I have been haunted by the spectre of a song I used to know.

That’s the only way I can really explain it. For the past week or so, periodically, a song would pop into my head that I couldn’t quite remember the name of, and I couldn’t quite remember the artist’s name. I also couldn’t fully recall the melody, despite catching myself humming short snippets of it. It was just a vague flicker of a memory, which left a kind of song-shaped hole in my brain as I worked to try and figure out what the heck I was remembering.

The madness finally came to a head a couple days ago, when I suddenly found myself venturing down a rabbit hole and uncovering what seemed, at first glance, to be a real musical conspiracy.

To try and locate this song I began listening to playlists of music from the mid 2000s. I didn’t know exactly which year it was from, but I knew enough to say that it was vaguely soft-rock, and that I could remember listening to it around middle school.

But playlist after playlist, I just never heard the song. I began to question myself. Maybe I had already heard it, and I just wasn’t able to pick it out of the lineup. Maybe my memory was just too vague. I went through the track listings for all the old Now That’s What I Call Music! albums, sure that it must have shown up on one of those. I listened to 2000s soft rock playlists on Apple Music. I picked through various “music for millenials” playlists on YouTube. I searched high and low. No such luck.

At one point, I almost was able to conjur up the name. As I thought about it hard enough, I decided that it must have started with the letter C, and was a one-word title. I went through all the songs I could think of like that. Complicated? No, that wasn’t it. Concrete? No, not it either.

I was about to give up hope when, entirely by chance, it began to play in the form of a crusty YouTube bootleg, and immediately I knew I had found it: For You I Will (Confidence) by Teddy Geiger. Playing it, memories of a happy and carefree time flooded in, and I was vindicated. I was also essentially right about the name beginning with a C, as I had always referred to it just as Confidence.

I went to grab a copy of the album the song was featured on, but that’s when I ran head-first into the first of several further roadblocks. I couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t for sale in any of the usual places. Okay, I thought, we’ll just try streaming it. I checked Apple Music - negative. Spotify? Nope. Deezer? Google Play? Tidal? Nope, nope, nope.

This album is borderline impossible to find. The individual songs are, too. They’re just nowhere. Even at the shadier, less-legal parts of the web where one might find otherwise hard-to-find music, there’s just no trace of this thing. I made it my mission to locate a copy. I checked everywhere, turned over every stone, but this thing just doesn’t exist. The only artifacts still remaining are a couple 480p YouTube videos with compressed-to-heck audio.

Why did this song, and for that matter the entire album, disapper from this realm of existence? Why has it been so hard to find this?

Turns out, it’s not really a great conspiracy after all: Teddy Geiger now identifies as a woman, and following her transition she doesn’t identify with the old music she created in the early-to-mid 2000s, and has stopped distributing it. This lack of distribution, coupled with a general lack in popularity, means that it has essentially disappeared from existence.

That kind of bums me out, to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand her position on that, and can’t fault her for no longer identifying with the music that she once made that still bears her name. I’ve changed a lot in the intervening 16 years, too, and there are things I made that long ago that I’d rather the world not see or have access to. It’s something made by a person that really doesn’t exist any more. But I’m a big believer that once something is made and it goes out into the world, it takes on a life on its own. Yes, those are her songs. She wrote them, she performend them, she made them, she has control over them. But they’re also our songs. That was a song that played on the radio as I played with friends and lived life, and was part of the background of a happy adolescence. It was a big, popular hit, at least for a small slice of time.

It’s a shame that folks can’t add that song to their playlists to be reminded of it from time to time. Instead, it just slips out and fades away, disappearing first from devices, then the social conscience, and then our memories altogether. In compilations of soft rock from the 2000s, or playlists for nostalgic millenials, it just doesn’t exist any more. It exists only as a figment of our memories (that is, until we, too, forget it completely).

But that’s not strictly true.

That song does exist. It was a hit. Songs from these albums are part of my childhood. They’re in my memories. And there’s not a real good argument as to why I can’t put them in my playlists. Is this a form of entitlement? I don’t know. Maybe I feel overentitled. Maybe it’s unreasonable to expect that once something exists, it just always exists.

But as long as I have my own music library, the music I put into it is under my control, and nothing can stop me from listening to it. Until you rip the files out of my hands, I can keep stuffing this music into my ears.

So how does this story end, at least for me? I bought a used copy of the CD for $0.99, and once it arrives in my mailbox I will rip it into a glorious, lossless FLAC format which I’ll keep backed up across my devices. Waiting for a circular hunk of plastic to show up in my mailbox seems like an exercise long forgotten about, but when digital media access fails, physical media once again jumps in to save the day. The shame here is that, legally, I still can’t make it available to everyone else. This will just be my copy of a CD from nearly two decades ago, mostly forgotten, almost buried, but still bringing joy to someone long after it first became part of the world. It just seems wrong that only those with access to these discs can enjoy it. One day, far too long from now, it will enter the public domain, and the world can enjoy it again. In the meantime, long live the archivists.