You come to a point in a relationship, and a point in a long drive, in which you resort to lists of pre-scripted questions with titles like “25 Things to Ask Your Boyfriend.”
I asked, “If you could sit down with three people from history, who would they be?”
Jonathan, driving, gave a quick answer: “C.S. Lewis, King David, and Jon Foreman.”
Jon Foreman, for those of you less literate in alt rock, is the lead singer and guitarist of the band Switchfoot. And in the mind of my musician boyfriend, he ascends the same altitude of importance as the surprising man-of-letters, C.S. Lewis, and the Bible’s most charismatic king. Naturally, I felt compelled to find out who Jon Foreman really was.
We traveled a couple hours on Saturday past fields and tin roofs to see Switchfoot in York, Pa. The California band, composed entirely of surfers, sold out the downtown Pullo Center for a showing of their new movie and an acoustic concert. I came with few expectations. I just hoped I wouldn’t have to jump up and down in public.
Jonathan, too, wondered if I would even have the guts to wave my arms. In music, I’m a Fanny Crosby and Billy Joel kind of girl. I like my music sitting down.
The pre-concert movie, a documentary of the band’s world tour called Fading West, was oddly expansive. It made me think hard about what it means to have fallen in love with a musician. The band members struggled as fathers away from their families, painfully ambivalent, divided between their passion for their homes and their appetite to create music. As I watched, I felt more akin to the wives of these men than I ever expected to. I half hoped that at the end of the film, the band would break up, put away their surfboards, announce this as their last tour ever, and go home. A choice faced them: They could wheel amps through international airports or wheel strollers through supermarkets.
What do you do when the man you love is made to make music? I imagined the women behind the movie, watching their men. I thought I understood a little of what they might feel—a mixture, perhaps, of pride and bewilderment. Jonathan becomes a strange creature to me while he makes music, sifting ideas with his bright brown eyes and straining for the right chords. He fears most that he will have a boring life and do nothing. Because I stand outside him and see him clearly, I know the fear has no foundation. At that certainty, I feel both joy and hesitation. I’m a sticker, and he’s a boomer. I get exposed to new things despite myself, and with great dragging of the heels. He scratched a new song into my notes during intermission, along with a sketch of my face. I will never find another one like him.
At one point after the band emerged, Jon Foreman’s long hair, the color of corn, obscured his face completely. A wide-armed man in a fedora, he is interested in abundant life. He abandoned the stage and walked through the audience on the arms of their chairs. He gives life in his own way. He sang, “Hello, hurricane. You can’t silence my love.”
I waved my arms.