This letter isn’t to you, the band. This letter is for the band’s front man.
My apologies. Let’s start over.
Dear Chris Martin,
I love you. But we need to break up.
You don’t know me, Chris. We’ve never met. You grazed my hands at a concert once, but I’m told that doesn’t count. But you and I have history, my dear; decades of triumph, grief, adoration, frustration knotted and woven together in indecipherable patterns. I’ve discovered, in recent contemplations about our relations, it’s nearly impossible to unravel.
This letter is a risk. I’m sharing it regardless. So here we go, Chris Martin. I’m laying it all out like an atlas.
At this point [if you’ve even read to this point] you’re probably wondering about Drew. Who’s Drew? My husband. Yes, I’m married, but don’t worry. Drew knows about you. He’s not necessarily cool with you, but you won’t get in trouble for this. I will.
It’s just once, at your concert–a long time ago–you gyrated on a piano bench, and, well, what can you expect? And this was during my first date with Drew.
Way to make it complicated, Chris.
But I knew you way before Drew. I loved you before Drew, too. I discovered Coldplay when a friend suggested I “check out this hot, new band,” and loaned a CD. Oh, I checked it out, alright. On repeat. Waiting for a boyfriend to help with my flat tire on a busy interstate. The boyfriend never showed up. You don’t know this [because you weren’t there], but you and I got to know each other in that silver Taurus. I learned your words, your rhythms of speech. You sang to me in a voice congested, yet melodic. When I tried to call the boyfriend again, you sent a shiver. I nodded, wiped tears, contacted a state trooper instead. Despite not knowing what you looked like, we gained a level of intimacy in that moment.
I remember in magnificent detail the first time I matched your voice to the physical specimen. In college, I studied in a buried, wood-paneled bar several miles off campus. The place had a musty smell; everything inside was pliable and damp. The square windows, which let in no light, rattled violently whenever a train passed. I also frequented the bar because I liked the bartender. He was tall and thin, with long, graceful fingers that he used to pull back his blonde hair. Whenever he did this, I'd catch a glimpse of the four-star tattoo on his forearm. During downtime, which there was much of, he’d crane over the stocks page in a passenger's left-behind tribune. I went there once a week. He never noticed me. But you did, Chris Martin.
From the bar's dismal corner TV, I heard familiar chords and tuned in. I recognized your voice from a scary highway. I remembered crying in a Taurus as a gale of traffic blew by. I recalled the moment your voice held my hand and patted my knee until a state trooper arrived. It had been some time since; I didn’t realize you blossomed into a music video career. Our eyes locked through the bar’s dusty screen. You walked along a turbulent lakeshore in slow motion and never took your eyes off me. You crooned of skin and bones; you promised something beautiful.
I dropped my textbook.
You claimed to love me so.
The book fell loudly to the floor.
Told me to look at the stars. They shone for me. You said it.
I didn’t pick the book back up.
I’ve shared this moment with Drew. Several times. The last recount, he folded hands and sighed, “Please stop talking about Chris Martin.” I also told a student of mine about this moment. In my defense, I had to! Next to my desk in the classroom, I pinned the February 2016 Rolling Stone magazine cover where you’re propped on an elbow in a field of flowers, gazing dreamily. Sometimes — especially after a hard day — I’d rest on my elbow. Cradle my head. Gaze back.
The student tip-toed in after school to ask about homework and caught me doing this. In a rapid flurry, I bumbled how your voice felt like a barometric drop, how your eyes, the color of sky and metal, guided me at a dirty tavern. The student began to tip-toe out. I waved them back and described the train station bar from college. How our eyes locked on a temperamental lakeshore (through a television screen, of course).
Don’t fear, Chris Martin. I possess no stalker tendencies. Drew’s not even worried. Like I said, he knows about you. Ok…he worried once. I asked him to wrap his fingers in rainbow tape, toss color bombs upon arrival, and speak in a British accent. He said no.
I did behave on my first date with Drew, which, if you remember, was your concert. We met while you performed at an outdoor venue, aglow in dense Spring air. A steep grassy hill, damp from morning rain, sucked at our soles. Red and blue lights oscillated. Drew and I made eye contact. We smiled. Nodded. He made me giggle. I moved in closer. That night, the world disappeared, and I’m sorry Chris, so did you. While you head-banged a piano, Drew hooked my pinky with his, looked down and mouthed, “Can this be our first date?” I nodded up at him.
I didn’t tell Drew about you right away. In those early days of starting my life with him, you’d pop into town here and there. I’d still come see you perform. It was at one of those concerts I finally confessed our relationship. Well, confess might not be the right word. Drew discovered us. It’s your fault. First of all, you grazed my hands. I had to scream. Secondly, you had been working out. I saw it when your t-shirt lifted in mid-air.
I clutched Drew, “Those abs,” I gasped, “like steel window panes.”
“Who me?” Drew looked around bewildered.
“No. Chris Martin.” I turned to the man standing behind us and repeated my anatomical observation to seek agreement. The man stared. Pulled his kid in close. So I said to the kid, about thirteen, “Don’t you see? Those pecs… sturdy thighs…and eyes…like blue humidity.” Drew tugged hard at my sleeve. Later, my husband suggested I apologize to the father. I did. But Drew wasn’t mad at me. How could he be? It was harmless flirtation back then, Chris. You’d spring up, wave some glow sticks around, maybe give a little ab peek. I’d squeal, and you’d leave.
