Why Can’t I Be You – The Cure – 1987

Why Can’t I Be You MP3

In April of 1987, I went to treatment for depression and drug addiction.  I spent a few months in psychiatric intensive care, which was enlightening.  Let’s just say I needed to be there.  Then when I was no longer a huge risk, they sent me over to the adult unit.  I was the only 17 year old sent to the adult unit.  My history was determined to be a risk to the adolescent units.

By the time I made it to the adult unit, I had a full beard and crazy hair.  I had the beard because in a psyche ward, every time you want to shave, they get a psyche aid to bring you your razor and watch you shave in the metal mirror.  Everyone is assumed to be a suicide risk.  You are in a psychiatric ward!  What do you expect?  Well, I really couldn’t handle it.  For some reason, I was okay with every other invasion of my privacy.  The hourly checks while in my room sleeping.  Sharing a room.  Having to get my vitals checked every morning before breakfast.  But I just couldn’t handle having someone watch me while shaving.

So I kept that beard for months.  There were a lot of people in that ward that were young adults.  I call it ‘the treatment binge of the 80’s’.  It took a long time for the girls to warm up to me, but I made a lot of friends.  Eventually the girls would talk to me.  And I guess I got over myself about the beard after about 3 months in there, and I finally shaved.  Suddenly everyone told me about how I looked like an ax murderer with the beard.  And the girls were a lot friendlier.

As the time for release would near, a patient would be given more freedom with the outside world.  First you would have a pass to spend the day with your family.  They could come pick you up and drop you off.  Eventually, they would let you out on your own to venture into the world and come back in the evening or after a few hours.  This gave patients the opportunity to try out the world to see if they were ready.  In the case of the young adults, if your nearing release time coincided with another person’s nearing release time, then you spent a lot of time with that person.

In my case, it was one of the girls that had been afraid of me when I first came over.  We would go to meetings together and she would describe how incredibly scary I looked.  I can imagine what I must have looked like to other people, because my turn around on seeing who I was and what I was doing with my life was a few weeks before I shaved.  I looked in the mirror and actually saw myself.  What I saw was something like Alice Cooper in all his makeup.

This girl and I became very close.  She was only a year older than me.  I didn’t have a car.  She had a tiny yellow convertible MG.  Put two lonely messed up young people together and what do you get?  You get crazy messed up romance.  We arranged all of our individual and meeting passes together.  We were inseparable.  And we had an incredibly good time.  I was really smitten with her.  She was all the fun I didn’t have being a young person.  She dragged me to the beach, to her college campus, meetings, her family’s house, my family’s house, Beaumont, Huntsville…

I never really had that much fun being young.  I was always too serious and way too serious about the trouble I got into.  She broke my seriousness up and never let it drag her down.  I was always crazy anxious at all of the new and normal experiences I was having with her, but I did it anyway.  ‘Normal’?  That’s pretty funny.  We were having a relationship while locked up in a psyche ward.  That should tell you everything you need to know about who I am right there.

So The Cure was coming to town and she was a big Cure fan.  I was a Cure fan too.  But not in the sense that she was.  I really liked them and I had a lot of goth friends from high school, but I was always a punk.  So I didn’t buy their albums or wait for their live appearances.  She saw that they were coming and went nuts about it.  She insisted that we had to go get passes to go out the night of the show and buy tickets and go to it.  In fact, she was all legit about it too.  We weren’t going to get passes for a meeting and go to the show.  We were going to ask our treatment teams for passes to go to the show.  Remarkably they let us have these passes.

And this is where this song should be cued, because the video that I have in my head for this song is what I am about to describe.  Edited into small 2 second clips like a video.

The day before the show, I was sitting in the recreation room smoking cigarettes.  She was taking a nap in her room.  I was sitting next to an older adult, probably in his 40’s.  He was reading the paper.  He turned to me and pointed at an ad in the paper, “Aren’t you going to this show tonight?”

“No it’s tomorrow night.”

He said, “No it’s tonight.  See.”

He was right.  It was that night and it was already about 6pm.  We weren’t going to make it, but I had to tell her.  So I went down to her room and woke her up.  Being in her room was a big no no.  But I knew she was going to freak.  And she did.  We didn’t even have meeting passes for that night.  If we had the nurse’s station call our doctors and request passes, there was the real possibility that they would either say ‘no’ or give permission for the pass too late.  So we just walked out.  I don’t remember how we got her keys, because they take those from you when you come back in.  But I do remember that we just followed people through locked doors.  In one case, there was a psyche aide who just assumed we had a pass and held the door open for us.

“You’re so gorgeous I’ll do anything!”

We got in the car and she drove like a maniac.

“I’ll kiss you from your feet to where your head begins.”

We didn’t have tickets.  I don’t remember what our plan was for buying tickets the next night, but I couldn’t imagine where we thought we were going to get tickets that night.  We just drove to the Houston Coliseum.

“You make me.  Make me hungry again.”

When we got downtown, we parked on the street somewhere and ran to the Coliseum.  We happened to come up to the back stage entrance where the tour buses were.

“I’ll run around in circles.  Til I run out of breath.”

We asked the first person we saw where the ticket office was.  He didn’t know and told us that he thought the show might be sold out.

“I’ll eat you all up.  Or I’ll just hug you to death.”

You have to understand.  I was 17 and she was 18.  It must have been one of those classic moments in working live shows.  We must have been the funniest sight in the world.  And she was cute beyond description.  She was 4 foot 10 and about 100 pounds.  And I can still see exactly what she looked like when she asked almost hysterically, “Have you seen any scalpers?”

“Everything you do is irresistible.”

This guy.  The first person that we ran up to on the street at a show we were certainly never going to get into held the backstage door open and said, “I don’t know.  You might get lucky.  The ticket office is right over there.”  And he pointed inside like he was pointing to something.  We walked through and he closed the door behind us.  It took us a few seconds to realize what he had done for us.  And then we could see that the lights had turned off and the crowd got loud.

“Everything you do is simply kissable.”

We ran around in the dark trying to figure out where the hell we were and how the hell we were going to get into the actual arena so we could see the show.  We busted through a door.  We could hear the music.  There was a tunnel and some lights.  We ran up the tunnel and came out on a lower section right next to the stage.  Since it was The Cure, no one was sitting anyway.  They were all dancing.

“Why can’t I be you?”

This was one of those moments.  I knew I was going to remember every minute of it while it was happening.  I don’t know where she is.  I wouldn’t even know how to begin to find her.  I don’t remember her last name.  After we were released from the hospital, our relationship fizzled.  It’s not a way to begin a long term relationship.  But back in 1987, we broke out of a psyche ward to see The Cure.

They were playing this song.  And Robert Smith is a mountain on stage.  Really there are very few people that have that kind of stage presence.  And on video he always came off as a shoe gazer.  I didn’t think he would be that interesting onstage, but he is just one of those personalities that can just stand there on stage.  And he has everyone.  It was one of the best sounding shows I have ever seen.  So much attention is paid to Robert Smith, but there is a great band up there.  I really don’t have much to say about the song.  It’s a party song.  It really has that whole 80’s party song feel.  And every time I hear it, I see this bowl of people dancing.

4 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Be You – The Cure – 1987”

  1. Great story. I was a psych tech at Spring Shadows Glen from 97-2000, so I could totally *see* the beard, the girl, the breakout. Classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest stuff. I’m loving reading this journal. 🙂

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