Sitting here in the darkness, listening to Francis and the lights sing I’ll never forget you. There are few melody changes in the Êsong, even less lyrical gymnastics. He’s barely singing. But there is something intangible in the way he sings that song, something that is slight below the sound register that tugs at my heart and makes me want to hold his hand, in the hopes that just maybe it’ll help. I close my eyes and imagine him in a small stuffy studio, sitting at an old mouldy upright, absently pressing down each white piano key as he sings each hesitant line, hoping someone is listening. That’s me on most days. Sitting in the dark, sending silent, cryptic flares, hoping you know me enough to decipher them.
I hate how songs about loss seem to have such power over me. Sometimes it happens in spite of me, like muscle memory, how I seem to internalise each line, and cherish them. How each anguished declaration is like recollection of personal hurt and how I follow the singer’s lead, journeying through their thoughts looking for vicarious release. My mind fills the vast hidden spaces between each word, it dives deep into those secret places where pain is primal and nothing short of action can help to explain the degree of pain. I go there too many times, as the principal player, the tragic hero, pulling out to sea in a sinking ship. Maybe it helps me understand you and us. Maybe it’s simpler than that. I won’t pretend that I know.
I have learnt that there are images far more powerful than words. A lesson I have learnt time and time again, like when Florence sways in a stage performance of What the water gave me and I feel her unsteadied by the emotions that are held in those few notes. Or when Lana closes her eyes and I notice her knuckles pale as she clutches her microphone for dear life, so she doesn’t slump under the weight of the melancholy that clothes her like a thin film over those satiny dresses. It’s a powerful image, to see a person broken before a word is spoken. You see that beneath the powder and the things coursing through their veins, these songs have as much power over them as it does you. My most profound experience is one that barely even last a two seconds. I remember where I was when I first heard it and how I felt. When Jeff Buckley sighed before he began to sing Hallelujah, it was like the world stopped. It was probably the single most important sound I heard that day. The song had already been sung before the first note was played.
Words are superfluous. Though they are great channels to understanding, they are restrictive, they set you on a course and steer you to a destination. I like words, they help me limit the things I feel, restrict them to a register like a rainbow where the ultraviolet light and the infra-reds are just out of the spectrum and the things we see are beautiful but limited. You tell me I never tell you when you hurt me, and it hurts you because you feel I should be able to tell you everything and anything. I do that because I don’t know how to show you in a way you’d understand, how to explain to you that I have already forgiven you before you hurt me, because I love you. I have been hurt so many times before that I have forgotten how to keep grudges, how to hold slights. I don’t grudge all the people I’ve loved and lost before you, because they’ve made me grow up, made me mature enough to love someone like you. I forgive because I am.
Many songs remind me of you. Many words say the things I think, set to melodies that almost mimic the things I feel. I don’t know how to write songs, how to create a memory that someone else can stumble upon and rest in the knowledge that someone before them has felt the way they feel. I’ve always wanted to do that, but I…
I didn’t think you noticed, that I never talked about the future, I almost didn’t notice myself till you said it casually. You have so many plans, so many dreams; they tower over you like a spire, with you scrambling over them with glee. I am overwhelmed with how much you’ve already achieved. I am proud of you. I crossed a milestone today, and I didn’t feel happiness, just a deep worthlessness. It barely lasted an hour, but it was so acute like a shroud, I remember every second of it. I don’t think about tomorrow, I live for today, because I know deep within myself, that one of these days, this thin line of happiness that keeps me from closing this door will fail and I’ll let myself fade away. So every day is a blessing for me, and a hurdle that I trudge over. How do I explain that to you without breaking your heart? How?
Words, they’re superfluous, but I hope if I write it up to a thousand of them, I’ll create an image that will be as good as a photograph or a painting of how I feel right now. This was supposed to be a goodbye note. But it isn’t anymore. It’s just an unfinished picture, less than a thousand words.