Music, or Tears
One of those days, those days, woke up with a knot in my stomach, a lump in my throat, a sinking sensation, a sense of foreboding. No particular reason, other than the days of my life, the horror of time, the relentlessness of selfhood, and the pointlessness of words, the futility of my efforts, the looming, the glooming, the swiftness, the slowness, the lateness of the blooming, the sureness of the rot. And why couldn’t I be one of those people who lives happily in the suburbs or works tirelessly for the cause, and when the time comes goes gently into that good night, instead of raging and raging and banging and whimpering and chasing my tail? And why couldn’t I believe that we are soon to elect either a woman or a black man to the highest office in the land, and that this office is high and this land is yours and mine and ours, and some good will come of it, and you can just be the change you want to see, and you can inhale let exhale go, and you can send all the positive energy you’ve accumulated during this yoga practice out to the entire world, and your body is made of light, and it is all in our minds, and it’s getting better all the time, and nothing is fucked, dude, and every little thing is gonna be alright, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.
At least I could do the laundry. At least I could do that. Also, I had no socks and no underwear and it’s too cold to go without either just yet. I took up the burden of my dirty clothes and lugged it to the laundromat that never sleeps, or so it says in the window. Maybe I should be a housekeeper and forget everything else. I could take in a washing. I’d been looking for a career that can be accomplished while stoned. You can’t really write stoned, even Hunter S. Thompson said so. Personally, I find it breeds parentheses and italics like fungus, which like many things, are terrible vices unless used responsibly and in moderation. You can teach math stoned, but you might burst out laughing when you overhear the middle-aged parents of your charges talking in the other room. But a stoned washerwoman, there was a definite possibility for a life path. Wasn’t there a washerwoman somewhere down south who saved up some astronomical sum of money and gave it away? The washerwoman philanthropist, they called her. Deeply religious woman.
I would be a different sort of washerwoman than that.
I was folding my incoherent wardrobe and piling it in stacks when it came to me. I needed to hear the horns that come in late in the song that is late in the album that Paul Simon made in collaboration with the indigenous people of the Amazonian rainforest. These horns would loosen something trapped in a crucial part of my anatomy, and I would be healed.
I pushed the necessary virtual buttons. The song came on, the horns came in, and I tilted my face in the direction of my poorly balanced speakers and offered up my tears to the noise.
The horns came in at an odd moment, a beat before or after when you might expect them. (I observe these things about music and then later find out there are words for them, like “dynamics” or “clap track.”) They caught you off guard, and they were so full and loud and beautiful, like the dawn, and all the pain I’d ever felt was tremendous and soaring and not in vain.
What were the words to that song, I wondered. There was this hymnlike part I could make out, “I believe in the future/We shall suffer no more/Maybe not in my lifetime/But in yours, I feel sure,” but after that I wasn’t sure. Luckily the internet is here to footnote and cross-reference our every emotion, and soon enough I had the answer.
Song dogs barking at the break of dawn
Lightning pushes the edges of a thunderstorm
And these streets
Quiet as a sleeping army
Send their battered dreams to heaven, to heaven
For the mother’s restless son
Who is a witness to, who is a warrior
Who denies his urge to break and run
Who says: hard times?
I’m used to them
The speeding planet burns
I’m used to that
My life’s so common it disappears
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears