This song started out about one person, and ended up being about someone completely different. Sometimes I'll have a lyric hanging around unused for years, and then I'll meet someone who just happens to fit the sentiment perfectly. In this case, it was "weary traveler ease your mind, I am not your siren/take heart - you survive this crash." When I first wrote that lyric it meant "I'm not going to hurt you." It eventually came to mean "you'll move on from this as if nothing happened."
The film pairing for this song is a period drama - think Merchant Ivory, or if you're a TV person, Downton Abbey. It's the story of a night out in Brooklyn with a man who was about to leave town forever, who (unbeknownst to me) had another woman waiting for him at home. I cringe when I think about how wrapped up I was in this one event. It seems so small and insignificant now, but at the time the romance of it felt urgent and enormous. The actual event was played out by drunk, insecure twenty-somethings, but this kind of story is timeless. I wanted to give it an update. And some neuroses.
When I think about these period romance dramas, I always imagine one of history's great cliches: one partner standing on the platform, the other waving sadly as the train pulls away, parting them forever. After staying out until dawn, annoying several bartenders, and slow dancing without music in a subway station, the subject of this song and I caught an F train back into Manhattan. He fell asleep, and I woke him just before his stop. He said goodbye, left the train, and walked away. The doors closed, and just as the train started to move he jumped back into the window, waving goodbye a second time.
I never saw him again.