September 16, 2007
When the party lulls, if we fall by the side
Will you be remembered? Will she be remembered?
I met a girl the other night at a party. It was a birthday party for two of my friends, and she wasn’t invited; she just happened to be at the bar that night. We talked for an hour or two, and it was great. I got pulled into other conversations later on, and then I noticed that she’d disappeared before I managed to get her number. I’ve been a bit heartbroken ever since because she was so awesome and interesting and cute, and I felt so comfortable talking to her that it makes me feel awful to think that I might never get to see her ever again.
Alone in a crowd, a bartered lantern borrowed
If I’m to be your camera, then who will be your face?
I’m already starting to lose my mental image of her. I know the broad strokes, but the little specifics are starting to fade away. I’m sure I’d recognize her right away if I saw her, but there’s this nagging feeling of “what if I don’t?” I remember the hair and the glasses and the tiny equilateral triangle nose and the dimples, but it doesn’t always fit right when I try to put it all together in my mind’s eye.
I still like you, can you remember?
I keep wondering if she remembers me, if she’s thought of me since Thursday night. She left quite an impression on me, but maybe despite what I believe to be a pretty fun conversation, maybe I just wasn’t that memorable, or it wasn’t worth it to stick around and wait for me to get her number. I have no idea.
“Camera” is one of R.E.M.’s finest songs about social anxiety, mainly because it’s less about freaking about “conversation fear,” and more about being surprised by one’s own capacity to make a connection with another person. You talk yourself out of it, you worry and you get worked up about ridiculous things, but really, anyone can do it. You’re never really “alone in a crowd” unless you want to be. The chorus rises like an epiphany, but Michael Stipe undersings the words to great effect, making the song feel smaller and more unsure of itself. It’s dramatic, but everything, including Michael, is contained within the thin outline of Peter Buck’s fragile lead guitar lines.