NOTE: While this blog has evolved, and is focusing on vinyl record collecting, its original intent was as my “music memoir.” I’ll still occasionally post memoir-related content – like this new post.
I am seventeen.
I am in the house where I grew up, in the bedroom I’ve had to myself since I was twelve.
It’s eleven p.m. I am fed. I am warm. I am safe – for the night.
And more than anything else, I want to die.
Everything is fine at home. Every once in a while, my brother’s kind of an asshole to me. But nothing crazy.
We all get along. We have our edges, but nobody’s perfect, right?
I’m OK when I’m inside the house.
But school? School isn’t safe.
It’s always been clear: I am different. As I got older, the differences became bigger, louder. I hit the Triple Crown of different in high school: the smart kid, the fat kid, the gay kid.
School is war. This is not an exaggeration. I cannot walk from one classroom to another without being punched, or kicked, or spat upon.
In my senior year, adults are joining in the fun. The principal. The vice principal. The gym teacher, who looks like Mike Pence, tells the students in his classes on our first day: “Make this faggot drop out.”
I have no more strength to fight. I want to die.
There are albums that have changed my life. It is fair to say that Hounds of Love may have saved my life. It saved me on many of those nights, the ones that filled the gaps between school days.
The entire album is a masterpiece. But the second part of the album is all of a piece. It is called “The Ninth Wave.”
It is beautiful, sad, haunting. And when I listen to it, all of a piece, it is cathartic.
To describe the music is to risk projecting my interpretation on yours, but I’ll try to sketch out the basic points.
In the beginning, there’s a sense of peace (“And Dream of Sheep.”) That turns to fear and darkness, a feeling of being chased.
Conflict plays out, and then there’s a song that – well, I can’t really describe “Hello Earth.” It’s beautiful, and sacred, and it makes me cry every time I hear it.
It reminded me that, no matter how tough things were at the moment, there was something much bigger than me out there. The world, and all of its interconnectedness, was much bigger than me, much bigger than my situation.
The album ends on a hopeful, positive note.
I survived. I graduated. I’m still here.
Kate Bush is still here, too. I wish I’d been able to go to England a few years ago, when she performed live for the first time in almost 30 years, in a multi-night residency.
The title of that tour, Before The Dawn, made me think of all those turbulent high school nights I spent listening to Hounds of Love.
She performed The Ninth Wave in its entirety. I would have been in tears the whole time, on the journey with Kate and the musicians, thankful for its beauty, thankful for its ability to transport me, figuratively and literally.
I may be well into the throes of middle age, but I must admit: the world seems less safe to me these days. Those same feelings of being chased, being haunted? They’re emerging again, in my peripheral vision. I’m unclear what the future might bring.
Perhaps I need a reminder that there is something bigger than just me out there. The next time I have to fight for my life, I know it’s not just me.