In the kitchen, dishes reach for the sky. The toaster chars bread till it's black, smoke swirling in phantom forms. You cough, struggle with the latch, open the window.
You turn on the radio, twirl through the static, choose a station, find the coffee, somehow locate a clean cup, wonder where the kettle is, wonder, irritation and impatience mushrooming, why it can't stay in the same bloody place. And, suddenly, the song. That song.
You haven't heard it in years. Da da da da something. Then: "No tears goodbye/I don't want you back/we'd only cry again/say goodbye again." Pop profound. Plastic poetry. Vinyl verse. You halt, cup in hand, and listen to the singer's far-too-theatrical voice, kettle and kitchen forgotten, memory flooded and spilling over, the imperfect present drowned by wave after wave of the past, embarrassed and pleased to discover that, yes, actually, you do remember all the words.
And you remember Him. Not the him whose life you share now, the one you're mostly, mainly, insanely happy with, but the Him who came into, and left, your life in a single night, too long ago to bear mentioning, but whom you've thought of ever since, certainly every time you've had one vodka too many, or been alone at a packed party, or heard this song. Name that tune: "No Regrets". The Walker Brothers. He played the cassette in the car on the way back to his place, humming along, before wanting to know how old you were - how young you were, he meant - and if you should be hanging out in bars. You thought him handsome and sentimental, in that order.
But it was bliss. Heaven in his hands. Absolutely perfect in its passion.
Everything you had dreamt of, from the warmth of his quick, crooked grin to the puppyish way he nuzzled your body in the dark, making you giggle, groan, want.
And you never saw him again. You still can't understand why.
Funny how music sticks. You can summon the song, though his name, rank and telephone number are lost, the line between carefree and careless being a smudged, indefinable thing. Yet the music magics him - the mood, the meaning of him - better than any diary entry, letter or photo ever could. Photos are fake evidence, fake IDs. Lips smile, we perform, we are idiotically "up": brazen fools, foils to fate, as snapshot after snapshot bears false witness to the eternal good times spectators are invited to believe are our lives. Photographs pretend to be personal, to be "about" the intimate "us", when they're simply crudely staged performances for public consumption, as, ultimately, are the diary entry and the letter; our tiny turns, and turns of phrase, for posterity - the authorised history. But music, like the stray whiff of soap, scent or aftershave that wilfully transports us back to events and persons we might prefer to forget, is an internal not an external phenomenon: a speculation as opposed to a spectacle. The unspoken is given voice, and you are ... reminded, the hairline cracks of the heart suddenly aching, despite professional patchwork and diligent repair. Scars on 45. These old pains, old pangs, old possibilities....
The song soars to a melodramatic finish. The DJ kicks in. You switch him off, add the coffee mug to a sink already choking on its duties. Leave the kitchen, go into the front room, dig out dusty singles, ancient LPs. In a sort of mild panic you play them, one by one, over and over, slowly amazed at just how many names, faces, places and feelings were discarded in the journey to Here, at just how much you've casually buried. It's not merely the ballads - the usual suspects: Mitchell plugging "Electricity", Midler sighing "Hello, In There", Simon saying loving you is the right thing to do- but the burning harshness of disco - "This Is It", "Hit and Run Lover", "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" - to the catchy shallowness of electro-pop: "Don't You Want Me Baby?". Music that isn't about the so many men but about so many times; eras, stages, movements, moments celebrated or wasted. When you were out dancing, out drinking, doing something every boogie night, sure of everything, certain of yourself. Not knowing that the longer you lived the less you'd know, that there were melodies that did not linger, but would one sour day have the power to haunt.
Still, you close your eyes, lend an ear and it's almost yesterday once more. You almost remember what it was like to have more future than past, and whatever hurt you suffered could be mended in 48 hours: "Living for the Weekend", "I'm Getting Over You", "I Will Survive", "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough".
You grab another record, drop the needle, listen again. And again. Listen for ghosts. The ghosts of who you were without you realising it, and the chances that slipped through your fingers, out of your bed, out of your orbit, off your chart. Not so much the soundtrack of your life as the white noise and the echo chamber. Echoes of what you once felt though you can't recall who you felt it for, or even why. That's just the way it is/some things never change....Reuse content