PAVEMENT — ‘We Dance’

My birthday was this past Saturday. I actually woke up around my official birthtime (7:34 AM EST) to the sound of my alarm clock bleating spitefully at me — ‘You moron, why’d you set your alarm clock for 7:30 on a SATURDAY?’ Hint duly noted, I smacked the power switch to the OFF position, fell back onto the bed with a squeaky thump, and threw the covers back over me. When I woke up later that morning (OK, afternoon), this song was in my head — I sang it as I got dressed, freshened up, prepared to trudge downstairs for some breakfast (OK, lunch).

‘Pick out some Brazilian nuts for your engagement,’ Mr. Malkmus suggests. ‘Check that expiration date, man; it’s later than you think.’ As with most random thoughts or phrases, significant meanings can be found if you look hard enough. Yeah, sing a song of praise for your elders — they’re in the back. Or they’re right here, getting older every waking moment, the days and months and years gaining ground, turning straight numbers crooked, pinching skin and nerves, slowly letting out the sand.

When you hear a song, you can try and figure out what the singer had in mind, or you can simply disregard the intended meaning and find your own space inside it. Here, I see a guy and a girl in a gym or an Elks Lodge (not unlike a dance I attended back in 8th grade, in 1990 — oh, crap). He’s wearing the powder-blue tuxedo with the ruffled shirt; she wears a cream-colored pleated dress, and a fake flower tied in her hair. They’re on opposite sides of the room, alone. They’re not conventionally pretty, but, then, who is? They see each other, in the darkness, eyes twinkling beneath the turning glass ball as couples idly sway in each other’s arms. They see each other, and think, ‘Maybe we can dance, maybe we can dance…’ But they don’t get up, they don’t wave or smile or say anything, and the distance between them grows, until they’re lost to each other in the dimmed lights, the circles of couples crossing in front of them, the langorous rotation of the ball sprinkling light on the floor. Together, together, together’