"When we were together it was bliss," he says, "like something from a damn fairy tale. But right now, I just don't see – it's just so hard. So hard. I'm the type of person, if I'm not exactly sure about something, then I'll wait it out and see. I may not ever get over her. That's why I'm kind of chilling. I'm waiting to see. I do have to come to the realization that I might never."
Suddenly he leans forward and says, "I think now, more than ever, everything is OK. But I still love her. I really do still love that girl."
After that, Timberlake leaves the table, goes into the other room and comes back with his Gibson, which he plays while explaining how it happened that, after much goading by the disc jockeys on Hot 97 radio in New York, he admitted to performing oral sex on Spears. "I thought, 'Well, maybe that's the sense of humor here.' But anybody who listened to that show has to know it's a joke. They were promising me spins on the radio, so I was just pimping spins. I thought it was funny as hell. That's just my sense of humor."
He returns to his guitar. Soon, his fingerpicking evolves into Kansas' "Dust in the Wind." "It's just a great song," he says, and then he begins to talk about the girls in Los Angeles and, again, his mom. "You go out to a club anywhere in L.A. and you're like, 'Damn!' But still, man, they can't hold a conversation, and if I can't do that with somebody, I really have no attraction. I want a girl who I can tell anything to and not worry about offending them. I've always been that way with my mother. We really converse well. We talk about everything, and I think I yearn for that."
Right around then, Lynn Harless, who is wearing a sweat shirt that reads be naughty, save santa the trip, comes into the kitchen and takes a seat. "I had Justin when I was twenty, and he seemed about twenty when he was born, so we've pretty much shared everything," she says, gazing at her boy. "We're weird like that. But there's a lot of stuff he starts telling me about that I tell him, 'OK, I think this is something you should talk to Trace about. Some things you are not supposed to say to your mother.' Sexual things. And his response is usually, 'Oh, Mom, just listen.' "
While his mom is saying this, Timberlake keeps on playing, smiling to himself. If, as he often says, he's looking for a woman just like the woman sitting opposite him right now, and if he thought he had found that woman in Spears, then Spears' betrayal of him must in some way feel as bad as if it were his mother betraying him. Actually, maybe nothing could be worse for a guy like timberlake, more damaging or less likely to heal.
A week later, he travels to manhattan to promote Justified on MTV, where his "Cry Me a River" video is already Number One on TRL. Timberlake steadfastly, and somewhat illogically, denies the video has anything to do with him and Spears. "I didn't make this video so I could sit around and talk about it," he says belligerently. "It's a video, and when you watch it, either you have a sense of humor or you don't. [The girl] doesn't represent anybody. She represents a female in the story line. I haven't gone public about my relationship."
He does say, however, that he's called Spears since the video's debut, "because when people blew it way out of proportion, I didn't want things to get misunderstood. She was cool. We're cool. I haven't spoken to her directly about it, because that's my career, and I don't speak with people in my personal life about my career, but I can tell you that we are cool. There's no hard feelings. What is all the fuss about? If anybody is the bad guy in the video, it's me."
And that's certainly true. If the Britney figure is a cheater, the Timberlake character is both a cheater and a creep. To exact his revenge, he breaks into his girlfriend's house, gets it on with some tramp on his girlfriend's bed, films it with his girlfriend's video camera, arranges it so his girlfriend will see the video and, upon his girlfriend's return from her own tryst, stalks her through the house and into the shower. It's weird, all right, and speaks of a guy with a mother-size hole in his heart who wants to get even and then some.
"What can I say?" Timberlake continues. "It's a good-ass video. I don't want anyone to come off smelling like roses. I don't like the smell of roses anyway."
This story is from the January 23rd, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.
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