The Madonna Timeline: Song #94 – ‘Crazy For You’ – 1985


{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

There is cracked ice still lingering on the sidewalks. I am walking on his street, the street where he lives, not sure why I am being drawn here. The pull of a confusing longing, the push of a future unfolding, and the simple wish to be closer to him all play a part. The dirty mixture of mud and left-over snow and road salt leaves my sneakers a muddled mess, but I’m too young to care about such things. (Yes, there was such a time, when my outfits were picked out by my Mom, and my shoes were bought with the requisite struggle of getting a boy to sit still long enough for a new pair of shoes.)

Swaying room as the music starts
Strangers making the most of the dark
Two by two their bodies become one

I stood outside of his house for a moment, studying the gray stone, wondering at which bedroom he inhabited. Sheer curtains tantalized and teased, while the wrought-iron of a gate or a door – I can’t remember which now – guarded the home from strangers. I walked on, not wishing to be caught (though not exactly wishing against it). I’m sure some small part of me hoped he would come out, invite me in, talk to me, engage in some way – any way. Even as a kid I longed for connection. Even before I had my heart broken, I felt the ache.

After walking a few blocks, I was back home. My face was red from the cool wind, nose running and eyes watering. After kicking off my dirty sneakers at the door, I bounded upstairs, into the safe haven of a childhood bedroom. My stomach was churning, turning over itself it seemed, and my heart raced. It felt like I wanted to cry and laugh and throw-up at the same time. In the briefest of moments I went from giddy hopefulness to utter despair. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know about love, or infatuation, or even simple crushes. I didn’t know about romance or obsession or desire. I only knew that I liked a boy, and I couldn’t even tell you why.

I must have been in fourth or fifth grade – strange that I can’t remember which now – and winter was slowly turning into spring. The ice was thawing, the ground was revealing itself through the snow, and drops of water encased the world. Suddenly, it seemed everything was melting. On the radio at night, Fly 92.3 played their ‘Top Ten at Ten.’ I would have it on softly in the background, as I was supposed to be asleep by that time. In those weeks, it was a showdown between the dirty blondes: Madonna versus Samantha Fox. Madonna was singing for love while Samantha sang for sex, as ‘Crazy For You’ battled ‘Touch Me’ for the top spot. They went back and forth for weeks before both songs got retired (those were the days when actual call-ins to radio stations held the most sway, and a single song could feasibly stay on top for months unless it was retired).

I see you through the smoky air
Can’t you feel the weight of my stare
You’re so close but still a world away
What I’m dying to say, is that I’m crazy for you

He was the new boy in class. He had moved in half-way during the year, I think, but even if he slipped in during summer break, his newness to our class would have been instantly noticeable. I didn’t exactly have a crush on him – he hadn’t even grown into himself, with his leftover baby-fat, old-fashioned thick glasses, and mop of ginger hair. I had a crush on his hurt – the gorgeous pain and exquisite suffering of being the new kid in school – each pang and assault deliberately, calculatingly, and wondrously inflicted by my own machinations. It was the supreme vulnerability of being a boy that so enraptured me – the delicate nature of being a man. Girls could hide everything inside – boys had to let it all hang out – and one was very much safer than the other, or so it seemed to me. Brute force and physical strength go only so far – and I saw then that the real power did not reside in the external protuberance of the almighty cock, but in the hidden reverse tomb of the womb.

I was not kind to him, even if our parents were colleagues. My cruelty was as unwarranted as it was childish, my actions as mean-spirited as they were baseless. If I couldn’t have him, if I couldn’t make sense of what I was feeling for him, I would make him suffer. I would make them all suffer. Of this I am not proud. It came from a place of hurt and desertion, but I do not think that justifies any of it.

Do not hold this against me, little boy, for you must know that all the pain I deliver unto you will not approach, will not even come remotely close to the atrocities I will inflict upon myself. You will be avenged, for I will avenge you. All that you do not know, I will learn, and all of your hurt I will one day claim as my own. I will make you, and you will be the ruin of me. There was never any other outcome, and if I stole my glory then, if I took my chance and pierced your heart before you had a chance to steal mine, well, who could have done otherwise? Who would have done differently?

