Someone I Could Become


Someone I Could Become by Adam StrongThere were​ ​stairs​ ​outside​ ​my​ ​old​ ​apartment, the upper ​part​ ​of​ ​a​ ​house​ ​where​, ​downstairs​, ​two ravers​ ​lived.​ ​These​ ​two​ ​would​ ​play​ ​music,​ ​house,​ ​drum​ ​and​ ​bass. Sub-genre​ ​doesn’t matter when it’s ​playing​ ​at​ ​3​ ​or​ ​4​ ​in​ ​the​ ​morning.​ ​I​ ​kept​ ​a​ ​broom​ ​next​ ​to​ ​my​ ​bed.​ ​I’d get​ ​up​ ​and​ ​pound​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​with​ ​it.​ ​I​ ​did​ ​it​ ​at​ ​4,​ ​5,​ ​even​ ​6​ ​in​ ​the​ ​morning.​ ​All​ ​night​ ​drugs ​— ecstasy, whatever.​ ​And​ ​when​ ​they​ ​did​ ​hear​ ​me,​ ​they​ ​would​ ​turn​ ​it​ ​down. They​ ​were​ ​nice. The dude​ ​down​ ​there,​ ​he’d​ ​answer​ ​back​ ​to​ ​my​ ​pounding.​ ​“Sorry​ ​bro.”​ ​He’d​ ​say​ ​up​ ​through​ ​the floorboards.

I​ ​was​ ​living​ ​alone then,​ 26​ ​or​ ​27,​ ​young​ ​and​ “​going​ ​places.”​ ​I’d​ ​just​ ​gotten​ ​a​ ​tiny​ ​raise​ ​in​ ​the form​ ​of​ ​a​ ​promotion​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Education​ ​Television​ ​Station​ where ​I​ ​worked​.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​on​ ​my​ ​way​ ​to​ ​becoming a​ ​director. But​ ​even​ ​though​ ​I​ ​was​ ​on​ ​the​ ​rise at work,​ ​​​I​ ​was​ ​alone,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​was​ ​getting​ ​tired​ ​of​ ​it, of being​ ​alone.

​Of course, I wasn’t really alone. I had friends, and I​’d often have​ them ​over ​to​ ​have​ ​a​ ​few​ ​beers​ ​and​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​the hundreds​ ​of​ ​CDs I owned.​ ​We’d​ ​smoke outside​ ​on​ ​the​ ​steps.​ ​I​ ​could​ ​do​ ​that​ ​for​ ​hours — ​talk​ ​to​ ​friends​ ​over​ ​a​ ​beer​ ​or​ ​three,​ ​the​ ​windows open,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​a​ ​hot​ ​day,​ ​the​ ​night​ ​air​ ​coming​ ​on​ ​to​ ​cool​ ​down​ ​Columbia,​ ​South​ ​Carolina.

Sometimes​ girls came back to my place,​ ​but​ ​they’d​ ​never​ ​spend​ ​the​ ​night.​ ​We’d​ ​exchange​ ​phone​ ​numbers​, probably fake, ​and​ ​never​ ​see​ ​each other​ ​again. Maybe there’d be a​ ​kiss,​ ​a​ ​kiss​ ​from​ ​nowhere.​ ​Some​ ​girl​ ​I’d​ ​be​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​who​ ​I thought​ ​I​ ​had​ ​no​ ​chance​ ​with.​ ​The​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​night​ ​at​ ​the​ ​bar,​ ​some​ ​night,​ ​some​ ​weekday​ ​night.​ ​A​ ​promise​ ​of​ ​new love.​ But not.

On​ ​nights​ ​like​ ​that​ ​I​ ​only​ ​had​ ​one​ ​song​ ​that​ ​described​ ​how​ ​being​ ​single ​felt,​ ​and how​ ​there​ ​was always​ ​the​ ​possibility​ ​of​ ​meeting​ ​that​ ​someone,​ ​sometimes​ ​getting​ ​so​ ​close, but then not quite hitting it off.​

“Color​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Kids,” ​by​ ​Cat​ ​Power (Chan Marshall).​ ​Just​ ​piano​ ​and​ ​her​ ​voice.​ ​I​ ​loved​ ​how​ ​her​ ​heart​ ​broke​ ​on​ ​that​ ​song,​ ​I​ ​loved​ ​how​ ​half​ ​of​ ​the lyrics​ ​didn’t​ ​make​ ​any​ ​sense,​ how ​they​ ​were​ ​just placeholders,​ ​things​ ​she​ ​experienced​ ​but​ ​couldn’t​ ​flesh​ ​out in​ ​the​ ​rewrite. Or​ ​so​ ​I​ ​imagined.

The song is on Cat​ ​Power’s​ ​third​ ​album,​ ​Moon​ ​Pix.​ ​The​ CD ​cover​, ​a​ ​portrait​ ​of​ ​her,​ would sit ​on​ my​ ​stereo.​ To me, that photo of her seemed to ​show​ ​who​ ​she​ ​was, her strange stripped​ ​down​ ​sophistication.​

“​Color​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Kids” ​was​ ​this: dreaming​ ​of​ ​a​ ​day​ ​I​ ​could​ ​almost​ ​see​ ​in​ ​front​ ​of​ ​me. A wife. A kid. Independence.

