I was trying very hard not to like him, and I was succeeding, maybe? It was difficult to tell if this particular summer crush was for real or, as so many of them were, born out of proximity; after all, when you’re stuck only hanging out with a small number of people, there are only so many directions your desire can flow.
It didn’t help that he liked all of the same things I liked, but actually, not a case where I was surreptitiously molding my likes around his. We were hanging out together all the time, in groups and sometimes apart from them. We finished two bottles of wine on a bus, and he carried me after I was too sloshed to properly stand, after I felt like I was going to barf, after I did barf, after I asked him to go on without me. He was a good friend.
He wasn’t a good crush. I knew he had a girlfriend, whom he loved, and once outside the glow of summer, I quickly stopped remembering the details of his face. But for a few months, he was a pleasant light in my life. And, more importantly, he re-introduced me to “Bliss.”
The first “real” concert I attended was Muse at Madison Square Garden. I was in high school, deep in my self-determined angst and eager to break the bonds of my protective and judgmental parents. The goal: To finally go out to a live music show. (If high school me knew how many shows I’d eventually go on to see, she’d start crying and never stop.)
My friend Neha and I studiously planned how to get into and navigate NYC on our own, and once there, we had a blast, though we were both too self-conscious to get up and dance until the very end of the show. To this day, I still adore Muse, and though 1) I’ve been weaning myself off of White Male Rock Music and 2) their latest albums don’t quite do it for me, I somewhat regularly listen to their older releases, particularly Origin of Symmetry through Black Holes and Revelations. I’m sure their newer music is chock full of ridiculous guitar and bass solos, but the triumvirate of Origin, Absolution, and Black Holes features instrumental moments that make my heart skip a beat. “Plug In Baby”: One of the best guitar riffs of all time. “Hysteria”: One of the best bass lines of all time. “Knights of Cydonia”: A song that makes me want to rip my skin off and transcend space and time.
“Bliss” isn’t one of those songs, but it is still very, very good, opening with a smattering of glittering synth and weaving around this sublime center, eventually returning to it alone. It’s a song that musically and visually invokes vertigo; “I’m falling for you” quite literally exemplified by its music video.
Like most Muse “love songs,” “Bliss” is greedy: “Give me all the peace and joy in your mind,” frontman Matt Bellamy croons exactingly, like a horror movie villain plunging a clawed hand into a screaming victim’s chest. It’s not a pretty kind of love, but love it still is, though warped, somewhat manic, and definitely one-sided.
Which makes it a *perfect* twisted crush song. “Everything about you is so easy to love / they’re watching you from above” — though the song came out in 2001, it can serve as a modern commentary on surveillance technology and its intersection with inter-personal obsession, romantic or otherwise. An earnest song about demented love: How cute!
He told me “Bliss” was his favorite Muse song, and my heart clenched. Well, maybe: The memory is shimmery. Perhaps it’s even fake; I’m known for misremembering things, fabricating experiences and associations completely, pinning my own subconscious thoughts and inventions onto other people and circumstances. It would be weird and perhaps disturbing if this case, this “Bliss” case, followed that pattern — an expression of obsession layered over a one-sided pining. But in this case, ignorance really is bliss. Because I say he told me this thing, he told me this thing. As far as I know, as far as Bellamy knows, there is no other side to the story we’ve told ourselves.
Photo Credit: Lilian Min