Touch me once and you’ll know it’s true
I never wanted anyone like this
It’s all brand new, you’ll feel it in my kiss
I’m crazy for you, crazy for you

All the while, Madonna sang this song every night. One time, I managed to record most of it on a blank cassette tape. On an out-of-town ride to dinner a few days later, I made my parents rewind it over and over, as I sat in the backseat with my brother, watching raindrops collect on the windows. Again and again I asked them to press rewind, as it was the only way I had to subdue my burgeoning thoughts. What would I do with all this… feeling? What would I ever do? It frightened me, there was no containing it. And at the same time it thrilled. I would forego all sorts of safety for this madness, the giddy insanity of instant infatuation. If anyone had ever gone through this… how did they survive it? And what was the answer, the solution, the thing that ended it all in one way or another? I sought that then, as I would seek it forever after, and to this day I don’t know if it has an ending. For so many important things, there were no answers. I thought then that it was just me being a kid.

Trying hard to control my heart
I walk over to where you are
Eye to eye we need no words at all

I had no way of knowing if what I was feeling was normal. By then, I understood that boys were meant to be with girls, that men married women and had children and lived happily ever after. The stirrings that older neighborhood boys inspired in me when they took off their shirts and swam in our pool were nothing compared to this, and my only other reference was a strange spell cast upon me by a summer camp counselor. (I watched him play wiffle-ball in the gymnasium one rainy camp day, tracing the line of sweat that ran down the back of his t-shirt. His hands would idly lift that shirt up, expose a bit of his stomach, then lower it. He caught me looking, his blue eyes crinkling up in a friendly, if impersonal, smile. Looking right through me, for I was just a trifling of a wisp, not worth noting, not worth acknowledging with any sort of effort. I still remember him.)

But this boy knew me, and I sensed he might need a friend. The notion repulsed me as much as it endeared him to me. To be so alone in a new school, to be somewhat different and out of place – it served only to arm me against him. And I, to my eternal shame, did not extend a hand. I felt then, as I often do now, no need for a friend. It’s an awful way to think, and if I’ve learned anything in thirty-seven years it’s to remain open to new people, new experiences, new friends. Maybe that was his lesson for me, but I didn’t see it then. All I could feel was ache and want, a sickening mixture of conflicting emotions, and a rage founded on the impossibility of the person I was becoming.

Slowly now we begin to move
Every breath I’m deeper into you
Soon we two are standing still in time
If you read my mind, you’ll see I’m crazy for you…

I kept it all inside. No family or friends would hear my story, no one would listen as I unburdened my feelings. The only thing I had was Madonna, singing of the same sense of longing, of wanting to share something. But she had eyes in which to look, another person who might return the gaze; I had no one. And so I pined, and prayed, and hoped for resolution. I felt constantly on the verge of weeping, distraught and condemned and prone to the wildest fantasies. From that moment on, my heart would never be quiet. I knew it then. I was already ruined.

Touch me once and you’ll know it’s true
I never wanted anyone like this
It’s all brand new, you’ll feel it in my kiss
You’ll feel it in my kiss because I’m crazy for you

Eventually, the obsession faded, and the object of my focus grew up and out of his awkwardness. If I were any sort of sane person, that’s when a crush would have kicked in. Instead, I went the opposite direction. As he became more popular, I lost all interest in him. Over the years, we reached a sort of truce. He forgave me for my cruelty, and I left him alone. (Considering that he had also shot up to tower over me, this was a practical choice of safety too.) I don’t know if I’ve forgiven him for forgiving me. I suppose he wanted to forget it ever happened, and I’ll bet he already has. But not me. I can forget any random act of kindness I’ve chanced to commit, and all in a matter of a few hours, but my cruelty… my cruelty haunts me ever after.

Touch me once and you’ll know it’s true
I never wanted anyone like this
It’s all brand new, you’ll feel it in my kiss
You’ll feel it in my kiss because I’m crazy for you

There are still spring nights when I hear this song, and the thrill of that first time comes flooding back. I’m a boy again, a strange little boy born differently from so many of the other boys, and I know they can sense I’m different when all I want to do is belong.

A sidewalk crackling with ice. A car window dotted with rain. A restless boy stained with tears.

On those nights, there is no comfort or succor, no peace or understanding. There is no way to quell the heart. I play this song, over and over and over, trying to find meaning, trying to uncover the secret that will bring it all into crystalline form, perfect resolution ~ definitive and implacable ~ and none of it ever comes. If anything, it fades further from focus, retreating into the distance, ever out of reach, teasing and taunting and leaving me behind. And alone.

I’m crazy for you.
Crazy for you…
Crazy for you.

Song #94 – ‘Crazy For You’ – 1985

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