Some weeks ago, I dipped downstairs with some of my coworkers here at New York Natives to the coffee shop that sits at the base of our office building. It’s your standard hipster-y type of java joint — the kind you’d more expect to find in the Village than the Garment District. On this particular afternoon, I ordered an iced skim vanilla latte. Yes, I know; it’s the least manly of all the caffeinated beverages. Whatever. Fuck you. It’s delicious.
I began to engage my work chums in conversation as the baristas made our drinks, but my attention soon pivoted to the song playing on the café’s speakers. It was “The Figurehead” by The Cure, off their seminal 1982 goth rock album Pornography. The conversation around me faded out, leaving only the music — some sort of aural form of tunnel vision. The notes jolted me back in time as they hit my ears, like the reverse of what happens to Christopher Walken when he touches people in that Dead Zone movie. Suddenly I was back in my childhood bedroom on Long Island during the winter break of my senior year of college, watching a live DVD of The Cure performing Pornography in its entirety.
And I was crying. I was crying because my college girlfriend had just dumped me.
Yes, there I was in 2006, a broody, crestfallen soul just barely out of my teens, sobbing in lament for the loss of a love with the fragile guitar chords and plaintive moans of Robert Smith serving as the funeral dirge to my once youthful heart. I had become the saddest of Cure fan clichés, a painfully awkward secret to admit (now I don’t feel so embarrassed about the vanilla latte).
But how did it happen? How could an album released two years before I was even born perfectly encapsulate all the feelings I was feeling about my unrequited college love? (And how did I manage not to slit my wrists whilst listening to it?) I don’t have these answers, but one thing is profoundly clear: the track listing was a blueprint for my grief…and recovery.
1. One Hundred Years
The album opens with the lyrics, “It doesn’t matter if we all die” — a real mood-setter, and a perfect vocalization of a slighted man’s depressed thoughts. After six minutes of war and death imagery, the song builds to crescendo around a wailing guitar lick. It’s at this point that I most probably began weeping alone in my room, my moans punctuated by the dozens of Double Stuf Oreos I was plunging into my fat, stupid mouth.
2. A Short Term Effect
This song is about a dead bird that falls out of the sky…or drugs…or something. I’m not really sure. A lot of the lyrics are cryptic, which reminded me of something else that was rather cryptic — a suspicious question my girlfriend had asked me a few weeks before we broke up: “What do you think about us having an open relationship?” which, of course, translates to, “I’d really prefer to fuck someone else besides you.” Hey, at least she was honest.
3. The Hanging Garden
I had read somewhere that this song is about animals having sex — a painful reminder that even monkeys and koalas and shit were getting action and I was not, now that I was a loathsome, sappy, single guy crying over his ex-girlfriend in his childhood bedroom.
4. Siamese Twins
Yes, siamese twins…two people intimately linked into one, just like my girlfriend and I. That is, until we were ripped from each others bosom, not by the blade of a doctor’s scalpel but by the gut-wrenching phone call that ended our relationship, which I recalled receiving in Penn Station a few weeks prior, while I was traveling to my college internship in Manhattan. Yep, we broke up over the phone while I was in Penn Station. I guess she thought standing in that soul-crushing, urine-soaked dungeon of despair wasn’t already depressing enough for me.
5. The Figurehead
The lines “I will never be clean again” are repeated over and over at the end of this song, foreshadowing the stretch of days I’d go without showering while still deep in the throes of heartbreak.
6. A Strange Day
Robert Smith revealed in a fanzine Q&A that “A Strange Day” is about how he’d feel if the world was ever to end. My world was already in shambles, so the lyrics didn’t really speak to me. I may have gotten up to get more Oreos during this song.
Cold, just like the harsh January weather that was perpetually seeping in through the cracks and eaves of my drafty room that night. I’d like to imagine that the fetal position I had been lying in while watching the DVD was in order to keep warm, but it wasn’t. It was because I was crying like a bitch for the full duration of the concert.
After nearly 40 minutes of doom and gloom, I came to the climax of the album — the title track, which, at long last, actually gave me some small glimmer of hope for the future. Alas, the remedy to my heartbreak had been staring me in the face all along: pornography. Who needs a girlfriend when you have porn? In my case, free Internet porn — the saving grace of every lonely, single 20-something man. Everything was going to be all right.