Good morning. There’s a candle here, casting a small circle of bright onto the dark wood of my desk. Even though it’s late, there are no birds awake yet. I’m not dealing very well with the fact that it’s already the end of the year. But in the dark time, there are lights everywhere — and even though I find it infuriating that there’s already Xmasness all over the place, I do like the lights that folks set up, in their windows and along front porch railings. The practice of casting light into the heavy, long winter nights, that part is old, older than xmas, and so I take a particular joy this time of year in setting this small flame alight.
Here’s the nablopomo prompt for today from BlogHer: Write about a piece of music that changed your life forever. What do you feel when you hear it now? (Guest Post by Alex George, author of A Good American)
I’ve had Depeche Mode running through my head for the better part of this week (and better holds all the possible meanings there) — on Monday, I was listening to 101 again, crashing through the history that that particular cd holds for me, my freshman year in college, the beginning of the worst part of my life, the beginning of my escape.
It was a friend I dated for a little bit in high school who’d first introduced me to Depeche Mode — back in high school, I didn’t know about any band unless it was on the top 40 radio station or my stepfather liked them. How do I get into this story? Just shove in. This was back then, this was in high school, did he bring over a cd or a tape? But we played Violator on my enormous boom box stereo in my bedroom while we fooled around on the squeaky brass bed. This was maybe just after graduation, or near. We were 18, we were leaving Omaha, we were going to get out. He was one of the few male friends I hadn’t dated — my stepfather had run me through all the rest of them. I wasn’t allowed long-term relationships, wasn’t allowed emotional connection. My face gets hot as I type this, my skin goes fuzzy, numbish, with missing, with apology.
What were the songs on Violator? Maybe my friend lent me the cd, and my stepfather heard it and liked it, so we were allowed to get the album for the home library. My stepfather was especially fond of “Enjoy the Silence” — words are very / unnecessary / they can only do harm — and “Policy of Truth,” with these lyrics:
You better learn your lesson well
Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell
Uh-huh. I actually had him quote to me, during one of our endless psycho-processing ‘talks’ about my choices and unmanageable behavior, “never again / is what you swore / the time before.” I had to work hard to keep from laughing at him.
He wasn’t as fond of the earlier Depeche Mode, though, and so those were mine. During a trip to Kansas City — which was, if I’m remembering right, supposed to be a graduation gift for me but that my sister got to bring her boyfriend to and so my mom and stepfather spent the whole time sort of cooing and worrying over him and my sister — I listened, over and over and over, to a tape I’d made of a couple of cds, probably People are People and Black Celebration. I was plugged in and gone. I can’t hear “Everything Counts” without thinking about that terrible trip: the endless drive through cornfields and wide open night, the new construction of the Kansas City downtown area where we stayed, everything polished and wiped clean, looking like we weren’t a monstrosity come to occupy and desecrate those neat rooms. “The grabbing hands grab all they can / All for themselves – after all — Everything counts in large amounts.” Over and over:
That was exactly who he was, and beneath the press of headphones, I could indict him, right there in his own car, in this room at the Ritz that my mother had to work extra hours to pay for, that they went into more debt for, in front of the young boy he was working so hard to impress.
Later came the rest of the DM discography, all of which brings back, in a flood, my first year in college and my first boyfriend there. Who doesn’t fall in heartbroken love every time they hear “Somebody,” after all?
I’ve got to go get ready for work now. Want to take 15 minutes for a write today? What band or song was a life- or game-changer for you, or for your character?
Always, I’ve got this big gratitude for all the ways you saved yourself. Thanks for the way you hold others in your heart. Thanks for your history, your sentience, your words.