“X&Y” – Coldplay, 2005.
Well, you didn’t exactly think it was going to be Olivia Newton-John’s “Xanadu,” did you? Though there aren’t a lot of “X” songs to choose from, this one fits the bill nicely. It lends its title to Coldplay’s 2005 album, which features better known singles like “Speed of Sound” and “Talk.” It was also the album they were promoting in the first rock concert my then-girlfriend and I ever attended together. (Double extra bonus: Richard Ashcroft was opening for them.) Tickets to said show were her first Valentine’s Day gift to me, after we’d only been dating for a couple of months. It was a measure, perhaps, of how quickly and deeply we fell in love, not just that she would buy me the tickets but be willing to stand in an ear-splitting din for three hours watching a band – two bands, really – she was relatively indifferent about but knew that I loved. (The following Valentine’s Day, the only way I saw to outdo this generous gift was to propose. A card and chocolates wasn’t going to do it.)
There is not much to the song itself; it’s a bit of filler sandwiched between the two more popular tracks on the middle of the album. The second verse, however, is a fairly accurate description of the first stage of our relationship. “I dive in at the deep end, you become my best friend. I want to love you but I don’t know if I can. I know something is broken and I’m trying to fix it, trying to repair it any way I can.” Our connection was immediate, offering no room for half-measures, no games, no I’d-better-wait-three-days-before-I-call-back-so-she-doesn’t-think-I’m-desperate stratagems. Up front, we agreed that we knew we liked each other and that we preferred not to mess around with the so-called rules of courtship (as exemplified by Swingers and every single episode of Friends.) It was a tremendous weight off one’s shoulders, I must confess, after a year spent in and out of temporary dalliances with other women that were dominated by such frivolities. Obviously we still harbored those same fears of being hurt, of committing and losing our way. My professional life, too, was in tatters and I questioned where I had the temerity to enter into a serious relationship when I didn’t know whether I’d have the rent next month. Something was indeed broken.
It came to the point after several months that the choice for me was to either sever another, damaging relationship or lose the one that was teaching me to smile again and that there was a sublime world beyond the borders of my small, inwardly focused life. In retrospect, it was the easiest decision I ever made. Seldom does a day pass when I don’t feel grateful that when I was drowning, she was there to throw me a lifeline. I used to be quite cynical about humanity and human beings, entrenched in the opinion that we are doomed to destroy ourselves through greed, selfishness and spite, the stuff of any one of a hundred dystopian YA novels. Maybe a great majority of us are, but my wife reminds me through her actions and her attitude that there remain a lot of good people in the world, and our side has a better than average fighting chance. We have the plans to the Death Star of banality, we’re aiming a proton torpedo of kindness at the exhaust port, and we don’t need no stinkin’ targeting computer.
There is a line of spiritual thought, I’m not sure which, postulating that human beings were originally androgynous beings that were split into separate genders by the gods and have spent eternity attempting to reconnect. As a single person you can’t even articulate what’s missing, you just know that something is. The equation is incomplete and every fiber of your being is dedicated to solving it, to seeing how the story ends. This particular Y needed an X. I’d like to believe that in sharing themselves with each other, X&Y became a whole greater than the sum of their parts. (Though I’m sure I could list a hundred ways in which my wife has made me a better person before I could name one where I’ve helped her.) I was asked on the morning of our wedding what her best qualities were, and my answer hasn’t changed in seven years: the giving nature that inhabits her every thought and deed; of herself, of her time, of her love. Even now, as she waits for me to finish this post so we can watch Game of Thrones together (a show she does not really care for), I’m reminded of that. I’m reminded of the Coldplay concert, swaying together to “X&Y,” feeling like she fixed me, and continues to fix what’s broken each day we are together. It is something to feel like you won’t ever be able to fully repay a debt of the soul, but I figure I can at least start by letting her get through her episode of Orange is the New Black first.