Taylor brings me a drink and then takes a guitar off someone mid-strum. He starts playing out a familiar riff – The Strokes’ ‘Someday’ and soon we’re all singing it together, tapping out accompanying beats. I wonder if it’s like this here every night.
Why didn’t I just go back to sleep and catch the tram to work in the morning like a civilised normal person? I’ve slept on couches before. I could have handled it.
I start humming ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ to myself, walking along my own road, taking comfort in the ‘it’s all right’ part. It’s also the best song about moving on ever written.
I’m humming, and it takes a few minutes to recognise the tune as one off Blue. The one about a flight, set to a frenetic beat that I tap out anxiously on the armrest. I watch the animation of the plane creeping to the edge of the Tasman Sea, closer towards Wellington. The familiar shape of New Zealand on the screen gives me a strange surge of patriotic comfort.
As I park my bike and lock it to the railing, I hear a busker outside the shopping centre. He’s playing The Smiths, ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’– one of the darkest and yet most optimistic songs ever. I walk closer and realise that not only are the lyrics familiar, but the voice is too. It’s Taylor.
‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is blaring out of Lou’s room. She’s been playing Simon and Garfunkel all day and I have reached my absolute limit.
I storm through her door.
She’s sitting cross-legged on her bed with her eyes closed and the most blissed-out expression on her face. Is she meditating? With this racket going on? She seems to sense my presence and holds up a hand to silence my not-yet-uttered protest. Then, as if conducting me, she moves her hand in a welcoming gesture, drawing me into the room and pointing to the seat next to her. There’s half a beat’s pause in the song and then the next verse starts, the crescendo rising again. There’s no use trying to speak, so I sit and close my eyes with Lou, let the song fill me. God, I hate Simon and Garfunkel.
Lou flips through some CDs and puts one in her chunky old Sony stereo.
‘I love that you have a CD collection,’ I tell her, my voice calming.
‘I love CDs. They’re so old school. Listen to this.’ She hits play and something familiar, yet strange and synthy starts playing.
‘What is this? Is that an accordion?’ Drums burst out like controlled explosions.
‘This is “The Boy In the Bubble”, from Paul Simon’s Graceland. This is his best solo album.’
His choir boy voice has changed into something stronger, and there’s a sense of urgency and an optimism in the rising major shifts.
‘After he split with Art Garfunkel, his career was dwindling and he got very depressed, but then he had a stroke of genius in the mid-80s and wrote this album in South Africa. It’s my number one top favourite album of all time,’ Lou says.
I raise my eyebrows at her. ‘Really?’
I pull out Blue. ‘Now this is one I’m still learning to love,’ I say as I slide the vinyl out of the sleeve and place it gently on the turntable. ‘Last year when my mum came to visit, she gave me this album. It’s her favourite. Dad must have said something about me liking records, but I was surprised she liked something so folky. She says it’s poetry.’
I set the needle down and ‘All I Want’ jangles out with the determined, sweet, melancholic first chords.
‘Too cheesy?’ I ask.
‘Just cheesy enough. Where is he? He should be throwing himself into your arms after that.’
I bend down to retrieve my scarf. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Ah,’ Caz’s tone changes.
‘It’s like a Pixies song,’ she says, nodding towards something behind me.
I turn and there he is. Caz pats my shoulder and slips away.
He’s gorgeous, a dimply smile twinkling like the fairy lights. ‘Paige …’ he starts.
I’m on the brink of pulling out of the Alanis tribute show when I turn up to work and Jagged Little Pill is playing.
‘Who put this on?’ I ask, before I even greet anyone.
‘It’s on random,’ Caz winks at me.
‘No it’s not. And this would never be on a Vinyl playlist anyway. It’s nowhere near Triple-J enough for us.’ It cheered me up a bit though. Caz starts singing along to the chorus of ‘You Learn’ rather melodramatically. I laugh and join in.
I’m listening to Blue and tapping on my phone when Spike appears in my bedroom doorway.
‘Is this Joni Mitchell?’ He puts down his guitar case and lies next to me on my bed.
‘Yeah, ‘My Old Man’. One of my favourites.’
We’re pretty messy and I don’t blame the passers-by for passing on by, but it’s so much fun. We run through our living room repertoire: Dylan, Nirvana, our Alanis song. I try the opening chords of Joni’s ‘All I Want’, but give up. That one’s going to need more practice. We sing our way through Ryan Adams’ ‘To Be Young’ – Spike loses it trying to do falsetto in the bridge and I get the lyrics all mixed up.