I'm not one to latch onto trends. I bought a microwave about ten years after they became a common household item. I didn't have cable television until 2011.
So when my Facebook feed started filling with "Adele and Cry" memes, I didn't think much of it. Who cared if it was the new "Netflix and Chill," I hadn't yet gotten around to Googling what that meant. No pop culture star had ever made me cry (except for Gloria Estefan briefly, once, back in the fall of 1991, but it was quite possibly a leaf fragment the wind swept into my eye at the very moment the "Don't Wanna Lose You" chorus blasted in my Walkman.
I dismissed the flood of Adele chatter much like I did every other public trend and went about my business. Case and point: To this day, I have yet to read Harry Potter. It was a few days later when a slip of the finger accidentally switched my Pandora channel from "Spring Break 1995" to "Today's Hits" that the haunting female vocals of Adele's "Hello" infiltrated my eardrums. The melodious powerhouse rocked me to my very core and I stopped mid-walk in the crowded city streets to collect myself.
Who is this woman and what did she do to me? I felt drawn to her not unlike I did to my first girlfriend - full of innocence and trust with no knowledge of the heartache that would ensue. It was full throttle gas petal with no brakes in sight.
The siren's serenade played in my head on an endless loop from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. "Hello" even penetrated my non-waking hours. In one dream, I was late for math class and was running to get to the room when I realized I had no pants on. Who appeared out of the foggy corners of the public school hallway but Adele, a pair of Chinos outstretched in hand, humming, "To tell you I'm sorry, for everything that I've done..."
I woke up in a cold sweat and fervently groped for my phone, where I proceeded to play the "Hello" music video 17 times before I got up to pee.
I became fervent on consuming every bit of Adele there was in the world. I binge-watched every video of her ever on YouTube. I gorged on the Saturday Night Live segments with her and about her over and over and over again. I devoured the prank video that started trending where Adele - clever lady that she is - pretended not to be Adele in an Adele-cover contest. I teared up when she started to sing and the contestants realized it was the real Adele. What a wonderful day they had!
The constant Adele soundtrack in my head comforted me. It wasn't like getting the "Chicken Dance" or "Henry the Eighth" stuck in your head. Adele's song was subtle and beautiful enough that it played as the perfect backdrop to whatever I was doing - vacuuming, sending an email at work, thinking about imperialism, playing with the cat.
And listening to "Hello" on repeat in my head for days made me contemplative. Was it really, "Hello from the outside" or "Hello from the other side?" Was she talking about being dead and on the other side of life, or did she just feel dead after her breakup? How dead have I felt after breakups? Have I ever loved as hard as Adele to feel as dead as she felt?
Or what if by "outside" she actually just meant outside, as in, she was stalking her ex and sitting in her car outside his apartment looking in? In which case, I'm glad I didn't love like that because law enforcement or psychiatric help might have intervened. Much better to get drunk and hook up with someone else.
And was Adele so naïve that she didn't realize he was ignoring her calls? It was easier to gauge back in the day when everyone just had landlines. If someone didn't pick up the phone, you could reasonably deduce that they might not be home. But in this day and age, if you call a thousand times and he doesn't seem to be around for any of them, you might want to consider the possibility that he's ignoring your calls in purpose. Also, did she ever leave a message? Sometimes I don't get great phone signal even in my apartment, and I don't see that I missed calls.
By day six, I started to feel a bit wiped out. "Hello" still played in my head at all times, but it was no longer charming. In fact, it was beginning to get annoying. That high note she hits on "...I'm sorry, for everything that I've done..." got played over and over again like a broken record and started to give me a headache.
At this point, Adele's voice was so ingrained I hardly thought about anything else. I somehow remembered to brush my teeth and feed the cat. I don't remember if I put my bra on or locked the door, though. And I'm pretty sure that report I handed in at work consisted solely of lyrics to "Hello."
I realized it would take something radical to break me of what I was quickly coming to realize was the curse of Adele.
I dug out my old boombox from the 90s, a rabbit foot, a pigeon feather and a bible I stole from a hotel room in Santa Cruz (sorry Christians and Holiday Inn), and went down to the shores of the East River. I threw them all in the water and then uninstalled Pandora from my phone. I said a little prayer into the polluted wind, which included some expletives and "Kick rocks Adele," and took the first Adele-free breath in a week.
I tentatively allowed my brain to wander into its recesses. Lo and behold! It was a miracle. No more Adele song lyrics! In flooded all of the thoughts she had blocked. I needed to buy milk. And call my mother. And look both ways before crossing the street.
It's two weeks later now and I'm still Adele free. It's not easy avoiding her - she's everywhere. I stopped going to the supermarket and have been ordering Fresh Direct because she's always there, in the dairy section, the aisle with frozen peas. It may be months, even years, before I feel confident going out in public without fear of seeing her and falling back into the Adele hole. But I feel stronger now that I can overcome such moments and live my life "Hello" free. If all else fails, at least I can say that I've tried.