You’d Think I’d Know By Now

The T ride home after a night of beers at the pub is almost as good as the night out itself. It’s the disparity: during rush hour, the subway cars are stuffed with people, all these stinking people with their elbows and knees and backpacks and purses and perfume and blather and bullshit. It’s like some sort of Navy SEAL psychological torture training just to try to get home with a shred of your humanity intact, to not want to move to a cabin in the woods and never see another goddamn face for the rest of your life.

But the T at 11:30 at night, several beers in your belly and hardly a soul around? Bliss. Oh, the station still smells like wet dog, but late at night you’re one of the only people around. The subway car rushes up like it always does, pushing hot air before it, and the doors slide open and you’re hit in the face with that same stale pee smell, but now the seats are mostly empty and there’s no one standing in the aisles.

And you sort of saunter over to a stretch of unoccupied seats and sling yourself down into one, letting your legs stretch out before you, an arm thrown casually over the metal backs of the row, enjoying the space. And the car moves, taking you somewhere and you can really get lost in your thoughts, which is an impossibility if you’re riding earlier in the day, when you’re just trying not to purposefully elbow the nose of the braying jackass next to you into his brain, delicious as the thought might be.

And you’ll always have evidence of those solitary late-night rides, no matter how much your head was spinning, no matter how many of the evening’s jigsaw pieces go missing, never to return. Because you can just pick up your iPod and click on your Recently Played list.

I woke up the other morning on the couch, tongue a little dry. Head a little achy. Waking up on the couch isn’t incredibly rare, I have trouble falling asleep and will sometimes lie awake watching mindless TV until slumber comes, but I usually manage to get up at some point during the night and slip into bed. Sometimes I don’t.

On this morning I hadn’t fallen asleep watching TV the night prior, though, I had been Out. And so began the oft-repeated dance of filling in the blanks.

Out? I asked myself. Out, I answered.

With who? Some former co-workers. Yes.

And as my brain eased into the familiar choreography of The Reconstruction, I sort of half-rolled over, still fully clothed, and fished my iPod out of my pocket to cut short this charade. Squinting, I held it up and thumbed to my Recently Played list. I blinked at the songs on the screen, looking them and up and down and sideways, slowly realizing I had played only the first two on the list over and over the entire T ride home.

Jeremiah Freed – Jeremiah Freed – “Again
Jeremiah Freed – Times Don’t Change – “Blinded”

Ah, yes. Slumped down low on the seats of the T car, one hand probably shading my eyes, the other holding the iPod, listening to the same two damn songs repeatedly for 40 minutes or so. Click. Back. Click. Back. Click.

Are any songs worth listening to that many times in a row, let alone ones by a band named Jeremiah Freed? No and definitely not. But it’s there, right there. The iPod ain’t lying.

Jeremiah Freed is (or was, I doubt they’re still recording) a band from Southern Maine of modest local renown at the beginning of the Aughts. They played squarely earnest rock and had a minor radio hit with the aforementioned “Again”. They were obviously a far bigger deal in Maine than they were anywhere else, and my attachment to the two songs has very little to do with the scant talent exhibited in their writing or musicianship, but as more of a time-and-place thing. I had just moved to Portland as the band experienced its burgeoning popularity, and I profoundly enjoyed living there in a way that had me convinced it was my homeland in a past life. So hearing this middling rock band on the radio three or four times a day during this honeymoon definitely created a favorable mental association for me, regardless of the music itself, which is otherwise unremarkable.

Except. But.

The two songs feature a kind of cynical self-awareness that I tend to favor anyway. Granted, it’s all the more resonant because I have since left Maine, which for me was like leaving the warm embrace of an Eva Mendes. So I romanticize “Again” and Blinded,” yes, but that self-flagellation is in those songs to begin with, independent of me and my feelings about Portland. And now I live on the South Shore in Massachusetts and have to commute 90-120 minutes to and from work each way, half of it on the effing T. So on the way home from a night out I end up listening to a forgettable band from Maine through a Harpoon-induced haze, just to hear lines like these over and over and over, banal as they are:

Anyone can see that I’m the same man I’ve always been
Anyone can see that we’re as blind as we’ve ever been


‘Cause I know that it’s the same
When they all come back again
You think I’d know by now

You think I’d know by now. I don’t even know the context of the line; who’s coming back again? The lyrics are pretty stupid, except for that one last line…which isn’t even a lyric, it’s a common saying, the kind of thing I’d be thinking to myself on some T ride home even if it weren’t blared through earbuds directly into my brain. You know, looking around, at This. This Subway Car, These Jeans, That Person Over There, That Station Whizzing By, This Night Sky Above My Head, That Moon Looking Down. Everything, the pieces of which have combined in such a way that has me sitting and listening to Jeremiah Freed (of all bands), and I wonder if there was any alternate route I could’ve taken that would have led to songs like this meaning nothing to me, and the answer is, of course, yes. And that I probably recognized each and every turning point at the time but did nothing about it. And this behavior will likely continue. Same as I’ve always been, blind. You’d think I’d know by now.

So the songs work for me. That’s how it goes.

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