his voice and his voice in his music. I didn’t even date him long enough to warrant this level of preoccupation. I lost him, as I always inevitably lose everyone, in my own overactive vision. I hear him in Pink Floyd, and “Wish You Were Here” is a little goofier for it.

I’m reminded of my favorite quote from “Almost Famous.” Penny Lane — divulging the secret of being a band-aid, dating the men that make the music you love and trying desperately not to get heartbroken — reveals the nature of what I’m trying to get at:

“I always tell the girls: Never take it seriously. If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt. If you never get hurt, you always have fun. And if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.”

I wish I could follow all of her advice. Unfortunately, I’m too damn soft.

“Cutting Room Floor” columns are one-off, arts-oriented pieces written by Daily Cal staff members.

Contact Justin Knight at [email protected].

JULY 13, 2016

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