I’m trying to decide if I want to write something rather than just post this video of Aimee Mann singing 4th of July.
I really hate today, and every year this song seems more true. Last year was good though, I was in the hospital, but it was really good. I just want to go back there, because I was with Monica, and she was there, really there. I had to get a sinus CT scan, she’s walking next to me, I couldn’t keep from looking at her. She’s like an angel, I get lost looking at her, it’s like the rest of the world just fades away. The world fades and being sick fades, and I love her so much it scares me. It’s like, how can I feel so much for one person? It’s overwhelming, it scares me because I know she could go away, there’s nothing worse than her going away. I mean, I was in the hospital, I was sick from antibiotics, my sinuses hurt, my eye was swollen shut, everything hurt, and yet I was so completely, breathlessly, unthinkably happy. I was in some shitty hospital room, but in my head, and in my heart, I was at home.
This is so hard to write. When I write I’m completely in the moment, I’m back in that place like I’m there right now. I could write that evening so vividly.
We’re alone in the room after the CT scan, the sun’s setting over the bay, beautiful shades of orange are shining into the room through one large window. Monica, more beautiful than that sunset. I want to kiss her so badly, our first kiss as an “us.” We’d been together, yet not, since the day we met, but that 4th of July we really are together. After years, we’re together. All I want to do is kiss her, the room filling with shadow as that fiery orange sun sinks into the bay. She’s so gorgeous and I know I look like shit after days in the hospital. I say, “Dear, I have a really odd question, I’m probably the only fellow who has ever, and will ever ask you this sort of question. I’m really oddly very nervous even writing this, because it is such a bizarre question, and…” She says, “Michael Phillips, you make me crazy. Just tell me!” I say, “I know my face is probably really icky, just, I really want to kiss you… Could you maybe get a hot cloth and make me less not pretty so I can kiss you? I just, I really want to kiss you. Can I kiss you?” She goes to the sink, runs some warm water over a cloth, runs the warm cloth over my face a little, gently brushes my cracked lips. She says softly, “You’re fine.” She leans in, around all my hoses and tubes and wires, leans in and kisses me, softly, slowly, our lips brushing, then embracing deeply before letting go. It felt like magic, I felt so alive. I knew even more that I honestly wanted to spend my forever with her.
Writing that hurts so fucking much, she’s so far away now.
I just want to go back, but I can’t. I want to go home, but I can’t. She doesn’t want me, doesn’t get lost in me the way I get lost in her.
I don’t know how to feel okay, She’s left before, I’ve been with someone else, but it’s not right, I just hurt that person. Part of me is always with Monica, even when I’ve tried to tell myself otherwise. It just doesn’t work.
So that’s today’s memory lane, with all the pathos and pain. Another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless and they’re always the same, a verse, and a verse, and refrain…3 comments
So, this tattoo is from Aimee Mann’s highly acclaimed song, Wise Up, off the soundtrack for the film, Magnolia. I already wrote about Magnolia and Wise Up a few weeks ago, so I’m not going to do it in any great detail again here. Oh, don’t confuse the poppy as being part of this tattoo, it isn’t. Anyways, Wise Up is just a really beautiful song, the gist of which is life will continue to feel bad until you do something to make it feel good.
Right now, I just want to be next to someone, to hold her close, tell her how I love her so completely, ceaselessly. I’d sleep. It’s easy to sleep when I don’t feel like part of me is somewhere else. It’s easy to sleep knowing that when I wake up, I’ll see her exquisitely beautiful face. Her eyes would be all drowsy, but silently say that she loves me. She’d ask me if I slept any, she’d tell me about her crazy dreams. I haven’t been there in so long, but that’s how it was. I could wake up next to her every morning until I quit breathing, the permanent quit, every morning I’d feel blessed. She’s the only person who lights this empty place in my heart, it’s like a million little twinkly white Christmas lights strung all over a huge ferris-wheel. That’s how she makes me feel inside, bright and happy, like there’s adventure all around.
