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Drinking Coffee Out of Tiny Cups in Total Quiet in the Lobby of a Hotel

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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Everything on “Fruits of My Labor” feels spare and distant, a very distinctive late summer afternoon, dust mites suspended in sunshine, hangover nadir vibe. Lucinda Williams croaks out the melody, her voice slumping drowsily back down from the Ab. The bass falls away off of the 5ths and 3rds and the drummer only hits the snare with conviction once, right up top. No bridge. No pre-chorus. No frills. The chords are as simple as can be, but they’re only alluded to by the string instruments, touched upon and implied, too sensitive to light still to draw open the windows all the way. “Keep the bright and unforgiving light from shining through.” The rhythms are swung, a hard shuffle, but hinted at or imagined, no knock at the door, only padding the floor. The singer is slowly returning to the truth of a lived experience - heartsick, still mired in a fog of cigarette smoke and loneliness, coming to and rattling off an extensive list of smells that bring to mind a forsaking lover. And what an incredibly lonely lyric to describe sleeping together in the “blue behind your eyelids” - the darkness of sleep, the mind’s eye, the interior of an other, in short the place that one can never hope to reach. That field too far that permanently and impossibly keeps all entities individual, even lovers tangled up at the foot of a lemon tree, fruit dropping all around them.
Near the end of the song things change. There is a note of redemption for the heartsick singer - they have “made it out” by driving westward in a cool old car, truly the pinnacle of all possible narratives in America, the most Springsteen of plot points, strap your hands cross my engines. That freedom, that great cliche of cruisin’ down the highway, is the eponymous fruit - the singer is trying to enjoy this, and would like to, but cannot, prevented by loneliness. Perhaps they should have taken the glory instead of the fame, maybe the boy would have stuck around. Or maybe that last stanza is a plea to the former lover (who is so charismatic that flowers bloom for them) - stick around, don’t go chasing the recognition. Stay with me here behind your eyelids.

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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