The saddest song that I can think of is Cleopatra by The Lumineers.
There have been other contenders for that title: Puff the Magic Dragon, Concrete Angel, American Soldier, etc. Different tunes that pull at your heartstrings and lead you to believe that the songwriters merely wanted to torture people when they wrote it.
But at the end of the day Cleopatra is the one for me. It’s a very tangible horror story…one that any one of us could live out. Like any good song, it requires a bit of interpretation; that’s one of the big reasons why I don’t care for country music…there is no poetry to the lyrics.
My interpretation of Cleopatra goes something like this: someone confesses their love to the narrator who (I guess because their father had just died/they were just preoccupied with other things) rejects the suitor. Time has gone by and the narrator has realized what a folly that was; they know now that the suitor was the one for them, but he or she has now moved on and is married, etc. The narrator lived a glamorous life (as an actress) but, in the end, he/she will die alone, still waiting on the suitor who probably has forgotten all about them.
Years ago, while driving down one of the back roads outside North Prairie, I sat in the passengers seat with my own suitor of sorts while Cleopatra played and we sang as loud as we could. I gripped his hand so tightly on the line, “But I must admit it that I would marry you in an instant. Damn your wife. I’d be your mistress just to have you around.”
And he looked at me and we both knew.
I didn’t reject his suit like the song suggests…if anything, he rejected mine but only after that long car ride outside North Prairie where we sang Lumineer lyrics to each other and only after he had told me that he loved me. Either way, though, we went out separate ways.
And there have been flings (so to speak) but there’s a very real part of me that still thinks that that was it. That was my suitor. That was the one shot you got, and I was too late.
I was late for this, late for that Late for the love of my life And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die alone I’ll be on time
These days my relationship with this suitor consists mainly of doing something I call “screaming into the void”. I drop little clues, write things in my plays, say things in public on the internet…little breadcrumbs through the forest with the hope of maybe he’ll find one that will lead him to the trail which will lead to me. And when he reaches the end...I don't know. Maybe we embrace. Maybe I break his nose. I’ve come up with so many different outcomes for that meeting, and it all hinges on how I will feel that day. Some days is a breaking noses kind of day. Some days are a hold you and never let go kind of day.
The people around me tell me to be angry, and obviously there are pockets of that, but it’s never enough to make me burn every memory of the suitor to the ground. It’s never enough to regret what happened. I regret parts of it, but the whole drive through on those back roads? Never.
I suppose this post itself is another attempt at conversing with the void. Another shout…just in case he happens to be passing through.
So I drive a taxi And the traffic distracts me From the strangers in my backseat They remind me of you