Somebody’s Miracle

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I’m going to see Liz Phair this weekend. I’m really excited. It’s my favorite DC venue: the 9:30 club. It’s small, very intimate.

The last time I saw Liz Phair was in 1999. She played at the University of Minnesota, where I was about to graduate. The student activities committee brought her in–the “Major Events” group was in charge, but I had a sort of tertiary awareness of it as I was the co-chair of “Bijou Films” that year, running a couple of small film series on campus. My colleague on the committee picked her up from the airport and drove her to the show. I was very jealous.

It was her tour for whitechocolatespaceegg, an album I loved. I still love it: “Big Tall Man,” “What Makes You Happy,” “Johnny Feelgood,” “Shitload of Money,” and of course “Ride.”

Torry went to that concert with me. In a move very characteristic of him, he threw a note to her onstage that some stagehand whipped away before it even touched the ground. We stood at the front of that show together. It was so long ago maybe I was a different person. Liz Phair is short. We were almost the same height, even with her standing on the stage. Granted, it was a little stage in a little hall in the student union. It was the same place I took ballroom dancing lessons with my friend Katie. It was next to the building where I was an RA. It was above the bowling alley where I had–yes–bowling class.

Torry has been dead for five years. I bought a t-shirt that night. It was red. It said, whitechocolatespaceegg on it. A few months later, when I am living with Torry in Minneapolis, my father will take a picture of me in my bedroom wearing that shirt. I’m standing there awkwardly, giving the tour of this apartment. I look awkward and uncomfortable. The t-shirt is too big for me. I didn’t realize that until years later. I didn’t have the kind of self-awareness then that I have now. But I suppose we all look back at our photographs and realize how much we didn’t know at that particular moment in time.

When I stop and think about it, I have more memories than I can sort through all tied to that one square mile of Minneapolis. John Berryman jumped off a bridge near where I lived. You could see it from the dining room of our dorm. You could see it from the lounge where the hall council had a coffeeshop once a month and where, as part of my job, I hosted a reading for people who lived in the building.

I don’t always know how to do this, how to live in a world that keeps filling up with ghosts.

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