But I Wrote a Song for You!
I think there should be a law that if you write a song for unrequited love, a crush, or lost love, that person must automatically at least go on a date with you and give you a chance or a second chance at love. Part of the law needs to be that said crush knows or has known you at some point in their life and has had pleasant, maybe even loving experiences with you. Another requirement would be for the person to hear the song either live or recorded and know that the song is about them. That would be the law. If things don’t work out, then no harm is done, but if they do, then it would make for the greatest love story ever, even better than the song. And when other people ask how you two met, you could say, “Oh she wrote a song for me. I had no idea how she felt until one night I went to see her band and she played the song live. After that, I knew we were meant to be together.”
As a musician, I have written myriad songs for and about crushes, missed opportunities, and unrequited loves - and none of the men for whom I wrote a song ever knew about it, heard the song, nor did I try to seek them out so they could hear it, except for one very special man I met long ago. Not only did I write him a song, but I also spent thousands of dollars recording it, plus an additional seventy-five dollars in UPS charges to send the recording across international waters. The things humans do for a chance at love. God, we’re dumb.
His name was Daniel, pronounced like the American female name Danielle. He was French and from the island of Guadeloupe, and when I was barely twenty-three years old, I spent one amazing, romantic, what-dreams-are-made-of evening with him.
I was living and working in the small mountain town of Steamboat Springs teaching skiing by day and working at a ski rental shop by night. When I met him, it was Christmas time, one of the busiest times of ski season when the rental shop was swamped with families, out-of-towners, and foreigners, all renting gear for their holiday ski vacations.
It was non-stop as a rental tech during the Christmas rush. I was either in the boot pit fitting stinky feet into crappy out-of-date ski boots or cranking bindings on crappy out of date rental skis - one customer after another, from five pm to ten pm until the last customers struggled out the door awkwardly carrying their trifecta of skis, boots, and poles trying their best not to smack anyone in the face with their gear as most inexperienced ski tourists were wont to do.
During those busy five-hour shifts, I rarely paid much attention to the customers in front of me. I barely had time to look up from the ski mount to engage with customers let alone really inspect their tired and jet-lagged faces. I mostly looked at feet if I were working the boot pit, and tops of heads if I were fitting skis - the best way to know which size skis is most appropriate is by measuring the distance from the tips of the skis to the top of the head. The better the skier, the closer the tips should be to the top of the head. I saw a lot of heads.
The rental process was the same for everyone - take their filled-out rental form, look at their height, weight, and skier type, and choose a pair of rental skis for them, then take a flathead screwdriver and set the binding to the according safety number called the DIN, which stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung in German, or in English, the German Institute for Standardization, which locks the skier's boots into the bindings. The higher the DIN setting, the less likely a skier is to pop out of their skis and tear their ACL, which many tourists were also wont to do, especially intermediate college dudes who usually neglected to take a ski lesson and instead headed straight to the black diamond runs to show off for their bonehead friends.
One particular night during the Christmas rush as I was fervently hurrying one customer to the next hoping to finish early to partake in my nightly free shifter beer, a group of three tall, dark, and handsome men approached me needing skis for the week. It was a rare treat to have handsome customers at the rental shop. Most male patrons were overweight dads from the Midwest, overweight divorcés on a male bonding trip, or again, drunk college guys who, while I may have thought were cute, probably wore bluejeans tucked into their rear entry ski boots and one of those stupid novelty hats with a shark head on top or something equally retarded, rendering them completely unattractive to a ski snob such as myself.
These three men were not only handsome, but they spoke French, which made them insanely sexy. They all had checked “expert” as their ski level and I believed them because they requested demo skis which were way more expensive and only rented by people who were interested in buying new skis or were at a high enough level to know how to ski on them without crashing into a tree or skiing over rocks causing major damage to the bases.
