• Another song comes on the radio, and in a split second, the driver—a petite girl with dyed crimson hair, a good friend of mine—reaches across the cramped space in the Volkswagen bug and turns it up. The song is “Cath”, by Death Cab for Cutie.

    “A friend of mine did a cover on it,” She tells me, a smile on her lips, eyes glancing over her glasses my direction. “They dedicated it to me.”

    I’m suddenly confused. Staring at the radio, I run the words through my mind—“Cath, it seems//That you live in someone else's dreams//In a hand-me-down wedding dress//With the things that could've been all repressed.”—and it doesn’t seem right, especially not paired with the strangely ambivalent, almost upbeat tune that goes with it (Shouldn’t a song with lyrics like this at least be slow?). Why would anyone dedicate this depressing song, about a woman pressured by fear into marriage, to my bright, beautiful, wonderful friend?

    I simply shake my head and think about how I know better. About how I know that she’ll go so much farther than that—she’s far too helpful and patient, been there for too many people and is too good, even to those that dislike her, to get anything but what she deserves in return. After all, I’ve never met anyone so at peace with themselves in my life.

    And yet now I sit here, listening to that same song, and she is the only person I can think of.

    Soon everybody will ask//What became of you//’Cause your heart was dying fast//And you didn’t know what to do.

    In the nonchalance with which the singer conveys just how trapped dear Cath is, I am back—walking out of a pool party to the driveway, finding my friend sitting in the driver’s seat of her bug, door open to let in the night air. Her phone is in her lap, eyes staring off towards the stars, a mysterious dark scar on her upper arm that wasn’t there before her last semester of college.

    “I just really miss my friends from college,” She tells me, eyes blank, when I ask her why she isn’t inside. “I kind of wanted to call them.”

    And as the flash bulbs burst//She holds a smile//Like someone would hold//A crying child.

    We talk. She confesses to me her crippling self-doubt and low confidence, her despair and her acceptance. Even as she is at her most vulnerable, I see how beautiful she is, how much she deserves; just how well she faces everything that happens, despite her fear. I wish I were as strong as her.

    But you said your vows//And you closed the door//On so many men//Who would have loved you more.

    Suddenly, I think of her friend, who dedicated “Cath” to her. Suddenly, I wonder how much I’ve really known about anyone.

    Suddenly, I want to play the song for her.

    I’m still sitting in that car with it playing. I’m still standing by her side, talking with her. I’m still listening to it in my room, with that strange sense of trapped vulnerability welling up inside of me uncontrollably. It’s a feeling that I cannot express through sadness, only honesty.

    Maybe that strangely ambivalent, almost-upbeat tune does the most justice after all.

    But if their hearts were dying that fast//They'd have done the same as you//And I'd have done the same as you.