I want life to feel good, like I absolutely know it can, entirely. I mean, as dark as I get, it’s not because I believe life is just one concatenation of misery until you’re dead. I don’t think that at all. Life is something gorgeous, there’s been so much beauty and adventure in mine, so I know for a fact that life can be all puppies and flowers. There’s just this hole in me, this giant abandoned fairground that’s shrouded in sadness, loneliness. I’ve done some stupid, awful things trying to fill that place with light again, which only served to make that place darker, and lonelier. I need to wise up, that’s the point. Stop doing things that make me more empty, stop digging myself nice, deep holes. Don’t die this way.
I miss my light, more than I can explain.No comments
I have this little plastic tube in my throat, a trach, so I don’t talk. I haven’t spoken a word in, like, three and a half-ish years. You CAN talk with a trach, but the method doesn’t work for everyone, it didn’t for me, lots of choking and what-not. The last sentence that stumbled out of my mouth was, “I love everything about you.” To which it was replied, “I don’t love everything about you.” After that, the choking quit being worth the talking. I met someone else worth the choking and the talking, someone worth absolutely anything. I wanted to say just, something, some little thing I always wanted to say with the voice in my head, but I didn’t get to, and she’d probably reply similarly to the last time I bothered saying something out loud. So, yes, I don’t talk. Most readers know this, but it’s always good to do a little re-capping.
Anyways, back when I did talk, I liked to sing. I sounded like shit, but I liked singing along with Kurt, Elliott, Aimee. I’m told I at least sang on key. Now, I still sing, just, no sound gets past my lips. This has actually created an odd habit, Since I don’t make any sound, I’ve come to feel like I can sing whenever around whoever, in the car, at concerts, getting wheeled into various operating rooms with my iPod Nano, I’m singing like crazy. I probably look crazy, but it really does help to take my mind off things, getting completely lost in the music. Last night I turned my surround sound really loud and sang at the top of my non-voice. I wanted to not think, I wanted to be wrapped in music, lyrics. Really, I wanted to crush a bottle of Percocet into a glass of vodka, with lime, drink that and see if I woke up someplace better, but settled for screaming along with Nirvana’s Live at Reading concert. Just closed my eyes and screamed soundless screams, trying to make the world go away.2 comments
So, I watched Magnolia earlier, I really forgot its complete brilliance and beauty. It’s a long movie that doesn’t feel long, basically a series of interconnected stories, themes like, the past repeats itself, mistakes and regrets aren’t unique to the individual. It’s a fast movie in that the cuts between stories are quick, it doesn’t linger on one character’s life for too long. There’s also a lot of camera movement, not shaky Cloverfield camera, just lots of panning, zooming. The cuts and the camera give Magnolia a very fast-paced frenetic feeling, even though its thirty minutes shy of three hours long. It’s also a movie about really fucked up people, people dying physically, emotionally, people whose stories do and don’t work out. I was watching with a friend and she asked, “Are people really like that?” I didn’t feel like putting down the words, I just eyebrowed a “yes.” There’s a scene with Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s a Hospice nurse trying to track down this dying fellow’s estranged son, trying to fulfill a final request. His son, played by Tom Cruise, turns out to be a pretty famous, pretty vile, motivational speaker, teaching loser guys how to have lots of sex with lots of women. So, Seymour Hoffman’s on the phone talking to one of Cruise’s underlings and says something to the affect, I know this is something like a scene from some movie, but I think movies have scenes like this because this actually happens. I mean, that’s so much of why we go to movies, because we identify with what we see, or we want to do or be what we see. I answered my friend with a “yes” because my experiences have been so much like the characters we were watching. Depression, loneliness, addiction, loss, regret, I know those experiences, felt them, feel them, been drowning in them. Yes, people really are “like that.”
Magnolia’s soundtrack is another reason I love it so much, Aimee Mann contributed most of the songs, specifically written for the movie. One particularly unusual, very moving scene, cuts to each character singing Wise Up. My favorite line, “You’re sure there’s a cure, and you have finally found it. You think one drink will shrink you ’till you’re underground and living down, but it’s not going to stop, it’s not going to stop, it’s not going to stop ’till you wise up.” It’s very surreal, but the scene totally works. It hit me really hard, I broke-down, sobbing. I breakdown quietly, nobody ever notices. Almost nobody. Listening to Aimee’s lyrics, crying, it reminded me of something.
