Barcelona’s version of this song feels like the reaction I had heard the original. At first glance, the tone of the lyrics and music seem disjointed. While Robyn doesn’t necessarily read as someone who is inherently weak, she also doesn’t seem to have the best track record with men, usually being the wronged party in a romantic split. So thematically, at face value, it seemed off as well.
So I wondered what it would be like if you weren’t the narrator, what if you were just coming home from just a regular day at work or something, and hitting the play button on the answering machine as you walk through the door. After a message from your mother saying that she misses you and your father thinks you should come home for Easter this year because they’re going to try to have a big picnic at that park you used to go to when you were young. You know, with the petting zoo at the top of that winding path that leads through what can only be described as ‘a smattering of trees’ and another meant to remind you about a cleaning scheduled for three days from now that you’re probably going to cancel because you saw that celebrity dentist on Oprah or the View that one time talk about how if you’re brushing correctly, there’s no real need to get regular ‘cleanings’ in an office and you’ve been brushing that way ever since and you’re probably just overreacting, you totally don’t really have a cavity, and even if you do, you don’t eat that many cold things anyway so why waste a day off of work? That’s when you hear it.
A message from the person who’s been dating your boyfriend, for apparently some time now. Immediately you feel the life drain from your face, this is confirmed when you catch your reflection in the oval mirror hanging above the occasional table near the door where you keep the bowl you throw your keys into. At the opposite end sits the forever-tainted answering machine spouting this unthinkable message. You play it over and over, analyzing every word until you know them all by heart and then you sink to the floor, your back pressed to the door of a shared apartment, and a life that now feels counterfeit.
You can feel the tears welling up behind your eyes but refuse to cry as you pull out a phone book you’ve never actually used and call the first locksmith on the page dedicated to the profession. You tell the man that answers you’ll take the first appointment available (I don’t know how reserving a locksmith works but that’s not important here). You blast dance songs while jumping around in your underwear and t-shirt in the apartment you can no longer afford.
He comes home and you’ve pilled all his things on the stoop outside. You hear the buzz of the intercom as he wonders aloud why his key isn’t working. You push the button, singing into it because you know you don’t have the nerve to say the words. You sing this song to the upbeat rhythms bursting from your barely-adequate-for-the-moment-but-loud-enough-to-do-the-job laptop speakers and he knows you know.
He looks around and realizes all of his things are sitting as his feet; the jig is up. He apologizes over and over, saying it meant nothing, that it ended a while ago, or that the person on the other end must have dialed a wrong number even though you both know things haven’t been really good for quite some time and the distance between you has started to feel insuperable.
The chorus roars to life as you let go of the button along with all those misplaced feelings of self-doubt and diffidence. No longer wondering why you stopped feeling like “us” four moths ago. Almost relieved that thing you couldn’t quite put your finger on wasn’t your doing, but a secret companion living 2 neighborhoods over who’s twice as flexible but not half as pretty.
You don’t feel like crying anymore, you just feel free. Sure, maybe freedom isn’t what you wanted, but it’s what you’ve got. So you start the track over again and promise to never let another person leverage your self-worth.