you knew some of my friends

A discussion on Rene Goodnight by Advance Base and moving forward from the trauma of being harmed by an ex-partner.

you knew some of my friends

Advance Base is the name Owen Ashworth uses to release music. He’s probably my single favorite songwriter. Advance Base and his previous project, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, mean a great deal to me. Earlier this year he released a song called “Rene Goodnight” that, in his signature first person narrative style, tells the story of a woman— the titular Rene— meeting a man at a party. He walks her home, but doesn’t go inside. He just says he’s glad he met her and says goodnight. She later asks a friend who knew the man in a previous city if she knows anything about him and she finds out there’s a rumor he hurt former partners. Finding it out makes her question if that’s why he left and leaves her scared to engage with him again despite the gentle night that they spent hanging out at that party. 

Rene Goodnight, by Advance Base
from the album How You Got Your Picture on the Wall

The first time I heard the song I cried. I think the obvious genius of Owen’s songwriting, particularly with Advance Base, is in capturing complicated, life defining feelings through small slice of life stories. Things like falling in love with someone new and finding joy while you’re also losing your kids in a divorce. The feelings are big, but the scenes are small. They’re a reminder that everybody you see has a world inside them that is as vast and deep as your own, even in Gary, Indiana. 

“Rene Goodnight” faces a reality of being post-harm that I’ve been considering heavily since I moved back to Chicago. 

A little over four years ago, I was sexually assaulted by a man I trusted more than anybody. My apartment now is less than a mile from my old place where it happened. Harm doesn’t live in the place it happened, but sometimes it can feel like it does— like how you feel like you shouldn’t live in a house where someone died. I think of it almost everyday. It crosses my mind when I pass by the Montrose brown line or take the Clark Street bus past his favorite bar or I’m driving west and have to pause for pedestrians at the street that would take me down to my old apartment.

I should have been able to foresee thinking about it more here, but I didn’t. I continued to be in a relationship with that man for nearly a full year after and our relationship ended in Philadelphia. I processed what happened in Philadelphia. I felt much of the pain of it in Philadelphia. I also became a different person there and found a new life there. I’m different here, too, but my younger self exists so tangibly at the same time and I feel sad for her. Or maybe I feel sad about her. It’s hard to tell.

I don’t think it’s tough to explain, on the surface, what it’s like to be hurt so deeply— physically and emotionally— by someone you loved so much. Most people I know can understand the anger and the fear and the shame and the betrayal. That first collection of feelings is what people talk about when they talk about rape. 

It’s that understandable feeling that makes people say stuff like “it’s worse to be raped than to be murdered because you have to live with it.” That feeling— the feeling that I’d never be able to get over it— is what pushed me to quit law school despite the shame I felt about dropping out after putting in so much work to get there. It’s that feeling that led me to screaming at him outside a pizza place in Fishtown that he ruined my life. For a while, I wanted people to know what he did to me because I was so angry. I felt that if he could rot the very core of the person I was, ruin our relationship and permanently poison the memory of our longtime friendship then he deserved to lose his social life at least. 

It’s a feeling people get because anger about being wronged is easy. It’s easy to be validated in that feeling. You can’t live in that anger forever, but moving forward when you’ve been wronged and hurt is a lot harder. 

My therapist in Philly used to really push me to remember my life holistically and not let my memories be taken over by the pain. She wanted me to avoid what I call trauma tunnel vision. I’m not always so good at it. It’s tough to not feel like your memories have been tainted and it’s tougher to fend off the feeling that, if you aren’t angry, the person who hurt you is just getting away with it. I’ve been trying to talk about the good memories again anyway, even if my friends have a visible reaction if I mention him. 

I’ve decided to refuse to erase my life and memories because his name feels bad in my mouth. I went to see our favorite band and I listened to the song he requested the first night we met without running out of the room. I told my sister a story about watching him faceplant into the snow after drinking tiny bottles of Underberg bitters at a brewery because we saw them at a bar and she’d never had one. The only way I’ve been able to find any sort of healing is to remember my life as it was in the before. Folding into the discomfort only lets the power reach further and, with that knowledge, I’ve landed at a new stage of dealing with it. I’ve let myself think about his life after the last time I saw him.

I’ve thought about people meeting him now as I’ve allowed myself to think about meeting him when I was still a teenager. I think about if I’d want someone to tell those people what happened. I’ve listened to Owen Ashworth’s song and thought about myself as the briefly mentioned “old partner” of the charming man at a party. I think about whether I’d want to know if I was Rene in that story. I also think about my friend I commiserate the most with whose ex-boyfriend hurt her in a different but equally long reaching sort of way. That guy moved and is now friends with people I know and respect. I know that if one of them brought him up to me I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from saying something unkind, so I guess I have to accept that harm done to me is outside me now in a lot of ways. 

I’m not sure I think he’s a danger to other women— something inside me hopes he has learned something through all of this— but I guess that doesn’t matter either. The tendrils of my early adult memories may always tie me to him, but that story ends here.

I’ve seen Owen Ashworth play twice since I moved back to Chicago at the end of the summer. At those shows I sat with people who never knew him and it feels like a blessing to know that, even when I feel bogged down in the past, time has marched forward with me in tow. 

Happy New Year. I’ll see you in 2024.

Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, podcaster and law school drop out based in Chicago. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram to see my cat that I named after a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone song: @mirandareinert.  This blog does have a paid option and I would so appreciate any money you would be willing to throw me! You may also send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo/on Paypal if you want. As always, thanks for reading!