You know who’s good for breakups? Bruce Springsteen. He’s also good for budding romances, weddings, funerals, long walks on the beach, calculus tests, trips to the jungle gym, pretty much anything. But as Matthew Bolin tells us, he’s also a prophet, and has the power to make his songs appear at appropriate times, even when you have no idea how appropriate they are.
“Tunnel of Hate”
By Matthew Bolin
I was fifteen, her name was Jenna, and she was in my class at Hebrew school. I had never had feelings for a girl, really, up until the moment that I walked out of a building at a temple camp in Malibu and saw her standing there, about twenty feet away, her back to me, and bathed in the glow of the industrial outdoor lighting. Somehow, at that moment, I was awakened to the reality of the fairer sex, and my soul blossomed…or burst. One of the two. Anyway, too overcome to do anything about this new feeling, I ran to the bathroom (my original intent when stepping outside), and by the time I came back out, she was gone.
A month later I built up the courage to ask her out. When I made the decision, Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise” (download) was playing in the background. Whether she knew it or not, that would become “our song” in my mind. Every time I called her that summer, I would listen to “Brilliant Disguise” before doing it. Anyway, she said yes to going out; we went on a nice little date, talked on the phone a few more times, and then she went on vacation with her parents. When she came back, towards the end of the summer, she never called; I didn’t know she was back. Next thing I know, I was invited to a party at her house. Cool! But when I went there, I discovered that there would be no advancing of this teen romance: she’d been back for a while, and had an honest-to-goodness boyfriend. I guess if I had listened better to the lyrics of “Brilliant Disguise,” I might have taken it as a bad omen, but what the hey?
As a postscript, flash forward a couple of years to the summer after I graduated from high school. Before I went up to the Bay Area for college, I actually did hook up with Jenna, getting back in touch with her after sending her a “no hard feelings” invitation to my graduation. Then, after going out for a few weeks (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) she goes away on vacation, comes back, doesn’t tell me she’s come back, and hooks up with another guy. I hear that she’s back in town through a mutual acquaintance, then phone her. Who knows when she would have actually contacted me.
Anyway, even after finding this out, I was still willing to continue dating her — but then she dumped me, telling me that she assumed this wasn’t going to be a lasting relationship with her going into her senior year of high school in Los Angeles and me entering college in the Bay Area. As I’ve said before: women are evil; it’s just that men are to stupid to either notice or care. I probably shouldn’t have started listening to the Tunnel of Love album again that summer, and instead should have spent my time trying to deconstruct the intricacies of Color Me Badd or something.
The final irony: Even in spite of all the associations with Jenna, “Brilliant Disguise” is still my favorite Springsteen song ever.