I​ ​was​ ​beginning​ ​to​ ​think​ ​about​ ​leaving​ ​town.​ ​Wanting​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to​ ​a​ ​big​ger town​ with​ ​bigger​ ​jobs.​ What​ ​if​ ​the​ ​jump​ ​to​ ​director​ ​didn’t​ ​pan​ ​out​ ​for​ ​me?​ ​All​ ​those​ ​years​ ​of​ ​new​ ​year’s​ ​eve nights​ ​with​ ​no​ ​one​ ​at​ ​my​ ​side​ ​thinking​ ​to​ ​myself,​ ​next​ ​year​ ​I’d​ ​be​ ​with​ ​someone.​ ​Next​ ​year​ ​I’d​ ​finally have​ ​enough​ ​of​ ​this​ ​town.​ ​This​ ​place​ ​I​’d been ​hanging on to.​ ​The​ ​people​ ​there were​ ​too​ ​much​ ​of​ ​a​ ​family to me. We had the after​-work​ ​canoeing​ ​and​ ​beer-ing together,​ ​Sunday​ ​nights​ ​with​ ​The​ ​Simpsons​ and X-Files​,​ ​​​live​ ​music​ ​three​ ​nights​ ​a​ ​week.​ That was all great, but now they were settling​ ​down​ ​and​ ​getting​ ​married. And I wasn’t.

I saw the show announced ​on​ ​the Matador​ ​Records​ ​website.​ ​Red​ ​and​ ​black​ ​and​ ​white.​ ​The only​ ​image​ ​was​ ​​ ​the​ ​Cat​ ​Power​ ​Moon​ ​Pix​ ​photo.​ ​Tour​ ​dates. When​ ​I​ ​scrolled​ ​down, looking​ ​for​ ​the​ ​two​ ​letters,​ ​the​ ​S​ ​and​ ​the​ ​C​ ​—and​ ​there​ ​it​ ​was. ​No​ ​one​ big ever ​came​ ​to​ ​Columbia,​ ​SC.​ ​When​ ​I​ ​went​ ​out​ ​to​ ​see​ ​live​ ​music​ ​it​ would usually be a​ ​friend’s band,​ ​not​ ​someone​ ​like​ ​her.

But​ ​there it was: Cat​ ​Power​ ​at​ ​New​ ​Brookland​ ​Tavern.

Cat Power, Moon Pi

To​ ​see​ ​her​ ​on​ ​stage,​ ​singing​ “​Color​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Kids,”​ ​to​ ​see​ ​her​ ​live,​ ​the​ woman ​I’d​ ​been​ ​in​ ​love​ ​with ever​ ​since​ ​Moon​ ​Pix​ ​came​ ​out.

That​ ​night​ ​I​ ​was​ ​there​ ​with​ ​my​ ​friends,​ ​my​ ​too​-​close​-​to​-​family​-​to​-​leave​-​town​ ​family.​ The show​ ​was​ ​great.​ ​Cat​ ​Power,​ ​Chan​ ​Marshall,​ I knew she was ​an​ ​unpredictable​ ​performer. I’d heard rumors that some ​nights​ ​she’d​ ​seem lost, ​cooing​ ​into​ ​the​ ​microphone,​ ​rolling​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor,​ ​locked​ ​into​ ​the same​ ​word.

But​ ​not​ that night.​ That night ​she​ ​was​ ​level​ ​headed,​ ​and it​ ​was​ ​one​ ​hell​ ​of​ ​a​ ​performance.​ ​And​ ​even though​ ​she​ ​didn’t​ ​play​ ​”Color​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Kids,”​ ​I​ ​was​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​glad​ ​about​ ​it,​ to hear a song that was the perfect alone song for me around a few hundred other people would’ve been too much.

​​After​ ​the​ ​show,​ ​I​ ​saw​ ​her​ ​sitting​ ​down​ ​in​ ​the​ ​back,​ ​smoking​ ​a​ ​cigarette. The way she sat, the way she smoked, it seemed like she’d be open to me sitting down and having a smoke. I wasn’t sure of it, but somehow I was sure enough to walk over and talk to her.

We​ ​drank​ ​beer,​ ​we​ ​talked​ ​about​ ​life.​ ​And​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​moment,​ ​about​ ​an​ ​hour​ ​into​ ​our conversation,​ ​when​ ​people​ ​on​ ​the​ ​patio​ ​had​ ​come​ ​out​ ​and​ ​filled​ ​the​ ​place​ ​and​ ​her​ ​cheek​ ​was​ ​close to​ ​mine,​ ​she​ ​was​ ​talking​ ​right​ ​into​ ​my​ ​ear.​ ​Cat​ ​Power​ and​ ​I​ ​talking​ ​and​ ​nobody​ ​else. Our​ ​bodies​ ​touching​ ​just​ ​a​ ​little​ ​bit,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​got​ ​that​ ​feeling,​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​her.​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​probably nothing​ ​else​ ​was​ ​going​ ​to​ ​happen,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​it,​ ​the​ ​idea​ ​of​ ​possibility​ ​that​ ​something​ ​could​ ​happen with​ ​someone​ ​special.​ ​That​ ​whatever​ ​was​ ​in​ ​me​ ​could​ ​grow ​into​ ​something​ ​bigger,​ ​someone​ ​more, in​ ​a​ ​place​ ​with​ ​less​ ​limits.​ ​

