The thing that sticks out to me most about this song is that my ex-boyfriend loved to use two lines from it as his away message:
"and if i ever want to drive myself insane,
all i have to do is watch you breathing."
and for all I know that's still his away message all the time, but who's he watching now? It's unfair that this song has an automatic association with heartbreak for me, and it's even more unfair that the particular association is so ridiculous... but what can I say? Living in the digital age has made the scale of interactions smaller and stranger, but the human passions underlying those interactions haven't changed at all. So I see these lines from a song and imagine my ex-boyfriend's stupid white thick-knuckled hand selecting that particular message from a list; I imagine him driving away in his silver Toyota Avalon to god-knows-where, his stupid tremulous lips pursed, ready to watch god-knows-who breathe.
I don't think the Alpha Cabra would object particularly to the sudden abject hopelessness that the first half of this song stirs up in me; given certain other songs of his, he seems pretty familiar with lovelorn despair. But no matter what my treacherous lump-filled throat might say, this isn't a song about heartbreak. It certainly starts out with all the portents of it: the song's protagonist is lonely and sleepless in the rain at night, being driven mad by longing. The radio becomes his company; then it is drowned by a conflagration of rage on the part of the lover, who gathers her hair into the most metaphysically significant ponytail I've ever heard of ("and you gathered your hair behind your head/ like god was gonna catch you by the pony tail"); and then the old man on the radio returns and the lovers are reconciled, rising from their deathlike states of isolation. The A.C. is remarkable at creating loneliness; the despair clutching at the protagonist at the beginning of the song is only matched by the feeling of triumph in companionship at the end. Comfort, the song seems to say, can be as powerful as despair when it follows on the heels of awful loneliness.
When the end of this song rolls around, I can close my eyes and imagine myself running back across my lawn to that silver Toyota Avalon, the power of this song in my voice and my hands enough to stop him from driving away. The ineffable logic of this song is too compelling to drive away from, after all: companionship dispels despair, the breathing and hair of a loved one is enough to drive away static and death; perhaps if I'd just sung this song loud enough for him to hear his engine would have stalled in front of my house and we would still be singing badly with the radio together. There would have been no divorce. There will never be any divorce.