In the past few weeks, there has only been two moods for me, musically: Death Grips on repeat, for my previous piece, and Car Seat Headrests’ How to Leave Town on repeat. “I Want You To Know I’m Awake/I Hope You’re Asleep” is off the latter.
We have a lot of great songs about one-sided relationships, usually sung from the perspective of the one who loves more, because it’s heartbreaking to love someone more than they love you. However, this song is, for me, from the perspective of the one that doesn’t love enough. The betrayer.
One of the telltale signs that your relationship is doomed is when you start comparing yourselves to other relationships: towards the end of this song, Toledo compares his relationship to other famous, dysfunctional relationships, such as Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the split of The Beatles and the Beach Boys. He speaks of them like friends, singing, “Frankie and Ava broke up today,” followed by the refrain, “but we’re not like them, no, we’re nothing like them” after each line.
The refrain is ironic, or maybe just sad, because he’s listing all these couples only for the purpose of reassuring himself that at least we’re not like them. In the naïveté of first/young love, you’re convinced that your love will outlast everyone else’s despite what everyone else says. That high school relationships don’t last, that long-distance doesn’t work, that the average person goes through several relationships in their lifetime, that your heart will mend and you will learn to love others if a relationship doesn’t work out. You don’t want to believe that those things are true, because it suggests a betrayal. When you’re young, and especially if it’s also your first, you want to believe that you, specifically, will be the one who will go over and beyond with your love–through sheer willpower you will just love better than anyone else ever has.
And then the crushing disappointment of your own failure, especially coupled with the knowledge that it’s not even your partner’s fault, but indeed your own. It’s almost as if the fact that you couldn’t love enough hurts more than the idea of losing your loved one; the fact of your own ability to betray a love hurts more than losing the one you’re betraying. Elsewhere on the album, Toledo has another refrain where he sings, “Love isn’t love enough…”
Toledo abstracts, moving beyond famous couples and wonders about The Beatles, a band that made monumental music, but all the same still a band that couldn’t quite cut it despite all the beauty they were able to produce together. John & Yoko separated for a year–eventually the legendary Beatles broke up too–and Paul started doubting everything he did. But we’re not like them, can’t be anything like them. Richard Siken, from his poem, “Scheherazade”: Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us. / These, our bodies, possessed by light. / Tell me we’ll never get used to it.
(Which is a way to say: sometimes I still dream about you.)