I decided on my way to work a couple of weeks ago that my next track would be Torn, by Natalie Imbruglia. As the song began to play over the radio that day, my vision quite literally became clouded by a torrent of memories that seemed to dance with each note of its smooth melody. I was transported back to my early days in Taiwan when Hsinchu still carried the sweet tingle of a first kiss. The smells, sounds, tastes and experiences were bursting with the invigorating zest of something new and exciting. My senses were alive and fighting desperately to take in every nuance of my Asian surroundings. Even in the greasy film of overpopulation and pollution the days were bright and the air was fresh. It was an exhilarating time.
Unfortunately, as I sat down to embellish on the song and the recollections it evoked, I was suddenly at a loss for words. All of my stories began at a bar and somehow didn’t breathe of a tale worth telling. I felt that this song was worth so much more than an anecdote beginning with cheap shots of even cheaper tequila. The memories and feelings that were embedded in the words and rhythm could not be done justice with just another story that began at a bar.
And then there came a flicker of hope. Torn was one of the first songs I had ever played at a bar. (It was at The Bar to be precise.) I thought for a moment that I could somehow weave a tale around my humble beginnings as a ghetto maestro at some hole in the wall swill-shack in downtown Hsinchu. How clever it would have been to relate myself to DJ Jazzy Jeff and his early days at house parties in Philadelphia. The tale would have been cute, quaint and, quite honestly, full of shit.
I needed something more. Something real.
Not that my experiences as a DJ weren’t real. Quite the opposite in fact. Without a doubt, my pressing play at The Bar that night was the first wave in a tide of events that helped to shape my life. In a sense, Torn (or a song just like it) was my humble beginning – but it happened at a bar. And as I said, that is not the vantage point from which I wanted to present this track. There had to be more to it than me spinning discs and getting pissed at the pub.
As I was banging my fingers against the keys, I suddenly thought back to a rather amusing performance of Torn that I had seen on youtube a while back. David Armand had taken to the stage with Natalie Imbruglia and the two of them captured the audience as he mimed the lyrics which she crooned. As I watched the video again, I was struck with how this performance seemed to parallel Rachel’s and my relationship. Here was a man taking the literal interpretation of what his partner was saying and missing her deeper meaning. This is a problem with which Rachel and I have to deal almost every day.
For example: about a week ago when Rachel said to me, “Wow! That shirt is really red.” what I heard was, “The shirt that I am wearing is red.” This of course was a fact that I had already known as I was the one who picked it out and chose to wear it. However, after she commented on the depth of red for the third time I finally clued in to her actual meaning. “You don’t look good in that shirt. Change it before we go out.”
Or every time I ask Rachel what she wants to eat. Her usual response is, “I don’t care.” It used to be that I would take her words at face value and choose a restaurant. After numerous failed and frustrating attempts at deciding upon the ‘right’ place to eat, I realized that what she was really saying was, “Ask me again two times. If I continue to say that I don’t care then you choose; however, if I give you any number of suggestions, choose the first.” Ouch! This was too much for me. My feeble male brain was (and still is) not wired to decipher such expertly hidden code. It took time for me to learn.
Nevertheless, I did. And every day I continue to push myself to look beyond what Rachel is saying in order to better understand what she means. Likewise, Rachel tries hard to recognize how literal I can sometimes be and tries to speak more directly. We have adapted to each other’s needs. And that is where the second part of David’s and Natalie’s performance comes in.
After watching him butcher the meaning of her song with the literal translation of the lyrics, she finally recognizes the fun in what he is doing and mimes right along with him. She adapted and changed because it felt right. This is how I feel with Rachel. Our life together is a constant struggle of dealing not only with our X Y differences (which would be enough) but also with our East West differences. Although we seem to bang our heads against the wall regularly trying to understand each other’s point of view, we have somehow found our own sense of congruence. Neither one of us has changed from the people we were fifteen years ago when we met at Nepal, but rather we have adapted to become a pair. And this is what makes us strong.
I now realize that in looking for some deeper meaning to what this song means to me I have missed the point. Torn takes me back to my humble start in Taiwan. Back to my first kiss. Back to Nepal. Back to the beginning. The only thing that needs to be said is that Torn is a story that started at a bar.
Torn youtube link