How to create the perfect hipster playlist

Step 1: Every good hipster playlist must start with “Asleep” by The Smiths. It doesn’t matter where it is in the progression of songs, but it must be in the list.

You almost ran me over the first time we met. I was crossing the street when it happened, with my violin case on one shoulder, book bag on the other. I remember the horrified look on your face when your hood tapped my side with the barest hint of force: you were afraid that I’d be that asshole who would press charges. I wasn’t even paying attention to you–I was in a little bit of a hurry, even though I had plenty of time to get home–but the fresh fish was going to go bad if I dawdled for too long. Absentmindedly, I shot you a quick smile and walked on, barely having registered your little bump.

I didn’t actually think I would see you again.

Step 2: Every good hipster playlist needs a breathy singer-song writer. Bonus points if it’s a female. Extra points if she’s foreign. Common singer-song writers include Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, Camille, Carla Bruni. Less common ones include Landon Pigg, Ed Sheeran, Sufjan Stevens.

This time, you didn’t almost run me over. Actually, we’re in the same math class. I saw your eyes widen and your expression turn guilty, even in your lounge-lizard positioning, chair tipped back, legs on the desk, and your fingers crossed behind your head.

“Hey,” I said, waving. “How are you?”

You immediately retract your position and sit up properly. “I’m so, so sorry about the other day,” you say.

“What happened?” your friend asks.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, smiling. “I barely felt it.”

You laugh, and it’s a surprisingly deep and full laugh. “Let me make it up to you–I’ll drive you wherever you want to go,” you promise, eyes crinkling flirtatiously. I catch up quickly.

“Yeah?” I challenge. “And what if I want you to take out for coffee?” Your friends are snickering.

“I’d say, I’ll pick you up after class, and we can go to that nice one down the street,” you answer back, hand reaching out to grasp mine. You bring it up to your mouth and your lips brush the barest of kisses across my knuckles as if I was some royal. I snatch my hand back quickly.

“Deal,” I say, trying not to blush or rub the knuckles you kissed.

 Step 3: The party song. The song that, even though you know you can’t dance, you try anyway because you can’t not try.

Our coffee date goes well. But things don’t progress much beyond that until Homecoming season arrives. All of a sudden, everyone starts whispering about who’s asking who, who’s wearing what, colors, shoes, ties, corsages, boutonnieres–and I have no idea what I’m going to do.

I know who I want to ask to Homecoming, but flowers are too cliche and you deserve better than that. So I kept putting it off in the hopes that something better would come up in my brain. I didn’t realize that you’d be planning, too, until teachers started playing music in their PowerPoints.

Hey I just met you
And this is crazy

I couldn’t help but groan, remembering the very in-depth conversation we had over coffee.

“I love jazz,” you said. “I love the graininess of the vocals and the sheer technique it takes to do it well. I especially love old jazz–the new stuff is just too manufactured.”

“You snob,” I teased. “I love alt rock. And indie. I have a weakness for a good beat, though. And shitty pop music.”

You laughed. “Me too!”

No silver or no gold
Could dress me up so good
You’re the glitter in the darkness of my world
Just tell me what to do
I’ll fall right into you
Going under cast a spell just say the word

“It was fun,” you admitted, waving off my attempts to pay. “And I’m trying to apologize for almost killing you. Let me pay.”

I snorted with laughter. You’re such an apologetic dork.

“We should do this again,” I told you, even though it’s been almost two months and we haven’t done anything since. You’re retroactively fixing this now, which is adorable.

We got the keys to open paradise, yeah, paradise
Now let’s go walking hand in hand

I burst out laughing in the middle of English Lit because it’s getting a little bit ridiculous. We’re reading Paradise Lost and Brave New World and the song in conjunction with the subject matter is just absurd. Already, I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen later in the day. There’s always been a message you left behind with the song, and this one is no different: “I can make it the night of your life.” Cute, pithy. I add it to my collection of messages, right after “Six reasons why you and I should go to Homecoming together.” and “I’ve got everything all planned out already. You just have to relax and have fun.”

