Letting Go

On the train, last Friday, as I was enjoying a good game of Sudoku on my phone, I heard a whimper coming from the seat across me. I raised my eyes to see a man, maybe of 25, sobbing. In any other circumstance, I would have never engaged in a conversation with a stranger, but at that moment, seeing the man in such distress, and noticing that he was there alone, I couldn’t help but ask, “What’s the matter?”

The love of his life, who he had been with since his first year of high school, had passed away about a month ago. Hearing that, I instantly assumed that the reason for his sorrow must be the void in his life, created by the sudden departure of his late lover. However, what came next shocked me to the bone. The man said that he wasn’t sad anymore that he had lost his love, rather that it seemed too easy to replace. The man’s words reminded me of the song “Cornerstone.[1]

“Cornerstone” is a song by the English indie-rock band, The Arctic Monkeys, and was released in November 2009, as a part of their third album “Humbug.” Like any work of art, the meaning of the song is subject to personal interpretation. The following is mine.

In the song, we find a man, communicating directly to us, the listeners, telling us about how he was going from bar to bar, trying to look for remnants of his lost lover in every new girl he met. He says that his “chances turn to toast[2]” as soon as he asks them if he could call them ‘her’ name. Furthermore, during his cab rides home from the various bars, he says that he asks the driver to take the long way home because he smelt her scent on the seat belts, and wants to linger in her scent a bit longer. All these words certainly make the listeners assume that the narrator does these involuntary, as often happens during the ‘getting over’ phase, and that no one could take his late lover’s place in his heart; but a secret is disclosed in the bridge[3] of the song.

We find in the bridge that the narrator isn’t doing these things involuntarily. He knows exactly what he is doing and we can figure out why he does it. He is fighting to keep her in his mind, because with every passing moment, her memories are fading. Every time he goes out to live his life, to move on, he feels guilty, because for him, she didn’t move on, she died in love with him. She doesn’t have the privilege to move on. All his weird requests to the girls he meets, and taking the longer route home, are all his efforts to keep her memories alive, because, as he says, “ I’m worried I’ll forget your face.” The man I met on the train, and the narrator in the song, I believe, share the same sentiment. It is a rather respectable and humane sentiment.

It is natural to fall in love, and it is natural for love to die. It is commendable to respect a love that is no more, but it is not a duty to languish in the memories of a past relationship. It is, on the other hand, an obligation you have to yourself to live your life, and to embrace the change. It is paramount to remember at all times, that some things are more special because they do not last forever.

The ending of the song is quite a positive one though, and I hope that that man on the train has such a closure as well. Would you like to know how the song ends? Here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIQz6zZi7R0

-Jigme Choerab

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone_(song)

[2] Words found in the fourth line of the first verse.

[3] The bridge refers to the part of a song that prepares the listener for the climax.

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