Message in a bottle
Back in Buffalo, New York, where I’m from, I had a boyfriend. It was a pretty nice
relationship; at one point we really loved each other. But, as relationships sometimes do, it went south and we broke up. And the breakup itself was actually not that terrible. It was pretty straightforward, in fact.
However, in the weeks and months that followed, I found myself going through a very difficult post-relationship transition. As it turned out, my interpretation of the breakup was not necessarily accurate. I thought we were two people who wanted different things; he thought it best to coax me into breaking up with him so he wouldn’t look like a bad guy when pursuing someone else—a 22-year-old theater major who had a boyfriend.
Like so many other women who find themselves in this sort of situation, things got pretty dark for me. My evenings deteriorated into sitting on the couch in semi-darkness and comfy clothes, drinking red wine, and listening to music that made me cry. And checking Facebook. I had an undeniable need to 1) get drunk and 2) punish myself by piecing together the new life of Sean, post-Kelly. And boy, were things working out well for him and his ingénue. He had posted to his timeline a painting of the two of them having sex, and a drawing he did of them kissing, with the lyrics to a love song by Fiona Apple, his favorite musician, above them. And, oh yeah, this was on my birthday.
There was one specific song that perfectly articulated what had happened between him and me and how I felt: “Oh well,” by Fiona Apple. The irony wasn’t lost on me: I wouldn’t have known the song if it hadn’t been for Sean, but I also wouldn’t have needed the song if it hadn’t been for him. Coincidentally, Fiona was coming to Buffalo later that month. I was confident that my ex would be in attendance, and two nights before the show, in my Cabernet- and rage-filled stupor, an idea was born—a most amazing revenge plan. I would contact Fiona Apple and clue her in to the type of fan she had. And I would do it through Facebook.
“Hi Fiona Apple,” glug glug. “I saw your show this summer in Ithaca. I was there with my boyfriend, who left me two weeks later for a younger girl. You wanna know what’s crazy? That was the second time he did that to me. What a fool I am, eh? Anyway, it’s an awful thing for me out here on my own.
“If you feel inspired at your Buffalo show on October 9, where he will be and I will not, please play ‘Oh Well,’ dedicated to Sean Gardener. He’s a faker and a fraud and you shouldn’t have boys like that in your audience. Alas you will and do… so feel free to call one out on his bullshit. Much love, Kelly.”
And then I hit “send.” Of course she wouldn’t read it, but that didn’t matter. Except… maybe she would.
The morning after the show (I don’t remember what I did that night—probably drank wine and cried), I started seeing the posts on Facebook: “Can’t believe what an incredible show,” Sean had posted. “The greatest night of my life!” Disappointingly, Fiona hadn’t ripped him a new one as I had hoped. But then another mutual friend posted, “The show was amazing. Sean Gardener’s the man!” No one has ever called Sean Gardener “the man” (because he’s not), so what had happened?
This is what happened.
My ex worked at a used bookstore (eye-
roll) and, the day of the concert, a member of Fiona Apple’s band came into the shop. Sean gave him the sketch of him and Maura, the one with the song lyric, and asked if he’d give it to Fiona. Apparently he did, because that night, Fiona Apple stopped the show and thanked Sean Gardener for his wonderful drawing—and dedicated the performance of that song to him.
In my saddest moment, in my darkest hour, I had sent a message in a bottle seeking release from my emotional torment to Fiona Apple. And indeed the name Sean Gardener did come out of her mouth, but with the exact wrong inflection—one of gratitude instead of disgust, as it should have been. And the worst part is, now this is his story. If he were writing this essay, this is the story he would tell as the craziest thing he ever did for love. And no one, including and especially Fiona Apple, knows the real story.
Although now you do. So if anyone out there knows Fiona Apple and could possibly get in touch with her for me, that would be great. There is a story she has got to hear.—Kelly Kroese
Kelly is a librarian in Charlottesville.