“Daniel Cabre,” read the name on the first form. When I looked up, there he stood, looking down at my five-foot-three-inch frame and smiling at me. I was taken over by a rush of heat enveloping my body while trying not to look directly at the gorgeous French-accented stranger in front of me. “Guadeloupe,” was the country written on his form. I had never heard of this place. The only thing close was the Looney Tunes character, Droopy from Guadalupe, that I had remembered watching on TV as a kid, but that was in Mexico. Where the hell was this place that people spoke French? “The French West Indies, in the Caribbean,” Daniel said in his velvety French accent after I inquired. I was a smitten kitten. The other two guys were cute, but there was something about Daniel that made me feel uncomfortable in the most delicious way. He stood around six feet or six feet one, had thin brown hair, which would be gone in a few years but still lay on his head in a way that most people wouldn’t have known he was balding. His eyes were hazel and twinkled when he looked at me. But the most alluring feature was his dimples, one on each cheek, that appeared every time he smiled, which was a lot. As I cranked his bindings, I could feel his gaze upon me, and after I set the first ski DIN, I looked up at him and gave a sheepish grin. God, he was handsome. I wonder if he is married. I wonder if he has a girlfriend waiting for him at his hotel. Please ask for my number. Please. Please. Please.
I probably cranked his DIN to the wrong setting and may have given him the wrong sized skis I was so distracted by his beauty and his guttural, sensual accent. I took as much time as I could setting up Daniel and his friends’ skis hoping he would ask me out for a drink after my shift, or ask me for my number at least, but at the end of the last crank, and the final handoff of the last set of skis, he and his friends bid farewell and walked out the door into the frosty night. I knew I would never see him again. The chances of running into him on the expansive ski mountain or in town were one and a million.
About a week later, my friend Jules and I got the very rare and coveted day off from teaching skiing during the Christmas holiday. I had told her all about Daniel and his hot French friends. Midday, we stopped at the ski lodge on the other side of the mountain where we rarely stopped, but we were hungry and both had to pee. Walking through the crowded, stuffy cafeteria amongst the sea of pom pom hats, unbuckled ski boots, and oversized parkas, I walked right past Daniel and his group of fellow French heartthrobs. God had sent me a gift.
“Hey!” I said. “Remember me from the ski shop?”
“Of course! Please sit down and join us,” he said, which we did like two high school girls getting invited to sit down at the senior quarterback’s table. We joined the conversation even though I wasn’t paying attention. All I could do was focus on Daniel and his beautiful dimples and sparkling eyes. Toward the end of the conversation, when Jules and I were getting up to leave, Daniel asked for my number. I wrote it down on a napkin. This was in 1997, before smartphones when humans communicated by talking to one another.
“OK,” he said. “I’ll call you later.” Jules and I left the lodge giggling about what had just transpired. “Oh my God, you are so lucky!” she said to me. I forget why we didn’t ask them to ski with us the rest of the day. Probably because we knew they were intermediate at best, and on a coveted day off, a powder day no less, Jules and I had no desire to wait around for anyone, even for a pack of dreamy French cohorts. “There is no such thing as friends on a powder day,” we used to say, meaning that no one waits for anyone when the snow is good lest you miss getting fresh tracks. Man, we were ski snobs.
Later that evening, I received a call from Daniel. He pronounced my name with the French pronunciation, “ah-may,” which is how it is meant to be pronounced, not like the American pedestrian, Amy. It was so suave. “Would you like to meet me for dinner? Anywhere you want,” he said. Holy crap. Yes! I was only twenty-three and trying to contain my enthusiasm was difficult. I had been living in Steamboat for a little over a year and the only dates I had gone on were to the local pizza places or taverns, far from the fancier more expensive restaurants sprinkled throughout the ski town. Steamboat was no Aspen, however, it had its share of very high-end restaurants, which I had yet to sample. I suggested a restaurant called Antares. It was one of the fanciest restaurants in town. He said anywhere. When I hung up the phone, I released a huge exhale as if I had been underwater for too long. I must have forgotten to breathe during our chat.
I looked through my closet and picked out the cutest outfit I had. Unfortunately, that evening, a massive snowstorm moved in making it impossible to wear my cute black boots with the chunky heel I was planning on. Oh, the bane of living in a ski town unable to wear shoes other than snow boots during the winter. I lived but a few blocks from Antares so I was not about to drive in the storm. I had no other choice but to wear my big, clunky Sorel snow boots and walk to the restaurant hoping that Daniel would not take heed to my ugly footwear.