It was four years ago, I was with Sara, my girlfriend then, kind of. We’d broken up, but started finding each other again toward the end of shooting our This American Life episode. So, she wanted us to go see a Chris Isaak concert, and I just wanted to go anywhere with her. The trach was still a little fresh back then, I’d still get nervous going out sometimes, so I’d have wine or brandy before getting into the car. Not the best way to cope, but it worked awhile. I didn’t want to not take her, I didn’t want to be weird and nervous, I just needed the crutch to get there. It wore off and I realized I was okay because I was with Sara, everything was always okay with Sara. So, we’re leaving the concert, which was great, we’re walking back to the car under a summer night-sky. I look up at the stars, bright beautiful stars. I didn’t want to be anyplace else, just right there, under those stars, with Sara. As we’re walking she takes my hand and out of nowhere starts singing Aimee’s You Do, off the Magnolia soundtrack. And you do, you do, you do, you really do… I never thought I could love her any more, but holding her hand, listening to her sing under those stars, I did, and I felt so completely loved. I quit the pre-outting drinks after that night. I didn’t need them, and we went so many more places together. We held each other and sang so many more times. Losing her hurt so much.
I never thought I could find again what I felt with Sara, but I did, so intensely, so beautiful, but that’s gone too. Losing Monica hurts so Goddamn fucking much. I don’t know how to be okay.2 comments
The song itself is simply beautiful, a lush, sweeping narrative about love that might not love you back… Why did I get it? Well, there’s a “long one” in my life, I don’t question if I’d work beside her, I know it with everything in me. That night, a few before last Christmas, I wondered … if she’d ever just stop and let me.No comments
So, this tattoo… The lyrics are from an Aimee Mann song, King of the Jailhouse, which is off her record, my second favorite, The Forgotten Arm. If you listen to the record in order, the songs tell a story about this alcoholic, washed up former boxer, and his girlfriend, and the arc of their relationship from beginning to end. Few albums are perfect, there are always a few songs that are just “meh,” but I think The Forgotten Arm is as close to perfect as an album gets.
As for the tattoo, well, I’ll just say that if I’m stressed enough, and lonely enough, I’m guaranteed to do something stupid. I’ll do the worst, dumbest thing possible, and I don’t know how to fix that about myself.No comments
Susan is a song about a relationship. This woman, she meets a fellow, and he makes her really happy, keeps the storm clouds away. Going in, she knows it’s not going to last, that she’ll be lonely again and he won’t be able to drag her out, but none of that matters. She goes anyway. Happiness “may be pure illusion, but it’s beautiful while it’s here…”
It’s a very melancholy, but often very true idea. It’s an idea that’s true of absolutely anything, any human experience. Nothing good in life is guaranteed to last until one drops dead. There’s always the risk of lost love, or rejection, or failure, or returning loneliness, or any bad thing imaginable, but the risks are worth taking. Everything good that we feel is potentially temporary, potentially an illusion, but that illusion can feel pretty fuckin’ awesome when you’re smack in the middle of it. Illusions always have the possibility of turning out to be real. Illusions and possibilities are reasons enough to keep breathing, reasons enough for me anyway.
Sometimes, I just think too far ahead, I think about endings more than the beauty of right now. I’m always trying to remember to enjoy the good things right in front of me. Tattoos are good reminders of things that shouldn’t be tossed away and forgotten, they’re reminders you carry wherever you go.1 comment
A reader recently wrote…
“I wonder sometimes how you feel about being an inspiration. Because you are, as many have noted (including myself).”