You and I didn’t get intimate again for a long time. Years, actually. I already had a teaching career I never wanted to leave. Drew and I already lived in our forever-home on a street lined with one-hundred-year-old trees. I hadn’t, in my life, experienced any real tragedy. Until our child passed away.
Drew doesn’t know this, Chris. In the months following my son’s death (with insomnia as a side effect of grief), I’d sneak out of bed in the middle of the night and watch your music videos. I started with the first video, the one where you’re walking along a lake. You were so young in that video. So foolish. Trudging that volatile shore in a light jacket. Your slapped red cheeks and defensive blinks told me you knew you were ill prepared. But you weathered it, Chris. In slow motion. And you never broke your gaze away from the camera. Away from me.
Wrapped in a knitted blanket, illuminated by the glow of a screen, I’d watch your other music videos for hours. But I always ended with the video that played in reverse. In this video, you’re a little older and appropriately dressed for the environment. You still moved in slow motion, and never broke your gaze from me. But you had to walk backwards through tunnels, bridges, and concrete. To the scene of the accident. The point of collision. You warned that no one said it would be easy. But nothing foretold it would be this hard. You and I both begged to go back to the start.
The song is The Scientist.
I told a woman at an Arizona truck stop about that song. I described how I snuck past security guards at a concert to be closer to you. No, not like stalker-close. Not those kinds of guards. I mean slipping past ticket attendants to exchange nosebleeds for the floor. I told the Arizona woman how Drew and I slithered through bodies in the rain. I told her how I held his hand and sang the lyrics. I didn’t tell her about you, Chris Martin. You were not part of that moment. Only me and Drew, spinning and spinning under a butane sky lit orange and blue.
After that concert, I felt more comfortable telling Drew about you [until he asked I stop describing your biceps and athletic agility]. This may hurt your feelings, but you became a marital joke between us. Like when the ‘conscious uncoupling’ thing happened — sorry, by the way — I’d tease that I was going to uncouple him and marry you. Drew would respond, “Ok, as long as I can be Chris Martin’s roadie.”
Drew doesn’t know this next part, though. In the wake of the pandemic, Drew sat me down at a table and said, “We are moving.” He has no idea you became involved with putting my forever home on the market and writing my letter of resignation. I sobbed after cleaning out my classroom. Then I couldn’t get out of bed. For three full days.
Insomnia can happen twice because of grief. So after the third day, you and I, Chris, began hooking up again. Nightly. While everyone slept, I’d creep out of the house, hand-lift the garage door, climb in my Jeep, put it in neutral, lights off, and allow gravity to pull me down to the street. In the middle of the night, I’d turn the ignition and leave.
Traveling interstates, choosing random exits, weaving through town streets until civilization emptied, I drove until I became lost. I’d pull onto earth, park amidst wind-whipped grasses, lay on the car's hood and stare at a sky full of Bic confetti. I always located the Little Dipper first. Its handle is easiest to see…four stars aligned perfectly. You don’t know this, Chris, but you and I became intimate again on the hood of that Jeep. Such history between us, I no longer needed to see your eyes on me or rewind a music video. Things changed. We discovered a deep, deep intimacy.
I only needed to feel your lyrics.
Sometimes I’d smoke, despite quitting two decades ago. I’d almost always weep. Sometimes I played your old CD, the one from a broken-down Taurus on an interstate. I’d think about how young and foolish we were. At that bar. At that lake. Wrapped in a blanket. I’d think of the experiences we shared [if you don’t remember them, it’s because you were never there].
I’d count how much was stolen in the wake of the pandemic.
During the weeks we prepared to move, I played a new song on repeat, the one where you promise to try and fix me. On those midnight rendezvous, no matter the climate, I’d open the Jeep’s windows and allow tears to stream down my face. I didn’t need to see you walking in slow motion anymore or being pummeled by a lake. Your words alone captured what it was like to lose something that can’t be replaced. You vowed lights would guide me home, so I’d whisper, “Ok Chris, take me.”
Then I’d twist my hair back, turn the ignition, and find my way back in reverse, traversing dirt roads, side streets, bridges, and highways. It didn’t matter the open patch of earth I chose to leave. Roads connected, intertwined, braided together intimately. Sometimes it took hours to unweave, but every time I made it home and pulled into the garage, headlights off, silent.
Then I’d crawl under the covers, hold my breath and wait. Because Drew always rolled over and put his arms around my waist. I’d nuzzle close. Exhale. Breathe.
When I couldn’t get out of bed after cleaning out the classroom I thought I’d never leave, Drew did the same thing, only he climbed in next to me. I didn’t expect that one to level me.
But it did. Like an 8.7 earthquake. After the violent rattling, I learned something about you in that moment, and something about that lake. We need to return to that brutal shore and stare eye to eye again. I was naive. I didn’t know any better back then. I needed to cut through the wind, wipe the mist from my eyes, and really see. I never needed you, Chris Martin. Not once. Those places we traversed were mere satellites of my own center of gravity. I was born and bred on that land; I understand every lakeshore, violet hill, and midnight sky intuitively. Those roads, those paths, even the interstate, guide me without you singing.
So good-bye, Chris Martin.