The way music stays with you.

The first semester of my second year of university, I stayed in a building that I would later spend the rest of my college days avoiding. Avoiding sounds elaborate, it was as easy as just not looking. But every once in a while, I looked to my left as I exited the school gate and bricks of memory just came crashing down.

My first memory in this building is me, sitting on a very dusty floor, weeping. On the day we were supposed to move into this building, we showed up with our belongings to an incomplete house. My roommate went back home with her people, but I stayed behind and took advantage of an empty building to catch up on my emotional breakdowns. I desperately needed a break. It was just a few weeks after a third surgery, things sucked at home and the place I was hoping to call home didn’t have running water. Even beyond these reasons, I just needed a good cry. And so I did, until my other roommate arrived and we found a place to crash for the night.

My second memory, is me throwing up in the toilet after a whole day of running around, moving into this house. My college was in a very hot and dusty town. This town along with school, killed my already elusive joie de vivre. Even now, fifteen months after I officially left school, there are parts of me that are yet to be reawakened; anxieties to be rationalized. By the time we got our house in livable condition, I was so exhausted and dizzy, throwing up was more logical a reaction than any.

My third memory is me staring down at people outside my window, feeling so alone, realizing I was going to cry myself to sleep a lot in this house. If I believed these events set precedent to the experiences I would have in that house, we would have moved out of that building sooner. Because maybe if we had, I wouldn’t have tried to commit suicide a few months later.

When I think of that day, I think of Chris Martin’s riddim version of the Passenger’s let her go. Which is to say that I think of everything but those few moments in the shower, trying to find a way to get the shower head to electrocute me. I think of myself, crawled up in bed, my knees to my chest, listening to the silence. I think of myself, watching people laugh on the road below my window, wondering what about this place made them so happy. I think of myself, listening to motorcycles riding below playing that song, upset and happy that they’re mangling my earlier memory of that song. Before we moved to this building, let her go reminded me of a particular day in my college dorm room. My then best friend, sitting on my bed, asking me if I knew what song that was and me pulling my pillow to my chest; hoping for nightfall; for everyone to leave; so I could go to the fire escape and cry. I think of myself, mindlessly leaving my bed, going to take a second shower. I imagine my roommates finding my body. I imagine what their reaction would have been: would they scream or just calmly find the caretaker. I think of myself, fleeing the shower. I think of myself tucking myself in bed and not leaving it till nightfall the next day.

And now every time I hear let her go, I think of myself pulling my duvet over my head, or screaming into my pillow. I think of myself being angry because I can’t afford therapy. I think of myself feeling morbidly thankful for that reminder, because honestly, the only reason I left that shower was I didn’t want to give my roommates any more reason to need therapy. I think of the inadvertent ways the existence of certain people has saved me. I think of the times I wanted to let go but couldn’t.

***
My first memory of listening to Adam Lambert’s Whataya want from me-would you believe it-is a happy one. It’s a memory of blossoming friendship, of feeling wanted and loved; of belonging and understanding. It’s a memory of one of the best periods of my life: of people worrying about me if we didn’t talk in a few days; of people sending me music because it reminded them of me. To date, music recommendations make me feel really loved.

My second memory of whataya want from me is my shuffle playing this song as I walk from class, getting startled that I still have it on my phone and that surprise slowly transforming to sadness as I realise that the friendships born of this song are slowly disintegrating.

My most recent memory of whataya want from me is a few days ago. It’s me typing in the darkness, searching for it on YouTube because my feelings are daft and I miss people I shouldn’t miss. It’s weirdly a reminder of a few days earlier, my friends and I seated in a Java laughing at how emotionally unavailable we are. It’s me taking that emotional unavailability to the next step and subconsciously pushing someone away. It’s me being blindsided when they got upset. It’s me doing something out of character for me: not telling the whole truth. See, the closest thing to flirting for me is embarrassing honesty and emotional vulnerability. I used to wear my heart on my sleeves and I should have said that. But I said something about being confused and not liking small talk and not knowing what they wanted from me. The truth is I’ve been gaslighted a little bit, and it’s left me a little bit defensive. My heart just needs needs hiding, a little protecting. It’s kind of frayed right now. I like to think that a graphical representation of my heart is a little boy, crawled up into a ball, wailing his lungs dry. It can’t handle letting people in because that comes at a risk of getting hurt and right now, it honestly feels like I could die if I get hurt one more time. So I listened to this song, because I am kind of afraid and not very accepting of love at the moment.

***
An enduring memory of listening to Adele’s All I ask is me being really still for a few seconds, convinced that I might never love again.

***
My first memory of listening to better in time by Leona Lewis is somewhat nostalgic. It’s my friend and I in my college dorm room, listening to this song before stepping back into our individual lives and depressive episodes. But it’s also spending nearly every waking hour of the day with her, unknowingly supporting the crap out of each other. It’s hard to believe that we were both depressed and didn’t even know it, but for eight months, we kept each other alive, and maybe even happy at times.

My most recent memory of better in time is stumbling upon it on YouTube on a rather good day. It is texting my friend,

You remember when we used to listen to this song in first year? I mean, things went really south for a while but they did get better.

4 thoughts on “The way music stays with you.

  1. My memory of Let her go is of the original version. It came out while I was fresh in the Gulf and so homesick and lovesick. I remember sitting somewhere on the beach, or late night walks to some park and wishing my spouse and daughter were with me.

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