Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Girl From Ipanema - Ruined

"[P]erhaps the worst thing about the breakup is the fact that music gets caught in the fallout."

There's a new site called Ruined Music where people share stories of break-ups that made the music die. Mine turned out to be a samba of shame.

Scoff if you like, but I'm not ashamed of The Girl From Ipanema. Though drippy and cliched, I own up to it now in context of the times. And anyway, says it's the Number 2 most-recorded song in history, second only to the Beatles' Yesterday.

It was Our Song. I loved its sensual beat, its soft crooning vocals, its poignant lament of unrequited, unattainable love. So maybe, somewhere deep in my psyche, I knew.

We met in the 60's when we were both 15. Instant chemistry. Not merely adolescent hormones, it was more about Kismet. A sense of I know this person.

When describing our relationship we used to say, 'Click.' It was just that simple.

He was a teenage dream. Tall, dark and handsome. Bright, witty, sexy. Self-deprecating and self-confident. A heady mix. I wasn't quite in his league in the beginning. An inexperienced Jewish hippie wannabe, but still, showing promise of the woman he'd help me become.

He was an honor student, a soccer star, an accomplished musician. He could play anything, passionately. Piano. Guitar. Drums. Female flesh. And of course, he was neurotic as hell. A charming bad boy. What more could a blossoming Baby Boomer want?

He was my First Love. We told each other everything. Or so I thought. No games. No holds barred. We were welcomed into each other's families, deemed a good catch by both sides. We'd be together forever. But I just didn't see.

We were together, on and off, until we were 25. That's a long time in Teen Years. Through high school. College. And beyond. We broke-up-to-make-up many times. I cried over Our Song during the break-ups. And reveled in it during the make-ups.

Our college years moved us apart. But only geographically. I was at Penn, he at Wesleyan. One weekend I drove up to surprise him. I used my key to his dorm room, heard Our Song playing, the shower running. I dropped my bags and clothes, grabbed a towel, stepped in to join him.

And came face to face with a wet male stranger. Hard to tell which of us was more surprised. Oh no, I thought, I'm in the wrong room! Not the case. A dorm friend whose shower was broken, he later explained.

I should have seen it. But it was the 60's. Who knew?

He went to France for a year. Had an affair there. Told me all about her. It was the 60's. Free love. We made up. I just didn't see.

After college he moved to New York, I moved to Harrisburg. We had started to drift apart, but the bond was unbreakable. We had history. We had memories. We had each other. No matter what. I just didn't see.

One weekend I went to New York to surprise him. Yeah, I know. But I was older and wiser. I wasn't about to jump into another shower. But deja vu was about to kick me in the teeth.

Once again I used my key. Yet again I heard Our Song playing. I tiptoed to the bedroom. Slowly opened the door. Anticipation oozing from every pore.

And found them in bed together.

The girl from France? No. A new city girl? No. An old flame? Yes.

One I hadn't known about. Or hadn't let myself see. It was ...wait for it... the guy from the dorm shower.

It seems like no big deal here in 2006. But in the 70's, up close and personal, it was a buzz kill of the highest order. And got worse when they asked me to join them.

Needless to say, that encounter resulted in our final, permanent break-up.

For years afterward, every time the song came on the radio my teeth gritted. My head hurt. And all I could hear was The Boy From Ipanema.

And of course, the final lyrics haunted me, She just doesn't see, No she doesn't see.

Music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, Performed by Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz, 1963

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