Dear Mr. Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame,
I’d like to apologize. It is my hope that, by some fortunate spasm of fate, your eyes will discover these words.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I don’t know if you remember me or not, but I ran into you just outside the covered market in Oxford. And when I say “ran into,” I mean it quite literally: we walked into each other like atoms colliding in a particle accelerator. Yes, it’s me, I’m that baffled American, and I’m here to make amends.
You’ll have to forgive me Thom, even though I live in the sunny womb between LA and Palm Springs, I still get a bit anxious in the presence of celebrities. Let me start by saying I’m sorry. Sorry about the blunder. Sorry about the creepy behavior. Sorry about the stalking.
I can remember it so vividly, as if I were still in the ancient wonderland of Oxford. I was walking home from a tutorial, digesting the subtle nuances of Post-Modernism and gazing at the Dreaming Spires, one of the many things that make Oxford so compelling. It was a relatively busy day; the kebab vans had just fired up their grills, filling the streets with a faintly exotic aroma, and crowds of pedestrians shuffled by, snapping pictures down the High and swapping observations about Auden and Lewis Carroll.
As is my habit, I was walking rather quickly. In fact, you could even describe my pace as something more akin to a slow, robotic run. Judged by speed alone, I was moving at a modest sprint, gliding past robed students like blood pulsing through plaque filled veins. Had my hands not been anchored in my pockets, giving me a casual air, I could easily have been mistaken for an inappropriately dressed runner.
Before I continue, just let me say that I’m not the only one to blame for what happened next. I’ll admit, I was walking unusually fast and not paying particular attention to where I was going, but apparently you share this same unfortunate hobby. That’s right Thom: you too are a ridiculous walker. You too turn your back on the societal conventions of pedestrian movement. You too are a klutz.
So, if you remember correctly, we crashed into one another like two sumo wrestlers at the beginning of a match. I stumbled back, shaken, my cheek tattooed with the imprint of your forehead. A strand of drool unspooled itself from my mouth, only to be smeared across my chin by the impatient swipe of my palm. And it was then, after the spinning in my head had slowed, that I could finally fix my gaze upon the person with whom I had collided: Thom Yorke.
I opened my mouth to spit out an apology, but found I could only manage a strained groan like a fat man rising from a child’s play chair. You were no better. I remember you looked at me as if I had materialized from the cobble stone. One elfish eye stared back at me while your lazy eye rolled around the bottom of your socket, looking vaguely in the direction of my crotch. I remember wondering, Oh my God - did I just break Thom Yorke’s face?
You started to say something but I panicked and cut you off, not wanting to arrive at the apology in second place. Our conversation, which seemed so meaningful at the time, went something like this:
Me: Ha! wa...
You: (Some sort of nasal exhalation with pseudo-linguistic properties)
And then it was over. Just as the fates brought us together to walk into each other at exactly the same time, the fates made us stop “talking” with similar precision. And thus we entered the next phase of our dynamic relationship: the awkward pause.
People in the street swarmed around us, giving the rock star and student no notice. We were these immobile statutes in the midst of a swarming gyre of humanity, our eyes locked. As if entering a state of hyper-meditation, my mind went so blank a trained Buddhist monk would have been bitterly jealous. My entire command of the English language vanished, leaving me without words, without anything. Frankly, I was just thankful that I still had control of my bowels. How long were we stuck like this, having given up on apologies and communication?
Suddenly, like an invalid waking from a coma, the spell was broken. As if remembering the purpose of legs, you walked off and tangled yourself within the crowd.
A normal person would have left this unusual encounter as it was. However, I am not a normal person, for as soon as you disappeared around the corner, the enormity of my folly became apparent: I had run into Thom Yorke, one of my favorite modern musicians, and I didn’t say a single intelligible thing. My heart sank and my cheeks burned with a blush. No, I thought, I can’t let it end like this. I must say something. I must profess my fondness of your work. I must, at the very least, formally apologize for smacking into you like a famed Oxford dodo.
And that, Mr. Yorke, is why I decided to follow you.
No, my stalking was not the casualty of madness, rather, it was a pilgrimage of artistic adoration. And thus, “stalking” is an inaccurate, feeble word. I followed you like a disciple would follow Jesus, like a downy duckling chick would follow its mother – not like a raving lunatic creeping after a victim. There’s a very fine line you see Thom, and really, you should be flattered.
So I started after you like a bloodhound. If my pace was ridiculous before, it was even more so now. I shot past a group of young school children, and I wouldn’t have hesitated to push one of the little brats down had it improved my speed in any capacity. Brushing past an overweight grad student in a black gown, I heard an icy voice declare, “I say!” towards my receding form. All the while, my mind chewed on one crucial piece of thought-cud: once I caught up to you, which I invariably would, what on earth would I say?
Perhaps, “I admire your influence on modern music.” Or, “Sorry I walked into you. I hope your face doesn’t swell.” But no matter what verbal options I had at my limited disposal, nothing felt right. You have fans accost you all the time, right? So what could I possibly say that hadn’t already been said, and how could I say it without frightening you away?
It was only when I saw you reappear at the end of the block that I had a horribly delicious idea: I would loudly recite passages of your lyrics as I approached, notifying you of my advance and making it clear my intentions were purely appreciative. Like a cautious hiker stumbling upon a bear in the wilderness, I didn’t want to spook you – and what better way to put you at ease than to quote from your own arsenal of verse? Wouldn’t Dylan Thomas have loved to be approached by a fan spouting out his finest stanzas?
I came even closer, until we were half a block apart. I could clearly see the acid-wash coloration of your jeans-jacket, and the disheveled semi-pompadour style of your hair. I opened my mouth to start the recitation but then stopped, suddenly realizing I didn’t know which lyric to quote.
Maybe I could start by yelling:
Karma police, arrest this girl
Her Hitler hairdo is
Making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party…
Then move onto:
Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy…
And concluding with the perfectly non-confrontational:
The panic, the vomit
The panic, the vomit
God loves his children, God loves his children, yeah!
Yes, I thought, that would be perfect.
Armed with the proper words to say, sentences began to rise in my throat. I was right behind you then, but you were moving away so quickly (hadn’t you learned anything about the dangers of speed-walking?) Excited, I cut right to my conclusion and began in a clear, operatic voice, “The panic…”
Arriving minutes too late, an epiphany finally came – I was being more than slightly inappropriate. You gave a startled glance over your shoulder and hurried off. Never have I seen anyone look more like a “Paranoid Android.” I skidded to a halt, mortified, shamed, and I passively watched your retreat. I took a step backwards, then two more. I will never forget my last image of you, scurrying away and casting nervous looks in my direction. Alas, our magical encounter was over.
So now, after multiple years, I would like to take the opportunity to issue an official apology. I recognize that I behaved like a fool and understand that my behavior was, to put it mildly, a tad unorthodox. I’m sorry. I really am. And if you can find the room in your heart, I’d love to have your forgiveness.
Take care Mr. Yorke – and safe walking.