That​ ​night​ ​when​ ​I​ ​came​ ​home.​ ​With​ ​the​ ​CD​ ​signed​ ​by​ ​her.​ ​“Dear​ ​Adam,”​ ​it​ ​said,​ ​“Carry​ ​on with​ ​that​ ​soup​ ​herb​ ​hospital.”

And you could say my name
Like you knew my name

My​ ​friends​ ​thought​ ​we​ ​were​ ​gonna​ ​fall​ ​in​ ​love​ ​just​ ​like​ ​that.​ ​I​ ​mean​ ​I​ ​was​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​her​ ​and only​ ​her​ ​for​ ​two​ ​hours.​ ​We​ ​were​ ​so​ ​easy​ ​with​ ​each​ ​other,​ ​it​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​we​ ​could​ ​always​ ​stay​ ​that​ ​way, the​ ​two​ ​of​ ​us​ ​almost​ ​touching​ ​but​ ​not​ ​touching,​ ​talking​ ​into​ ​each​ ​other’s​ ​ear.​ ​Our​ ​voices​ ​filling​ ​up our​ ​heads.

When​ ​I​ ​got​ ​home​ ​that​ ​night​ ​I​ ​put​ ​on​ ​”Color​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Kids​​,” ​and​ ​this​ ​time​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​see​ ​it​ ​as​ ​a depressing​ ​thing,​ ​to​ ​be​ ​single,​ ​I​ ​saw​ ​that​ ​night​ ​as​ ​the​ ​promise​ ​that​ ​it​ ​actually​ ​was.​ ​Through​ ​the​ ​song​ ​I saw​ ​a​ ​future​ ​where​ ​I​ ​was​ ​loved,​ ​where​ ​I​ ​was​ ​married, even. Where​ ​I​ ​had​ ​kids.​ ​I​ ​saw​ ​the​ ​life​ ​I​ ​have​ ​now.

Yellow​ ​Hair,​ ​you​ ​are​ ​such​ ​a​ ​funny​ ​bear,”​ — ​such​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​line, that come​ ​here​ ​you,​ ​let​ ​me​ ​rub​ ​your​ ​hair​ ​and​ ​look​ ​at​ ​all​ ​of​ ​your​ ​imperfect​. ​I​ ​accept​ ​you. You​ ​are​ ​the​ ​person​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​spend​ ​the​ ​rest of​ ​my​ ​life​ ​with.

That​ ​night​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cat​ Power​ ​show.​ ​Sitting​ ​out​ ​on​ ​that​ ​stair​well​ ​with ​yet​ ​another rave​ ​party​ ​happening​ ​in​ ​that​ ​downstairs​ ​apartment. I​ ​had​ to ​turn​ ​up​ ​the​ ​stereo​ ​to drown it out. The​ ​part​ ​of the​ ​song​ ​where​ she ​starts​ ​to​ ​lose​ ​it,​ ​her​ ​voice​ ​unable to ​contain​ ​all​ ​the​ ​emotion. ​​I​ ​felt​ ​it​ ​in​ ​her​ ​that​ ​night,​ her​ ​voice​ ​in​ ​my​ ​ear​ ​telling​ ​me​ ​how​ ​the​ ​place​ ​where she​ ​recorded​ ​that​ ​album was​ ​haunted.​ ​And​ ​how she’d​ ​be​ ​up​ ​in​ ​the​ ​middle​ ​of​ ​the​ ​night​ ​and​ ​see​ ​an​ ​old​ ​woman​ ​in​ ​a​ ​rocking​ ​chair when​ ​she​ ​woke​ ​up,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​finger​ ​to​ ​her​ ​mouth,​ ​telling​ ​her​ ​to​ ​hush.

I could stay here
Become someone different
I could stay here
Become someone better

I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​bed​ ​that​ ​night​ ​knowing​ ​​I​ ​would​ ​leave​ ​South Carolina in the new​ ​year. ​I’d ​leave​ ​my​ ​too​ ​hard​ ​to leave​ ​family.​ ​​​I’d​ ​drive west​ ​​to​ ​Portland,​ ​OR. I’d start over, no matter how hard it would be. I’d find a life, a partner, a career. I’d get married, have kids. I’d seek out a time where, when I put on “Color and the Kids,” I’d remember that person I was before, but I’d be the man I am now.

Cat Power, live at Lee’s Palace, Toronto, Sept. 4th, 2006
Photo by basic_sounds used under CC.


About Author


Adam Strong is a high school digital arts teacher and the founder of the reading series, Songbook PDX. His work has appeared in Nailed Magazine, Intellectual Refuge and in the anthology City of Weird. He writes and loves in Portland, OR.

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