I feel like there’s something you need me to say. As if you’ve been waiting years to hear the words only I can speak. Or, maybe this specific combination of words that swim in my brain like tadpoles waiting to transform into smooth flesh and strong legs, ready to hold the weight and power the movement.
Maybe you whispered to me late in the night as the fog washed over the city. When the weather matched the mood, I called it magic. It was a conjuring of the elements, and I stood steady in the middle unaware of the power held in my imagination.
They say the belonging comes on stronger when the individuation stays true. What I mean is that all those silly eccentricities that combine and form that you sometimes hate and often hide and wish weren’t your own. All of those held together by your flesh are the reasons you belong. And when you walk to the water’s edge and attempt to drown them, you remind the universe that you aren’t ready. And you thrash and kick sand and take the lord’s name in vain and hustle your way to the next stop not realizing that this secret follows you, no matter where you go.
You can stop and take shelter. You can hide in the crook of an arm of a man who smells like family, yet laughs too loud and can’t really see you through the fog. You can stow away on a vessel headed for paradise and drink pretty drinks with bright umbrellas, or swig tequila from the bottle and spit the worm across the room. You can fuss and fret over makeup too dark and hair too gray and skin too dry and thighs smooshed together. You can stand on stage and speak the words that seem to be your truth, but really we all know that you tried to climb inside our heads, your ladder too short to quite reach. So, you found yourself peering at our hearts thinking you knew them, when really we don’t even know them ourselves. And so you weave as you walk back behind the curtain and cry because nobody gets you.
Most of us walk behind you, following your footsteps, or maybe wander off on our own path full of the same obstacles. Dreaming of clouds close enough to touch and fog that parts when we find ourselves on the sand.
I spent too much time like you, like us. I sometimes think I wasted all the good years trying to find myself. And now, I sit with freshly colored gray hair turned blonde and legs that ache and a fatigue that sits heavy on my chest. I wonder why I couldn’t just belong all along. I saw myself on pages I’d written as a child sitting scared under a weeping willow tree. If what you’ve written must be hidden, then truth resides there.
Volcano by Damien Rice is on repeat. It’s a demo recording from 1997. The cleaned up copy was released in 2002. Why take 5 years of truth and smooth out the scratches and ease in the transitions and cut out the part where the song breaks up like a needle skipping across vinyl? Truth is messy, and we work too hard to freshen and change it.
What I am to you is not real. What I am to you, you do not need. What I am to you is not what you mean to me. Fuck. That says it all really.
We’re all so desperate to belong. So conscious of this need when we stand alone in the shower and let the salt from our eyes mix with the sweet from the soap and watch it caress our skin on the way down. If you sit alone with yourself long enough, you’ll feel it.
The ache. The cavern. The tadpole words waiting to breathe.
Those of us who find the dark the safest place to be know the truth. We sat in the ache, as it swirled around and nearly stole our breath. We stared out a window for hours losing track of the world, lost in the way the light shifts across the sky and shadows fall heavy on windows across the way. And, all we could think is that our shadows own us.
I sit here tonight. The fog rolled in hours ago. The tightness in my throat and pain in my chest tells me I’m onto something. And I wonder if I’m rambling to avoid it, or swaying to the beat of it; melody in my ears and lyrics in my fingertips.
It’s this, sweet one.
You are the stride in your step on the sunny day when your song comes on, and the air is clean. You are the lightning that finds its way to the city of angels and makes you squeal with delight that it remembered you and found you all the way out west. You are the peace you find in your backyard when the sun rises and peeks over your fence. You are soft and strong. You are earth and sky, and you start fires and bathe in pain. You are the crack in the sidewalk that you skip, just in case. You are the pen and the paper and the way you draw your L’s just so when you write Love. You are the breath you find locked in your chest that somehow seeps around the fear to keep you here. You are the legs that no longer walk, and the eyes that no longer see, and all the ways you move and breathe. You are the glint of a dream laid fresh upon the ground.
And, if I were you, I would rise and waken and believe that you are the most precious thing you have ever seen.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis, music as politics, etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Stephanie Jacobs is a writer, photographer, and psychologist. She is the author of creative nonfiction and poetry, and her words and/or photos have appeared in Versification, Moxy Magazine, and Crêpe and Penn. She provides editorial services via The Rejects at Versification. She writes about trauma, healing, music, nature, and the sea. Stephanie currently lives in Long Beach, CA.