The Agreement

The Agreement

words and music by Lori Lieberman, adapted from the essay, “The Humming Story” by Alan Erenberg

You can say what you say
But you know what you know
You can put out the fire
But what do you with your smoke
You can laugh ’till your heart breaks
‘Til you’re sick of the joke

It was something, something again
A little agreement between his father and him
When he’d act more like a daughter than a son
His dad would hum

“And it will be our little reminder,” he’d say
“So people won’t call you those kinds of names
And you won’t walk around this city in shame
No son of mine”

And every day he would hear it
His father’s voice like an echo wherever he’d go
Was he laughing too softly or running too slow

It surrounded him like a cold winter chill
Like a black fly buzzing that wouldn’t be still
“I’ll be your cure, and I’ll be your pill
And if you can’t control yourself then by God I will”

And every night he would feel it
His father’s voice like a siren, it always was there
Criticizing his walk and the way he touched his hair

“You’ll thank me in the end
You’ll thank me in the end
You’ll thank me in the end”

Years go by and the memories change
He’s got a wife and a son, and another on the way
And he sits with his paper on the five o’ clock train
Sees a stranger on the platform, and he looks into his face

And the moment is endless
Like a lie, like an ache
And he wants to go with him
More than he can explain
And he holds out his hand
And the train pulls away

It was something, something again
A little agreement between his father and him