We met in the restaurant's foyer. Antares had once been an old church. Exposed brick walls, stained glass, and an enormous fireplace surrounded the dining room. The server seated us right smack dab in front of the roaring fire. It could not have been more romantic. Daniel told me he was thirty-three, which seemed ancient to me, and that he worked for his father’s cattle farm on the island. I knew he had money. No one flies across an ocean and most of the US to go skiing unless they have money. Plus, he ordered a bottle of wine. It was the first time in my life a date had done that. I had had dates buy me beers and cheap drinks before, but an entire bottle of wine, never, especially in a town full of poor ski bums who spent more money on their gear than on their cars. He even chose from the wine list. It was so sophisticated. The soft glow from the fireplace enveloped Daniel’s features and brightened his twinkly hazel eyes. He looked like a brown-haired, dimpled angel. I remember exactly what I ordered - “Millie’s Mushroom,” - a roasted portobello mushroom stuffed with Gorgonzola accompanied by a side of purple mashed potatoes, julienne grilled carrots, and asparagus. It was one of the best meals I had ever had, and not just because I was eating it seated across from a handsome, rich, charming French islander, but because that gorgonzola-stuffed portobello was a flavor explosion in my mouth - the fiery grilled taste of the crispy edges of the portobello mixing with the sweet yet sharp and soft texture of the Gorgonzola. I took a sip of wine, also the best I had ever had. I drank little wine back then - mostly beer and cheap drinks, and only for the sake of getting drunk. The red wine Daniel ordered was rich and bold, almost creamy. I finally understood what it meant for a wine to “bring out the flavor” of a dish. For dessert, we had my favorite, crème brûlée.
During the meal, we talked about his job, where on the island he lived, the few times he had been to France, and a book called The Alchemist. I told him about myself, what it was like living in a ski town, and the two times I had been to France. I am sure I told him some other things about my life but I was so caught up in the glow from the fireplace, the soft beat from the ambient jazz music, and the warm buzz from the wine fluttering through my body, I wasn’t paying attention to what I said.
Daniel then told me the horrible news. He was leaving the next day, back to his island home. My heart sank to my stomach, and a sting hit my chest. We both regretted not having run into each other until his last day in Steamboat. Outside the snow was coming down in droves. It would be a fat powder day tomorrow, and maybe, just maybe they would cancel his flight. I prayed for snow. I prayed for sheets of snow to infiltrate every highway, parkway, and runway so that the world would have to stop and Daniel could stay, at least for one more day. I didn’t care if it snowed three feet of fresh powder. The “no friends on a powder day,” would have meant nothing to me. I would have gladly forgone getting fresh tracks if it meant Daniel could stay just a little longer.
He walked me home in the snow. My roommate was there. I saw him through the window. I am unsure why I didn't invite Daniel in. I suppose I was reluctant to sit around in my tiny living room on our shitty couch with my male roommate and his girlfriend, and as promiscuous as I was back then, I liked Daniel too much to take him into my room. The night was too special to ruin it with sex. It was perfect the way it was. And so, on my front porch, he said goodbye to me with a peck kiss and walked away through the snow. But just as he was about to exit my driveway, he turned around and said, “You don’t even want to French kiss a French guy?” My eyes widened and my heart had a sudden fit of tachycardia. I ran down the front porch steps bounding through the snow to the sidewalk where he was standing, threw my arms around him and French kissed a French guy. It was by far the greatest first kiss I had ever experienced - soft and warm, with just the right amount of tongue, unlike most dudes I had been kissing who stuck their whole tongue into my mouth seemingly trying to lick my tonsils. Daniel knew what he was doing. The kiss lingered until our lips gently parted as I released my feet back down from being on my tiptoes to reach his height. After that, I watched him walk away, across the street to the bus stop, and disappear from my life.
