Housechores and kitchenware: Year three through Sufjan Stevens’ “Javelin”

Housechores and kitchenware: Year three through Sufjan Stevens’ “Javelin”

“Sorry for the mess, Matthew, but everyone’s moved out, and I’ve just been scrambling. Bring that container and bag down to the car. I’ll give you the keys.”

Vanessa said this with a soft expression of regret, as if she felt awful for making me do (unpaid) manual labor by helping her move out of her apartment. For someone who has essentially become my older sister, if she asked me to move the world for her, I would. The sun was closing up its shop, and something about a barren apartment scattered with trinkets and mementos had me in a melancholic mood. As the elevator dropped with the velocity of the Tower of Terror, the bag of rusted and sticky frying-pans clanged against the metal railing, reverberating for three seconds. The screech reminded me of the chimes scattered across Sufjan Stevens’ “Goodbye Evergreen,” his poem that unfurls the sonic beauty that is his latest album, “Javelin.” 

Stevens released the indie-folk album back in October of last year, just as my third year of college had begun. My apartment’s leasing office was being pedantic about our lease transfer, my mathematics classes were hardly registering in my brain, and I constantly found myself floating around, and never even at home. I belonged to the whim of others, but I never belonged to myself. The only consistency was watching the sun rise while on the trolley, as the plucked guitar run which opens “A Running Start” saturated the world. It’s a song that cascades in the beauty of something new, bookended with a lovely instrumental outro that sounds fantastical, as if life has become a happy fairy tale in and of itself. In those moments, life flourished beyond its mundane confines and became an impressionistic dream. 

This year, I found myself thinking about love far too often. Something about our culture that has gamified the role of love in our lives, and has made it such that jealousy and self-deprecation becomes the end-all of those who feel unwanted. Of course, I’d be a victim of that cultural shift as well. Whether it was the many nights I spent on Hinge swiping soulessly as it continually sapped my happiness, or how my friends would somehow stumble their way into romance, I doubted my own ability to be loved. Perhaps that’s why I have over a hundred plays on “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”, a symphonic lament that questions the notion of unconditional and sincere love, whether platonic or romantic. Sometimes the best comfort is sadness, and this song revels in that very emotion. There’s a gorgeously rustic and mythic quality to its percussion and woodwinds, which, alongside the soaring choirs, catapulted the song into an anthemic stature, and may as well be my very own personal theme song at this point. 

This year, I found myself truly loving Chili’s, one of Vanessa’s favorite restaurants. We first went back in September, right before doing a theater double-feature of “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Bottoms.” We got their coveted three-for-me meal, selecting unlimited chips and salsa, lemonade, and their pasta. It’s always a fairly cheap meal, but our conversations there were always rich. Oftentimes, Vanessa and our other friends would be gossiping about a K-pop idol that I had no clue about, but they looked so joyous, and as I sipped on my lemonade, I couldn’t be happier to be in their presence. There’s always life debriefs at these Chili’s gatherings, and it’s become, in a sense, our little haven of comfort and solitude. I remember one of these trips being colored by “Genuflecting Ghost” from “Javelin” because I had listened to it earlier in the day. It’s an acoustic track that builds with electronic layers and haunting choirs until dissipating, along with Stevens’ pleas to take the suffering of his loved ones. That was the day Vanessa told us she got her heart broken. It’s okay, though. We all went out to Chili’s on Valentine’s Day. 

