white teeth teens

“Everything works out so good / I wear the robe like no one could”

The room was dark. Well, as dark as a hospital waiting room could be. Echoes of florescent lighting intruded onto rows of plush seats, all the way to the back wall, where my mom and sister and I had sprawled out onto three La-Z-Boys. My mom was asleep I think. She had to have been — she hadn’t slept the whole night before. Because she was on her way here. Aimee and I had been up at 4 a.m. together, figuring out the fastest way to get home from New York City. She must’ve been asleep too. But most likely, we were all pretending.

I chanted. Eyes closed. Silently. “Everything works out so good / I wear the robe like no one could.”

Three days earlier, I’d heard Lorde meditate to those very same words onstage at Roseland Ballroom. The song “White Teeth Teens” from her 2013 album Pure Heroine was never one I could relate to, mostly because I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics. But during that show, she worked some of her witchy magic, implanting them into my dense brain so I could keep them as a snack for later.

When I think about that show, I see it as a snapshot in time — not just because Roseland would close a month later, but because it happened at a pivot in my own timeline. I remember myself as wide-eyed and awestruck, happily buzzing behind the crowd as I watched the wunderkind that was Lorde twitch and hover around her microphone. From the side of the room, I gawked like a secret admirer as she summoned her own spell, breathing the words of “White Teeth Teens” with a moody confidence. “Everything works out so good / I wear the robe like no one could.” It was like she was repeating a self-affirmation to actualize herself as our idol. A mantra that made her brave.

Cory and I took a photo that night after all the confetti had fallen. There’s me, innocent, oblivious, young… floating. Two white teeth teens. The last photo of me before everything changed. I feel weird when I look at it, like I’m seeing someone else.

me and cory

Someone brought us Tim Hortons in the morning. We flickered the lights back on and consolidated our stuff, so we could share the room with other stressed families. Dad was lying in a bed down the hallway, while the three of us tried to eat breakfast before the storm. Everyone — aunts, uncles, cousins — were on their way. If they weren’t on their way, they were on my phone. I struggled to figure out how to answer text messages from my friends, my boss, my boyfriend, etc… so I didn’t.

Lorde’s mantra flitted back into my consciousness. I clung to “Everything works out so good” like a saving grace, hearing it just as she sings it on the album: a soft chorus of assuring harmony, marching forward from another dimension. I repeated it over and over. No matter what happens, everything will be OK, she comforted me from the back of my mind.

It’s funny because “White Teeth Teens” was not at all relatable for me. She sings about her popularity within her clique while criticizing the very materialism that’s required to achieve that status. Not exactly what I was feeling at the moment. I was focused on swallowing my breakfast and thinking about what it’d be like to go home that night without Dad.

But there’s an air of naivety on the track — an image of friends chilling, doing nothing, driving around aimlessly, living life — that reminds me of that picture from a few days before. No stress, just a blind trust that things will be fine. Because it always had been fine. It was that type of surreal positivity that I needed for survival in the hospital, even though darkness was closer than ever.

I floated down the hospital hallway toward the ICU one last time, my mom and sister at my side. One foot in front of the other with a dazed determination.

“Everything works out so good / I wear the robe like no one could.” A fantastical lullaby, just like Lorde had sang into her mic, coaxing me to be brave.

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