We exchanged phone numbers and for the next couple of months, he called me a few times. It was difficult to communicate via a landline telephone with someone in a different country back then, in the mid-nineties. There was a delay. Our conversations were brief with overlapping words and static. One of the last times we spoke, he asked me if I would visit him on the island. He said that he would take care of everything if I could just buy the plane ticket. Thinking about that now, I find it odd he didn’t offer to pay for the ticket. He knew I was a poor rental tech and probably couldn’t afford an international ticket. I mean, the guy was a rich cattle farmer for Christ’s sake. Why Daniel, why didn’t you just buy my plane ticket? I researched tickets to Guadeloupe and the cheapest I could find was around six hundred dollars. Sounds cheap now but back then, over twenty-four years ago, it may as well have cost thousands. I knew I couldn’t afford it. I had a credit card but as a young, naïve twenty-three-year-old, barely out of college, I hadn’t the wherewithal to know how to properly use nor pay back a credit card for that much money. I wish I had just bought the damn ticket. Maybe my life would have turned out completely different if I had. I regretfully declined. Ski season was almost over, I had to find another place to live, and my new job as a camp counselor would start soon. I was too wrapped up in living for the future than living for the now back then.
His phone calls stopped and eventually, my thoughts of Daniel waned enough for me to not daydream about waking up in his villa on the island in an enormous bed with white cotton sheets and a view of the ocean. They waned enough for me to stop thinking about Daniel bringing me plates of tropical fruits and coffee for breakfast in bed, and to stop fantasizing of walking on the moonlit beach hand in hand with the sound of gentle waves lapping up against the white sand. They waned.
Years went by. Crappy boyfriends, cheap dates, and heartache came and went. But then, slowly, idealized thoughts of Daniel crept back in. I was writing a lot of songs on the guitar and wanted to write a song about Daniel sung partially in French, kind of like Michelle, My Belle, by the Beatles, but for a man. Daniel, my belle. I asked my friend who was fluent in French to help me compose a French chorus that rhymed and made enough sense to fit in with the rest of the lyrics. I called the song Daniel, and it was a recount of that wonderful evening so many years before.
More years went by. I moved away from Steamboat and down to Denver. I formed a rock-and-roll band, played all over Colorado, and recorded an album. Even though Daniel wasn’t a rock-and-roll song, but more of a slow ballad, I wanted it to be on the album. I hired a violinist, a string bass player, and a cellist to play on the track. It was by far the most expensive track on the album for that reason. The finished song was a beautiful medley of heartfelt lyrics, strings, and a vocal chorus. It was my and many other people’s favorite track on the album. My band and I didn’t play it very much at our shows as it was too soft and slow for the raucous biker bars we usually played. I only sang it now and then at art festivals or other venues where we were more background music than anything.
In 2008, the economy crashed. The band broke up, and I headed to South America for a few years to realize my travel dream and maybe meet a Latino Daniel. I did not. Upon returning from my travels, I was confused about life, forlorn, broke, living with my mom, and had no idea what to do or where to go. One lonely day I dug out one of my dusty, unsold CDs and listened to it a few times after years of not. When I heard Daniel, a rush of desperate despondency filled my heart, and my hopes and fantasies of Daniel surfaced once again. It had been fourteen years since our one wonderful, snowy date. I wondered where he was now, if he was married with kids, or maybe he had been looking for me all these years, desperately searching the internet for signs of me. I knew that wasn’t the case. I was all over the internet because of the band, Facebook, and other websites on which I could be easily located. I looked for him with the ferocity of a teenage girl searching for information about her latest celebrity crush. I even paid ten dollars on one of those people finder sites but to no avail. I didn’t think it would be such an arduous task to find another human being in the age of the internet. After all, I knew his first and last name, and where he lived, but he was not on Facebook or other social media. “Maybe he’s dead, and that’s why he hasn’t tried to find me” - a thought I had attributed to many men who never called me back or vanished after a few dates - their imagined deaths giving me a sense of solace instead of me facing the reality that they just didn’t like me. All those poor dead boys. Heartbreaking.
After many futile google searches and all different combinations of his name coupled with “Guadeloupe,” I finally found him. Google kept asking me if I meant Daniel Cabrera, who was a well-known race car driver. As appealing as a hot race car driver sounded, I wanted my Daniel, the cattle farmer. My research showed that he was now the owner of a cafe in Base Terre, Guadeloupe. I found an article on him from an online magazine in Guadeloupe dated four or five years prior about the success of his restaurant, the great coffee it served, and despite Daniel never having been to culinary school, the exquisite cuisine. I then googled the restaurant. It showed up on google maps with an address and a short blurb in French, which I didn’t understand, but saw Daniel’s name in bold next to the word “propriétaire,” (owner in French). Daniel Cabre. The one who got away that snowy night. The one who for some strange reason didn’t offer to pay for my plane ticket despite offering to pay for everything else, my possible prince, boyfriend, someone to take me away from my now dislocated life. Things had been so much easier when I was just a twenty-three-year-old ski instructor and rental tech living in the mountains whose only genuine concern was how much powder had fallen the night before, and which bar had the cheapest drinks.
