ABOUT THE SONG
I’m in the car on an eight hour drive to Virginia. My three kids are with me and while we’re gone, their dad back home is packing up and moving out. They know, we’ve talked about it. It’s been a long time coming.
My daughter is eight, she’s just discovered The Beatles and since I’m driving, she gets to work the ipod. She hits “Run For Your Life.”
“I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man.”
She hits it over and over. This is the kind of love she understands.
In the back, the boys, who are six, are playing with cheap, plastic superheroes they got in their Happy Meals on the Jersey Turnpike. Who is Captain America? They ask over the music. What are his powers? I didn’t know when I was a kid and I still don’t know. "He wears a mask and loves his country, I say. That’s what makes him super."
“Enough with that song”, I tell my daughter after the fiftieth time through.
“Who sings this one?” Her love is new and she can’t tell their voices apart yet.
“John”, I say.
“Where is he now?” She asks.
She’s too young to know the word assassinated. It’s a long drive and we have a lot of time. For the next thirty miles, I tell her how this fat white boy from a nice family was so obsessed with an actress named Jodie Foster that he shot John Lennon to impress her. He’d watched a movie so many times he started to feel he was living it, that he could actually be the hero of his own story. Jodie was in his head, she wouldn’t leave and he needed to do something big to make himself as important as she was.
As I’m telling her all this, I’m thinking something doesn’t sound right. But I’m a parent, so I keep talking and she takes it, like everything else out of my mouth, as the truth.
When we stop to pee again, I pull out my phone and look up John Hinckley, Jr. only to understand he had shot at Ronald Reagan a year after Mark David Chapman, another fat white boy, had shot John Lennon. Hinckley was obsessed with a movie and a girl; Chapman was obsessed with a book and the story of a boy who wants to protect children just as the Taxi Driver wanted to protect Jodie Foster, the child prostitute. Both of them were obsessed with fame.
I go to my daughter and tell her I made a mistake. I mixed up my sociopaths. There are so many – how is one to keep track?
Back in the car, we’ve moved on from “Run For Your Life.” Now it’s “Girl.” Over and over she plays it.
“Is there anybody going to listen to my story
All about the girl who came to stay…”
My daughter sings the refrain. John sucks in his breath. I read somewhere that was supposed to simulate toking a joint, but it sounds to me like the breath I take when I’m trying not to hit someone and want them to know it. My daughter sings
Don’t let him call you that, I want to tell her, no matter how fucking good it makes you feel. It’s his way of shrinking you, even as he makes it all your fault. He doesn’t call you Bitch or Whore or any of the things he really thinks, he calls you Girl.
Snax and David Barratt have re-recorded “Girl” replacing the Eastern European steel guitar riff at the end with woodwinds and brass. In John’s version, I was walking through a gleaned field behind the shtetl, in David’s I’m in Weimar Germany, because on some level he knows you can’t have one without conjuring the other.
I think of my friend of mine who was fucking a boy whose mother died when he was very young. “I finally got him to cry”, she told me triumphantly.
Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure?
He kept coming back for more.
“Who sings this one?” My daughter asks.
In the backseat, one of the superheroes has been dropped and lost, now the boys are fighting over the one remaining. They were crowded together in my belly, when they wrestled inside, their sharp elbows and knees distended my skin like dinosaur wings. Now they hit and tear at each other over something neither knew existed before today. Tomorrow it will be in the landfill, but right now, it is the most important thing in the world.
It’s not about Captain America any more than it was about Lennon or Reagan. It’s about the unbearableness of not being able to possess what will erase the pain of being small. And needing someone to blame.
My daughter is still singing. “Oh, girl”.
To shut them up, I ask ” Boys, what does this song make you think of?”
They stop fighting, happy the conversation has swung around to them.
They don’t hesitate, eyes wide with the obviousness of it all.
“You”, answers one.
“You”, says the other.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
At age 5, Snax, aka Paul Bonomo, formed an imaginary band with his older brother in the suburbs of Maryland, USA. From these humble beginnings, Snax embarked on a musical journey that would take him from Washington DC to San Francisco to New York and now his current home in Berlin, Germany.
Snax looks forward to bringing his attitude, energy and sensation to your town soon…
His latest album is called Special Guest Star. That and other sounds are available at his website.
ABOUT THE ESSAYIST
Sheri Holman is the author of four novels including the best-selling Dress Lodger, and The Mammoth Cheese, short-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize. Her fifth novel, Witches on the Road Tonight, hits the pavement next March.
Check out her books at www.sheriholman.com