Best Dad Evar's room is dark, except for the princess nightlight way off in one corner of the room. Best Dad Evar is laying motionless in bed, despite the music playing from the alarm clock radio near his head on the dirty, many-times-repainted dresser that does double duty as a nightstand.
A quiet voice questions him from the dark, "Best Dad Evar, isn't it time to get up and start getting ready for your day?"
"Hmmm." He replies, "Leave me alone," he says quietly.
"Are you waiting for this song to be over?" the narrator probes.
"Yes, you gotta problem with that?" Best Dad says without moving.
"Best Dad?" the narrator can't keep his trap shut.
"What!?" Best Dad is getting annoyed now.
"Are you crying?"
There's a pause as Best Dad fails to answer while the song reaches its end. "I'm not crying." He replies drily as he reaches over and runs his fingers across the buttons on the small clock, feeling for the correct button to turn the alarm off.
"So why are there tears in your eyes?" The narrator won't let this go.
"Can I help it if I get a little misty?" Best Dad replies, having successfully turned the machine off, but failed to lever himself out of bed.
"What gets you misty, Best Dad Evar?" the narrator says with a chuckle barely suppressed.
"Songs, you know, music." This is as much verbage as Best Dad can manage first thing in the morning.
"Any songs?" the narrator is incredulous.
"No, not just any song." Best Dad replies, and gives a great heave which propels his legs out of bed and his upper body into a sitting position. He pauses there. "Songs with emotion."
The narrator pauses now, considering this. "Not just any songs with emotion, though."
"No," Best Dad concurs. "Somehow the singer manages to convey the exact feeling of the song in their voice."
"Well, isn't that the point of music?" the narrator responds.
"Perhaps it is, but very, very few singers or songs actually succeed."
"The one you just listened to succeeded." The narrator surmises.
"Yeah, it's called 'Someone Like You'."
"Yeah, when she hits the line about 'don't forget me' there's a raw emotion that's just.... well, it can't be explained can it, it's just there, it's evident in her voice. I don't know if she suffered some kind of heartache that caused her to write this song and then sing it, but I'd be willing to bet she did."
"That note's not the prettiest note-" the narrator starts, but Best Dad interrupts.
"No, but emotion isn't pretty. Sometimes it's painful."
"Trust me. If you want pain, loss, despair even, I challenge you not to feel it when you hear this:"
"Johnny has sounded better." the narrator continues.
"Yeah, but has he ever been more real?"
The narrator pauses as Best Dad moves to the mirror and turns a bright light on to look at himself. He's looking older, with a droop around the eyes and under the chin that he can't hide. He eyes are still a bit misty. "Take life, getting older, looking back. How did I get here? Why am I like this? Try this one:"
"I think you're making a list in your head of songs with emotional connections for you." the narrator has picked up the track of Best Dad's thinking.
"Guilty as charged. Maybe another Ipod Playlist."
"Okay, so what's next on your list."
"Well, when I think about disappointment and how to pull yourself up from rock bottom, I think of:"
"I bet you feel like you actually can pull yourself up and out from the bottom when you hear that one."
"Yeah. But some people never do. If you want to hear the place where you go when you've hit the blackest part of your life and there's no coming back, listen to Kurt Cobain:"
"Wow, that gives you chills to think that people didn't realize that he had hit that point."
"Oh, I think they knew, they just didn't know how to help him."
"Now, Best Dad, I know you're saving one group for last, I know who your favorites are."
"The absolute best group of all time at infusing emotion into their music."
"U2." The narrator says knowingly.
"Ah, but let's be clear, My belief is that the raw emotion of U2's music got watered down as they became more successful and perhaps as they became better musicians."
"So you want to narrow down the time frame."
"Yes, and you have to get a song early before they started adjusting it to fit their extensive touring schedule."
"Bono couldn't sing some of those songs live with the emotion that they started out with."
"His voice couldn't have survived it. And some of their best songs don't have music videos."
"No, so you have to catch performances like this one:"
"But again, you're saving one for the grand finale."
"Yes, one more, the coup de grace. The one that makes me cry every time I hear it."
"And you have a very personal heartache associated with this one."
"Yes, my first puppy love, who broke my heart. So perhaps the emotion I feel when I hear this one is not U2's, but mine."
"And I see you picked a version of the song that's very particular."
"Yes, you have to get one where he shouts 'Wide Awake!' as loud and as high as he can. That's the note that made me cry when I was sixteen and still does now:"
Best Dad is still staring into the mirror. "But Best Dad, you aren't still feeling the heartache and loss that these songs represent now, are you?"
Best Dad looks at his reflection and his teary eyes. "No, no, not all of it. But just a little tiny bit is still there. It's not painful any more, but it reminds me that I'm alive."
"So, is that your whole list of emotional songs, Best Dad?"
"No, no, there are a few others I probably could have included. But since I'm getting older now, I can't think of the others off the top of my head."
"Another project for your 'to do' list, then." the narrator replies knowingly.
"Yep, maybe I'll get to it on the weekend." Best Dad says hopefully.
"Or not." the narrator replies with Eeyore-like doom.
Best Dad looks up one final time and heads to the shower, chuckling. He mumbles as he stumbles, "Or not, you're right, narrator, as always. Always getting that final stab in, right between my shoulder blades..." He's still mumbling as the hot water hits his face, drowning out any further response.