Jens Lekman — Maple Leaves
I never understood at all.
Then, the next morning when both of us were in the bathroom, brushing our teeth and dressing for work, he said, “I never want to see you again,“ only I misheard him at first and thought he’d said, “I want to see again.”
When I was little, I didn’t understand that you could change a few sounds in a name or a phrase and have it mean something entirely different. When I told teachers my name was Benna and they said, “Donna who?” I would say, “Donna Gilbert.“ I thought close was good enough, that sloppiness was generally built into the language. I thought Bing Crosby and Bill Crosby were the same person. That Buddy Holly and Billie Holiday were the same person. That Leon Trotsky and Leo Tolstoy were the same person. It was a shock for me quite late in life to discover that Jean Cocteau and Jacques Cousteau were not even related. Meaning, if it existed at all, was unstable and could not survive the slightest reshuffling of letters. One gust of wind and Santa became Satan. A slip of the pen and pears turned into pearls. A little interior decorating and the world became her twold, an ungrammatical and unkind assessment of an aging aunt in a singles bar. Add ad to poor, you got droop. It was that way in biology, too. Add a chromosome, get a criminal. Subtract one, get an idiot or a chipmunk. That was the way with things. When you wanted someone to say, “I love you,” approximate assemblages—igloo, eyelid glue,isle of ewe—however lovely, didn’t quite make it. “You are my honey bunch" was not usually interchangeable with “You are my bunny hutch.“ In a New York suburban bathroom, early in the morning, a plea for sight could twist, grow slightly, re-issue itself as an announcement of death.
"You want to see again?” I asked, incredulous. His vision had always been fine. And he looked at me. He was standing in front of the sink. Then he looked into the drain, the stopped-up drain. He shook his head and said, “I never want to see you again.“
"Oh,” I said, three syllables short, where had they gone? Zapped by the ray-gun of a mumble.
—Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
Two men I’ve dated told me after the fact that this song reminded them of me, how I hated my body, how they never understood that or me. It made me feel so small for a long time until I realized that they didn’t understand me at all, that I did and do understand me, like you do, too. They didn’t understand me or much of anything else; we didn’t speak the same language the same way you and I do. Early on, I told you, “You make me feel like I make sense all the time,“ and this is it, it, in a nutshell.