Again, trigger warning: mental illness, assault. Album to listen to: The same old blood rush with a new touch, by cute is what we aim for.
9 years later, find yourself in the basement of a club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, nonchalantly waiting. The third opener band is just about to finish their set, and your old restlessness rests, abated, by having read the lab manual for tomorrow. You almost wish you had another beer, but remember: bladders have limits too. You wait. The band finishes playing; in front of you, their fans leave their spots, and you move in, like the breath that fills absence.
It’s been a long time since you first heard their songs, back when you were 13, endlessly shifting from song to song on Youtube. Strange, too; you never quite imagined you would be alive for this long, to have travelled to America, this place you have wanted for so many different reasons. But here you are, alone, and okay. The place begins to fill up, but you don’t notice; your eyes drift, scanning the stage, but mostly thinking about the past. About how you used to refuse, never willing to head out alone, always looking for partners or groups to be with. The irony, that you now routinely wish for the anonymity of solitude; the achievement, that you’ve managed to travel alone, wishing for no one other than yourself.
They come on stage. You realize that you’ve both been waiting for this for the last 9 years and yet not at all; how could you have known what you could not imagine? The words come out, engraved slowly over the last 9 years, called up by everyone around you projecting it back at them; weeks later, you will try, but only remember fragments. These songs have gotten you through nearly everything; through every broken relationship, every glass-shard memory, through the hands and eyes where you didn’t want them. Through all the times you dived into the deep end, filling up the hourglass to avoid thinking about what lay at the edge of glass, swimming though you were out of air; every bit of pain that you held on to, white-hot and choking, to remind yourself you were still alive.
All around you, people are reaching, grabbing; how vital, the human need for connection, to hold and be held. Hand outstretched, you make no real attempt; you are too far away, you reason, not one to be pushy. Then he looks straight at you and nods, and you lean in, grasping; to be able to say you were connected, if only for a moment. The crowd moves like the tide, rolling according to the moon, and you think about how you nearly didn’t come; about how no one else had been able to make it, about how you counted assignments like counting fingers, each discrete piece. You think about how much life is made out of flashes of light: slipping in past doors, darting through the water. So many chances for you to not have been here; so strange, to even be able to think of light, when for so many years the only dreams were of shadowed lungs, drowning in dusk.
The crowd continues to push and pull, satellites orbiting stars; it has been a decade since this album was released, and yet every word sings like the line marking a clean arc. Years ago, you looked down a train and only thought of how everyone was, or had been, or would be sad, spider web tapestry with no escape pods; now, riding the high, you think about how you have carried these songs within you till the night passed and there was dawn, soft morning light spilling, precious as the unexpected. You think about how time, and change, and growth, have dulled razor edges, about how these memories streaming through no longer bleed.
You wait, again. Your whole life has felt like waiting, except that now you no longer care; patience was long in coming, but in its coming has settled, like roots in the soil. He emerges, wearing the same sweatshirt you decided to buy; you think about finding meaning in spare change, the first song played, markers for luck or ill will. Meeting him, you don’t know what to say but everything; that you grew up with these songs, that they have made years and memories, granted meaning to what in hindsight withered like falling petals. That they still grant meaning, to what you now know will still wither; that they provide a compass, to orientate the past with the present and what lies tomorrow. There is no space for everything; there never is, but you think about how we do not know everything. That a song can save, though it was never meant to; a giveaway gesture giving flight to light. That our lives are scattering symbols; that we do not know what we can do, till we do.