I believe you’re somewhat familiar with my beloved country. However, this is what Costa Rica is to me: the dizzying contrast between walking along the pavement, soaked by a ridiculous drizzle, past a general store boasting a sign for Pozuelo biscuits, all the while knowing that a few yards away behind the rusty railings of the old Alajuela Municipal Sports Complex, was the very place where you and your bandmembers, LA’s own musical monument, were gathered. Rock & roll’s Mount Olympus, breathing for just a moment the same thick steamy air as the local mortals.
Back in 2004 as I walked to that concert, I imagined drummer Gary Novak (who recorded with Chick Corea himself) performing drum calisthenics minutes before appearing on stage with you, the great Alanis Morissette.
Outside, the acrid smell of potato empanadas reheated for the nth time weaves through the ubiquitous sounds of “Jagged Little Pill.” Ah! the unlikely combinations of the Tropics.
But then my memories ripple and break up! A white flash. An echo. A reflection of the future.
Some kind of love.
—If it weren’t for your maturity none of this would have happened
If you weren’t so wise beyond your years I would’ve been able to control myself—
When I was handing my ticket to the chubby sour-faced security officer, the cellophane wrapper of your newly published Under Rug Swept was most likely still lying on my desk. You were 29. I was 24. A vast ocean between us, we were unreal, non-existent to one another. Yet even in the face of this double omission, under the rain, an extraordinary moment was fermenting.
On the other hand, far away, possibly in the flickering light coming from the television set in the house in Cariari, as befits little girls who’ve just turned 9, she too ignored the ridiculous drizzle.
—If it weren’t for my attention you wouldn’t have been successful and
If it weren’t for me you would never have amounted to very much
We’ll fast forward to a few years later—
Inside the Sports Complex now, the rain is still falling steadily. Rhythmically. Half-heartedly. I’ve come to the concert alone; I had no choice since my friends couldn’t have cared less that the great, the gigantic, Alanis had graced our Costa Rican land with her presence. So, I came alone, and alone I was able to slip through the thin crowd to stand at the very edge of the blessed stage.
It would be another lonely evening, like so many others.
She, the nine-year-old, was probably arguing with her brothers in Cariari, with a little girl’s faith and the wingspan of a bird. You, Alanis, in the shitty trailer rented by production… You thought about the magic of Costa Rica and its mysticism years before meeting Tapado. Me, in the front row, oblivious to everything the universe was preparing around me, ignorant of my future.
Some kind of love.
—And no one knows except the both of us
I’ve more than honored your request for silence
And you’ve washed your hands clean of this—
Frankly, I would have liked our numbers to have fit better, more symmetrically maybe. But they didn’t. 24, 29, 9. No matter how random the three might seem, in a universal, magnificent, magical arithmetic… These three stories were poised to eventually fit together.
—What part of our history’s reinvented and under rug swept?
What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?
What with this distance it seems so obvious?—
Well, no! I’m not planning on sweeping anything under the rug: not a selective memory, not the broom, not the “obvious distance.” The truth is this: you, Alanis, sang your song about a love that you either imagined or snuggled up to; a love that managed to strike down professional barriers. I thought then that I wished he might be my age. As you sang the lyrics to “Hands Clean,” I stood there under the gentle rain. Sure, I tend to take liberties when I write, but not this time: we looked into each other’s eyes. The song ended, and our eyes continued to dance, coming together for a moment.
It wasn’t only that song; the spell continued for several more. Dancing eyes and feelings reaching out to one another.
For years I would punish myself for not having taken action: I should have given you a sign, perhaps a long-distance confirmation that we were in sync. In my imagination I’ve relived the scene a thousand times: I lift my hand, a silent timid wave. You react. You ask somebody to let me past the security fence. The guard helps me over the safety railing. I wait until the end of the show and you, Novak, and I… we have a few beers. A perfect evening.
But that’s not how it went.
Some kind of love.
—Just make sure you don’t tell on me especially to members of your family
We best keep this to ourselves and not tell any members of our inner posse
I wish I could tell the world cause you’re such a pretty thing when you’re done up properly
I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and keep your firm body—
If there’s one thing I can admit about myself it’s that I’m a slow learner, and I take my time learning even the simplest lesson. It must have taken me five years, but at last I told my friends about it:
“Sebas, remember that Alanis concert that nobody wanted to go to? Man, I was in the front row, and I don’t know why but I felt great. I swear Alanis stared right at me… She looked into my eyes for more than one song.”
“Jacobo, you’re messed up, dude.”
—Ooh this could be messy and
Ooh I don’t seem to mind
Ooh don’t go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime—
OK, I might be messed up, but there’s nothing wrong with my memory. You, Alanis, looked right into my eyes. You stared so long the hair at the back of my neck prickled. There was nobody else around, just the damn rain. Have I mentioned it takes me a while to understand things? Well, it was not until a few weeks ago, when suddenly Spotify decided to toss “Hands Clean.” Just like that. Boldly.
My head is still wrapped in the stinky cloud of a recently deceased love affair. And that’s when I understood the lesson on love.
You didn’t get to finish the story, Alanis. It was up to that nine-year-old girl. Maybe because the night of your show never ended as it should have, my mind stored the “Hands Clean” lyrics in a hidden corner of my subconscious. Thirteen years later it was my time to embody those lyrics word for word: the forbidden context for love. The generational abyss. The excess.
The now 22-year-old girl. You. Me.
Everything finally fit; the end wasn’t a couple of beers in the worn-out trailer in the Alajuela Sports Complex. The end was embodying those lyrics, and it was all beautiful.
P.S. I know the drummer wasn’t Gary Novak. It was Blair Sinta, who —it must be said— responds to Twitter messages.