And that day gave me some hope I think (an ode to Babyxsosa)

Art by Tyler Farmer

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Editor’s Note: The author of this piece, Milo, runs the blog My Fried Archives. They published my favorite year-end list of 2022, which employs a “song as prompt” method of writing. I asked Milo to write about Babyxsosa for us because I don’t think that any sort of concrete, analytical writing, especially in the “music journalism” style, would do her justice. Her music is too visceral. She is the anti-thesis to the proper songwriter; the bane of Belmont professors. And Milo is the anti-thesis to most writing on music, especially nowadays. They’re a perfect match. – Millan Verma

The first time I heard her voice was the third time I was applying to Hollister, or right after really, during my ritualistic post-rejection patching of that puckered sore where shame blooms like steel wool down there. Yeah the big greased pretzel my aching consolation prize; a doomed effort really, I am quite the ugly creature. 

And as I wiped my shining hands on the insides of my pockets there, and as I thought to myself I shouldn’t have worn so many beads, the sound hit me like a missed step

and my spine jumped right to attention. 

What can I say? Her voice was silly-bands to my ten cent soul! 

It was a shock so pure I almost didn’t want to glimpse the source, didn’t want to contend with the form it had sprouted from. Couldn’t anything be perfect, just once? I heard myself saying to the asshole at the pretzel stand (he had smirked at my popped polo collar— dumbfuck clearly didn’t know what it took to be a Hollister man), which was met with a resounding “Huh?” 

but I was long gone by then, my plastic chair left spinning as I raced up the down escalator to exhaust the fireworks show 

raining sparks 

on all my pressure points. 

This siren call had me by the knees. 

The mall was a big gleaming sauce-pan with pool-bottom tiles, where a scream from the Spencer’s (they were always screaming in Spencer’s) could be caught way down by the CPK. So she could be anywhere, was presently everywhere, and this excited me greatly. 

I guess I was in need of something to restore my faith in the piling mess, really. 

All cystic and chronic and burning back then. 

I mean the first time I applied to Hollister started smoothly enough— armpits singing with doubt, needles in the tips of my smile, typical. But then they asked me what I did in my spare time and I said dance, which felt as naked and searing as saying fuck or murder, an answer that hisses at the sunlight with a forked tongue. I flushed and clarified: “I mean dance to, like, music… uhhhh” 

at which point a hidden snort slit my throat and I was really nothing no more. 

Bruised ego burrowing. Buttered snack patching. Rinse, repeat. 

But I had thought such clarification necessary at the time– a necessary lie. Because in the dark plum pit of reality I wasn’t so fond of music, never did much for me then, and I would only ever really dance to the small lyrical thought of someone liking me (like liking me, you know); I would dance to the thought of a gum wrapper aglow with sparkly pink secrets inscribed: abbey thinks ur hot. danielle likes your hair. I moved to the rhythm of these silent daydreams daily, like a ribbon in a cyclone, with the door jammed shut and streetwear brand wall stickers my audience. 

I’m glad I didn’t tell them all that, the assholes. They didn’t deserve my deepest snot. The spaghetti I’m composed of. 

But I now see a clear, tight line drawn from the core of these fantasies to my repeated Hollister applications like a loose tooth to a door handle: 

working at Hollister meant, simply, that you were hot. A hot guy. 

Please let me be a hot guy. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, to this day, truly.

I’m really being honest now.

And it carried me, that voice, right past the smell of cupcake-scented-erasers and straight through von maur with my hair porcupinin’. This was no angel’s song mind you: it was nasal and brash, though trying hard to keep innocent— a wolf in sheep’s etc; a bad disguise earnest enough to convince, like that special 10th grade star in false beard and belly who the teachers say might actually make it one day. Her voice was all the best parts of the mall– the parts of the mall you envision en route with ipod shuffle soundtrack and backseat leather burning but only rarely glimpse in real life.

It was shrieking at your friends as you raced down waxed linoleum weightless, it was double-dares and cinnabon and always knowing what to say next; It was the purple converse matching the purple jeans matching the purple 8-bit glasses perfect, it was catching his gaze through the Lids looking glass and holding it till ur magnolia all over. Heartache without fear of being saccharine, joy without fear of being corny. Why not lay it all out with your uvula swinging?

And her song wafted down through the heating grates above me like the excess of some churning perfumed furnace— a knotty machine at the heart of every mall everywhere; a machine crafted to convert the power of these potential memories into raw manic energy propelling everything forward and bringing everyone back.

Let them eat couture. For nice girls who like stuff. Viva la juicy

Devouring journeys and gulping down claire’s and ripping through tj maxx too. All hunky-dory, all johnny appleseed, all in search of the star spangled source. I was sniffing a gas leak and seeing it through. I was doing anything to keep the 4pm charcoal black windows at bay. 

But as I rounded into pac sun I could feel a shift begin beneath. That familiar kitchen island’s edge in the stomach. Playing keep away with socks on and wolves around the table. Mirrors tended to break my concentration then, and there were mirrors covering this place like rain-slicked cobblestones every square inch. My constellation complexion yanking the back of the neck all mother cat when I caught sight. Her voice— that voice! was going burlap on me, as a result, scratchy and faded and no fun to sit in. I could feel myself slipping from the rafters. 

(I knew this feeling a little bit by then we were all doing coke before the soccer games that year pretty much all of us just before the game and maybe sometimes at the half. It made running real liquid and gave our bones sharper edges we were killers out there. But I was neurotic enough to sense a real bleak ending and I was trying to cut back before the game against those assholes in Pinkney. I didn’t want to be dependent. I wanted to claim my own victory. So all I had left was jerking off, and freaking out, and some frost-edged sunsets dripping through my basement window, as I scratched, and I paced, and I sent ifunny links till dawn. Terio at the popeyes. Remember Terio at the popeyes? And I had the mall, of course. That sugar-caked promise).

So I tumbled through racks of pre-faded tank tops and strayed wearily from the beaded-necklace display (why did this woo me so?), clinging to the remaining wisps of her voice like balloon strings with my knees to my stomach trying not to let toes touch the ground.  Mosquito vision. Shoes squeaking like a pistons game. I pushed through the cologne bubble all dizzy on the comedown, gasping and grasping for whatever still remained. Running ragged towards that mermaid in the mall.

That was then, when my face was all chapped and I hated the world. When my shoulders had markings from carrying my bag. When a text cracked my life and I had to scoop up the yolk. But this time will be different cuz I’m much older now. This time will be different or they’re all lying, I guess. Every last one of ‘em. What are the odds? 

I just wanna be a hot guy. And they’ve got to let me now. They’ve just got to!!!