We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I never told you I liked Bowie. Lucky guess?

Your eyes are the size of the moon
You could ’cause you can so you do
We’re feeling so good

I’m beyond caring now. Fifth period AP Chemistry, and I can barely concentrate on how to calculate the molar mass of Compound X. All I can think about it math, and what’s going to happen. Lunch isn’t much better. I can’t stop jiggling my leg, so much that my friend puts her hand on my knee and physically stops me. Then she makes me run two laps around the courtyard so that I can expend some of my restless energy.

I just can’t wait to see you.

You are, so sweet, so sweet
Dancing and moving to that beat, that beat

“One more period left. I can’t wait to see you.” Math. Math. Math.

When I get to math, I’m already buzzing out of my skin with excitement. Of course I’m a little upset that my planning has been ruined, but I’m still thrilled to be getting asked. You’re missing from class when it starts, however, and that makes me worried just a little bit. I struggle to listen to the teacher lecture about multivariable calculus, but my heart’s not in it.

I almost don’t notice when the lecture wraps up early and the teacher turns on the projector.

Golden light, tunnel white
If I run to you, would you stay?

My head perks up, and I jump when you burst through the door in silver and gold, looking, of all things, absolutely ridiculous in gold and silver.

“So what do you say?” you ask. “Want to be my beta love for homecoming?”

How could I say no?

Step 4: That weird trance song that plays a billion times that you pretend to hate but secretly love.

Even though we go with a group of friends, it doesn’t stop us from having an absolutely awesome time. Your friends tease us later that it was like six-times third-wheeling, and were quick to disappear into the dance floor away from us with looks of mock disgust. It doesn’t help that a couple of them decided to scare a few freshmen by yelling, “Leave room for Jesus!” when the freshmen danced a little too close to each other (not really).

I’m happy to dance with you for most of the time, even though I do dance with some other friends. I prefer you, though. Nobody knows how to dance, but enthusiasm is what really counts.

They run out of cups at the refreshment tables, which is mostly hilarious, but frustrating, especially because there’s so much drinkable liquid left and no way to go about it sanitarily.

We’re the gold and silver couple of the dance. It might be kind of weird, but let’s face it. I saw you doing the worm on the dance floor with another friend. It was awesome, but just a little weird.

Step 5: Oldies, but goodies. Queen, Nirvana, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Jesus & The Mary Chain. To get that genuine hipster vibe, you’ve got to input some vintage music snobbery.

I end up over at your house a lot after Homecoming. We don’t do very much except play video games and do math homework, but I like the way we are. We tell your parents that I’m just a friend, and, frankly, we haven’t really moved beyond that point. Also, it helps that staying “friends” means that both our parents are more likely to let us go on a senior trip together.

We also take a lot of naps together, which is nice. I like that. We should keep doing it.

In fact, we do it so often that our parents have stopped caring. As long as I come home sometimes, they’re fine with me staying out. I didn’t actually expect them to be so relaxed about me, their only child being out all night.

Step 6: That one song that’s the perfect hipster nostalgia. It should speak of old Americana, and also have that vintage quality to it that makes people wish they lived in the twentieth century instead of the twenty-first. 

The first time I ask you to kiss me, we’re skipping Tolo to wander around the city for an entire night. We’re in the Ferris wheel and I’m sitting next to you, watching the lights of the city.

You don’t so much as agree verbally as move closer and tuck me under your arm. I tilt my face towards yours and put my fingers underneath your jaw.

It’s not perfect. We jerk apart a few times, once in surprise when the Ferris wheel comes to a sudden stop and we’re on top, once when we accidentally bump noses, and a couple more times just for no reason.

