Annie Blackman Raises Unanswerable Questions

The singer-songwriter waxes on fate, chance, and her new song “Why We Met.”

On our last night together, we sat by the water behind his house and mourned different things. He was saying goodbye to a childhood home, and I was saying goodbye to him, after years of sharing a college campus and a friendship in flux. His disquietude was heavy, and the best I could do was offer an occasional aphorism about growing up. The cross-country move was just days away. I felt small and distinctly unhelpful in my role as witness to the end of boyhood. But more than I wanted to comfort him, I wanted to be someone who could comfort him. And more than he wanted to be comforted, he wanted to be alone. So, alone together we sat, plenty of lawn between us. All the stars were out. I wondered why we had ever met.

Everything happens for a reason only in that one event precipitates another. I feel closer to godliness by retracing my steps than I do by having faith in my future. I want fate, but I know the whole thing is an accident. I’m not with him at this house, spending a weekend marveling at simulation-shattering sunsets and bobbing through marsh grass because I’m meant to be. I’m there because I just am, and that’s more bewildering than anything God could possibly have a hand in. But I’m hardly a nihilist. It’s fine if there’s no cosmic explanation for meeting someone who makes me grow and shrink and stagnate cyclically for indefensible stretches of time, as long as it happens some way or another and gets me so anxious my hands hurt. I consider my actions, his actions, forces not divine but out of control, and then write a song about it. 

I left for home the next morning, embarrassed and exhausted. Fall semester wasn’t starting for another two weeks, but my summer had ended. On the bus, I sent him a text message I regretted right away and sniffled through The Best of Conway Twitty, stock-still in Route 3 traffic. Back in my own bed, I ran a thumb over a cut on the flat of my foot. I’d gotten it while swimming the day before. I took a photo of the wound, deleted it, and then fell asleep with the lights on. 

“Why We Met” asks a simple, rhetorical question that I have no hope of answering. I think that’s what songwriting is about: creating a forgiving forum where I can raise unanswerable questions, worthwhile or not, because speculating is sometimes enough. And there’s a difference between the palliative power of writing a song and singing it. I’m not figuring out much while writing. I’m wallowing and whining and maybe even refusing perspective. Prolonging the process by touching the wound. But when I finish a song and sing it enough times, the question leaves me and exists on its own, answered because I’m not all that curious anymore. The cut heals better if I don’t pick.  

I think fate and chance are the same. People who believe in fate find power in something or someone omniscient deciding the way things go. To find meaning in chance, I have to worship the accidents that work together to bring me where I am and find the profundity that exists because I need it to. That’s what writing music is. Giving weight to everything a sweating bottle, the curve of a craned neck, a moment of interiority broken when he turns to face me. 

I don’t wonder anymore why we met, but I wonder about other things. Like, what will aliens infer about humanity through my narcissistic musings, if my Moleskines survive the earth’s scorching? In high school I asked for a fireproof safe for Christmas, to which I’ve long ago lost the key.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Dorsa)

Annie Blackman has been writing her way into and out of heartache since adolescence. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter from Montclair, New Jersey, makes droll yet stirringly vulnerable music to bridge the gap between the head and the heart and untangle what it means to want. A compulsive archivist, Blackman draws inspiration from her own diaries, schoolwork marginalia, and the hallowed grounds of the Notes App on her iPhone. Loving, liking, and longing inform Blackman’s lore. With measured vocals and hypnotic production, Blackman faithfully leads us through her world of faded dorm room furniture and pensive walks-home.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Dorsa)