I’ve actually been thinking about this and wanting to write about it for awhile. I understand that people think my life is admirable and that I’m brave, but I feel oddly about it. I mean, if my life and the way I write about it helps people, I’m glad, but I’m not trying to be inspirational. I look at myself and I see a list of flaws a mile long. As I think about it, the idea that I inspire people, I’m trying to figure out why it bothers me. I guess there are a few reasons. I feel like people admire me for things that I’m not. People tell me that they love my “positive attitude,” like I’m some sort of motivational speaker, but honestly, I’m naturally melancholy. I’m a little dark, sometimes I’m a lot dark. Sometimes I feel like Aimee Mann is absolutely fucking right about everything. Sometimes I feel like she’s writing about me.
but you sit there in the darkness,
and you make plans but they’re hopeless
So here I’m sitting in my car at the same old stop light
I keep waiting for a change but I don’t know what
So red turns into green turning into yellow
But I’m just frozen here on the same old spot
And all I have to do is to press the pedal
But I’m not
People are tricky you can’t afford to show
Anything risky anything they don’t know
The moment you try – well kiss it goodbye
I have felt just like that so many times. Wait. Before we go any further, I have to say right now, the core of my melancholy isn’t solely from my disability, I definitely don’t want people thinking that, that answer is way too easy. I’m not that archetype. My disability causes obstacles, definitely, but my frustrations are more born from difficulties that I have getting around things that are in my way. I don’t lie around wishing that I could walk, it’s more that I just want the workarounds to be easier. My family’s just as fucked up as anybody’s, but for as long as I can remember, being disabled has been a non-issue. I was never told that I’m “special,” nor was I raised with the idea that being disabled means that I’m expressly limited or broken. I wasn’t raised with the saccharin-sweet idea that I can do “anything,” but I was also never told that couldn’t do things. My disability just has certain facts. I can’t walk, or drive a car, or play football, but so? There are a million other things to do. I grew up with the idea that I can always try just about anything, though I probably have to do it differently. So, if I am melancholy, unsure of myself, it’s more because of general anxiety than me being disabled. So, I hope we have that straight.
At any rate, I’m definitely not one with an eternally sunny attitude. I’d feel better if I didn’t get complimented for it. I am drawn to dark music and fiction for a reason, and that reason sure as shit isn’t because I’m constantly chipper.
I’m not perfectly brave either, but I feel like people think that I am. I’m nervous and uneasy as often as anybody. I’m scared every time I cough a lot. I’m scared before every trache change. I’m scared because so many of my thoughts go unsaid. I’m scared of dying. I’m scared there’s a Hell and I might go there. Sometimes I’m scared to leave the house, or even sleep. I don’t feel particularly heroic. I was so freaked out after seeing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly that I drank a bunch of brandy and passed out. That definitely wasn’t the brave thing to do.
Now, here’s the tricky part. I’m melancholy, prone to reverie, doubtful, fearful, yet I’m also endlessly hopeful that as bad as anything is or feels, there’s a chance it will get better. I’ve experienced some spectacular things, so I totally know that life can be amazing. Good experiences are like heroin. I’ll endure a million bad experiences just for the chance to have things that I know are incredible. Something inherent in me keeps me chasing that fix. No matter how down I feel sometimes, I can’t quit. I’ve hit bottom so many times in the last two years, but whenever I hit that dark place, something about me lights up and I go again. Maybe I’m just an addict to anything that gives pleasure. I don’t entirely know. I just know that if I want to see Europe, or wake up next to Sara every morning, yeah, deep down, I’m willing to die for the chance. One can just as easily die living a life they don’t want.
If I come off as inspirational, that’s fine, but it’s also not intentional. I just want what I want. I’m flawed, I break, I adapt and I keep going. That is how I want people to see me.
So, today’s the Fourth of July, another June has gone by. When they light up our town I just think what a waste of gunpowder and sky…
That is the beginning of the saddest, most grammatically correct song ever written about the Fourth of July. It’s one of my favorite Aimee Mann songs. Last year, Sara and I were broken up for the Fourth. We broke up before the holiday, but that song was actually playing when she said her good-byes. Things are much better this year. We’re separated again, but only by physical distance. It’s weird, I’m not sure how to word this right, maybe I can’t. Being apart like this is a painful experience, I miss her on some level all the time, but it’s not an empty pain. It’s a pain that promises something better. It’s almost like getting a tattoo. It’s a constant stinging pain, but when it finally stops, you’re left with something beautiful. It’s a pain that’s a prelude to something that you know is worth anything. It’s not a loss, not an emptiness. It’s not Hell unending, the complete and total absence of God.
Life’s really not easy, but I think it’s always worth the trouble in the end. Happy Fourth…3 comments