For the past two years, Vanessa and I have had a tradition: Record Store Day, held every third Saturday of April, where we go to Reanimated Records in La Mesa early, and try to snatch whatever vinyl Laufey has pressed for that year. This year, I slept for two hours before rising up at 4:30 a.m. to pick up Vanessa around 4:55, so that we’d be in line by 5:15. As a general rule, I’d always let my passengers select the music, as a courtesy to them, because not everyone would want to listen to my musical tastes. Yet, Vanessa wanted to listen to anything I wanted to, which warmed my heart. We listened to Fiona Apple’s “When the Pawn…” and I had also considered playing “Javelin,” but the two-hours of rest was making me forgetful in the moment. We were always bound to fail at attaining the Laufey vinyl (we’d probably have to camp the night before), but we snatched up Olivia Rodrigo and Fleet Foxes. In the frenzy of vinyl searching, I forgot to pick up “Javelin,” something I’d been meaning to do since October. A shame, because it would have been lovely to associate my favorite album with an adventure alongside one of my favorite people. 

It’s 12:38 a.m. on Friday, May 31, and I have at this point nearly bashed my finger nails in while undoing the rigid screws in Vanessa’s bed frame. The hollow and lonely nature of the apartment is almost bringing me to tears as Vanessa prepares matcha in the kitchen to keep us both from falling asleep. I had already cried my tears at the “Haikyu” film we watched earlier. Still, there was at least mist in the air. After this, there’d be two weeks where Vanessa would float around until graduation, and then she’d go back home. It’s times like this where I remember why I don’t listen to “Shit Talk,” even though it might be the most opulent and impressive from the album. The song is inherently about letting go and moving on from something you can’t have or keep anymore.  I’m so used to a “see you later,” or a “text me next time you want to hang out!” 

I’ve never had to say goodbye. 

Earlier in the day, as Vanessa was picking me up for the “Haikyu” film, Vanessa mentioned that she had so much excess in her apartment, that if I wanted any of her pots and pans, or any kitchenware, they’d be mine to take. My face lit up, because it meant that I had more materials to cook with, and that I wouldn’t have to spend any money purchasing household appliances.

“At this point in life, I think I’d be happy to get giant soup pots for my birthday.”

“Aww Matthew, you’re finally growing up!”

My favorite song off of “Javelin”, and my favorite song of all time, is Stevens’ cover of “There’s a World,” originally penned by Neil Young. Young’s version is a brooding and frankly abrasive piece, which juggles between a stormy “Look-Down”-esque romp and a light, fairy-like bridge. Meanwhile, Stevens’ rendition bookends his wonderful music journey in “Javelin” and feels like running through sun-blessed flower-fields, where light hits your face, and the world dawns upon your eyes in all its generosity and beauty. It’s a message from one generation to the other, that the world belongs to you, that each person has their own story, that your tomorrow will always be beautiful. 

Vanessa gave me all of her whisks, her spatulas, giant plates, and much more kitchenware, and dropped me off at my apartment at 2 a.m. after running a few more errands. She didn’t really need any of the kitchen materials, and was happy to bestow them all upon me. In some ways this was Vanessa giving me her world; everything that she’s used to cook, and all the memories that she’s imbued in these little strainers and cutting boards — they’ve been passed onto me now. 

I love thinking about the future, but in that instance of time, I didn’t. I know that eventually, time waits for no one, and I’ll live in a world where I won’t see one of my favorite people as much anymore. Still, holding onto these little mementos, they’ll always remind me of Vanessa whenever I cook from now on. And I’d imagine that even if I was sad at the moment, she’d definitely say something similar to Stevens in “There’s a World,” and comfort me in the same ways that the song has done for me. 

 

“Why does this feel like farewell?”

“Don’t say that Matthew. I’ll still be here for two more weeks!”

“I know, but it feels like the last major time I’ll get to spend with you.”

“You’ll still see me at a few more events before the school year ends!”

“That’s true. Well, get home safe, Vanessa! Get some sleep before your grad photos.”

“I will Matthew! Good night!”

“Good night, Vanessa.”

Image courtesy of Pitchfork

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About the Contributor
Matthew Pham, Staff Writer
Matthew Pham is a 3rd year Mathematics-CS Major with a minor in Literature/Writing. He is an avid collector of blu-rays and DVDs, enjoys Yeule’s music, and adores the stars and skies.
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