It’s far from perfect. It’s not a deep kiss. It’s more of a brushing of the lips. Gentle, nervous. We try again, and even though it’s less tentative, it doesn’t progress beyond that stage. The Ferris wheel shudders to a move once again, and we stay the way we were, me tucked under your arm, our free hands twined together. We don’t stop holding hands, though, even after we get off the Ferris wheel, and we spend the rest of the night in a public park, acting like the children we secretly are on the swing-sets and the slides.

Step 7: Every good playlist needs a Broadway song. That’s just how it works. 

So maybe we’re kind of dating now. Kind of. We’re definitely exclusive, if that cliche trip to the cinema to watch a lame B-rated horror film meant anything.

We didn’t make out or anything, but I really appreciated how you crushed my fingers every single time the tension got a little high.

“Shit, shit shit shit shits this is so fucking scary,” you whisper, obviously terrified. “I regret suggesting it.”

“I’m enjoying this way too much,” I say, even though I wince when the blood curdling scream emitting from the hot blonde on the screen causes you to grip my hand harder out of reflex. “Ow,” I complain. You kiss my fingertips in contrition.

Step 8: To contrast the cleanliness and cheekiness of the Broadway song, there should be some really high tech grunge thrown in. Something like the Studio Killers or Gorillaz should suffice.

It’s raining and I’m walking to the bus stop on one of the rare days we aren’t together. Actually, that’s not true. I just don’t want to be around people for, oh, approximately the next two weeks as I try to meet every deadline imaginable. You pull up next to me as I’m walking and you roll down the window, heedless of the positively pouring weather.

“Hey!” you holler through the rain. “Where are you going?”

“Some place quiet!” I yell back. “I have too many papers to do!”

“Let me drive you there!” you yell. Your hair is already plastering to your face.

“No! You’re just going to distract me and take me back to your place!” I say with a laugh. “Just let me go to the library!”

“Come on! Nobody deserves to be stuck outside in the rain, least of all you! I swear I won’t bother you!”

“It’s not you I’m worried about. It’s me,” I argue back. “I’m weak in your presence.”

“If I promise to make myself scarce, will you please come home with me?” you plead.

I laugh as I move towards your car. “Like I said, weak.” I climb into the back seat, too lazy to actually go around and get into the passenger’s seat. Besides, you always keep some kind of cloth in the back, and I take this opportunity to switch out my damp shirts for one of your dry, albeit slightly disgusting shirts that you always have on the floor of your car. It smells musty and like your car, but it’s dry at least. I wrinkle my nose regardless.

“You need to do your laundry. This is disgusting.”

You shrug. “You’re the one wearing it.”

Step 9: Never forget the jazz.

You play the trumpet. And, like basically every other band kid, you also play every single other fucking band instrument ever invented.

You own four trumpets, though. One jazz trumpet, one classical trumpet, a piccolo trumpet and a soprano. I remember when you used the soprano to wake me up once, and I tried to choke you, but it didn’t quite work out. I absolutely hated you for the longest time, even though you thought it was hilarious.

I also remember the time you woke me up one day, screaming, and I read the letter you held. Actually, I didn’t read it. I saw the package and I kissed you long and hard.

Step 10: The love song.

On Graduation Day, I tried not to cry. We’d talked about this for so long, and we know we want to try it, even though you’re open to opening what we have up.

We’re only going to be a couple of hours away from each other. It’s not going to be so bad. Driving down on long weekends to see each other, Skype, text messages–it’s all doable.

But I’m going to miss you.

Step 11: Bonus material. What have you forgotten that desperately needs to be added?

“I just realized I never told you–I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


3 comments on “How to create the perfect hipster playlist

  1. As I’m reading this piece, I’m sobbing on the inside.
    Your rainy scene section was one of the most touching parts.
    Despite the seemingly trite topic, the delivery of the story is so well written – so human.
    I loved every moment of it. Thank you for this inspirational piece.

  2. This is a remarkable piece that really moved me!!
    I felt myself crying as I read the acceptance letter part.. but I can’t feel any relief yet as college essays are still in progress for me.

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