It’s been a long while since I’ve listened to Pink’s Funhouse, an album I bought after breaking things off with J. and realizing So What was an ideal breakup anthem — “I’m a rock star, I got my rock moves, and I don’t need you.” The weeks that followed, though, were the ones in which Jack and I started dating and fell in love, and music returned to its place as the soundtrack of my life rather than a quiet and sympathetic companion to my thoughts. Jack shared Rob Thomas’ Lonely No More — “when you tell me that you love me know for sure; I don’t want to be lonely anymore” — and I burned mixes for him called “Songs for Jack,” in volumes 1, 2, and 3. I can’t tell what was on those lists, though, because I deleted them from my iTunes when I was purging him from my life and burning his business cards and erasing every email communication that had come between us, and the CDs were missing after his family went through his things and Jack’s roommate and I were left to pick up the miniscule pieces.
Regardless. I’ve been reading a lot and writing even more, which means I need background noise, and there’s only so much productive static the television can provide when you don’t have cable, it’s three o’clock in the morning, and infomercials rule broadcast television, or at one o’clock in the afternoon and you’ve had your fill of the judges and talk shows and A-Team reruns. So I’ve returned to music, foraging through my CD collection because much of my iTunes music is on an external hard drive that has decided it doesn’t like my new computer, and I’m too impatient to figure out why. Plus, it’s more rewarding to handle the physical objects, to look at album covers and remember where I was when I bought this title, that title; what I was thinking; what stage of my life I was muddling through. It’s odd, I think, that I prefer film and literature to music, and yet the songs stick with me much longer than most movies and and novels.
I’ve mostly been listening to mellow music: The National, Radiohead, Belle & Sebastian, Midlake, etc. They are songs so familiar to me that they offer both comfort and a lack of distraction — a sort of soundtrack to my life once more, only this scene is much less happy than those early days with Jack, and I play a character who (for the most part) hasn’t quite figured out how to branch out into less-safe choices. But a couple of days ago I was getting ready to go out to see a friend perform in his improv show. I’d stayed in bed until — no joke — 7pm, still psychologically if not emotionally processing the previous day’s layoff. I needed music to break me away from the sorts of tunes that would encourage lingering and malingering rather than, oh, leaving the house.
So, then: out comes Pink’s Funhouse, installed in my CD player for the first time since the beginning of my life with Jack — about 21 months ago, give or take. (That sounds like forever ago, in those terms, but it feels much closer.) And it was fun, it was great, it was happy, it was energizing, for about two days, because by the time I was done getting ready, I’d only listened to the first eight or ten tracks, and it was the same yesterday. Today, I got up and made my phone calls and put the day’s ducks in a row and put on the album, and it coursed all the way through to the end. To Glitter in the Air. To the track that, when it came on the radio, when I still had a car, when I still had a working radio in that car, I’d always always always change the station.
Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Close your eyes and trust it, just trust it
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face
And said I just don’t care?
Today was a bit different than those times, in that since I’ve returned from my vacation, I feel lighter and a bit more free than I did before. It may have been my tryst, it may have been meeting new friends in a place where I was a relative stranger, or it may have just been the right time. But many more than a handful of people have commented on a certain change in me since I’ve returned, and I’ve also had an inordinate amount of male attention heading in my direction — which I have yet to determine whether I welcome, but that’s a different story.
It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg, the sun before the burn
The thunder before lightning, the breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?
I’m slowly moving into a different stage of my grieving, one that is no less painful, just different. It’s more of a psychic pain than an emotional one, more of a deep and spiritual heartache than a feeling that induces snot-filled sobbing attacks on my bathroom floor. But it’s also a grief alternately punctuated by gratitude and fear: I am as thankful to have been blessed with an opportunity to love someone as I loved Jack as I am scared I will never find that sort of love again.
It’s only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table, the walk before the run
The breath before the kiss and the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?
The thing that catches my throat most these days is seeing other people externally happy, in love, sharing moments and experiences. It’s a quick reminder of what I had, what I lost, what I often wonder whether I’ll find in the figure. Have I ever felt that way? Yes, and a thousand things more.
Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself
Will it ever get better than tonight?
I also wish I had known then what I know now: that “fleeting time” isn’t a trite warning but a reality that smacks everyone upside the head at some point. I wasn’t experienced enough — and may not be now, even after all this — to fully live in the moment, to grab on to what I had rather than focusing on my plans for the future. I often wonder whether this would be easier if I’d enjoyed where Jack and I were more and worried less about where we were going. Certainly I wouldn’t be mourning, as much, the loss of all those hopes and dreams. And, yet: in my heart I do still have all those moments when it didn’t seem it could get any better. When I hold my breath now, it’s to ask myself if things will ever get that good again, and I take it on faith that they will be, only different.
There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee, calling me sugar
You called me sugar
Jack called me honey, and baby, and probably a half-dozen other sweet things I can’t bear to remember. The words are no more or less than things other lovers have called me, and probably no different than the terms of endearment of my future. That seems to be the nature of life, or part of what I’m figuring out: that things come in cycles, and what we’ve walked through before prepares us for what we will walk through again, differently. Past relationships forge the way for future ones, and we bring more or less debris with us, depending. I am hopeful that I’ll bring more love and less fear into my next love, or at least that’s the plan. And when someone else calls me “sugar,” I pray I’ll be ready to live in that moment without wondering what’s to come.