Grading to U2

I hate to admit it, but I’m horribly behind on my grading.  I knew that I between getting sick and getting sick again and snow days and exhaustion and constant tasks that I would get behind.  And I did.  Fortunately, I have two weeks before the end of the nine weeks so I have time to awaken from my late winter (early spring) fatigue and get the work done.

So, today, I turned on both my home and school computers, pulled up the online gradebook and my google-docs, and turned on the music.  To keep things from feeling like a routine, I selected the random-shuffle on my music and let my iTunes account do its thing while I read papers, updated grades, and read more papers.

The music spun through my weird collection of music.  One moment, I’m listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees talking about being a “Passenger” to Anna von Hasswolff plaintively singing an elegy for her future children.  The Amelie soundtrack and all its quirks and eccentricities spun through my office and I settled into the cracked, faux leather reclining chair (not as nice as my “blue chair” but it’s comfortable enough for me) and followed my students’ ideas down researched-yellow-brick-roads.

And then U2’s song “One” spilled out of my computer’s speakers and the world stopped its academic turning and I entered into memories so palpable that the room felt like it darkened.

It’s the fall of 1994 and I am a student teacher; I had actually graduated from college in May of ’94 because, if an emergency happened, I knew that I would have my degree and could get a job even though I was woefully un-marketable.  I might be able to talk about the intact chronology of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night or the allegorical names in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, but I didn’t have any real, professional skills.  Except helium sucking from balloons.  I was a master at that.  But I didn’t know of any businesses that were hiring for that.

So, I’m a student teacher and have recently started dating this whack-job man (future husband here).  And I’m up on his dorm-hall which was where I had spent the last two years of my life with people I loved who were an adopted family to me.  But, most of them had moved off the hall except my old roommate who I liked to visit which is how I met my future whack-job-husband.  So, I’m visiting the whack-job boyfriend (future husband) and somehow left his side and migrated across the hall.

A young man named Mike was blasting U2’s album Achtung Baby which I loved and had memorized.  In Germany, I had ridden many miles on my bicycle while listening to this album on my Sony Walkman.  I loved spinning across the hills and along the roads while listening to Bono crooning about women moving in “mysterious ways” or how “love is blindness.”

In Germany, the European MTV didn’t have one version of the “One” video.  Ironically, three (at least) were released.  I saw, frequently, the American-released version.  I think this was about a couple in a bar…I can’t even remember.  And then, there was the version in Berlin in which the members were driving Trabis, at least two of which were painted with figures on them (one male, one female).  In this version, the band members cross-dressed as women and Bono was a very convincing woman whereas the Edge (since he didn’t shave) was not all that attractive.  Finally, the third video…if I remember correctly, had images of bison running.  Don’t ask.  I can’t remember and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of those videos.

But I loved that song.  Although my favorite song on the album was (is still) “Love is Blindness,” I loved “One.” I loved the part when Bono sings-shouts “You asked me to enter, and then you made me crawl!”  I’m not even certain if he intended to shout it, but the word seemed to explode from his throat and into my ears and I was with him, crawling on the floor of the loved one’s temple that was constructed but I was unworthy to enter.

So, flashforward to fall of 1994 and I’m in a dorm room as a stranger on a hall where I had spent two years.  And Mike, this lovely young man who was good looking and kind and compassionate, started playing “One” and I was no longer in the middle of an old, antique dorm that was filled with memories and ghosts.

I was on my bike in Germany.  I was in my parents’ living room, looking at their gardens while the highest mountain in Germany cast its shadow upon me and everything surrounding me.  I was watching European MTV.  I was flying down a hill with music belting into my ears.  I was bent over the handlebars with my back bent like an inverted parentheses so that the wind would slide down my back and cool me.


I rode the music in that dorm room and the lights were dimmed and the music was loud and reverberating in my chest.  I was no longer the awkward, chubby, self-conscious girl-woman.  I was merely a person singing a song with a young man who had recently been betrayed or hurt (I think) by his girlfriend because, as my memories start to surface, this was “their song.”

And then came my favorite section of the song and I was lost in the notes and completely immersed in the rhythm and the beat and the chords that were the DNA of an anthem that I loved and was loving more because now Mike and I were both singing out our hearts and our pain and our sadness because I was sad for him and because the song was sad and was triggering this sadness for him.

“You say ‘Love is a temple, love a higher law,
Love is a temple, love the higher law.’
You asked me to enter, and then you made me crawl,
But I can’t keep holding on, to what you got,
When all you got is hurt.”

I remember how Mike’s back arched backwards as he cried out the word “crawl,” how the night and the darkness seemed to envelop him and pull him aside and how a little glimmer of light coming from the tennis courts just outside his dorm room cast just enough light into the room to make everything glow.  I remember that he was the music, he was the song, he was the words which I loved and wanted to love with someone but my whack-job boyfriend didn’t like my singing voice but I loved singing and here, I was singing with a musician who was far better than me.  And I’m not talking about Bono.

It’s been over twenty years since that experience.  Twenty years and every time I hear “One” I am no longer in the present but am a doofy twenty-two year old woman dreaming of love with a man who was an uncertain boyfriend, not knowing that he would eventually slide two rings over my knuckles and take me as his “one” or that I would claim him as mine.

No, when “One” plays, I am in Mike’s dorm room, watching his shoulders fly backwards, him balance on his tip toes, and his back arch as he cries out the word “crawl.”

The original video:

The bison video:

The Berlin version: DIGITAL CAMERA

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