People always say that this song or that book or some movie is a story about themselves in some way. One of my friends is truly determined that his life has been prophesied in the eight and a half minute rock-opera Paradise By The Dashboard Lights. My story was told in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but it wasn’t anything with as much grandeur, it was simply about a girl.
Interestingly enough, it’s not the stories themselves, but the details of each story that give them such relatable conviction. In Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, Meatloaf sings about a coerced commitment leading to an eventual eternity spent with the wrong person because of a stubborn, but more importantly moral, refusal to break a promise. The prognostication of these particulars sends my friend sweating whenever he hears the song.
For me, it took the form of pangs, from the details of Clementine’s character. The fucked up girl looking for her own peace of mind, who applies her personality in a paste. A person who keeps you off balance, always guessing, and constantly frustrated. A girl who sends off sirens in your brain telling you to run as far as you can before you get burned, but you stay anyway, against all logic, resigned to the eventual fate.
And here I was, waiting to be saved, thinking she’s a concept, or she’ll complete me, or she’s going to make me feel alive. When it didn’t work out, I used to say that it was for the best, that I was in it to have no regrets, but it was really because I couldn’t leave. I was drawn magnetically, inexplicably, to the last person to deserve even the effort of all the torn up thoughts.
To the one that got away.
On the weekend, I discovered that I could finally watch Eternal Sunshine without those pangs when I had felt them for so long, even when I already knew how important it is not to forget these experiences, as Joel figures out while hiding Clementine in his subconscious. All the residual emotions have passed, and now I can talk, and laugh, and think, and share the experience like an embarrassing adolescent memory. It only took two years.
Everybody’s gotta learn sometime.