A Love Letter to the Song That Tells My Story For Me

She sits, isolated from the rest of the world in the backseat of an old hand-me-down car that she doesn’t know the make or model of. This doesn’t matter to her - she aches for security that couldn’t be found in any make or any model, so she carries on not knowing. She aches for friendship and she aches for acceptance. This ache is constant, so constant she’s become habituated to it. Yet, every once in a while, her natural immunity falters, and she feels pricks from thousands of suppressed pains all at once. But, here, she’s strong. Here, in the backseat of some car made in some year that doesn’t matter. As her escort from some event that she wasn’t really wanted at takes her back to the place she calls home, the indistinguishable chords that will soon become part of her identity ring in her ears for the very first time. 

When I introduce myself to people, I make it immediately clear that one of my personality traits is “Ribs” by Lorde. I don’t even preface by saying that I like the song; rather, I reduce myself to four minutes and nineteen seconds. The song and I are one, and the acknowledgment of those four minutes and nineteen seconds is an acknowledgment of my trials and tribulations. 

This reduction is not meant to be perceived as self-derogatory. I have found a way to bear on my sleeve proudly how I have felt (and continue to feel) to those I meet. It allows me to avoid trekking through the winding roads of new relationships; questioning the capability to be vulnerable with a person, and simply propose parts of myself that make me, me. All in four minutes and nineteen seconds. 

She was back in the backseat of a car she couldn’t pick out of a lineup. 

She was fifteen and paralyzed by trepidations she was too young to have. All she was trying to do was figure out who she was - and who she wanted to become. Yet she was also attempting to fit a mold created by her peers; the feeling of acceptance was one she had yet to experience. Trying to accomplish both tasks at once was proving impossible, and the urge to just succumb to the pressure to be someone she wasn’t grew stronger by the second. She would paint a portrait of herself that those around her were ready to see, but to please everyone, wet paint had to be layered on. Those layers collided and coagulated, leaving a big brown glob of meaningless paint to be presented to the world. And the world turned their back on the abomination. The outside matched the inside at that point. But she was sick of it. 

We can talk it so good 

We can make it so divine 

We can talk it good 

How you wish it would be all the time 

The words echoed out of a Bluetooth sound system that replaced the original radio that belonged to a car with no make or model. The lyrics snapped her out of her daze, and she began to absorb the song. She longed for conversation, for connection, for anything, at this point. 

This dream isn’t feeling sweet 

We’re reeling through the midnight streets 

And I’ve never felt more alone 

It feels so scary, getting old 

She began to feel like someone had woken her up from a year-long slumber. Something about these lines resonated with her specifically. She barely had enough time to comprehend what they were saying, but something within her felt heard. She had no clue what her future was holding. She was so young, yet she was continually fretting over the questions of where she would end up, if she would ever be loved, or even if she would ever be happy again. (Spoiler alert: she would be). 

The rest of the song echoed softly through the car, nobody but her fully paying attention to what the words represented. And when she returned to the safe-haven of a twin-sized mattress she had been sleeping on for longer than she’d care to admit, it’s all she listened to for hours. She felt the lyrics, she cried to them (not for the last time), and she let them take over her. It was like screaming into a void about those suppressed aching pricks, but someone was screaming back. It was the closest thing she had felt to comfort in a long time. 

I have worked hard to feel comfortable in who I am. Hell, I am still working on how to fully accept the quirks in my personality. But within seconds of listening to “Ribs,” I felt soothed. It was as if I was talking to someone who heard me - heard the things I said, but heard the things I left unsaid even more. It is for that reason that I wear those words so proudly; to me, they represent what it’s like to be alone and simultaneously surrounded by hundreds of people. I learned who I wanted to be with the eerie and indistinguishable chords playing in the back of my mind, and I want to tell the world who I am now. But I must give some credit to the song that made me feel heard. 

You’re the only friend I need 

Sharing beds like little kids 

Laughing ’til our ribs get tough 

But that will never be enough 

This song is me, and I am this song. She never imagined feeling as comfortable with her personality as I am right now, and that growth is something that I will sport for the remainder of my life. She was heard, and when I feel overlooked, I know that I can feel heard again, too.