Music nerd that I am, I’ve been collating a list of every song I listen to for about 13 years now. A song can store a myriad of data – it can zap you back to a moment, or a feeling – so this isn’t just a catalogue of songs per se, it’s a storehouse. I decided to compile a Spotify playlist of every single song I have ‘loved’ on Last.FM. It’s a trip. There are 420 songs on this beast. And I’ve been listening to every. single. one. I’m trying to listen to them all consecutively – just to get a sense of the journey. Some of it is still too hard. (I mean, I have four different versions of “Survival Expert” by Something for Kate. Count them.) Right now I’m at the part of the narrative where my head was turned back to the light. Making the choice to try. Stay. It’s like my own personal hero’s journey.
Two nights ago, I dreamed of palimpsests. I received a letter – the kind you know you shouldn’t respond to – and I felt myself twinge and relent, feeling my resolve give way as I scrawled replies on torn scraps of paper, across walls, on the back of the letter itself, but my words were a jumbled mess. I even tried to disguise my words with fiction and parable but couldn’t do it justice. No matter how hard I scrubbed, faint traces of my story remained.
Defeated, I put the pencil down.
‘It would be easier if we could talk face to face’ I said at last.
I knew how fraught that would be. It would mean going back on a promise I had made to myself. A line I had severed with brutal intention. We walked for a while, before stumbling across people we knew behind a clear panel in a wall. In order to set them free, one of us would have to punch the glass.
‘Don’t do it’ I said. ‘You’ll only hurt yourself.’
The glass was already splintering from the impact where others had tried before. He attacked it anyway. Punching it over and over, until his skin shredded and his hands were covered in blood.
‘Why did you delete the playlist?’
He kept asking, punching, bleeding.
I was at a loss. I had tried to write this, over and over, and had destroyed every attempt.
You gave her my songs, I replied.
Transference of music is a cardinal sin. It is a broken vow. The worst kind of betrayal. It bastardises a moment in time, becomes its own palimpsest, where we overwrite one story with another.
It seems as if all we do is rewrite. Scribble. Erase. Paint it over and pretend it never existed. I’ve learned to stop fighting it and just surrender. Under the layers of paint and paper and glue, it exists. It will never not.
I’ve turned off the news. I don’t feel guilty about it. As I said to a friend last night – if I died, the world would still turn. If I check out, the world will still turn. It’s hard to create in a storm. This storm is our new collective reality. Every day is a choice.
My arms are aching from yesterday’s yoga session. It will be magnesium baths and writing for the rest of the day I think.