SongWriter is a podcast of stories and “answer songs,” featuring performances by Roxane Gay, Joyce Carol Oates, Ted Leo, Susan Orlean, Toshi Reagon, and Michael Ian Black. You can hear an exclusive preview of the episode featuring Lauren Morrill, Justin Cutway, and Vinson Muhammad at Noisetrade.
When I was 10 years old I pretended that I did not see another boy piss on my shoe. We were standing next to each other at the urinals, and he turned to shout something at a nearby group of boys. It was an accident, and it was only for a second, but I remember the way it felt drumming against the top of my shoe. I knew that he had seen it happen, but not if he knew that I had seen it.
He was popular; his family was rich. He lived in a neighborhood of mansions owned by lawyers and doctors that everyone called “Pill Hill.” He wore name-brand clothing, while I wore knock-offs bought at the Dollar General. I knew that he would never apologize, and I knew that acknowledging what he had done meant I had to fight him. Though he was smaller than I was I dreaded the thought. Even if I beat the crap out of him, he was mean and vindictive, and exceptionally talented at identifying and exploiting the weaknesses of other children. I could imagine months of misery unspooling in front of me.
What I knew then, but could not somehow activate into my choices or worldview, was that the guy was an asshole. Like an IRL troll or a bot, there was no way to engage with him that would make my life better. In college he dated a friend of mine, and she walked in on him having sex with her best friend. I do not need to look up his online profile now to know that he is somewhere being exactly the sort of poisonous prick he was then. He is almost certainly a Trump supporter.
I thought about that moment when I spoke with author Lauren Morrill for the upcoming episode of SongWriter. Lauren reads a story about the humiliations and lessons of her own childhood. In a story she wrote for SongWriter she describes how, in a moment of ecstatic celebration after kissing a boy, she broke her hand smacking it against a doorknob. When she tells the boy what happened, he laughs at her.
“I want to tell every teenage girl, ‘No teenage guys are worth it. None of them!’” she said. “They’re abundant and low value.”
Rapper and trumpet player Vinson Muhammad and acoustic guitarist Justin Cutway each perform brand new songs written in response to Lauren’s story.
The next live online SongWriter show is Sunday, Sept. 27, and will feature novelist Odie Lindsey and songwriter Mary Gauthier. Follow Ben Arthur @MyHeart on Twitter or @BenArthurMusic on IG.