If only he knew I had written a song for him and had played it for hundreds of people throughout my ten-year music career. If only he could hear me sing in French, play the guitar, and listen to the violin and cello weeping about the loss of him all those years ago. He would be so taken upon hearing it, that he would fall madly in love with me, and my fourteen-year-old fantasy would finally come true. He would invite me to Guadeloupe, and pay for the goddamn ticket this time, where we would live in his villa overlooking the Caribbean sea. He would introduce me to all his island friends telling them, “This is the girl who wrote the song for me!” I would sing and play guitar at his cafe, and every night I would serenade him with his song. It would be perfect, and my life would be complete.
But how could I get him to hear the song? I no longer had a band website, and even if I had, I still needed a way for him to realize I had a website so he would visit it and listen to the song. I couldn’t find a website for his cafe, nor a Facebook page for it, nor an email address. I thought it rather odd that a small business owner, even on a remote island of the French West Indies, had no website or social media presence. Why was the universe making this so difficult for me? I could send him the physical CD, which would be much better than him just finding my outdated Myspace page and listening to the song. The CD had liner notes, and the lyrics printed on it. He could read the lyrics and when he did, he would have a gigantic smile on his face, accentuating his dimples as he read, in French, a narrative of the night we met. Plus, I would autograph it as a bonus - Daniel, you were the inspiration for the greatest song I’ve ever written. With love, Aimee Bushong. I had to send it to him. People still sent things to one another, right? Surely, I could send him the CD and a letter telling him about all that had transpired since the day I met him until now.
I composed a handwritten letter reminding him of who I was. As much as I liked to believe that I was the only American girl he met on his ski travels, who knows how many others he had wined and dined during his holidays. I told him about my band and that I had never forgotten about that evening we spent together, that this song was very special for me and that I had been searching for him for years so he could hear it. Then I reluctantly questioned his marital status, “I don’t know if you are married with children now. You probably are, but in case you are not, I would love to see you again one day,” I wrote. Then I added all the contact information he would ever need to get a hold of me when he listened to the song and fell in love with me - my address, my email, my phone number, links to my Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn pages.
I then went to UPS with the CD in preparation to pay the cost of shipping. I knew it would not be cheap, however, when the clerk weighed the CD and the flimsy piece of college-ruled paper I had used to write the letter, I was taken aback. “Seventy-five dollars,” he said. I widened my eyes and furrowed my brow at the same time.
“Oh my God! Are you serious?” I said with a cracking pitch a few octaves higher than my normal voice.
“Yes,” said the clerk. “I mean, you can send it through the USPS for cheaper, but there is no guarantee that it will arrive and you won’t have a tracking number. It’s up to you. If it were me, I would never send it through the postal service.” Geez, make me feel guilty why don’t you. I was living with my mom, had no job, barely any money, and no car as I had stupidly sold it while abroad and was currently getting around on my bike, which was locked up outside the UPS store. Spending seventy-five dollars on anything but food or bills would fiscally not have been in my best interest. But if I don’t send it, how will Daniel ever know that I am the one for him? How will he know to divorce his wife (I was sure he was married. Why wouldn’t a guy like that be married?). I painfully slid over my credit card knowing full well this was a bad idea and that I wouldn’t be able to pay back this debt for quite some time. Seventy-five dollars to send a flimsy disk of polycarbonate and a few pieces of paper. I had taken the CD out of its plastic jewel case. Just the slight weight of it would have added twenty more dollars to the already outrageous cost.
The clerk sealed up the padded envelope, slapped on an adhesive address label, and haphazardly tossed it into a bin behind him with no regard that in that envelope may be the link to my fairytale ending. Dick. I left the UPS store with a hint of cognitive dissonance and peddled my bike back to my mom’s house, seventy-five dollars poorer, but with the great hope that in a few weeks, I would get the email or call I had been waiting for all these years.
