On Song: Bon Iver 'Re:Stacks'

by - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

(Disclaimer: If mushy romance ain't your thing, I suggest you don't read on)

It was 4.30am on a Sunday morning four summers ago when I fell in love. To use a Fault In Our Stars reference, (no, YOU'RE a walking cliche), it was 'the way you fall asleep; steady and then all at once.' We'd been friends for a long time and shared all the important things - taste in music, work ethic, sense of humour. Everything was in it's right place but whether it was the 12 year age gap or a burdening responsibility to stay a carefree fresher as long as possible, I hadn't really entertained the notion of making this boy, this man who so clearly had more than a little soft spot for me, my boyfriend.

Whether I was willing to admit it to myself or not, something had been brewing for months. Post-lecture trips to the supermarket, exchanged mixtapes, marathon facebook chat sessions that would last four hours. All completely platonic, but something that quickly turned into a lingering hug on a alcohol-fuelled night out, or a glance across the room if one spotted the other talking to somebody else in a club.

Maybe it was fear of the unknown, maybe it was fear that I knew this had the potential to be life-defining, maybe it was just all too much commitment after a year of already massive change. Most likely, it was the overwhelming feeling that my at-the-time new-found anxiety gave me - the totally irrational idea that anything good in my life must be concealing something bad, that things this good simply didn't happen to *undeserving* me.

I'm not sure, but either way, I found myself in his bedroom at 4.30 that morning, watching the sky change colours through the gaps in his blinds and listening to his iTunes shuffle quietly through an achingly-hip selection of maudlin tracks. Sufjan Stevens, Elliott Smith, Broken Social Scene, The Shins...couldn't have been more Tumblr is we had tried. We'd been up all night, no funny business - just talking, shoulders just about touching, hands brushing briefly. All of uni friends had already gone home for the summer so we were alone in our not-yet-romantic-bubble, watching shitty shows, exchanging music off a hard drive, dissecting everything that mattered and a lot that didn't. Nothing physical had really happened, but somehow the walk back to my own flat, to be more than inches away from this person who had so quickly become my best friend, just felt too much to bear.

In that moment, I felt a happiness, a overwhelming notion that this was one of those 'moments' that people have in films. A complete and inner cathartic calm, the knowledge that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, with exactly who you're supposed to be with. As the opening strains of Bon Iver's 'Re:Stacks' slipped out of the stereo, I felt myself exhale in a way I hadn't in years - almost like erasing all of the stresses, all of the injustice and all of the rejection I had felt up until this point. When he turned, reached for my face and told me he loved me, I knew he meant it, and that even though I hadn't said it yet, to myself or otherwise, I meant it too. When we walked under fairy lights at Beacons Festival a few months later and he asked me to be his girlfriend, I was terrified, but finally ready - scared at the responsibility of holding this person's heart in my hands, but also scared of what my life would look like without him in it. A question I hope I never have to find out the answer to.

I've never been in a relationship before, but I know that I hope I never have to look for another. I count my lucky stars daily that I skipped out on years of awkward dates and bad matches, that I moved so seamlessly from being best friends to something bigger. Nothing is perfect of course - we've had and are constantly having our fair share of life fluctuations and stresses - agreeing to live together in a student house before we'd even properly been a couple, changing jobs, a move to Leeds, gaps in our employment, parental illnesses and lots of other things, but through an understanding of kindness, encouragement and support, we've overcome so much. I couldn't be prouder of the effort that we put into our relationship, the time we give to each other and how different and yet similar we are as when we first met. With him I'm constantly surprised, constantly impressed and frequently touched by his empathy, thoughtfulness and just plain niceness - an attribute I never really appreciated until we met.

It took a long while to get from that point to where we are today, but it's today, our fourth anniversary of our relationship (thereabouts, the specific dates are very blurry) and the nearly fifth year of knowing one another, that I feel I finally understand what it means to have found your other half. And all through that time, I come back to 'Re:Stacks' from an entirely new perspective than with which I first heard it. No longer is it a song about heartbreak - it's about putting yourself back together and finding your well of happiness inside a world so full of sadness. It might be an odd choice to be romantic about, but it seems right for us - one eye on the darkness that's made each of us who we are and ultimately brought us together in kindred spirit, but the other firmly planted on our future, the things we're going to do, see and be together.

'Everything that happens is from now on/ This is pouring rain/ This is paradise'
 - a slightly misheard lyric on my part but somehow all the better for it. Miserable bands, terrible television, walks round the supermarket and everything in between - Kevin Lawson, you have my heart.

This is not the sound of a new man/ Or a crispy realisation /It's the sound of me unlocking and you lift away /Your love will be /safe with me."

You May Also Like


  1. This is such a beautiful post, Jenessa! One that really resonates with me and some experiences I've had recently. You have a truly lovely way with words - oh, and I love that song so deeply. x