FOR SOMETHING different, I wrote some fiction to one of my favourite albums, The Dambuilders’ Ruby Red (1995). The rules were simple: play the album and write a chapter for each song (beginning writing when the song starts and ending when it finishes). All up, less than an hour of writing.
For me, the album’s music and lyrics have always conjured up strong images of high school, cars, melancholia and wanting to escape suburbia and your surroundings. With that in mind, my aim was to link together a narrative based on what I felt and thought through each song. Occasionally, I quote the lyrics, occasionally what I write is a metaphor for what the music is doing at that precise point.
IT doesn’t matter what wheels I drive back to school in this year, things will be different. I’m set to roll; I’m indestructible. Nor does it matter at what speed I travel; I have hope. This year, my final year, is going to be different. I will be strong. I promise that to myself. I don’t care about the mutterings in the schoolyard or by the lockers. I want to feel like I’m flying. I don’t care if I’m a car crash. It begins now.
FIRST class of the year. With the freaks again. I should keep one eye on everyone in here. Even Cindy. Despite our history. This class is a joke; in truth, I’m a level above all this. I’ll be out of here soon – is that a lie I invented? People talk, so I talk too. What is my connection to these people; to those I think I know? Rumours in clubs downtown – forget the summer, it’s over. The lines are blurred this year. It’s not just this class. It’s my standing in this stupid school. I’ll get out of here, even if it means reconnecting myself to everyone I know.
Teenage Loser Anthem
SHOULD I stay in school? Downtown seems so much more appealing this afternoon. Everyone here is such a cliche, fighting the system, fighting their parents. I wonder if they will grow up before the year ends? School’s not forever. It’s just a passing fad. I’ll stay silent, what’s the point of talking in this environment? You just get drowned out by them. I’m going to grow up before the year ends – what’s the alternative? Suicide? That would be like something out of an anthem for a teenage loser. The wails of a violin at my funeral. On and on and on.
KATE must be an exception at this school. A cool breeze. She knows the way. But wherever she’s going, she’s on her own. Even if I were on the same road, headed for the same destination, I’d be in another car; she would be oblivious to me. You can’t reach someone from afar. I could try to say hello to her – but it wouldn’t be forever – I’d be saying goodbye to her before too long. Then, I’m sure, she would take some turnoff that I would miss, that I would never be able to reach again. Perhaps a drive-by kiss is what is needed before that happens, before this journey ends, before the road forks. Or perhaps I should just speak to her, reach out, drive my own destiny.
I NEED glasses. My vision’s out of focus. What does it mean? Is it a metaphor for my soul; weak, tainted, misguided? You can take medicine for everything else. You can take medicine to make you feel better. It can help you find friends, make you less awkward, make you forget the past. The stuff I’m on makes me too drowsy to drive. But it makes me stop thinking. It doesn’t make people understand me better, though. Why isn’t there something for my vision? Why is simple sight such hard work now? Get the glasses, forget it. What else can I do?
I’M getting somewhere with Kate. We’re friends now. I began speaking to her in class. Is she going to get in over her head? Sign up for chaos? I’ll give her anything to change me, to mould me into something new. I have an aching heart, but I have found something of a solution. It is love – chaotic, though it may be at first. I’m at the bending machine now and I’m waiting my turn. I can feel things building. The memory of Cindy burns . . . but I’m ready for something new. I can’t concentrate in class. Surely I have waited long enough.
THE deal is done but the car is mine. I’ll pretend I’m some greasy, tattooed mechanic locked here in my garage fixing this fucker up. I’m not going to church on Sunday ever again; my cathedral is this workshop. I will put everything into restoring this beauty. I can’t go outside, unless it’s to school. I’ll sleep here. I’ll close the door and ignore the world’s sounds – ambulance sirens in the distance won’t make me get all anxious and existential. Inside these walls is a world that is mine. I hear my soul screaming from within; speed is the object; speed is the aim.
Rocket to the Moon
SCHOOL is a microcosm of the world. People are cruel, the good people are drowned out by noise and too many people follow orders, wittingly or not. This car is going to fly me to the equivalent of the moon. It is going to shoot me out of this world. I will find myself. I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll go where no high school senior has gone before – far away. I’ll push past the roadblocks and cross the border.
I DREAM of my life having a greater meaning. I dream of being an explorer, someone who can discover new frontiers and bring new knowledge and meaning back to my people. Perhaps this car will be my first step on this journey. Already I am losing interest in school. I promised that this year would be different. It was heading that way. Kate, I worry, has already gone back to earth. She may remain a satellite dream. Let’s wait and see. Sometimes love is like a foreign language.
CHURCH has left a mark on me. It’s hard to shake. Leaving is like entering a new world. I should have realised, though, that I have been living a different reality for a long time. I’m not a bad person for leaving – I’m a good person. I believe all the good things they preach. And it’s not like I’m not followed around by everything I have been taught. On the farthest road from here, my life will reflect this upbringing, this fostering of a worldview. But I want to stand alone. I don’t need arms around me. I don’t care. Give me independence, freedom. Let my mind roam free – no words, just music. I need to wander far from St Tamarindo. I’m not angry and I’m not a bad person. I just need some time and space.
I THOUGHT I nearly lost Kate. But then I realised I didn’t quite ever have her. I found some light, but it wasn’t the sun. It’s not her, I know that, but I still need someone to save me – is there anyone out there who can break my fall when I fly too high? Will anyone save me from falling back down? Will I fly again? Of course, always. It’s wonderful doing so. You are so free – no words needed. But I don’t want to get lost again, hurt. I’ll go back to class, sure; Kate and I are still friends – I guess. Maybe our friendship can help me still, prevent a further slide down. I need someone singing with me, don’t I? There’s strength in numbers and people are better together, even if I thought I was better alone. I’ll do what I can. I shouldn’t feel rejected by her; it’s not really rejection: she does want to be friends.
I Forget Myself
IT’S 3AM and I’m still working on this car. I’ve lost electricity again. It’s dark and all I can see is the light of my cigarette. In this darkness, I have forgotten myself again. I’m at peace. I’m not over-analysing, reading multiple things into every facet of my life. Peace makes sense at this moment. Man, this is hard work. But I like it. It gives me meaning. I can’t remember if tomorrow’s a school day. Or whether I’ve done my homework or what Kate or Cindy’s voices sound like anymore. I forget everything out here. I forget the falls. I forget myself. And it’s great. I’m floating, to the sound of a wailing violin that no longer plays the songs of sadness, but of peace. When you find a purpose, a meaning, that’s what music sounds like. That’s what life feels like. Calm. Soft. Soothing.
Written in: 2014