A few weeks went by. Then a few more. Then a few more. I finally got a job, made some friends and some money, and began my life anew all but forgetting that I had even sent the CD to Daniel. About six months later, during a break from my job teaching English as a second language, I was in the teachers' lounge when I saw I had received a new voicemail on my phone. It was some strange number, not from the US. I listened to it. The first words I heard were, “Alo, Aimée,” in a distinctive French accent. I knew right away who it was. Daniel had been the only person ever to say my name with the correct French pronunciation with which it was spelled. Oh my God! Oh my God! I hadn’t heard his name for almost fifteen years. My heartbeat grew stronger against my shirt. The message was a little hard to understand, but it went something like this: “It’s Daniel. I received your CD,” a little chuckle, “I listened to the song,” another little chuckle. “I liked it. I hope you are doing well. It was good to hear from you. Thanks again for the CD.” And that was it. Nothing more. No invitation to fly out to Guadeloupe. Not even a request to call him back. As excited as I was to hear his voice and to know that he had received the package, his message deflated me in a way I was not expecting. I thought for sure he would at least have asked me to return his call or left me his email or Facebook contact or something. Did he receive the CD, listen to it and think me some sort of crazy stalker who had done nothing but obsess over him for the past decade and a half? Did he not like the music? Did he do a google search on me and find some unsavory things about me that turned him off? How could this be? I wrote a damn song for him! A great one too. I had to go back to class a few minutes after I heard the voicemail, but I was distracted for the rest of the workday wondering what the hell had happened for him not to want to get on a plane, fly to Colorado, burst into my classroom, pick me up and carry me out of the building An Officer and a Gentleman-style onto his private jet and fly me to his land of coffee and sugarcane. Love lift us up where we belong!
I nervously called back the number displayed on my iPhone later that evening not knowing what I would say. He did not pick up. Instead, what I heard was a female voice and an outgoing message spoken all in French. His wife, I assumed. I envisioned him playing the CD in front of her, both of them mockingly giggling at the silly American girl who wrote a song about a man she hardly knew. I did not leave a message and with a heavy heart, pressed the end button on my phone. If he really wanted to talk to me, he would call again.
I kept his name and number in my contacts for years after his fateful call hoping someday I would receive the romantic voicemail that he had wanted to leave that first time but could not because he was married. But the call never came, as of this writing, I am not currently sitting under a coconut tree gazing out at the turquoise Caribbean Sea drinking a cocktail while Daniel cooks me one of his signature dishes. But the hope remains alive even as I approach fifty years of age. Most people I know are divorced anyway, so I figure it’s just a matter of time.
I continue to sing his song now and then as I continue to sing songs I wrote about all the other guys. But now they are merely songs - music and lyrics coming out of my body rote, not beacons of hope nestled deep within my unrealistic Cinderella delusions. And when I play them live, I no longer have any expectations for the men about whom I wrote the songs to magically appear at a show, claw their way through the crowd, get on their knees in front of my microphone stand and beg, “Aimee! I love you! Please give me another chance!”
I have also written many angry chick songs about men who have broken my heart or scorned me. Hell, I wrote a song called, I’ll Cut Them Off, about a guy who hurt me so bad I threaten to cut his balls off if I ever see him again. It’s fun to play, but the fantasy of me seeing him at a show, playing the song in front of him, and then kicking him in his nut sack just doesn’t play out as nicely as the romantic sweep-me-off-my-feet Daniel fantasy. It sure is cathartic to play though, and while castrating that guy would be a little too harsh, he deserves at least a good punt in the ‘nads for how he treated me.
There are maybe millions of romantic songs in the world written either for or about someone - a person so great a muse, a piece of musical poetry was inspired by and composed for them, whether or not they know it. So, therefore I think, no matter how many years pass, no matter if the person the song is written about is married, partnered, or single, if they hear it, it should be the law, or at minimum some sort of executive order, that they seek the person who wrote the song, and at the very least, buy that person a drink and tell them how special it is to know that one human being in the whole wide world had at one time been so wonderfully affected by them, that they took the time, vulnerability, and emotional chutzpa to sit down, unearth unrequited feelings of endearment, suffer through old pain, and write that person a song, as I did for Daniel, who hopefully isn’t dead... at least not yet.