Today, after a calm time visiting my folks, I spiralled into a sarlacc pit of worrying about money, worrying about work, worrying about my label, worrying that I’m not doing enough, worrying that I’m doing too much, worrying about my weight, worrying about the fasting I’ve been doing, worrying about worrying, worrying that I’m not worrying enough.
It’s the kind of worrying that, if my ex was still here, I know she could take away with one hug and a few words of her calm, Vulcan-like reason. I miss her so terribly at these times, in a very child-like way. I feel like when I was little and I’d lose my Mum in a shop and all I could do was wail and perhaps have a sit down, hoping she’d come to find me. Which my Mum always did, of course.
To be so deeply in love with someone so many years after you last saw their face is raising idiocy to an entirely new artform. The Dadaists, the Surrealists, the Situationists… these people may have laid the foundations but I’m building the ugly, stupid skyscraper. The higher it gets, the more I’m likely to jump.
So, I was crying anyway so I figured, what the fuck, I might as well listen to a song which always makes me cry, Paul Simon’s Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War.
Here’s the version I first heard, decades ago:
I listen to this song and it reminds me of living Paris in the ‘30s and Norwich in the ‘70s. I remember falling in love with her two times, at least. I get confused, though ~ we didn’t start speaking again till 1940 but I remember it as being 1994. I guess they can be both since science has proved time doesn’t exist. It’s all now, there is no past or future. Remember, if you’re a photon the lifetime of the universe is shorter than the snap of your fingers as you remember what you forgot.
Those early days, burning CDRs of my music and packing the little jiffy bags together, she’d do the artwork because I’m rubbish at that. Well, apart from the Picassos and Braques I faked to make a living, obviously. Hell, art is printing money. Which is also good.
So, we put on the envelopes: ‘Features the international number 1? and, in some bizarre MWI quantum shit way, it did. Just like when I said this isn’t a pipe and she asked if I meant because it’s a painting of a pipe and then that escalated into that whole argument about Panjabi MC. I remember the tears streaming down her face, how unfixable it all was. But we fixed it because we were young then. The cover had a hand with a wedding ring on it. We got married later that year, 1997 or perhaps 1922.
We moved so much when we finally had money, packing all our things in the car and driving like idiots. Anywhere is glamorous when you’re young and in love. Could be Lessines, could be Derby, could be Hellesdon, it doesn’t matter. I can’t paint but I painted all those pictures for her. The bears, the fish, the clouds, the birdcage, the butterflies.
I guess the song reminds me of the bands that inspired me, the deep forbidden music of my youth in 1950s America and 1920s Belgium and 1970s Britain: The Penguins, The Moonglows, Telex, Kraftwerk.
Like I said, I get confused. The war, New York, Pitlochrie, going round her father’s house after he died, so empty of life and love, the place she was born.
So I worked the song out. It was easier using this version:
We never had a dog, though. And the picture that Wolleh took, that was very obviously of us after the war, look how old we are. But we’re together.
I wish we still were. Maybe we should have bought a dog?
Last night I had a horrible nightmare where I was trying to fight this monster made out of sliding slabs of stone. It kept blocking my path out of rooms, the noise of it sliding over itself was horrific, like nails on blackboard.
I got so scared I woke up and hugged my wife to me, spooning her like she loves. I could smell her hair, feel the soft plumpness of her hips, her little belly under my hand.
After a while I realised I was dreaming and that she left years ago but I wanted to stay in the dream. So badly.
I was alright in Mosh
Not happy because it was pretty shite
Swamped by Scream blokes doing comedy moshing
I was alright driving driving home
Didn’t miss you one fucking bit
Didn’t even think about you
That’s how over you I am
And how much I don’t care about you.
And then I got to fucking Asda.
Every aisle was a gut punch
Every aisle I could remember you running about,
Gleefully disparaging JML merchandise,
Cooing at kids’ cute duvet covers,
Trying to find films you’d not seen before
An impossible task.
The weight of your absence
Fell on me from five miles up
And I was ridiculous
A lonely man walking round Asda
With a basket full of junk food
And a heart empty of hope.
Once your ghost had risen
She came with me to the car
And sang along to Fall Out Boy
While she danced round in her seat
Doing those crazy arm moves
Nobody, you idiot.
I imagined what we’d be talking about
I imagined you not waiting to get home to eat
And snaffling the chocs as soon as you could
No patience, that’s your problem
No wonder I dislike you so much
So now what?
Do I never go to Asda at 2.30am again?
I mean, I can’t avoid everywhere we ever went
That’s just fucking stupid.
I almost bought some stupid fruit
Hairy, wizened, delights
From far-off lands
But I’m glad I didn’t.
Eating it on my own would have been weird.
I’m home and I’m listening to the new Belle And Sebastian album
And it’s good and it reminds me of you.
And I was okay cos I was in town with Emma and distracted
Probably talking shit about something or someone.
And I was okay because I’ve learned how to not see you
There, at the edge, don’t look, don’t think.
When I’m distracted enough.
And then I get this wave crash over me
Always shocking, always smothering
Like, NO no NO NO NO!
Trying to wake myself out of a nightmare
But then I realise I’m awake
And that I can’t wake up any more than I am.
Do you remember when my eye got injured in Norwich?
I had to walk to the hospital and back on my own
We were both really worried
I didn’t lose my eye
I lost you.
I wish it was the other way around.
I know, in some universe, that it is
I lost my eye but you stayed with me
I am so envious of that me
He probably thinks he’s unlucky
But if he could see my life:
He’d hold you And kiss you And hug you forever And never let you go He’d tuck your hair behind your ear And listen to your beautiful voice As you made the world beautiful.
Back in this universe,
Nothing means anything
Nothing has any flavour
So I eat and eat and eat
And then I sleep,
Hoping to see you smile again.
You put on those clothes
Like they belong to you
Oblivious to how ridiculous
Your cultural calisthenics
Last album you were folk,
This album you’re country,
Next one, maybe synthpop?
Or are the ‘80s uncool again?
Hey, maybe you’ll do “raw rock’n’roll”
You know, go back to the roots
That you never fucking had.
Easter in hip hop,
Summer in soul,
Christmas in klezmer,
But obviously only ironically
Because it’s so, so hilarious.
You’re layered in stolen cotton
So deep you can’t walk straight
And I can’t hear your voice
When will you have the courage
To take off the kilts and brocade,
Drop the saris and miners’ boots
And stand naked?
I’m sitting in the university canteen
Waiting for Tom, who’s missed his bus
And I’m thinking about the last time you said you loved me.
We were driving and it was sunny
I’d been singing along to something
Probably braking on the harmonies.
There was a pause, a breath held
Just the rumble of the road
And the fluttering of sunlight through trees
It can’t have been more than a few seconds
When you chose to say:
“I love you.”
It was out of nowhere
I hadn’t said it first
We hadn’t been having “a moment”
Like they do in The Notebook
Or Twilight or Titanic
All those films people watch
To remind themselves what they’re missing
Have never had
Will never have
But this was real.
I looked at you the second after you said it
And your eyes met mine
Full of love,
Disarmed and disarming,
I guess, actually, that was “a moment”
I haven’t heard those words for years
I miss them as I miss you
Even though you’re still here.
Sometimes, I hear echoes of them
But you’re acting now
It isn’t real.
Obviously, I didn’t know that would be
The last time you said you loved me
I thought we’d cry and touch forever
Or at least till I died
But you’ve put all that silliness away
It never happened
And when I remind you of how we were
You get angry and snappy