When I first heard that song I thought it was amazing. Affirming and mature, something on a similar level, to, say, “I Will Survive,” but with less anger: that reassuring, everything will be all right reggae beat that I simply will not tolerate in anything else. Even to this day when I hear “No Woman No Cry” my first, gut reaction to it is to go with it, acquiesce: if you don’t have a woman, you won’t cry. Relationships, I was realizing that freshman year in college, are complicated, hard work, and occasionally pain.
It was a particularly sordid year for me as far as romance was concerned: I was flitting all over campus kissing and claiming devotion to anything that moved. Keep in mind that at the time, I also technically had a boyfriend at home. It’s not a period of time I’m really proud of.
But karma is karma, and I’ve noticed that bouts of being terrible and flippant with other people’s emotions are accompanied by a sudden, intense infatuation: the comeuppance. Enter freshman Andrew. I fell hard, fast, the minute he interrupted our first and last kiss by answering his cell phone. He proceeded to have a very glum, awkward sort of conversation, and I sat in his room uncertain what to do with myself. The call finally ended.
“So,” he said after a moment, “well, that was . . . kind of . . . my girlfriend.”
“HAH!” I responded.
What followed was the first time in my life that I actively pursued someone who I knew was “taken.” It didn’t strike me as a problem, somehow, because I was so awesome. What was immoral about that? Anyway, I wasn’t a real threat, like those sexy ladies are, with their trickery and hips. I once half-joked half-cried to my mother on the phone that I was trying to seduce someone away from his girlfriend, and she sighed “Oh, Adrianne. You’re not going to seduce anyone.”
Time passed. I wasn’t even looking at anyone else any more, I was obsessed. Finally I desperately pulled him aside, throat tightening, hair wild. Something had to be done. I couldn’t take this one-person-on-my-mind thing, it was craziness.
“Hey,” I said. “Look, I just want you to know that, you know, that I really like you, and, I broke up with my boyfriend, so, you know, I’m here.” I was in the habit of frank discussions like these. High school had taught me that there was nothing frightening whatsoever about rejection: it allowed you to move on. The scary part was if they liked you back.
So thankfully, Andrew rejected me then, saying something about needing some time to think about everything, he was really busy lately, and he really didn’t know if he wanted to be in a relationship at all, etc. etc. My memory of what he said is pretty hazy at this point, but I remember exactly, precisely, verbatim, what I said next.
“I understand completely,” I smiled, almost relieved. “No woman, no cry, right?”
He gave me a slow, confused nod, as if he were about to ask a question, but decided against it. Then he left. And I wouldn’t know the real meaning of that song until last summer.