Spring 2003. A warm morning in Costa Rica—I'm teaching at the European School in Heredia, 7th graders, and Marilia Campos is sitting on the counter by the window, listening to her CD player. Her classmates are arriving for the day. Marilia, shouting over the music in her ears, says: "Mr. Eric, do you like Avril Lavigne?"
"I don't think I do, Marilia," I say. I'm shuffling my books.
She waves me over. "Listen to this. She's so good."
I sit next to her on the counter and she gives me one of her earbuds. We sit for a while and listen, the earbuds' wires hanging between us.
The song is "I'm with You." It goes along nicely. Normally.
I glance at Marilia. Listening to the song, I can see that she feels like she's being spoken to honestly. And I can understand why. Sometimes honesty is cliché. The song is just what a boy wants to hear, too.
If the rising cry at 2:49 is not the essence—the raison d'etre—of the pop ballad, I don't know what is.