I was returning a pair of jeans and trying on a red Kate Spade hat when I glanced down at my phone and read a text message from a friend that said you died. I wish I had been doing something else at the time, something less trivial, but, death, like birth, can never be timed in the ways in which we’d like them to be.
I was first introduced to you when I was 13. My father had a copy of Magic and Loss and I was drawn to your gruff melodic voice and raw lyrics. I pondered the man wearing black on the album cover while attempting to sing along. Life's like a mayonnaise soda. And life's like space without room. And life's like bacon and ice cream. That's what life's like without you…
And then I put you down and didn’t pick you back up until a few years later. The Velvet Underground came with a bang into my life along with a smorgasbord of other wonders. I was part of group of artists living in the ghetto of Denver. Here I claimed what type of human I wanted to be. Your music was the soundtrack in this process. It played in every room of the house. It inspired me to pick up the guitar and play despite how rough it may have sounded. It moved me to write. It drove me to create. It was my teacher.
The soundtrack followed me from Colorado to NYC, through mostly broken earphones, on subways and on long meanderings across the Williamsburg bridge. It played while I painted on kitchen walls and in frigid studios. It was with me during courtships and breakups, on long flights to other countries and more often than not there with me in the shower, warbling from my own throat.
I met you outside of headphones and speakers when I was 27 at the St. Ambroeus Cafe in the West Village. You were with your dog Lola and your long-term publicist Annie O. You looked frantic. Annie looked frantic. Lola the dog looked frantic. I sat down and introduced myself. While Annie checked what seemed to be a long list of email on her Blackberry, you and I discussed whether or not I would be up to the task of working for you. You asked me all kinds of inappropriate questions employers should never ask potential employees, but I assumed you were being funny, so instead of answering the questions, I laughed. I guess I expected you to laugh as well and when you didn’t, I realized I was in for a turbulent time.
The soundtrack paused after our first real life meet-up. The sounds that once comforted me were now warped. You were everywhere, buzzing on the table, beeping in my inbox, summoning me to your apartment. I was to do this and that and this again. And that. You didn’t believe me. You didn’t believe them. Get this. Get that. Find out! It wasn’t a job. It was a tortured relationship. I had to wash my clothes to get your smell off of me every day.
Then, that version of our relationship ended. I was sitting in a meeting with you. You had your usual, a skim cappuccino and an egg white omelet without toast. You had recently lost your publicist of 15 years and struck out at me to cope with your loss. I focused in on your quivering mouth and watched as the words split into my chest like bullets. My heart thumped and the breath in my lungs deflated. I blacked out for a second, stood up, walked out of the door and stood on the sidewalk, trembling.
You ran after me, screaming, demanding, then noticed my shaking limbs. I did this to you. You said, pouting. I know I did this to you. You pulled me into your chest. Breathe Felicity, breathe. You’re fine. You’re just having an anxiety attack. I have them all of the time. They are hell. I looked at you and burst into tears.
You took me back to your apartment and suggested I lay down on your electromagnetic bed with a cup of herbal tea. You said I didn’t have to work the rest of the day, that I should just relax. It was at this point, I knew that I had to quit and I know you knew I would.
I gave you three months notice and found a trusty replacement. You no longer yelled. You no longer said wildly abusive things to me. You began to ask how I was doing. You told me I looked better, less tired, beautiful even. You made me laugh. You laughed too. I pressed play. The soundtrack came back.
And it’s still here... Like the wind. Here come the waves, Here come the waves, Here come the waves