The last night before I went away to college, I sat on my back porch alone and listened to this album.
Cigarette in hand, head propped up against the wall of my childhood home, eyes fixed on the woods I used to play in with my neighbors years and years ago. Never Meant rolled along. I was on the same porch where me and my high school lover sat the first time I threw a party, I couldn't help but reminisce on what I've been through. That night, outside my home with tons of people packing the inside, she kissed me for the first time. I thought about who I was then, who I thought I'd be now. The promises I made to her played on repeat in my mind.
I haven't seen her in years.
The Summer Ends brought with it a reality check. I couldn't help but think I needed sleep, my alarm clock was going to go off in a few hours. The first day of college, at that time, felt like the grandest event in my life. The summer wasn't ending, it was over. Mike himself sounds regretful, confused, and questioning. The building cymbal hits. The soft release of tension.
"We've both been so unhappy,
so let's just see what happens
when the summer ends."
The familiar nature surrounding my south Jersey home provided an additional backing track to American Football's one and only full length. Cicadas. Water softly flowing through the brook. A distant owl. The second half of Honestly? started, the repetitive guitars and winding drums felt parallel to the quiet earthquake of thoughts inside my mind. As that riff faded and came back to fruition, I felt the last moments of childhood washing into memory. It was probably 3 AM.
At the time, the stars seemed to be glowing with a sepia tint, as if everything I was looking at was caked in nostalgia. The pool seemed to be surrounded by friends, the swing set might as well have been blowing in the wind, the trees were full of eager kids looking for adventure. Maybe it was partly the mood this album put me in, the introspective voice of Mike Kinsella, the shy horn just barely sputtering out notes, the repetitive and unforgettable twinkly riffs.
It all seemed to work together.
By the time I came back from the depths of memory, Stay Home had begun. The guitars were tensing, but still somehow relaxed. A distant bongo. Rhythmic, hypnotizing cymbal hits. It stops.
"Don't leave home again
if empathy takes energy."
In that moment, Stay Home was all I heard. By the time the penultimate track came on, I had washed myself of the feelings I had leading up to it. The pool became just a barren bastion of summer, the swing set was dismantled and scrapped, the trees were long since cut and burned in our fireplace. That's life, I guess. As the track slowly faded, I was able to make peace with the past 4 years. Even as I looked at who I was in the moment, I felt ready to continue on. The past will always be there, waiting in the darkest corner of my head with a lead pipe and a fistful of LP's I used to love. I couldn't let it control me.
I couldn't let it become me.
And as the horn on the final track winded on, I couldn't think of anything besides the next year of my life. It slowly came to a stop, and once again I was thrust into reality. It was almost cold. Close to 3:30 AM. I had to be up in a few hours, and the pit in my stomach returned to me.
But it was okay, because in those minutes between the bookends, I was at peace. On an adventure between what I've forgotten about and what I wish I could, I found myself content. There was no other album, no other piece of art I could have experienced in that moment. The fading summer air only complimented Mike Kinsella's nostalgic and regretful recollection. As I thought back on everything I've ever had, every love I've ever crumbled, only American Football's seminal, celebrated LP could have provided a vehicle for those thoughts.
I looked up at the stars, no longer tinted yellow, and smiled.
Knowing I only had a few hours sleep to catch by now, I stood up, and went to bed.