Every Valentine’s Day, my mother used to send me a card and a little box of Necco Conversation Hearts. My senior year of college, I spread out the candy chalks on the bedspread in my dorm room and formed this song. Would that there’d been a girl to share the moment with, a girl to please with my cute little word games, a girl to muss that bedspread with. In those days I was sure she was out in the world somewhere. Sometimes as I lay awake, heartbroken over one romantic fiasco or another, I would even call out to her. And wherever she was, telepathically she would say, “That’s bullshit. That’s bullshit the way they’re treating you. Just don’t worry about her, baby. Someday we will finally be together.”
The following summer, now graduated and subletting an apartment in New Haven, I recorded the song after returning from a Stereolab concert in Central Park. I sang la la la as I thought Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen might have, their effervescence and forthrightness in equal measure. I pictured the la’s floating up to the sky like a smoke signal, maybe straight to the heart of my hypothetical soul mate.
In time I would break college’s bad-luck streak and I would find women who loved me, and I would love them too, and consequently in the dead of night I would speak less and less to the girl I’d conjured when I was in college, the one who’d always stuck up for me. I couldn’t say whether we’d had a falling out or just drifted apart.
As I typed this today, seventeen Valentine’s Days later, from another sublet, now in San Francisco, I realized I was wearing a Stereolab T-shirt. I found it at a used-clothing store in Austin last fall. When I brought it to the register, the pretty cashier, twenty-two at the most, held it up, then crinkled her face. “Stereolab,” she said. “I don’t get the reference.”
“It’s not really a reference so much as a band,” I said.
“That’s cool,” she said, ringing me up.
“They were really good,” I felt compelled to add.
“Would you like a bag?” she asked.
Maybe tonight I’ll try telling my hypothetical soul mate about that.
Tell me, dear one, will you be mine? Gotcha, my star, you cutie pie. U R good, U R A 10, oh, U R # 1. Please don’t say go away, come on, give me just one.
Love me, my star, and I will always be true. Luv ya, my girl, mmm, you sure are cute. Ask me if I am E Z 2 love, and I will tell you: Yes. No. Maybe so.