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15 Songs That Make Me Think Of My Ex
Nerve readers look wistfully into the distance, then ask you to change the station.
by nerve readers
The Mountain Goats, "Psalms 40:2"
When my ex and I drove across the country together, we listened to the Mountain Goats constantly through many adderall-fueled twenty-hour drives. On the last night of the trip, we spent the night in a Red Roof Inn, having sex and panicking about the future, before driving the rest of the way to Santa Fe, where I was dropping him off to go to school.
When we broke up, I couldn't bring myself to listen to the Mountain Goats for months. So when they came out with a new album, I was stoked; new songs I could enjoy with no associations with the ex! I put on the new album, and when the second song came on, I heard, "We checked into a Red Roof Inn, stayed up for several hours and then slept like infants in the burning fuselage of my days." So much for no associations. I swear John Darnielle is in my head.
Roxy Music, "Just Like You"
A suicide-hotline operator once called a squad of cops and paramedics to force me into a mental hospital. You quickly get to know people intimately in a psych ward, thanks to group therapy, hours of downtime, and the general emotional mushiness of the environment. I got close to a dental hygienist who was drying out from a manic episode. She gave me her number when she was released. Two days later, I was waiting for a bus to take me home. I turned on my newly de-confiscated Discman, which resumed playing Roxy Music's Stranded. "I know it sounds crazy/ But what can I do/ I've fallen head over heels, over you," Bryan Ferry sang on "Just Like You." Years later, long after the relationship blew up due to the to-be-expected erratic behavior on both our parts, that song still makes me want laugh and/or cry.
Prodigy, "Smack My Bitch Up"
It started as a joke, but then it stuck. My ex and I were driving around Los Angeles when "Smack My Bitch Up" came on the radio. I joked, "Wow, I bet this is some couples' song." We both had a big laugh and agreed that from now on, it would be our song. After that, whenever the dulcet tones of "Smack My Bitch Up" filtered through the speakers we'd share a laugh. Now, more than ten years later, whenever I hear that song, I think of him and have a bit of a smile.
Cinematic Orchestra, "To Build A Home"
One of the cheesiest "think about your ex" selections possible, since its sole reason for existing is to make girls weep. And that I did. Back when I was a second-year graduate student, I had the misfortune of falling in love with someone completely inappropriate. We broke up, we made up, we rinsed and repeated several times over, before finally calling it quits in the fall of 2005.
Then came Facebook! We found each other again! Only he lived in Boston and I lived in New York. So we proceeded to torture each other some more with ambiguous email exchanges from afar. Often these would include song suggestions. When he sent me "To Build A Home," I proceeded to walk around the city for a few hours and cry, imagining the thousands of hidden messages that he meant for me to decode via its lyrics. We never got back together. I think that once I heard "To Build A Home" in an episode of Ugly Betty. Ugh, I hate myself.
Airiel, "In Your Room"
Jim and I met in London while he was visiting from Sydney on a working-holiday visa. I moved to Sydney with him once his visa had expired. He didn't share my taste in music, but "In Your Room" struck a nerve in both of us. The innocent, dreamy lyrics, paired with the shimmering guitar flowing through the nine-minute running time still reminds me of seemingly endless summers spent together. It's a song that doesn't sadden me to listen to in hindsight, but one that takes me somewhere between here and now and there and then.
Young Money, "BedRock"
I know. I'm slightly — okay, hugely — embarrassed by it. But let me explain: my ex and I took a road trip from upstate New York all the way down to Florida for spring break our senior year of college. Our relationship was already going down the drain, and I guess this trip was a last-ditch attempt to save it. (Didn't work.) "BedRock" played constantly on the radio while we were on the road — and was the only song we listened to in its entirety and sang (er, rapped?) to each other every time it played. Those two-minute jam sessions ended up among the few highlights of what turned out to be the Most Awkward College Spring Break Ever. What can I say? We had a thing for ridiculous lyrics and Lil Wayne.
Bon Jovi, "You Give Love A Bad Name"
On her thirtieth birthday, my wife demanded a divorce. I was devastated at the time. It took me a couple days to start telling my family and close pals. Their unanimous reaction? R-E-L-I-E-F. To keep my own wits during the separation, I hosted a monthly divorce theme-song contest via email. The best submission I ever received was the aforementioned hit tune. In a nutshell, it summed up our stormy relationship. Since then, I've remarried and enjoy a wonderful home life. Whenever I hear this Bon Jovi song, I smile, because I truly appreciate "heaven" after having been through "hell."
Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"
When I was a freshman in college, I had a long-distance boyfriend from my hometown. Although I saw him almost every weekend, of course it wasn't enough. During one long phone conversation, he told me to listen to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, because it reminded him of us. I thought it was really sweet at the time. But now whenever I hear it it reminds me of how ridiculous we were, because it's not like we were never going to see each other again... we just had to wait a week.