Im not as frequent a visitor to the AW as I used to be but this is still a site that remains important to me. I was thinking the other day, for no good reason, about some of the things that have really grabbed me here and we do have some very talented wordsmiths. The one that that has stuck with me was on the thread I started a few years ago about songs that have a special and personal meaning and @Chiz wrote a hauntingly beautiful piece based around Paul Simon’s ‘America’. Im pasting it below and the point of this thread is to celebrate the best of the AW -whether it be poignant or funny (or both). So come on make your fellow AfterWorders blush with pride or embarrassment and post it again here.
This is the piece that Chiz wrote:
When I was 17 I found myself, through no conscious effort on my part, going out with the prettiest girl in the school. I was in a band and had a car, and she was quite short-sighted; maybe that was it. Our music tastes met in the middle – Japan, Ultravox, Human League, but she got to them from one direction, via the awful caterwauling of Kate Bush, and I came from the other, via the awful caterwauling of Ian Gillan and Robert Plant.
When push came to shove, up in her bedroom on steamy afternoons with the windows open and the curtains closed, the album we bonded over was The Simon and Garfunkel Collection. This 1981 re-run of the Greatest Hits was the perfect soundtrack to teenage trysts, but you had to be finished before Side One Track 7, At the Zoo, spoiled the mood. I don’t recall that ever being a problem.
The song we played over and over was America. As soon as Paul packed his fags and pies and started laughing at the squares on the bus, we knew we had to do the same. We’d make fantastic plans in that bed, involving hitchhiking and Greyhounds, and even if our journey ended, as Paul and Kathy’s did, in emptiness and aching on the outskirts of New York, we still couldn’t wait to go off and look for America.
And so we did, and many other countries too, but not together. We lasted through university but not much longer, and it was messy for a bit – I indulged in one, maybe two years of weapons-grade sulking and wretched songwriting, while she showed every sign of moving on with hasty grace – but time and maturity did their thing, eventually. So we introduced each other to our new partners, and went to each other’s weddings, and had holidays with our spouses, and visited each other when we were living abroad. After nearly three decades of that, it was pretty much impossible to believe that we had ever been anything other than old friends. How terribly strange to have been seventeen.
So it wasn’t that unusual when my phone buzzed up a message from her the other evening. But the content made me instinctively and shamefully glance around the room to see if my wife was nearby. It said I’m counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
Immediately I was back in that room, with the single bed and the abandoned coffees and the album covers scattered across the floor, dreaming of Pittsburgh and Saginaw and raincoats and moonrise. Listlessly plucking the fruit of another cheap day from the infinite orchard before us, and throwing it aside, disregarded and discarded, like the ‘A’ Level texts on the desk, and the clothes under the bed.
I knew she was back there too, so, feeling as guilty as a man can when he thinks he might accidentally be having telephone sex with his ex when all she’s actually done is tell him she’s halfway across the world, at a diesel-drizzled tollgate between an oil refinery and the docks, I fumbled out a reply: How many are there?
A minute later the reply came from 3000 miles and 35 years away. It said: They’ve all gone.